1. Welcome to 28DaysLater.co.uk - 28DL - The UK Urban Exploring / Urban Exploration / Urbex Forums.

    Asylums and Hospitals, High Stuff, Industrial, Leisure Sites, Residential Sites, Military Sites, Mines and Quarries, ROC Posts, Theatres and Cinemas, Draining, Underground Sites, European and International Sites, Leads, Rumours and News, Kit, Clothing, Equipment, Photography and Video sections plus a lot more.

    Please feel free to browse this website as a guest. Creating an account removes some ads, allows you to post replies, start new topics and threads, and gives you access to more features including bookmarking, live chat, messaging and notification systems.

    Create an account | Login | Request new password

Report - Maenofferen - My first trip for a while. Jan 18.

Discussion in 'Mines and Quarries' started by 'Splorin', Jan 8, 2018.

  1. 'Splorin'

    'Splorin' 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2017
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    25
    ...being a report into a trip into Maenofferen…

    ...but not to the usual places.


    My third trip report. My first two have been photo heavy, this one is rather more ‘wordy’ so save it ‘til the boss isn’t about!


    I’ve been out of action since April last year. I screwed the cartilages in my left knee and the slow grind of the NHS conveyor belt took until last November to fix them. After a few weeks off work and a month or so of physio I felt fit enough to to tackle ‘an easy walking trip.’ A trip into Maenofferen was duly arranged for Tuesday 2nd. January. The trip was going to be with a non-member Matt, (that’s not his real name of course, it’s just a quick name to type. He knows who he is.) Matt is hard. Matt gets shit done. Matt moved from Birmingham to North Wales a while ago. Matt knows people. Matt knows stuff. I’ve known Matt a long time. I have had a lot of adventures with Matt – many of them good, more that a few utterly bonkers; this one - well, let’s find out.

    I met Matt in the duly appointed place and headed on over the Blaenau. It was a grim day. Picture Blaenau on the grimmest, windiest, claggiest early January day you can imagine... Nope, you still ain’t got it. Coffee was brewed in the back of the van whilst we kitted up.

    “I’ve heard there’s a way on into some workings not seen since the miners left. It’ll mean rigging a traverse line. Are you up for it?” asked Matt.
    “Well, I’ve been out of action for a while mate. I need an easy trip, simple easy walking. You know, just a gentle ‘splore”, says I.
    Matt nodded towards the spoil tips. “Reckon your knee will be all right on the walk up there?”
    “Sure”, I replied.
    “You’ll be fine.”

    With that we headed off up-hill. At this point, with the cloud and the rain confidence was high that the high-vis brigade would be keeping warm in their port-a-cabins, or at least not be able to see us from their lair.
    A brisk pace (the only way Matt knows how to travel) took us up the path, through the spoil heaps, past the ruined shed and quickly to the main work shops. A JCB was parked nearby.
    “Hmm, that wasn’t there last time I was here”, said Matt. “Fancy a look at the outside stuff before we head in for the main event?” We opted to have a quick look at the workshops.
    I got to take a few pictures.

    We couldn't get the power back on.
    Maen_1.JPG

    The pikeys have had the copper windings out of everything here.
    MAen_2.JPG

    Hmm! A few hundred of your Amperes please.
    Maen_3.JPG

    A workshop lies in a very sorry state.
    MAen_4.JPG

    MAen_5.JPG

    Just rustin' away.
    Maen_6.JPG

    Suddenly there was the sound of an engine. “Shit! Get out of sight!”
    “I’ve left my bag outside.” I said. “Me too”, admitted Matt.

    The sound of the engine accompanied by a gentle crunch of gravel under the tyres approached. The crunch of gravel stopped, there was the sound of a car door slamming. Bollox! Busted! Why did we ‘splore the workshops? We should have just got straight into the mine when we arrived.
    Minutes passed, suddenly Matt called out “Are you there?” I popped my head out, Matt had a daft grin on his face, “Come on we need to go. You won’t believe what happened, but we need to be on our way quick.” With that we we off, heading down towards the hole in the ground.

