Our shelter from the stormy blast .....
The new shelter, now bolted up and properly installed
The unusual proximity of Easter and the May Day bank
holiday weekends just one week apart, provided a good opportunity for
some sustained progress. This was the latest Easter for 57 years and
so the combination is unlikely to happen again very soon, but bearing
in mind the time scale of the dig so far, we should at some point in
the future be staggering up the hill on our zimmer frames for another
two successive bank holiday Mondays.
Over Easter, some downwards progress was made, following the same line as before, but now in a vertical shaft of about 4m2 area and trending straight down. The digging point now lies directly under the woodwork installed above to prevent the massive hanging death in the rift on the far wall of the shaft from an untimely descent onto the diggers. The material in the floor is still the infill of mud and small stones that we have been digging through for the last few metres.
The winch that had been providing sterling service
for a long time with minimal maintenance finally decided that it
needed some attention. During the week between Easter and May Day, the
cable, which had become damaged, was replaced with a stouter
non-twisting type which was a relic from the SWCC expedition to the
Balinka Pit many years before.
..... and our eternal home
Before the next digging session, the last remains of
the shelter were brought up the hill and the original structure
extended at both ends to provide more space inside. A quantity of
fairly liquid spoil was poured into the gap between the shelter and
the adjacent spoil heap walls to cement it firmly into place, not that
it was likely to blow away.
Winch, showing advanced exhaust system
Deeper still, and deeper .....
Simon's tool being inspected for damage
The next digging sessions made excellent progress,
aided by Simon's tool. This new weapon in the armoury is best
described as being like a pogo stick without the spring, but is in
fact a modified earthing spike with a hardened tip. It has proved to
be very effective at breaking up the small stones/mud fill that is so
difficult to dig with shovels and increased output considerably.
The project is now taking on the scale of a major
undertaking. Up to now, the removal of spoil has been made easy by the
verticality of the main shaft. Now that the digging point is trending
gently away into the rift, the bucket lift is a diagonal one and the
loads are fouling on their way up. This can be temporarily overcome by
the use of a tailing rope to guide the buckets at the start of each
lift, but in the future, something more sophisticated will be needed.
The shelter will ultimately be covered in
The rapid increase in depth had once again exposed a loose face on the West side of the shaft and John Lister was called in to work magic with pieces of wood and stabilise the situation so that we could progress with a higher degree of safety than previously.
Sufficient material was extracted to cover most of the shelter so that we could begin to make it less obtrusive and have it blend in with the rest of the spoil heaps. The shaft itself continues to drop vertically, and interestingly the infill now contains a larger proportion of bigger rocks, which is making it easier to dig.
We hope for more progress now that the dig is draining water to this degree, even if it is not yet gurgling out through the bottom.