Using Dynamite & Rope To Get Into Abandoned Mines


Here’s a continuation of my search for ways into the main Union Mine at Cerro Gordo without using the central shaft and hoist. This time I start with the Omega Mine, using a loader, backhoe, and dynamite to bust in. Then it was onto the Bullion.

A couple weeks back, Johnny and explored the Bullion Mine in what was the most terrifying mine exploration I’d ever done. You can watch that here:
https://youtu.be/HlDg41-zizU

Thank you for your support and for subscribing. I have set up a Patreon for those interested in more content, live video AMAs and supporting me and the town!
https://www.patreon.com/ghosttownliving

You can follow my journey on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brentwunderwood/

Cerro Gordo T-Shirts and more: https://store.cerrogordomines.com/ (all proceeds go to hotel rebuilding)

You can send me mail at:
PO Box 490, Lone Pine, CA 93545

To provide ongoing support to the American Hotel rebuilding efforts, check out my bonus content on Patreon. Every dollar from that goes directly into rebuilding the American Hotel and projects around the town. Thank you! https://www.patreon.com/ghosttownliving

Did a wrong just give out? Yes, I’ve seen the damage thus far, johnny no johnny. I’ve come to the realization that we’re going to go back. I mean it’s. The only way to do. We were 50 feet from knowing definitively if the buoyant does connect to the union entering the union mine at Cerro Gordo. The union mine here at Cerro Gordo, is the reason Cerro Gordo is what it is. It’s the 900 foot vertical shaft with 30 miles of mines. Off of it, It’s the mind that they pulled something like 500 million dollars with the minerals out of and so getting into the union mine is very exciting. For me, the only way that I know of right now to get in is to take the coist from 1865 down the shaft and stop at the different levels and the the issue there is. It takes a team and It’s just a production to go down there.

I’ve always been curious about other ways to get into it, and I heard rumors. You know the first whisper that I heard was of this thing called the omega tunnel. This is it the treasure map, for who knows how many adventures, but today’s adventure is all about the omega tunnel and if you can read here, it says in later years, razors and windsors connected the Cerro Gordo 900 level with the omega tunnel providing a required second Mine exit the omega tunnel was connected with the main cerro goro 200 level. When I read that It’s crazy, it connects to the 900 and to the 200
Those are probably two of the most famous levels of the union mine, so that is the portal to the omega tunnel and after looking at the map, that is what potentially connects to the 200 level the 200 for more unfortunate reasons.

It’s the level of the mine where, in the 1870s somewhere around 30 miners lost their lives in a collapse and were never recovered so that mine was sealed up and the 900 level I mean that’s the bottom of the hoist, that’s as deep as it gets. that’s the deep unknown, and so over the past month or so I have been doing everything in my power to try to get into the omega tunnel, which includes using the loader going to try to open up the omega tunnel with the loader use that first try To get it open, as we can then use dynamite beyond that, so headed down to the back side of the property.

Now with the loader, I was using the loader to dig out this potential portal or entrance into the omega all right. that’s what we’re trying to get to gotta get rid of all this rock trying to use this loader see. Basically, what I’m trying to do is just get the bucket up on the rock and pull it down just keep pulling it down then I’ll scoop it and bring it away. So I gotta raise the bucket up as high as I can and then just kind of drive up as high as I can. You know put it at an angle like this and then just let gravity drag back down the rock the problem with that. Is it feels like you’re gonna flip over backwards when you’re doing that, so I’ll show you a little bit of what I mean?

Well, progress is halted because we have encountered a bar, a big freaking rock getting closer, and I spent probably a good week straight on a loader trying to get in look at this. Not that much more stands between me and the omega tomorrow. We have to get a backhoe for the hotel site, so I’ll have a backhoe at my disposal. Oh today, we in the big boy vehicle got the backhoe I’m ready to get into the omega There’s something about driving these big trucks all right time to switch it in and get to the task at hand of getting into this damn omega.

We got the extended arm today, too, ready fancy and then with the backhoe I got the arm. I was able to reach out, remove, rocks and each time I’m getting more and more excited because It’s like you almost feel the levi’s back there or something. If you can’t tell It’s after dark still trying to get into this omega, I really want to get in. I don’t know if It’s going to happen today, but I saw a little hole in the rock that almost looked like an entrance so getting there. So I keep breaking it down with the with the backhoe and loading it out all that dirt.

