Coniston Slate Mine 22-04-2017 by Denis Bushwell
Karina, Brian, Denis, Phil, Andy, Scot.
After breakfast in Coniston, we bought provisions for the trip up to the entrance that lies 2,000’ above sea level, intending to do a pull-through to 3 levels lower and exit via the train tracks. We had 4 large rucksacks and 2 smaller ones – overkill, but we weren’t sure what we would meet as to the best of my knowledge the route had not been descended before – later proving to be correct, although we had Scot to lead the way. Parking at the top car park, we further sorted the packs and set off on a beautiful sunny day amongst a cast of thousands making their way to the summit of ‘The Old Man’, carrying a lot less than our team.
Several pit stops later we reached the Top Level entrance, which was dry, although this is normally a wade. With the order of descent agreed and with lighter packs freed of helmets and other kit we were assigned duties;
Andy – camera, Scot – assistant, Karina – pastoral duties, the rest – donkeys to carry tackle.
One hundred metres in the tracks split; left to a viewpoint of the main chamber and right to an ante-chamber via a steep ascent. This large chamber contains an equally impressive boulder field that we had to battle through to the head of the first pitch, where the terrain deteriorated a few metres from the edge and we had to remove a lot of scree and blocks before using larger boulders for an anchor for the descent. This done, Scot set off first and we then set up a reverse Fig-8 descent for Karina who was nervous and required some words of comfort for the descent.
We were reunited on level 2 with the only casualty being Andy’s sit-mat that was used as a rope protector and now required serious surgery. We ascended the huge rubble mountain to a chamber of large proportions for tea and crumpets, plus photos and after 20 minutes a reverse of the route saw us arrive at the next rappel into the Main Chamber.
With an awkward take-off and greasy wall initially, a free-hang followed, with Karina being a bit more confident, although I had to prise her fingers from the ledge. All down, the bags were packed and we followed the railway tracks through 2 large chambers that would have done The Dales proud, to exit to a blue sunlit day with a view across Coniston Water.
Miner of the day was Karina and after kisses and cuddles we went our separate ways.
A great day.