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Firestone Incline Level and another look at the Second Incline, Groverake Mine, (04/06/10).

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I had a big urge to go down to the Firestone Incline Level and to have another look at the second incline again. Pete did not fancy going down the wet access shaft, so we though that maybe we might be able to get in via the surface incline, as the weather had been dry for a few months. Arriving at Groverake we took our SRT gear just in case and made our way down the incline, leaving the gear in one of the alcoves. Around half way down we noticed some fresh falls that had not been there the last time we came and when we reached the water, it had indeed dropped considerably, maybe up to 0.5m, but was it enough to get through?

Before going into the water Pete pointed out that his immersion suits hand and neck cuffs were a bit knackered and they would let water in if submerged - great. Not knowing how deep the water would get, we gave it a go anyway, just in case. As we entered the water, the strange Groverake bootlace fungus pulled against our legs and after about 10m the water was just below our necks. At this point we could really feel a strong draft of air passing us, meaning the connection to the level beyond was open. Unfortunately though, a bit further on and Pete's suit would start filling with water. Looking at the water ahead, I would say that the air space went down to maybe 15cm. However due to the reflection on the surface it was difficult to judge. Whatever the case, Pete was not going to be able to do it, and I was not about to lie on my back and have a go on my own. I can't swim and deep water always puts me on edge. Need to learn. We turned round and half walked, half floated back. It was bloody cold. Back up the incline, SRT gear on and into the Rake Level, to the wet shaft.

After the time wasting in the surface incline, we arrived at the wet shaft. It looked like someone had been here since the last time, as the ventilation door had been pushed well into the shaft. Why do that, it does not open that way? Shifting some rocks and pulling soon got it back open, the correct way. At this point Pete's lamp died, nooooooooo, all we need now. He had only been saying in the morning that it had not been charged for a few months… spare? No. Two options, go out and get his carbide, or use my back up torch, though personally with the prospect of going down the shaft with the torch I would not have fancied it. In the end he decided to go for it with the torch, we ended fastening it to his glove via Velcro straps, Star Trek style. I turned my caplamp off and his was rather poor, but still he wanted to go down. I rigged a line down and proceeded to climb down the ladders. Last time we dammed the water, this time we could not be bothered and we paid for it, it was horrible going down the shaft, with the water bouncing everywhere and into everything. When I got to the dogleg, before the last two stages I got of the rope and thought that there is no way I would want to be in his shoes with the hand torch, but after a while he appeared and the only hassle was the water. I gave him my 10W LED photo spotlight and he used that now for illumination since his hands were free. By the way, the carbide would have been a big mistake!

We made our way to the second incline junction, a good spot to have lunch, but thought better of it as we had got a chill after being in the deep water and getting the soaking in the shaft. Carrying on along the level, we passed yet again the horrible deformed steel arches and made our way down the incline past split wooden pillars and more cracked arching - nice. Once at the bottom we made our way along to the collapsed section that Pete looked at last time. Going past a massive chunk of fractured rock being kept up by a fractured wooden pillar we entered a section of level with its roof on the floor. Here the rock was a mix of rough spar and sandstone. Passing through a rock archway, where the sides were fractured gained entry back into the level. This section was still in rock, but it was this crumbly combination of rough spar and sandstone, that seemed to be peeling away everywhere. To the left there was an entry point into a large stope and just next to it another fractured piece of rock, held up, by you guessed it - a split pillar. Past this more steel arching was visible, but the steel meshing between the formers was split and full of falls. We could have pushed it further, but with feeling cold, only one hands free light source we got sort of deflated and a bit jittery. On the way up the incline we agreed that this was the last time here.

Retracing our route we got back up the shaft (chilled even more now) and steamed it out to the portal, to be greeted by warm sunshine. We had lunch above the Rake Level adit. Thinking back now, I wish we had pushed it past the falls, as I am now wondering what was it like further on… dead end or something very interesting. The thing is, its all falling apart so badly and feels so isolated that it makes my mind wonder with bad thoughts.