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Trip to Pandora/New Pandora Mine -- 20th Mar 2005

Group: Dennis, Paul, Dave

We parked up at the side of the road (SH 766598) which leads to Llyn Geirionydd and changed into caving gear.

The weather was warm and sunny. A quick walk past the buildings, through the gate and over the waste heaps had us at the obvious entrance (on the RHS facing the hill) which led to the old ladderway shaft. Just inside the opening was a deep pool of water which meant that you immediately got wet feet. The passage carried straight on, with an opening on the RHS back to the surface, while ahead lay the open shaft. This has lost some of the ladders and staging over the years and now requires either a electron ladder or SRT to descend.

Rigging for SRT was less than ideal, there are good hangers in the rock face a short distance from the shaft which work best for a ladder. We rigged the abseil rope with a rope protector to mitigate the inevitable rub point. Dennis descended first followed by Paul and Dave. We dropped down to the first platform and climbed down the short ladder to the west. This led to a small chamber containing the remains of an old wagon and some railway lines.

We climbed back to the platform and then descended the main ladderway to the east.

There was a bit of water flowing down the shaft, but insufficient to cause problems. At the bottom we followed the passage till it opened into a main chamber. There was a short length of 9.5mm rope someone had left as a handrail near the start of the passage. Why this was left was a mystery as the floor was level and solid. We decided it may be useful later on and so 'borrowed' it. The main chamber had a open shaft and the remains of a derrick.

There were a few passages off, but most of these had dead ends caused by rockfall. There was quite a lot of mineralisation of the walls.

The open shaft had some rock bolts which could be used to abseil down, but there was an easier route.

The way on was a 6' high passage with about 1' of water underfoot. After a short while the water disappeared and the passage got lower until it is almost a flat out crawl over coarse wet shingle. A streamway from the surface entered from the LHS and this is the source of the shingle debris which gets washed down in heavy rain. It may be necessary to clear some of this inwash if the passage hasn't been used for some time.

Once past this point the passage gradually increased in size and carried the water from the surface. After a few hundred yards an opening in the floor on the RHS took most of the water to the lower levels and in theory is the popular way down. If the volume of water coming from the surface is large then this is not a practical way down as we discovered previously! We carried on along the passage and noticed someone had rigged a length of 12mm rope down another hole in the floor and this appeared to lead to a sloping wooden platform. We ignored this and carried on along the level till the end. The passage had some high stopes and a lot of 'stacked deads'. You really don't want to be in this section during an earth tremor!

We wandered back to the hole in the floor and peering into the gloom noticed that the first ladder appeared to be intact.

Dennis climbed down the ladder to the first platform but reported that it looked like some changes had taken place - the wooden box which diverted the water flow was askew and he couldn't see if anything else was amiss. Dave climbed down and inspected the box, just beyond was a chain which enabled him to get onto the next ladder and down to the next platform.

The bad news was that the next ladder was missing and he couldn't see if the bottom ladder was still present due to the water spray. The only consolation was the floor of the lower passageway was visible about 20' below.

A retreat back to the passage was made and the other hole in the floor investigated by Dave who found that the 12mm rope would not fit his stop. At this point inspiration struck and the short length of 9.5mm rope 'borrowed' earlier served to allow a descent onto the sloping platform. This seemed to be part of an old ore chute and sliding down it and climbing under showed a short passage and a vertical shaft complete with a rebelay and the 12mm rope reaching down to the lower passageway. Dave climbed back up to the main passage to report the bad news. It looked like this new route has been fixed up to solve the problem of the missing ladder - its just a shame we couldn't use it as we didn't have a figure of eight and our stops were useless with rope of that size.

It looked pretty hopeless at this point, but there was a possiblity - maybe the short rope could replace the missing ladder and we could SRT down to the next platform and hope the bottom ladder was still in place. Dave retraced his steps down the 'wet' shaft, secured the borrowed rope to the last rung of the ladder and gently SRT'ed down to the next platform which was dilapidated and incomplete. The rope was only just long enough! Peering into the torrent of water it looked like there was a ladder about 5' below and a short length of chain was discovered attached to the platform which reached the ladder. A careful slide down the rock using the chain as a helping hand allowed the ladder to be reached and thence the lower passageway. It didn't take long to get Dennis and Paul down using the same technique.

It looked like the missing ladder had fallen down next to the original bottom ladder (which was actually in pretty poor condition with a lot of missing rungs). The rope has been left in situ in case it's a help to others, however please note:
  • Its only just long enough to allow you to pendulum onto the remains of the platform.
  • Check the ladder it's attached to is still secure and the knot is tight
  • Make sure you don't abseil off the end of the rope - you will die!
  • someone else may borrow it for other purposes :-)

Once in the lower passage it was possible to explore some of the new pandora workings. We wandered along to the main shaft (Spion Kop) and looked at the remains of the ladderway to the surface (blocked off sometime ago) and the rising main used to pump the lower levels.

Beware the floor in this area as it's false and there are holes in various places which show the flooded remains of the lower levels. After a tour to the end of the main passage we returned to the main shaft and looked at a few artifacts on the old bench.

We then took the adit passage leading towards the lake, this has only 6" of water underfoot at the start, but the water level deepened and it is almost waist deep just before the opening of the adit was reached.

We guess this has the advantage of putting off children and poorly equipped explorers who might decide to venture into the mine via the adit. We emerged from the adit into bright sunlight and walked back up the road to the Van, Dave nipping back to retrieve the rope etc. from the descent shaft.

An exciting trip, about 4 Hours in total