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Report - Dufresne's Ladder, Stockport, November 2012

Discussion in 'UK Draining Forum' started by Alley, Nov 13, 2012.

  1. Alley

    Alley Conspicuous Loiterer
    Regular User

    Aug 6, 2006
    Likes Received:
    I'm not sure if this has been done before but if not, it shall be called Dufresne's Ladder.

    Through a damp, leaf-strewn woodland valley trickles a shallow brook into which crystal
    clear water drains from a 5 foot concrete pipe. It is mossy on the outside, pristine within.
    The front grille and, as we would later discover, one of the manhole covers and all of the
    access ladders had been removed some time ago. SoundLightGo had reccied far enough
    to establish that we would need extra kit to for this one.
    Sunday's weather forecast looked perfect so, with an array of equipment, we shuffled on
    in. The plan was to get as far as we could, mapping along the way in order to trace the
    route above ground.


    After 30 feet or so, we reached First Chamber.


    It was dimly lit from the open manhole, the last glimpse of daylight we would see for the next four hours.


    In front of us were two pipes – a small one at ground level with water gushing out and
    a larger one several feet above it with a low wall at its exit. Climbing up, we could see
    that the top pipe poured water into a 'plug hole' behind the wall.


    The next pipe was 3 feet high. It was worryingly clean – not a single spider or scrap
    of debris on the roof. But it was a dry day and for now the water was just inches deep.
    Ahead we could hear booming noises, voices... was that a dog yelping? Maybe we're
    under a road. The acoustics made it impossible to tell.


    We crawled along rhythmically, painfully, laden with rucksacks and rope. It seemed
    to go on for a long time. Unable to lift my head, I had no idea how far we had travelled.
    Finally, we came to Second Chamber. And it's up a level again.


    We paused to update the map. No phone signal but the compass worked. We're heading
    SSE. I took up SLG's offer of knee pads for the next stretch. My bag grew heavier, arms
    weaker. I felt like a pit pony, knee-pads clip-clopping along the pipe. The clean, seemingly
    endless concrete and strange sounds were starting to make me feel disoriented.


    Then we came to Third Chamber. Another concrete box with just a rusty inlet pipe to
    distinguish it from the others.


    This time I could hear falling water and knew that the next one wasn't too far away. Another
    climb up, over the wall, don't fall down the plug hole, crawl as comfortably as possible.

    And as I straightened up in Fourth Chamber I saw the reason for bringing all this kit.
    The difference between the two pipes here was considerably more than the other chambers.



    SLG had brought chocks with the intention of climbing up the ladder bolts but they were
    far enough from the pipe for it to be a stretch for him so there was no way I'd make it.
    Instead, he lobbed the rope, weighted with carabiners, into the pipe and over the wall,
    bringing it rattling down the plug hole.

    We rigged and harnessed up, checking everything was clipped to where it should be,
    the only sounds falling water and the light clicking of carabiners. It was an easy ascent,
    with just a bit of adjusting gear to get over the edge. Waiting for SLG, I sat on top of the
    pitch, again hearing the strange noises, which seemed to be coming from where we had
    been. I realised they were our voices, from moments in the past.


    We threw our bags and selves over the plug hole and crawled into the unknown.
    28 sections in a South Easterly direction later we reached Fifth Chamber.


    This one was very different. The walls were thickly coated in mineral deposit, like icing
    on a cake. We considered climbing up but the fresh breeze which had followed us
    all the way seemed to have stopped at the entrance. The air had a faintly unpleasant smell.
    With no gas tester to check, we decided to head back.


    We crawled back to the pitch, made a speedy descent (Petzl Stop plus clean 10mm = Petzl Go)
    and packed up the now wetter, heavier gear. The return journey is a blur of pain and desperation
    to get out. Eventually, we stumbled into the brook, squinting at the pale sunshine and taking long,
    deep breaths of freedom. I think draining is a little like giving birth – horrible pain, soon forgotten –
    because I now believe I loved every minute of it.

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