Silver Eye Mine, Via Gellia - Alan Brentnall
Eight of us met at the Good Luck Mine layby, in the Via Gellia valley, just around the corner from Tufa Cottage, with the intention of taking a trip into Silver Eye Mine. Two of us, Pete and I, got there earlier to try to ensure that we had the correct location, so that the whole group wouldn't waste a lot of time combing the jungle that appears on the flanks of the valley in the summer months. We had both had previous trips into Silver Eye, but were unsure of the exact location. The only definite clue we had was that we were both convinced that the POI for Silver Eye on the Hitch & Hike GPX file for Peak District Caves was in the wrong place! After a mere ten minutes searching, and thinking logically about where it should be, we found it, and were relieved to find that there were paths (albeit small ones in part) all the way to the entrance.
As soon as everybody was assembled and kitted up, we set off for the mine, taking a rope and a few bits of rigging gear "just in case". Arriving at the hole, we dropped down a steep step, followed by a rocky incline past some stoping, to a low grovel through the obligatory puddle. More crawling and stooping followed, until we came to a narrow "doorway" followed by a step down. This led to an awkward traverse around a pitch, at the foot of which we could see a scaff bar. Unfortunately this pitch had no obvious belays, but a little further on, we stepped left through a "window" into a sloping passage where upwards led into stopes, and downwards led to the scaff bar. Good job we brought the rope! Alan W. rigged it to the scaff bar, and, using it as a hand-line, he descended the pitch. At the foot, we realised that we were in a cartgate - it was very level and larger than a coffin level, and (big clue) there were occasional sleepers on the floor.
The cartgate probably also acted as a sough, and, sure enough, one end of it brought us to the collapsed "tail". The other end passed beneath various raises / stopes to a rickety stope with a very slippery mud climb. This climb was very interesting and reasonably straightforward, but its slippery nature gave it a serious feel, and we wondered whether two ropes might have been a better idea. The top of the climb led to a network of tramming levels connecting various stopes. We decided that these stopes were a little too serious for solo climbing, but all agreed that it would be worth returning with more rope and the odd extra scaff bar to explore the mine further.
After a brief chat, we retreated to the head of the slippery climb. Alan W. traversed across it and found an easier and safer winze / stope to descend and thus the retreat was without incident. Being a summer trip, we exited in daylight, but it was still well after 9pm - time to retire to the beer garden of The Boat in Cromford for a pint of good beer and a chat about future plans.