I’ve made today, as I was dealing with the backhoe, the rock shelf above it became very precarious. It was overhanging and my fear was that I would touch it with the backhoe. The rocks would collapse into the loader or into the backhoe shatter the window and potentially hurt me, and so I convinced robert who’s. The former caretaker up here, who hasn’t been up here in quite a while to come back up because he’s a certified dynamite blaster. He is certified to use dynamite for mining purposes, and that is exactly what I wanted to do because my thinking was.

We were close. If we could just blast some of the rock out of the way, then I could clean it up with the loader and the backhoe get that out of there and get into the omega yesterday. Robert came up want to make sure that you probe it put your cap close to halfway down crimp the cap, of course, and I like to tape the sticks together so that you have a little more control. Oh god, yeah touch, him don’t touch him. I got some water and attracting to wash your hands off. No is that for the nitroglycerin yeah, if you get nitro on you, some people are really affected by it. Other people are not that can give you one really bad headache. I’ve had several nitro headaches that were excruciating. I could have brought duct tape I should have, but this works just fine yeah. So on the old dynamite I used to see on the box is like a percentage. 30. 40

Yeah this is uh 60.. So that’s what percentage of nitroglycerin glycerin this was a 60 percent trim the end. I cut this at a 45 so that I’ve got a lot of powder showing on here. Okay, so it lights easier. I like this in the wind, is really a pain in the ass. Now, let’s go see if we can dig ourselves a spot to set this okay, I was able to even light some of the dynamite myself in areas where robert couldn’t get to I’m gon na. Really pack it in there fire in the hole, didn’t quite get in there blasted again and we did four total blasts and we didn’t get into the portal.

But the important thing is we removed that shelf rock that I was concerned about for the loader and when we did one blast, it was very visible that the rock, instead of going out just went straight down which led us to believe that there was the portal There and it just fell into the portal that was still there so now, I’m not a lot of dig out to do. It’s give me quite a bit of work with the loader and the backhoe, so in the spirit of getting into the union before the new year, I’m going back to the bouyon boleon. Whatever I took speech class as a kid, it didn’t stick.

So if I mispronounced words, I don’t know what to say: you have to deal with it and so tomorrow johnny and I are going back into the bullion. So the last time we went into the bouyon tunnel, it was probably the scariest mine exploration. I’ve ever done there was all sorts of gear problems. Johnny the rope was wrong. My harness came off at one point. It was all borrowed gear, combined with a new mine that I’d never been into very old ladders. That hadn’t been touched for a while. It was just generally a pretty terrifying experience, and so I think this time before going in there, I really try to make sure that I could take every precaution that I could and prepare as much as possible before entering two lights.

Big boy, light uv light. Just in case we can use a uv light. I have head lamps, of course, full body harness the other one I was wearing. I wasn’t comfortable with so I got a new one got the other stuff gloves brand new rope before I was using rope. That was here from the last owners got the helmet, which I had last time, but this is like a reflective vest. I’m gonna go tell johnny that he has to wear you all packed up yeah, I’m just kidding. You want me to do the helmet yeah. You have to wear the helm and then, unfortunately, I gotta. Have you wear this too?

What is this? The reflective vest? No I’m not yeah, I mean if you get injured, people know where you are at least I feel like this is really appropriate. Okay, so I’ll wear one if you’re wearing one, but I already look like an idiot. So look! Okay! Maybe this will maybe this one? Oh It’s pretty fly I like that. Maybe this will no dude. I go all black, I’m not wearing this with a helmet and my stupid, clear glasses. I look like a total door. What do you think about the youtube comments that think that you’re a little reckless um? I think I love them. Actually they motivate me they.

Those comments are the most motivating, because I want to prove them wrong, so I’m going to do even more reckless to cancel it out good. Well, you said how much a day I always have a helmet. I just don’t wear it in there all right we’re back! Today’S the day, johnny we get into the union, we were so close today we’re properly prepared, johnny’s wearing a helmet for the first time in his life uh. He has a gopro. Today we have extra rope. I got a new harness, I’m wearing my helmet too. I’m gonna be reckless johnny’s gonna be reckless and we’re gonna find some jeans.

The research tells me that if There’s any place that cereal with jeans, this is the place with jeans so hold your breath. we’re going in all right. Take two sweet one tunnel johnny. What do you think is gonna happen today? Uh. I think I think I’m gonna fall when I think I’m gonna get hurt and I think we’re gonna find some stuff and you’re gonna come up with it. All by yourself, I’m gonna find some jeans we’re leaving johnny behind somebody’s gonna find those capri pants he’s wearing about 100 years. There was less exploration this time.

