Nice and simple evening peaks trip right? Not on Wednesday 25th January.
Rosie, Tom1, Sam Goodyear and I arrived at about 5ish. Got changed in the lovely winter temperature and me and Rosie split off to find the Knotlow entrance. We found the main shaft, walked round the field for about 10 minutes before finding our entrance about 10m away from where we were originally.
No problems heading down to the connection, Meccano Passage where we met Tom and Sam just as they’d come through. Brief chocolate stop and then we headed through. The water was verrryyy cold, but it was only short and soon we were in the main chamber. Neither of us knew which way was the way to the route the others came down, so our plan was simple- find some SUSS ropes dangling down and go up that route. Sounds easy enough.
So we spend I don’t know how long (because I forgot to put my watch on) but a long time exploring every single passageway. We found the routes, but all of them had empty bolts and no ropes. Exploring one passageway we could hear a couple of people somewhere in the mine, so one thought that went through our heads was that we had been de-rigged on.
So without finding the rope, our options where to either wait in the main chamber and hope Tom looked down the engine shaft, or find a way out. We chose the latter, and found a route which looked like it had very short pitches that maybe we could free climb out.
After climbing up a bit we got to a quite exposed climb. It was only a couple of metres, but for a not very good climber like me it was quite tricky. Half way up this climb, with my legs on either wall (quite a stretch) I couldn’t quite make the next move. With my heart thumping away (in the silence you could actually hear my heart beat echoing) Rosie realised we had a rope, climbed up to the bolt and I prusiked up the rest of the climb. Another short climb followed this but then we reached a 5m ish calcited shaft which Rosie couldn’t free climb. Instead of risking injury we thought it best to go back to the main chamber and wait it out.
After the much easier climbing downwards, we were soon back in the main chamber. I waited at the bottom of the engine shaft and Rosie went off to have another look at one of the routes we found un-rigged before. After a couple of minutes she called me, having found the ropes! It turned out that Tom did not rig the last couple of bolts, because it is easy to free climb those bits, and no one usually rigs them. If only we had this knowledge beforehand.
I went up the ropes first, meeting a very cold Tom and Sam at the top. They had also got lost coming out their end, but not to the same extent, and had been waiting for about 45 minutes.
All in all, it was still a good trip, and we got some major exploration done of the passages in Hillocks mine!