Oden sub-Cartgate Explorations - Phil Wolstenholme

Saturday, 18 December, 2010

Present: Mickey Campbell, Jess Eades, Martyn Grayson, Phil Wolstenholme.

The lower levels and routes in Odin have always intrigued me, partly as very little clarification or documentation exists other than the 1975 Peter Lord/SUSS survey, and as I was planning a very detailed photographic survey project of the site, I was anxious to ascertain that at least some of those routes still existed, and were stable enough to visit. Shortly before Christmas, on a shivery  minus-5 Saturday morning, a group of us set out to explore the sub-Cartgate pitch and level marked on the survey that lies approximately at the altitude of Knowlegates Sough.

Giant icicles hung from the gorge and cave-mouth, giving a spectacular, if forbidding start to the trip; upon reaching the head of the gorge, we found the entrance steaming like a kebab-shop. A more nervous observer might see this as demonic breath hissing from a giant skull, but none of us were that nervous, of course. The traditional route was followed down to the base of Chippendale Rift, at the opening to the Cartgate stope.

Lower Odin StopesAt floor level, a small passage (presumably heavily silted-up since the mine's working time) leads back west under the pitch, opening out almost immediately into another stoped-out section of the vein. The 'roof' of this stope is now seen to be the underside of Chippendale Rift, which, like the infamous 'handline climb' of the upper levels, is little more than a flimsy, though ingenious staircase of deads and wooden stemples jammed in the gap. With that reassuringly solid floor now shown to be an imminent rockfall suspended above us, we decided to steadfastly ignore it and press on with the investgations.

A bouldery climb down a few metres requires one to step over a large hole in the floor; this is the loose 60ft pitch mentioned in the survey. Immediately forwards (west) leads to an almost vertical drop-off into the vein stope, with no immediate way on. To the right (north) is a small alcove which proves to be a short crosscut into the other vein, branching at this point, and trending slightly more NW. Again, the stope is very deep, but this one features stalches of uncut vein across the void, proving platforms and (presumably) belay-points for future forward and down exploration. One important feature of Odin is that there are parallel veins in places, rather than just one, with the overall hading of the whole system complicating visualisations even further.

We decided at this point to continue deeper, as checking the stability of lower workings seemed to be more of a priority. Belaying to a large boulder in the alcove, Martyn gently descended the 60ft pitch, using a (surprisingly solid) stemple as a deviation, followed warily by the rest of us. At the pitch head (loose deads - beware) the hole is rounded, but immediately below that, it returns to the familar grubby Odin 'slot', widening as it deepens. I was expecting to see a staging and stacked deads on the way down, but the hole was reasonably unobstructed, and I suspect they have now fallen, as a very large pile of rubble lies at the base.

One very ragged level trending west was seen on the descent, seemingly cut through by the miners; perhaps this is the 'Old Man's Level' originally worked in the 17th Century, but not clearly defined on the old plans.The base of the pitch is another rough column of rubble and dirt dropping to both east and west. To the east a climb down leads into a smallish chamber, seemingly backfilled or collapsed at the eastern end, but with interesting workings and possible digging potential. To the west, a steep climb down leads to another junction. Straight ahead is another deep vertical pitch, unexplored on this trip, but which allegedly should lead to workings on Trickett Sough.

To the right is a crosscut with a solid rock floor and some standing water. This was a surprise, as most of Odin is backfilled stope, and we got much more excited at the sight of a real puddle! The passage trends back west after a short dog-leg, and then leads under some calcited stacked deads, with a panel of miner's pickwork and blue fluorite on the right, looking like a huge Jackson Pollock painting. Stopes above were unexplored, but looked extremely interesting.

Knowlegates Sough levelAt the approximate centre of the accessible part of the level, a large round shaft interrupts, going down about 5 metres to a blockage, and connecting upwards to further stopes and thence the deep west pitch from the upper levels. Bypassing the shaft, the level is blocked after another 15 metres or so; I didn't get to see this blockage, but it would be interesting to find the other side of that one!

The fact that much of this level was blasted through solid rock, and held water made us wonder whether this was actually a section of Knowlegates Sough, now mostly worked out, due to deeper drainage being effected by the later (and much lower) Trickett Sough. The only problem with this theory being that there was no immediately obvious way on in the chamber at the eastern end, but a bouldery choke in the very bottom of the eastern end could be a backfilled connection.

We resolved to add this conundrum to the list, and agreed on a return journey with drill and bolts immediately after the next scheduled visit. As we left the gorge, we found to our consternation that one of the giant icicles, over a metre in length, had dropped into the gorge and smashed. Trying not to think about omens, we carefully clambered through the shattered remains and got changed, still at minus-5. The next trip was to definitively investigate the natural inlet 'Jose Hole' high in the south wall of the cartgate, but that one held more surprises than we could ever expect...