We pretty much went immediately back to the tunnel that we had the ladder break on us. Last time we’re back to our favorite ladder ladders, why did it have to be ladders? As you can see, we left the rope from last time. We are going to take a different way down that we discovered on the way up when we got back in there. This time we can make pretty quick work getting back to the main tunnels, but There’s no getting around the main shaft area, the main ladder that went 300 feet straight down and that’s the one that, as I was standing on last time it broke, and there was Slack in the line – and I essentially thought that I was in free, fall, headed back down a little safer this time. Look at that johnny’s even wearing a mask. Did you just fart or something doesn’t smell, so bad, headed down while you’re back there?

Obviously, There’s excitement and There’s the hope that this is a historic discovery, but There’s also just the primal basic fear. that’s involved in being an extremely dark place, with an extremely long drop right below you and just a lot of unknowns and so you’ll. Never fully shake that, I don’t think it just. You have to find a way to manage it, and so for me for managing it. I try not to look down on the ladders because I’m a bit afraid of heights. But if I look straight down, that’s a problem, I take it as rung by wrong. You know one small step for brent and johnny, one giant leap for Cerro Gordo, history and denim.

Oh good, we’re back to the part where the ladder broke. It’s my favorite part of the whole day, so that’s the rope that we tied up last time when we thought we were stuck now we’re gonna go to the great beyond. I was not happy. Last time I was around here yep There’s the broken left step. Careful what was that something just fell good thing, you’re wearing that helmet just take it. Take it slow. This mine is not friendly. Today, yikes whoa, careful, sorry bro. I just don’t want to have the false impression that that was a real step on the way back up yeah, I get that that’s where your pipe ends, so you’re gonna make a c-shape whoa.

Are you on a level? Yes, I am uh, so write down more runs below me. Yes, there are, they come back right out right, underneath you just that little part’s, not too fun right there. It’s not, but you just, I don’t uh. What we’re gonna definitely have to use the jewmars to go back up so going down. A rope is pretty easy. You use a descender and I use a petzl descender that I like a lot. It has different locking mechanisms in case you let go of it and when you go back up a rope, you need a jumar or an ascender to go back up through open.

Basically, it lets you climb up the rope with these handles that slide up, but don’t slide down so that way you can get yourself back up a rope if you have a section where you don’t have ladder or any other way to kind of raise yourself up. We’Ve made it to where we never were before. We ran our ropes, we’re re-tying and we are not that far to the bottom of this thing. How far is that 40 feet? So we all know soon enough, whether we’re there or not how you feeling, but this level is cool too. This minor is massive. There’s track got the classic track and we went all the way almost to the bottom and we stopped down on a ledge.

That was as far as we’ve ever been and There’s this whole level of mind that we didn’t know existed there. Wow that’s super cool. This is something this is a the end of a shovel and you wonder why they cut off the ends of shovels but think about it. You’Re in the narrow space like this. These can’t go up that far without hitting the shovel, so It’s soft end of it. I remember when I first see stuff like that, I think It’s dynamite, some type of label vinegar, It’s weird see what’s going on back here on a dynamite wick. This is a really substantial part of the mind they put a lot of track in here.

It gives me more confidence. I mean this seems more like the makings of the big mine than the small mines, so maybe, as they were getting closer to the union, they were putting in better stuff, oh so freaking gross. Just what I want to see petrified rat. This is cool back here. It is um. that’s what’s a wrong surprise. You should keep going yep um, It’s kind of sketchy, though I wouldn’t go. I’m gonna go up, use your hand, It’s true uh. I don’t know if you come over here i’ll check, but I’m using it down from this first, but there is think about. If you were gonna hide some jeans, or would you hide jeans yeah, that’s a good idea! Someone should do that anything good uh! No not yet not yet yeah.

There seems to be a lot of dynamic in this level. that’s pretty cool, should I walk on it. There’s another small space for me to crawl into perfect lucy. Oh yeah, you’re right! that’s It’s weird! That space is just big enough for you to crawl into it when too small for me, unfortunately so yeah, you know how it goes. Well, I have a reputation for this. It’s called recklessness as long as I only endanger myself, careful dude talk about gas masks. Come here, that’s cool old school gas mask. that’s awesome, score got a bunch of dynamite to bring back boxes, don’t wake up that bat slowly. Should we go in there I mean we got the ladder.

