Sunday, February 12, 2012

Solo Expedition, Nov. 20, 2011: Discovery/Excavation of Tunnel

This site is high up on the mountain. I drove up a dirt road up one canyon and then hiked down to this location. It's really steep. You take a tumble and it will take awhile to stop rolling.
Anyway, these might look like your everyday rock outcroppings, but underneath lies something hidden. I got a feeling looking at this ridge line, from a canyon road miles away, that there was something man made here that had been taken back by mother nature or TNT.You can see my ruck sack and pickaxe, ready to go to work on what I could tell was the remnants of an old prospect.After about a solid hour of swinging my pick, leveraging out some pretty big rocks, I managed to break through. This confirmed that I wasn't smoking old ropes from the garden shed after all. What you see is the largest I could make the opening, due to a massive rock slab that had fallen from the ceiling wouldn't let me dig the hole taller or wider. It was time to either leave, tape a camera to a willing squirrel, or suck in my gut and squeeze through this birth canal. I chose the last one...and it was almost the last choice I ever made.
The slide in was terrifying. I had a sharp rock digging right into my back while my stomach was trying to slug crawl over a smooth domed rock. I relaxed and let gravity take me down into the pit. In the picture above you can see a tunnel that is pristine. Nobody has been here for many decades, if not, a whole hundred years. There were no indications of footprints in the dirt, litter, or animal nests. From what I could tell, it was a very old prospect that collapsed not long after it had been abandoned. I was rather excited to be the first in a long time to be in this place. Little did I know that soon I would be in serious trouble. Though, the euphoria I was experiencing didn't let on that I was waltzing into my tomb--usually when one is giggling and stumbling around in the dark, it isn't deep inside a mountain hole that they just dug their way into.Bad air in mine shafts is something that I've certainly read and heard about. I clearly knew better than to just jump in this hole without a buddy, without more safety precautions, and (duh) letting the damned thing air out for a week. I was too jazzed to remember these important details to not leap in like I was chasing a leprechaun into his den. Like I said earlier, I started feeling euphoric. I was getting dizzy and started laughing for no apparent reason, other than it just felt good. I don't know what I was breathing, but it wasn't oxygen. It was probably carbon dioxide or possibly methane gas. The moment that I realized that I was suffocating, I got my wits back enough to turn around and head back the hundred or so feet that I had walked in. Despite my legs feeling heavier than lead at this point, my retreat was frantic, bumping into the sides of the tunnel as I weaved.The sight of blue light coming from the entrance calmed me down. Despite the urgency of the situation, this was picture worthy--I mean, it was like a micro rapture happening for me right then and there. It's hard to express the terror I was experiencing, yet somehow I was still in some strange la-la land of foggy elation. These feelings were all going on while I was thinking about potential death and how to escape from it. Nobody could even know what was happening to me at this time. It was all me and the Great Gazoo.

I laid down on the ground for awhile where this picture was taken. I could literally taste the air on my tongue. However, resting at this spot wasn't getting me enough air. My head was hurting more than I've ever experienced before, with exception of having actual head injuries. I started my crawl up the collapse to my hole, pushing my pack ahead of me.

The thing about climbing up, versus sliding down, is that now I have to use all my muscles to climb out. When I use all my muscles, I get bigger--I can't suck in anything. Simply put, I did not fit. I was smart enough to pop my pickaxe head off and throw it down the hole before hand. I don't know why I did this, but I am glad that I did. This move saved my freakin' bacon. I slithered back a bit and dug out the pickaxe head. I only had enough room to paddle the dirt from side to side, down behind me, as I rocked left to right. This was slow going, but I eventually made enough room to get past the tightest spot, but then my feet didn't have enough room or traction to get me out the rest of the way.

The pickaxe handle was left at the hole (you can actually see it at the top of the hole in the last picture). I reached and grabbed it with my right hand, turned it sideways, wedged it into the sides of the outer rocks, and pulled my body up enough to make it out to safety. I spent another twenty minutes laying outside on the dirt pile I had made. My body was burning, and my head was taking longer to clear than I had expected. Snow flakes started falling all over my body, but I didn't care; it felt good. Embarrassment and triumph are odd feelings to have at the same time, but that is what I felt at that moment. I gathered myself together, thanked God for saving me from my own retardation, and then realized that I still had to hike a long way uphill back to my truck.

Good times: I won't ever do that again by myself. Do you know of any women that like to do this sort of thing?

9 comments:

The Grunt said...

Hey buddy, I'll go out with you next time and I'll even buy you lunch!

Outdoorsy Girl said...

I literally felt like I was suffocating just reading this! I would say "That's so awesome!"...but I don't want to encourage you to risk your life again! I will say "Awesome pictures!" though!

Awesome pictures! (that's me saying it. Lol) I've been wanting to see them ever since you told me about this adventure. They're very eerie. It's like stepping back in history, but with the people erased.

Keep on posting the (safer) adventure pics! :)

Nessa Roo said...

I'm not much for throwing myself into a dark and dreary, oxygen-less hole to my death.
All the times I've done it in the past turned out bad. (oh, wait, that's a lie. I've never done that before.)
There is a cave my cousins and I used to go into every Easter filled with quartz or something like it. It looks about the same as your pictures, but I never went in alone.

tys said...

:) thing about things like this is that it always feels amazing in retrospection...

theres a fog like thingy in one pic...is that the air u were breathing? damn, grunt...

i wud love to say, gimme more of this but not at the cost of your life...next time , safety...cool?

glad u r fine

The Grunt said...

Me~ Dude, you fart too much. I'm embarrassed to go out with you anymore.

O-Girl~ It wasn't really that bad until I got in about thirty feet. The air the rest of the way was all bad and once I started suffocating it was hard to recover. It isn't like drowning in water--it sneaks up on you and weird things start happening. You can still see that the air at the front wasn't great, either. Oh yeah, it was eerie x 100!

Nessa Roo~ Yeah, I find a lot of quartz in mine tunnels. I've found copper, lead, and silver ore, but yet to find gold.

Tys~ I don't know 100% what that fog was, but I was breathing it. I thought it could have been vapor, but the air was bone dry in there. Whatever gas it was, it didn't have enough oxygen to keep me alive, if I planned to hang out any longer than I did. I will post more of my past and future adventures. This was the riskiest adventure I'd done in awhile. I learned a lot from this experience. I will need to tell the story of how I once got stuck in the same spot in a cavern where a man's corpse is now stuck and the cave had to be sealed off.

Anonymous said...

shit! that wud make 127 a happy ending...

Christielli said...

My idea of adventure is trying a new coffee shop. ;)

Jules said...

Well, I don't know about the near death experience, but I love to explore. I never would have thought of the air being unbreathable in there...

I'm glad you're still alive!!!

The Grunt said...

Anonymous~ Yeah, I'm very proud of the fact that I'm no Aron Ralston. I did at least tell people the general area I was in, but that would have just made it easier for the dogs to sniff out my corpse.

Christielli~ You are adventurous--adventurous in an urban way.

Jules~ I don't like having near death experiences. I do enjoy telling people how stupid I am, though:D