    “Well, what happened?”, I asked
    “When the car door opened I thought I’d just brave it out.” said Matt, “It turns out they were a couple of guys working in the quarry. They asked what what I was doing and I replied I was just looking around. ‘You know your not supposed to be here’ says the quarryman. ‘Are you looking at going underground?’”
    ‘“No. not really.’ The quarryman looked at my light equipped helmet and I could see he wasn’t convinced. ‘Well, I am duty bound to tell you that you shouldn’t be here and that security will be here in ten minutes.’ ‘What do you want me to do in those ten minutes?’ ‘That’s up to you isn’t it, but you should not be up here.’ With that they got back into the pick-up and drove off. Let’s get underground eh?”

    It was my first ever visit into Maenofferen, so I was totally reliant upon Matt. Off we went into what looked like a collapsed chamber open to ground level ( a bit like a smaller version of Rhosydd’s West Twll if you’ve been there.)

    From there it was down a fine man-way, which soon joined up with an incline. A short walk down the incline lead to Level B. There’s a lot to see in Level B and is probably worthy of a splore all by itself. I would have liked to have got a lot more photos of the stuff down here, but Matt was keen to show me more of the mine and then get on with ‘the main event’.


    I still had time to take a couple of pix of the compressors though. Because you have to. It’s the law.
    MAen_7(Comp1).JPG

    Maen_8(comp2).JPG

    Still on the same level is an enormous wall of stacked waste. The wall is held up by some sort of anti-gravity device.

    The anti-gravity wall. Ker-Plunk anyone?
    Maen_9a(Wall).JPG

    From there hasty stomping through chambers and cross-cuts brought us to the top of the B21 incline. This is a fine incline and I regret not taking photos. The way down the B21 was helped by the addition of a blue polypropylene rope hand-line. Floors C & D are available from the B21, so we had a quick look on each before heading down to Floor E. This is the lowest splorable floor now that the pumps have been switched off in Llechwedd; the waters are rising and I imagine only a few years will elapse before Floor E floods. We bumped into another group of ‘splorers and had a brief chat with them before heading on our way.

    There is a hell of a lot to see on Floor E, and I have more regrets that I did not take any photos but it was clear the Matt was a man on a mission and wanted to whizz through things and get on with rigging the traverse to the unexplored areas.

    Old Tools.
    Maen(A).JPG
    More stomping through levels, cross cuts and hards brought us to ‘the traverse’. A quick study of the proposed anchors established that the ones nearest the traverse were rubbish – wobbly, rattly, loose, everything an anchor should not be. Moving back we found a good ‘un so Matt started to rig. The good anchor was backed to the rattly ones, a stance was set up so I could watch Matt’s progress as I belayed him across. I put Matt on belay and around the corner he went, into the unknown. The traverse has a narrow ledge, a chain and some Lewis pins that haven’t been touched by anyone or anything but the slow process of decay. Ominously, parts of the ledge fell away at his first few steps as he edged his way across. The first pins were reached, tested and rigged.

    “They’re fine once you’ve removed the rust.”, Matt commented. The chain was used to aid progress. Mid-way across the ledge narrowed. More pins were deemed suitable and rigged. I continued to pay out the rope. Before the next pin it was clear to me that the rope wasn’t going to go the full distance.

    “Four metres of rope” I called out. Matt decided to come back and re-consider the anchor situation. There was only one way to go. We had to ditch the good anchor a way back and use the rattly ones. The stance was taken out to give more rope and a new plan was hatched. Almost to halfway was rigged, it just needed adjusting to use the rope we had just released and then for Matt to crack on with it. So of he went, no belay, re-rig along the way and see what happens. Trips with Matt can often end up this way, situations so funny they almost defy description.

    Recovering the rope. Yeah, plenty there. Loose anchors aweigh!
    MAen_12_Anchors.JPG

    Using a combination of the rope and the chain Matt headed off to extend the traverse. Then the chain broke. It looked it was held to the wall only by the fact that it had rusted itself to the rock. Undeterred, Matt quickly reached to halfway point and after some contemplation of the situation he decided that the next pin was further than he was prepared to risk getting to off belay, so a new plan was hatched. Lasso skills would be needed to hook the Lewis pin.

