• Out now!!

    'Descent 290 is published this week and features eight extra pages. I'm not quite sure why I decided to give myself such additional work so early in my editorship, but my loss is your gain'.

    New Descent board here:

Beginning Mining

Hennerald

New member
Hi everyone,

After many videos and research I think I'd like to begin exploring mines recreationally. I appreciate it's fun, but also very dangerous, so I want to make sure I'm prepared.

Would anyone be able to provide me with tips on what to do, essentials I will need and everything in between?

I'm not going to grab a torch and jump down the nearest mine, I want to do things "properly". I'm based near Cornwall,UK so I understand there may be a lot for me to consider.

Thanks!
 

tomferry

Active member
As the above has said my honest advice would be.

Join a club this is the safest route possible & go from there.

I also believe always go with somebody never alone & let others no what you plan on doing . Ie when your going in and rescue call out times .
 

Hennerald

New member
Great thanks guys, I'll reach out to Carbis Bay crew and see if there are perhaps any other groups around as well!
 

Brains

Well-known member
You say "near" Cornwall... Devon has an active explorer base, and then as you go further up country there are the Mendips, a mass of mined sites are waiting for your delight, as well as a cave I believe...
Many of the mines in the SW will require rope access. Proper equipment and training (from a club or instructor) will make for happy dangling 😍
 

Hennerald

New member
You say "near" Cornwall... Devon has an active explorer base, and then as you go further up country there are the Mendips, a mass of mined sites are waiting for your delight, as well as a cave I believe...
Many of the mines in the SW will require rope access. Proper equipment and training (from a club or instructor) will make for happy dangling 😍
Amazing, I'm on the border of Cornwall and Devon so actually that would work perfectly! Do you know of any clubs or explorers in Devon at all?

Thanks so much
 

Brains

Well-known member
Also look through the "New to Caving" board on this site, there is much overlap in the kit and techniques used in mine exploring...
 

Cantclimbtom

Active member
Good for you... get down some mines ;)

You should find that mine exploring is an unusually friendly bunch. I'd be astonished if there aren't people more than happy to take you out on a few trips.

Some hazards are pretty obvious but some are not, so learning from other people's experience is useful.

Borrow kit before buying if possible. If you only buy 5 things I would suggest
1) Wellies - cheaper the better (usually cheaper are lighter) and get the ones with normal soles not the fancy mud shedding wiggle ones which are great on a clay soil building site and terrible on wet rock. Add some thin insoles taken out from a dead pair of trainers
2) Helmet - Single most important item, maybe that should be number 1 on list? The best helmet is no longer made, but you can get "previously enjoyed" on eBay, look for "petzl ecrin roc" they were cheap as chips but price rising as they are still sought after but no longer made. Keep looking and if lucky you see £25 to £30 one, then pounce on it!
3) cheap boiler suit from Screwfix or wherever, the more polyester and less cotton the better as it just might get damp underground.
4) knee pads, again Screwfix or wherever
5) head torch. Stay cheap for now, get a fancy light later (best exploring lamp is the "dragon" http://www.ledcaplamps.com/dragon_5.htm) but until experienced and know what you need and why don't splash money, stay cheap for now. Always have a waterproof backup torch somewhere you can find in the dark. Long runtime and robust reliability are more important than lumen numbers
 

tomferry

Active member
Good for you... get down some mines ;)

You should find that mine exploring is an unusually friendly bunch. I'd be astonished if there aren't people more than happy to take you out on a few trips.

Some hazards are pretty obvious but some are not, so learning from other people's experience is useful.

Borrow kit before buying if possible. If you only buy 5 things I would suggest
1) Wellies - cheaper the better (usually cheaper are lighter) and get the ones with normal soles not the fancy mud shedding wiggle ones which are great on a clay soil building site and terrible on wet rock. Add some thin insoles taken out from a dead pair of trainers
2) Helmet - Single most important item, maybe that should be number 1 on list? The best helmet is no longer made, but you can get "previously enjoyed" on eBay, look for "petzl ecrin roc" they were cheap as chips but price rising as they are still sought after but no longer made. Keep looking and if lucky you see £25 to £30 one, then pounce on it!
3) cheap boiler suit from Screwfix or wherever, the more polyester and less cotton the better as it just might get damp underground.
4) knee pads, again Screwfix or wherever
5) head torch. Stay cheap for now, get a fancy light later (best exploring lamp is the "dragon" http://www.ledcaplamps.com/dragon_5.htm) but until experienced and know what you need and why don't splash money, stay cheap for now. Always have a waterproof backup torch somewhere you can find in the dark. Long runtime and robust reliability are more important than lumen numbers
An amazing entry level torch that I no of to go with the above comment is this . I would personally vouch for it if on a budget but want something decent. I have this as my back up torch.

 

Pete K

Well-known member
Good for you... get down some mines ;)

You should find that mine exploring is an unusually friendly bunch. I'd be astonished if there aren't people more than happy to take you out on a few trips.

Some hazards are pretty obvious but some are not, so learning from other people's experience is useful.

