Clapham Junction Mine – SRT
21st September 2021 & 5th July 2022
This is a mine on open public land, though obviously fenced off for safety. It has two entrances: one a vertical shaft of about 10 metres/30 feet requiring SRT, followed by another of about 12 feet to get to the very bottom. The other is a where surface soil has formed a steep slope, where you can either slither down or, clinging to the edges, climb out without ropes and end up lower down the hill. It is therefore ideal as a first underground SRT trip without having to prussic back out.
It is known as Clapham Junction because of the 18 inch gauge tramway tracks still down there (sorry, no Indianna Jones mine trucks to career about on) that have a junction with lines running down different tunnels and there is a ‘platform’ made of deads (rejected rocks, used to make walls in mines) beside the junction. Hence the grandiose name.
There were two trips in 2021 and 2022 due to requests for SRT experience. The first was my own first full underground SRT descent, exiting via the slope. The second I both descended and came out by SRT.
After the awkwardness of going over the edge for the first time, I found it easy going down on an early type Petzl Stop descender (where you press the lever, not pull it, to descend.) You are close to the edge of the shaft most of the way down, so you can steady and prevent spinning with your feet. The bottom 8 feet is through thin air as there is a passage leading off here. My first landing was not elegant, but at least soft.
Time for a little exploration and to video a couple of people abseiling down the shaft.
The passage under the descent is a short dead-end, so the only other passage snakes away for about 30 yards to the 2nd descent. Here is a sturdy piece of telegraph pole wedged horizontally to attach rigging to and we descended this to the lowest area. To the left is a longish passage ending in a medium sized chamber with a rock fall at one end. To the right, you come to the base of the soil slope and have to crawl through a couple tight squeezes to get past it and down the other side, after which you get to the junction, with the platform on the left, the ‘main line’ going ahead and the ‘branch line’ and its tunnel going of to the left behind you.
We explored the ‘branch line’ first, paddling through about a foot of water round a couple of twists and turns to a dead end. Then we explored the continuation of the ‘main line’ ahead to a large spoil heap in a largish chamber, with a bit more chamber the other side, which I only got to on my second trip. There seemed to be a restricted exit up from the far end of this, but we did not try it.
An interesting mine. Some nice colours and interesting features, with the lower part accessible for non SRT trained people, though a rope down that slope would make things a lot easier if there are many people accessing that way.