    “Are you al-right with that?” he asked.
    “Sure”, I replied, “I’m not going anywhere and this is too much fun to give up on now”.

    Lasso Skills! Yeeee-Haaaar Cowboy!
    Maen_13_Lasoo.JPG

    A few swings of the rope and he scored a direct hit! The rope was pulled tight, fastened to the nearside anchor and the traverse was back on. Crack on with it! Of course this meant I would have to go out to the anchor and release the rope. No problem, I’d have to go across at some point and I really was having too much fun.

    The process of lasso, loop & advance carried on a couple more times and Matt was across and I was over halfway. The only problem was that there was no anchor on the far side.
    "Plenty of shot holes though.” Matt called across.
    “Right-ho”, I shouted back, “I’ll see what I can find.”

    So, back across the traverse on my trusty cows-tails to have a look for any suitable pins or bars. Nothing! “Hmm, how about one of the loose & rattly anchors. No, maybe not.” A further mooch back down the tunnels turned up a couple. Handy.

    Back across the traverse to a point where I was safe and could throw the pins to Matt. First one, no problem, with a satisfying thump it hit the far side, a few feet from Matt. Second one, Sod! I threw it like a girl. It bounced off the wall, fell short and was lost forever.

    “Ah, you’ll be all right on the one”, assured Matt.
    After a few minutes of trying a variety of shot holes Matt called across
    “Where there any more pins? This one pulls out wherever I place it”
    “I’ll have another look.” was my reply.

    Back across the traverse and a ‘splore of the tunnels revealed no pins, nothing. O.K. even further back then. A few minutes of searching turned up one last pin, really the last pin. Yay! So back to the traverse and across it I go. (getting good at this!) Lobbed the last pin to Matt, successfully I might add. After a few minutes more Matt called across to say the anchors was good and I could come across.
    Now, a few minutes of Matt making anchors gets me a little nervous, he’s usually really quick; he’s built some damn fine belays over the years, but the one that sticks in my mind was a time in Wales where Matt had been building the belay from more than a few minutes. Eventually the rope came tight “On belay, climb when ready!” came the shout.
    “Climbing!”, I called “Is the belay safe then?”
    “Yeah!, sort of safe. You don’t want to fall on it though!”
    I finished the pitch with some trepidation to find Matt anchored to a mere twig of a gorse bush with his feet braced in two rabbit holes!


    Anyway, back to Maenofferen. Finally, both of us are on virgin ground. I had to have a quick look at the anchors – devious. The first one definitely pulled out as the rope was tensioned, but was held in place from completely popping out by tension applied around the corner in the rock wall to the second pin. Matt announced the name of our exploits - “The Brummies' Traverse”. There are no cross-cuts off the far side, but nor are there any footprints or any litter. Sure there’s a few bits left over from the miners, but that is it. No crisp packets, empty tins, chocolate wrappers or spent batteries. The only was forward is up the waste tip. This too was ‘pristine’. Cross cuts off levels further up were likewise untrodden. A strange stack, perfectly even adorned one chamber; other chambers had slate discs in them – a task usually given to apprentices, to perfect their craft for later on; a pneumatically driven fan, many old tools, complete with wooden handles.

    The far side of 'The Brummies' Traverse'
    Maen_17_TBT.JPG

    There was so much to explore, some avenues ‘went’, others were short trials, but we were nearing our turn-around time to make our call out in good order. An incline beckoned, but would have to wait for another time. One last ‘splore lead us to the next obvious way on. More rope would be needed for this, considerably more time that we had, and on balance a bolting kit to make bloody sure, rather than rely on the rusty tat we had previously risked. This traverse is over a bloody big drop. A last photo or two and we had to get out.