Borrow kit before buying if possible. If you only buy 5 things I would suggest
1) Wellies - cheaper the better (usually cheaper are lighter) and get the ones with normal soles not the fancy mud shedding wiggle ones which are great on a clay soil building site and terrible on wet rock. Add some thin insoles taken out from a dead pair of trainers
2) Helmet - Single most important item, maybe that should be number 1 on list? The best helmet is no longer made, but you can get "previously enjoyed" on eBay, look for "petzl ecrin roc" they were cheap as chips but price rising as they are still sought after but no longer made. Keep looking and if lucky you see £25 to £30 one, then pounce on it!
3) cheap boiler suit from Screwfix or wherever, the more polyester and less cotton the better as it just might get damp underground.
4) knee pads, again Screwfix or wherever
5) head torch. Stay cheap for now, get a fancy light later (best exploring lamp is the "dragon" http://www.ledcaplamps.com/dragon_5.htm) but until experienced and know what you need and why don't splash money, stay cheap for now. Always have a waterproof backup torch somewhere you can find in the dark. Long runtime and robust reliability are more important than lumen numbers
Really sorry, but I have to chip in on some of that advice.

2) Do not buy a used and out of date helmet like an Ecrin Roc on ebay. They are discontinued because they don't meet modern standards. You could go into Decathalon and buy a new Simond climbing helmet for about £30. Even if you don't get on with it in the long term, it's cheap and at least you have something that is modern and not life-expired on your head. Best thing is to meet others and try their lids on to find one you like. For now, any "climbing/mountaineering" helmet bought from a reputable retailer (not eBay or Amazon!) will suffice. Industrial safety helmets can be cheaper, but are only for walk around stuff. If you want to get on ropes in future, buy a proper climbing helmet designed to stay on your head.

Nothing personal cantclimbtom, but I really don't think it is a good thing to recommend buying OOD or obsolete kit to a newcomer, even if it is within your personal comfort zone. Experienced people can make that judgement, but newcomers will not be able to in an informed way.

Oh, and a vote for a Petzl PIXA 2 (or 3) as your first light. They are nearly indestructible and although not the brightest light out there, they are as reliable as they come.
 

Pete K

Well-known member
EN 12492 certified helmets around £30 here.
Seems to be a good deal on a Petzl PIXA 2 here.
These Dunlop Acifort boots are superbly grippy.

All three of the above items will probably cost less in total than one out of date used Ecrin Roc on eBay.

I can also only echo the other main point of advice above - start by going out with folks who know what they are doing. CBC or another local group. Even if you move on to another group or away from club caving, you can get some valuable safety experience quickly by learning from others as you start out.
 

tomferry

Active member
EN 12492 certified helmets around £30 here.
Seems to be a good deal on a Petzl PIXA 2 here.
These Dunlop Acifort boots are superbly grippy.

All three of the above items will probably cost less in total than one out of date used Ecrin Roc on eBay.

I can also only echo the other main point of advice above - start by going out with folks who know what they are doing. CBC or another local group. Even if you move on to another group or away from club caving, you can get some valuable safety experience quickly by learning from others as you start out.
Very good advice apart from the torch, you couldn’t find your way out of a portaloo with it ;) I agree it won’t break though.
 

alanw

Active member
Industrial safety helmets can be cheaper, but are only for walk around stuff. If you want to get on ropes in future, buy a proper climbing helmet designed to stay on your head.
"Working at height" / "Linesman" helmets with chinstraps are cheaply available, starting at £19:
 

Pete K

Well-known member
"Working at height" / "Linesman" helmets with chinstraps are cheaply available, starting at £19:
Yep, although that one may only really be appropriate for walking explores. An EN397 helmet with a chin strap (optional under the standard) is required to release from the head at 250N (25kg) of force, so the user does not get caught up or strangled when moving around a site. The helmet in that link is an EN397 certified one. A mountaineering helmet (EN12492) needs a robust cradle that keeps it on your head during a fall. They also have side impact tests as standard, where 397 lids are top down only. Work at height helmets are basically mountaineering ones with small or no holes.
Hybrid helmets exist where they are certified against one standard, but have additional testing to conform to parts or all of the other standard, or conform to no exact standard but are certified as PPE anyway.
The helmet in this Screwfix link may be just such a lid, but for the sake of £11 more, I'd get the helmet that is certified for staying on your head in a climbing and mountaineering (and caving) type use case, unless you plan on only ever doing walking trips.

 

Pete K

Well-known member
I should point out that even as a caving instructor, until I moved into work at height training as well a few years ago, I had no idea how complex and fudged some of the helmet standards were. It's not clear at all to most people what a particular helmet may be appropriate for. In simple terms, not all lids are equal, even if they look the same and have similar features.
 

Cantclimbtom

Active member
Hopefully this discussion on compliance with European Normale standards and the complexities of regulations on PPE for work use won't distract OP from the idea that having a helmet of some kind on their head is VERY important when exploring a mine.

In the past I once slipped down a big sloping boulder and found myself running forwards and then fully tripped up at the bottom, so flying head first at speed into a dagger of rock. I woke up lying flat on my back a short while later and had a very sore neck for a few days and a chunk out of the top of my helmet, but without a helmet there's no doubt it would have been a fractured skull. That would be bad enough injury in "civilization" but a long way underground would compound the situation. Anyway, even if you ignore everything else in this thread 🙂 please get a helmet. Borrow one from whoever takes you out on first trips, follow their advice.
 

paul

Moderator
I totally agree that having a helmet is very important. However having a reliable safe helmet which is up to the job of protecting your head rather than somewhere to hang a light on is also important. In your example, an old helmet which may not absorb the shock of a fall might have ended in a helmet in small pieces (or on the ground nearby if the helmet was able to come off during the fall) and a chunk out of the top of your head instead of the helmet. Worth bearing in mind.
 
Top