10 months ago in one of my first posts, I wrote about the journey that led me to an old tin mine in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. More recently, after discussing this trip with a friend, they asked if I managed to climb the 'Thai Everest'. A hole in the ceiling of the upper mine broke out to the peak of the mountain and was marked by a wooden sign and basic rock climb- and somehow dubbed the Thai Everest. My reply was, no and therefore needed a return trip.
This time with an earlier start and much more time, we explored every mine shaft and soon realised the sheer size of the underground maze. The mine easily clocked up a total of 15-20 kilometers of tunnel and had dozens of junctions. We were careful not to get lost although had no plan to reliably retrace our tracks other than trial an error.
Many of the new mine shafts led out to over grown openings on the other side of the mountain or on a completely different mountain altogether. Some mines were blocked by bamboo caged walls but looked like they didn't extend far while others were blocked by rock fall and cave-ins.
Obviously the video details the trip in a more exciting manner, so here it is.
Filmed with: GoPro HERO6 and Feiyu Tech Wearable Gimbal
Before the trip I needed to install and test my battery powered LED. My Honda CRF250R motocross bike isn't road legal and doesn't come with lights or electronics- kick start and no key. A simple modification to the crossbar on the handlebar allowed me to do just that.
The 36 watt LED light bar will run on small 9v batteries. During testing they lasted up to around 7 hours but only gave out half power. Using a 12v lithium ion battery let the light run at full power and lasted 2 hours. With 2 12v batteries and extra 9v's I had plenty of light to last.
The new mine shafts that we explored were a mix or small tunnels, flooded tunnels and tunnels that seemed to still be in use. Spray paint and drilled holes indicated that mining and blasting was still going on.
Tyre tracks in the wet dirt also showed that vehicles had been driven in and out. We were aware that any weathering and erosion down there would likely be minimal so what appeared recent could actually be years old.
As the mines changed altitude and took us up or down, we often came across water logged or flooded tracks. Most were still accessible to us and we managed to ride through.
The mine shafts on the lower levels were flooded to the ceiling and completely inaccessible. The still air and dead environment left the flood water ripple free.
All sediment had sunk to the bottom and as we shone our lights across the waters surface it appeared crystal clear and a perfect refection as smooth as a sheet of glass creating a strange illusion making it unclear what we were actually looking at, at first!
As we gained height and followed the tunnels that led up, we weaved in and out of the mountain. The broken peak came closer and closer and was riddled in small tunnels.
Nearing the end of the highest tunnel, the darkness was lit by bright sunshine. We had found the opening and started planning what was the best route up.
Trying to climb the rocky sides was easy enough until we were blocked by dead ends and no way to traverse round. Loose rubble and grit on the left side offered no grip at all so were were left with plan C!
Plan C was to run up the slab rock in the center. It was rubble free and a direct route to the exit up to the ceiling. It was also our least favourite choice as it resembled a 30m slide with an uncomfortable drop off into a rock pile and no way to slow a slip if we lost grip.
Our first attempt got us no further than 1 step and a slip- not a good start! Our motocross boots were clearly not made to grip slab rock and gave no feeling as to what we were trying to grip on to.
No wanting to give up, we improvised plan C and tried to climb bare foot! Toes and fingers could grip onto the cracks and small holes and as long as we kept momentum we were OK.
Exiting the top of the mine and climbing to the peak was no easy task- with a pair of shoes it would have been but not in bare feet walking over sharp rock and gravel! We didn't think that far ahead and had yet to think how we would climb back down without building up speed and shooting off the rock slide.
On the ceiling of the exterior wall were huge bee nests and giant honey combs. Bees were everywhere but luckily were the smaller friendly ones that didn't sting- or perhaps we just ignored them as much as we would and didn't swat or annoy them.
A slow painful climb and cut feet, we had reached the sign and view point.
A much harder climb was up to the summit. At this point, the information about only needing basic rock climbing skills seemed slightly inaccurate.
Treading as lightly as I could and scooting along on my backside for a lot of it to avoid any further pain to the soles of my feet I reached the top.
All that was left now, was to climb back down to the bikes. We decided to take the sensible option and walk down the outside of the mountain, find the mine entrance that led us in and walk up that way. The slab rock was just too dangerous to slide down and cushion a landing without boots.
Every step was now incredibly painful and our pace very slow. With nothing in our bags or pockets to protect our feet, we thought of the next best thing- grass shoes.
There was loads of grass around and I had some tie-wraps in my bag (usually used to help mount GoPro clips and cameras).
Cutting bunches of grass and tie-wrapping them to our feet was a simple fix and even clambering over the rocks felt like a walk in a garden with soft grass between our toes!
Arriving back to the mine entrance our DIY shoes had worked, however the next problem was about to begin. Our torches and lights were with the bikes and we were faced with a pitch black walk navigating the correct route back to the bikes. To be fair this was one of the shorter mine shafts and didn't offer much of a challenge.
Putting on comfortable socks and boots was a real treat , in hindsight we should have taken our boots up with us tied onto our backs- but that would have been less eventful.
We started up and headed back the way we came. A few wrong turns and double backs and we were back to the main tunnel in familiar territory.
The once famous sign stating the owners name marks the main tunnel. Other than this there is no signage or information about the mine, the company or it's history.
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