    The way on!
    Maen_14_TheWayOn.JPG

    Det. Cord.
    Maen_15._DetCord.JPG

    A coal bag. In a slate mine. The packing company address is a few minutes from where I live. The phone number pre-dates April 1995.
    Maen_16_Coal.JPG

    I was pretty tired by now. We’d been at this for over seven hours and as my first trip after my months laid off, I was feeling it. Back across The Brummies' Traverse and then it was a slog up tips, along tunnels down tips, along tunnels, down a chain climb, eventually reaching the bottom of the B21 incline. This damn near finished me. Without the blue polypropylene I think I would still be down there. Fifteen minutes of thigh-burning, lung-busting, knee-wrecking slog and I was done. One life-sustaining Capri-Sun was rinsed in one, a second followed as quick. Matt reached into his bag and provided a third, then I think even a fourth. A broken man, we were still only on B floor, and time was running out to meet our call-out deadline. Zombie-like, I trudged on, not managing to keep up, but Matt kept popping ahead and back as he was a bit unsure of the way back. We made a mis-turn, which resulted in fifteen to twenty minutes of wasted energy. Back on track, head down and barely capable of thinking by now, I was not in a good state, but at least Matt was confident of the return.

    Finally, we reached the final incline. No helpful polypropylene blue lifeline here. Just pain. Eventually it was over, we were out! Out into sheeting it down rain. Slowly I made my way to the shelter of the tunnel to don my waterproof jacket. Matt told me he’d sent the text to cancel the call-out.

    “Right!”, he then said, “This is fucking serious here. A more serious situation than we’ve been in so far. This’ll be the hardest part now.”
    His words barely registered. We were out. How could it be worse? At the exit of the tunnel it was clear what he meant. Storm Eleanor was raging. 80 mph winds had been forecast and I could believe it. I could barely stand. The cloud was right down, our lights were next to useless, it was like driving in fog with main beam headlights on. Through the sheds and to the JCB, Matt racing ahead, me trudging like a lost soul. He went straight on at the digger, off to it’s side. I knew this was a mistake, we needed to head away from it in line with the bucket. Matt had gone. Twenty metres ahead of me might as well have been twenty miles. In this wind he could not hear me shout. He would walk on, stop and turn around to check I was following, and then carry on. After some time, I have no idea how long, Matt stopped and I caught up to him. He knew we were lost. Fortunately the cloud had cleared a bit and we could see the lights of Blaenau below us. Matt was hatching a plan.

    “What do we do? Go back and hope we get on the right path or follow the quarry roads down to Blaenau? I’ll leave you at the bottom, leg it round to the car and fetch you.
    “We need to go back to the JCB, that’s where we went wrong.” I said.
    “Are you sure?”
    “Yes, we should have followed the bucket, it was pointing right at us when we walked towards the mine.”
    “OK, if you are sure.”

    With that, he was off. By luck we found the JCB on the first go, the clouds had cleared enough for our lights to pick up the reflections of the digger’s glass. Back on track , we made our way through the unforgiving terrain, through the waste tips and so down the scree. It was here I had my first fall. My knee was killing me and I was more tired than I can ever remember. Over the fence and onto slick, wet grass. Slog, slog, slog. Matt ahead, out of range of any conversation, more rain than than the ground could hold and it was turning to mud, a second fall was inevitable, my knee buckled and I was down on it, lying there in pain and misery, I was aware of just how cold I was. “Get up. Get moving!”
    More trudging, barely moving now, barely conscious of my surroundings until eventually I saw Matt’s van. I knew I could make it... just…
    Bang! I’m down again, once more my knee had given out, and this time it had folded right underneath me. I’d fallen on the other side to my previous fall, so now I was really soaked through. Summoning up the last strength I had, I got up and made the last few yards to the van.
    I stripped off my wet kit and stashed it in the back of the van and jumped into the front. A cup of coffee was pressed into my hand and I savoured the warm vapours.A hasty drink soon reinvigorated me a little.
    After a few minutes we headed off to Blaenau for a much deserved Kebab. After that, with me still freezing cold, we headed back to where my car was parked where I could change into some warm, dry clothes.
    Although I had planned to stay at Matt’s than night, and we were going to do another trip in the morning, I decided I was going to drive back to Sutton Coldfield. I would be good for nothing tomorrow, and I wanted to get the drive over with whilst my knee still moved. It was a 50 minute drive to Matt’s and a 2½ drive home, so I figured it was the right call.
    Wednesday was a complete wash-out for me. I could barely move. Thighs, calves, knee – all completely shot. It’s nearly a week on from the trip and my knee still has not fully recovered. I estimate I have undone five, maybe six weeks of physio.
    10½ hours van to van. I needed a nice easy walking trip. What I got was an ordeal. Was it worth it? As I type this, I really do not know. Will I go back to Maenofferen? You bloody well bet! There’s the high traverse. More to see, there's the other incline, there’s the flooding levels at E floor that are just begging to have a dinghy put into them.