Now, hey you got the time. I got the time all these boxes. All right, this is cool, looks like there are ladders that go back up, There’s a big there’s, a big bag right there. I know I saw that, but I don’t want to touch it because those rocks look like they’re ready to come down cool. Look at this ladders hold up. He says no, it just stops here. It looks like this was a dynamite’s bolt. Oh look at all those! So There’s levels up there, those so, but that’s the level we just came from. I think so. I’m gonna go up it all right and check it out and then uh i’ll. Let you know what I find. I mean this big piece of rock definitely fell from the ceiling.

Oh yeah, no, that’s super scary. Those rungs are in set, so they should be all right, yeah, that’s the main one. So that’s where we were already yeah, yep man. I never thought I’d see the day. Johnny saying be careful, you can edit. You can edit that out, please edit it out. You have like a reckless nature to uphold yeah all right. Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we’ve all been waiting for all right, guys, we’re probably 20 feet from oh, so There’s the bottom. What do you put as odds 50, 50? Anyone taking those down goes fearless leader and I’m up.

Next I changed those odds. 70. 30. 70. Yes, 30. No! 70S. Okay! I’m not going to tell you what’s down here! Yet! Oh boy, I need to know hold on. Let me get off. The rope is it even worth it me going down there, It’s 100 worth coming down here: yes, okay, I’m not gonna get on the rope, I’m just gonna freak out too much, but it takes so long. This is a chosen race. Johnny yeah get your ass on here we got things to celebrate, we’re at the bottom of the bouillon and lookie. What we have here, oh boy, look at that! Oh boy, guys! This is it! I think that over there, so that’s the bottom of the shaft.

That was our nightmare shaft that we didn’t know if we could get down or not. that’s where the ladder broke and looks a lot like the union mine tracks. Welcome johnny. I have good news. This looks a lot like the union. Mine tracks lead the way. Go time, if There’s ever a moment for denim It’s now I mean you have to think nobody’s been down here, a very long time. Your meter’s on right. Yes, just gotta check low oxygen, gas concentration, hey we have the miners classic the prince prince albert. Can we got a can inside a can? Uh-Oh? Oh no say it ain’t so say it ain’t, so no bomber, the hell are these tracks going then they’re, It’s me, but no all that for this folks. It’s not looking good, nothing, nothing! Just! No!

Oh man! that’s disappointing, we know now we know that it does not connect and leave a little present for the next folks down. What do you think? What are your feelings right now, I’m pretty bummed, but at least I know where this goes now. You know yeah content with that and guess what There’s still the omega? We went back to the main shaft and I think the adrenaline. The excitement had worn off because you know the bubble was popped and then you have to scale this 300 foot ladder, and so you start back up and take it the same way you went down, you know run by rung, so I started climbing back up yeah. It’s kind of like It’s nothing, all right, I’m done you’re safe here.

How do you feel good? I’m done for this chapter of mine exploration. What do you feel about today’s exploration, uh, successful in retrieving the glove kind of disappointment that it didn’t connect, but all in all, I’m happy that we well. We know. We know that yeah, that’s what I’m happy about that. We know where it goes. that’s all I care about yep, let’s pack it up and as they say what did they say out of here, yeah and after all that we come back above ground night time.

Well, just back from the expedition haven’t taken off the harness or the jumars or anything yet, but the bouyon tunnel does not connect to the union mine at sarah gordo. I can say that definitively now it probably did in the past, but collapse 150 years. It doesn’t anymore, that’s not the last of the union mine, that’s not the last of trying to get into it from a different place. The omega tunnel is still out there, and I think this, if anything just makes me more excited to dig that out the backhoe and see where that leads.

I thank you guys for following along on this adventure. I think you guys love following along on all the adventures. You know it really means a lot to me. I just can’t express that enough that I love sharing Cerro Gordo with everybody, and I love the feedback they’ve gotten and the people I’ve been able to meet and the community that’s kind of developing around it, and so thank you very much. I’m gonna take off. I’m gonna try to clean up as much as I can without running water go to bed and uh. I will see you all next week you

Jason Smith

Former Marine, IT Guy & Builder of Websites.  I have 5 US states left to visit. I enjoy hot springs, adventures, hiking, photography, sci-fi, wine, coffee & whiskey.  I am fluent in sarcasm, name that tune, & speak in movie quotes.  I spend most of my time building websites, fixing computers, metal detecting, magnet fishing and gaming occasionally.

Recent Posts