Over the weekend I got the chance to go to Tecopa California to explore a few mines due to a donation/ advance from MelvaLue :) (Thanks). The weekend started off at 3AM on Thursday morning and then a long drive down with the group I went down with to get to the East entrance of the War Eagle mine at 5PM and set up camp. right after we had camp setup we went in the mine for a couple hours of exploration we knew were were going in on the 5th level and were just getting a quick look around to know where we had to go the next morning to go down to levels 1-4. When we came out around 7:30 we cooked up some steak and went to bed (well at least I did as I am almost always the first to go to bed).
The next morning came and after a hearty breakfast of breakfast burritos we headed into the mine. we initially wend down the main haulage tunnel to the 4th level for a quick bit of exploration and decided to explore from the bottom up. So off we went down the stairs on the 30 degree slope down the hundreds of feet to the bottom. (every level in the mine is approximately 100 feet above the last). We began exploring as a group for the most part and on level 2 we found about a dozen sticks of dynamite and some blasting caps as well as a pit that had a shovel in it (these were later brought up by others a day later). once we got to level 3 we had lunch and due to some peoples poor planning had to head out to get their water bottles filled up and head back in. Once back in we checked out some Ore cars on level 3 and finished exploring level 4. once on level 5 our main goal was to find some cribbing (stacked timbers to hold ceilings etc) that the passage to level 6 and 7 was to be found near. after crawling through said cribbing and searching the tunnels further on only to find what looked like the haulage tunnel to the 6 and 7 levels but was inaccessible due to lack of rope on the team at the time. as we were climbing back through the cribbing I noticed a passage going up and followed it for a bit. it looked to go up 100's of feet with lots of 2'X 2' timbers creating the cribbing. I called down to Robert (the guy leading the group) to have him come take a look and once he was up we both looked behind us and up for the first time instead of toward the passageway I had found and jointly said lets get out of here. it looked like 50 ton rocks had crashed down in the past and broke the huge timbers by the dozen like they were so much kindling...
We continued back to the main passage and past a long stope (slope that miners would make when the vain they were mining went sideways) to the last passage in the mine that we hadn't explored (minus level 6 and 7). this tunnel was at least 1.75 miles long with many ore chutes from above leading into it. One chute had an arrow on it and a sign saying "Grant" another mine in the area giving us a better idea how far back in the mountain we were. This ended day 2 and we trudged out to eat sub par lasagna and French bread.. and once again I went to bed before almost anyone else
- Note my camera battery died sometime during the day.. and didn't have a spare or a charger :(
Day 3 Saturday we decided to head over to the Colombia mine to explore some ore cars that we had been told we could go ride in (I have seen video of these guys riding them like Indiana Jones). We found the first set of ladders in the haulage tunnel in about 5 minutes and headed down the 45 degree slope to the bottom in search for the second set of ladders. we missed the turn at first and came to a very old section of the mine that there was a fire in at one point to the extent that all of the rock was black and looked like it had been seared. we headed back and found the second set of ladders and began the decent. these ladders went down about 150 feet straight down in 30 foot or so sections (unfortunately they are slightly canted back). once at the bottom it was a quick walk to the next section of ladders. we had been told that these ladders were sketchy and that rope would be a good idea but not necessary. we were also told they were a max of 150 feet down. after some debate a couple guys went down the ladders to see how bad they were and what would be needed to get down. as they descended they kept us apprised of what they were coming across. at least 100 feet down they came to a section where the ladder was missing and climbed down the walls past it. Up top we decided to drop the rope we brought (150 feet) down an adjoining hole to set up for the repel down. we didn't hear the rope hit bottom when we dropped it so we pulled it back up and tied a light to the end and dropped it again. by now the initial guys had reached bottom and we told them to look for our rope.. the light was soon out of view from us due to a slight curve and unfortunately never came into view for the guys below. the rope was too short and most of us thought it prudent not to have a large group go down bad ladders only to get stranded at the bottom so we called it quits and headed out.
Now I said that the ladder we came down was canted back a little? this makes climbing a serious pain as you have to hold your body to the ladder the entire time causing your forearms to burn out way before they normally would.
Once out of this mine we decided to look at the west entrance of the War Eagle (at level 7) and see if we could find out how to get to level 5. We quickly explored all of the easy to access areas of level 7 and then found a slope with a ladder and headed down it into the main Haulage tunnel.. we had found the way down. a couple people went down the loose scree that led them to the ore car on level 5 that we had found. so we decided to slide our way down the 500+ feet of loose scree and come out through the east entrance. we were quickly down and then climbed a short ways up a pit into level 5 and walked out. once out (around 430) a few people hiked back over the mountain to get the trucks we had left behind.
Sunday morning we woke and began packing up to leave. as we were packing up a couple of guys who had gone down to level 2 and brought out some dynamite and blasting caps decided to hike to the edge of the tailings pile and light off the dyno (I guess to send us off with a bang HEHE). anyhow the Dynamite was a dud but the blasting cap was still live and went of like a couple of M80s.. Then for the long drive home.. I got home at 930 on Sunday night and passed out :)
Here are some pics.. it was a great trip