HARD UNDERGROUND – Hard Level to Brandy Bottle through trip
After hastily eating a couple of sausage rolls and half a flask of coffee at the same time as changing we were ready to. There were 32 attendees in total, 22 were going to make the underground trip whereas 11 were staying with Malcolm Street for his walk over the top and some more gentle exploration.
Upon entering Hard Level we were immediately up to our waists in cold water, the sudden shock disappearing after a few minutes as the water warmed up inside our wetsuits. A couple of hundred yards in we arrived at the fall which we had to crawl through with the cold stream of the stream flowing into our faces.
Eventually we all arrived at the four way junction by which time we were out of the water. We re-grouped for a quick drink and the odd nibble of chocolate – well I did anyway. Turning left we continued past the old ore hopper which extends upwards for about 40 feet, it is a bit of a waterfall these days but still climbable with the help of a rope and thinking that you are a fish not needing much breathing air!
Turning right into the Black Cross Cut the party had separated into smaller groups, each interested in various aspects. Shortly we arrived at North Rake Whim, the majority of the party climbing upwards about 30 or 40 feet up a ladder. The top of this came into another level which again after another climb using a rope headed to an incline which headed up to the surface. This being route eventually being blocked by a fall.
Returning back down to the Black Cross Cut we continued to another bad fall which necessitated climbing up through a small hole to circumvent the fall. We were met with a number of passages but continued towards Brandy Bottle. After crawling for a considerable distance through some bad shale falls we came to knee depth water which again went on for a considerable distance.
Eventually we came out of the water to what looked like a dead end, however you could see a very small water filled entrance which was the way out via Brandy Bottle. Going feet first through this hole resulted in being in a passage which was full to the roof of water with about 6 or 8 inches of air. Standing upright with my helmet top on the roof of the passage the water was just over my nose – not much of a gap. It was at the highest level I have ever seen it – this could be fun!
Tipping one’s head back and on a side it was possible to stay with your mouth and nose in the small air pocket that was available. We slowly proceeded forward being very careful not to trip up over the debris on the tunnel floor and not to get a bad mouthful of water. I went completely under water on a couple of occasions to miss rocks sticking down and upon opening my eyes was met with zero visibility as the water was full of tiny partials of sediment that had been dislodged by the process of
walking along the bottom.
After what seemed like a very long time the roof lifted to give us at least 12 to 15 inches of clearance and we emerged to see the rusted crashed mining tubs at the bottom of Brandy Bottle incline. Jubilation occurred at this point and I started to film other coming out of the deep water.
After a long hard climb up Brandy Bottle incline which was exasperated by the wet suit we emerged into the sunshine at Brandy Bottle entrance. About half of the crew has already made it through and had started to walk down to the cars, the rest of us posed for a small photo shoot! The trip lasted between four and five hours from memory. Thanks to everyone who joined us to make a fabulous day.