    Oh! Yes, I’ll be back to Maenofferen...

    ...but I'll need to be in better shape!
     
    tigger, myke, mw0sec and 9 others like this.

    Remove this ad by donating or subscribing.

  2. The Lone Ranger

    The Lone Ranger Safety is paramount!
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2010
    Messages:
    1,257
    Likes Received:
    981
    Home Page:
    That made an entertaining read, looks a fun trip :thumb

    Hope the knees continue to get better too.
     
  3. 'Splorin'

    'Splorin' 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2017
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    25
    Cheers TLR.
     
  4. EOA

    EOA Exploring with Bob
    Regular User

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2017
    Messages:
    241
    Likes Received:
    504
    Home Page:
    One of my favorite mines that I've been in. It's vast - there must be loads of interesting places to visit.
     
  5. The Kwan

    The Kwan Easily Led
    Regular User

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2011
    Messages:
    1,732
    Likes Received:
    785
    A proper adventure mate, I reckon that a few days underground would be needed to cover this place properly. a good read btw :thumb
     
  6. Praada

    Praada 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2017
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    3
    unreal place, we only managed to make it to the bottom of B1 as i had been up all night in the workshop sheds (where we slept) throwing up from dodgy food on the trip there from Leicester the night before... went over to foel grochan after and having already visited it, opted to stay in the van and die slowly in peace hahaha!
     
  7. JohnSmith

    JohnSmith 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2016
    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    45
    Great report.

    You should follow the tracks east on Floor B to the chamber 31 incline, it will blow your mind, guaranteed.
     
  8. Praada

    Praada 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2017
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    3
    Is there a survey of the workings anywhere?
     
  9. UrbanZ

    UrbanZ 28DL Regular User
    Regular User

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
    Messages:
    222
    Likes Received:
    271
    that was a quality read, well done sir :thumb
     
  10. 'Splorin'

    'Splorin' 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2017
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    25
    Not the best result Praada. Was this part of your New Year visit?
    Did you get far in Cwmorthin?
     
  11. 'Splorin'

    'Splorin' 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2017
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    25
    Cheers JohnSmith. Will make sure I take a look next time.
     
  12. 'Splorin'

    'Splorin' 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2017
    Messages:
    24
    Likes Received:
    25
    Thanks for that UrbanZ. Much appreciated.
     
  13. Praada

    Praada 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2017
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    3
    Yeah cwm was amazing we did maenofferen a few months back before the cold snapped in, planning to revisit soon, we were woken in the old workshops to the sound of the vehicles but they didn't bother us. I have the map of maen and cwm now after a morning of hunting :) Definitely returning to both this year, make a long weekend of it before my little boy arrives in June :)
     
  14. Praada

    Praada 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2017
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    3
    Is chamber 31 part of the oakeley works? Don't get caught in that bit haha! I particularly liked the lower section following the chain around the raised tube in ankle deep water very fun easy traverse that leads to the old power box and flooded rail carts.
     
  15. Praada

    Praada 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2017
    Messages:
    28
    Likes Received:
    3
    ignore my last comment haha forgot we are on about maenofferen not cwm :)
     
Draft saved Draft deleted
Loading...

Share This Page

Remove this ad by creating an account and logging in