Exploring Abandoned Mines in the Mojave

Ransom Riggs

Some people like to go fishing on the weekends. Others fancy a trip to the spa. My buddy Rob likes to rappel into long-abandoned mines and find old dynamite to play with.

That's a slight exaggeration -- but only slight. The Mojave is honeycombed with old mines, and Rob is one of a special breed of people with the know-how, the technical rope skills, and the half-crazy fearlessness to explore them. He's invited me on several of these trips; I love abandoned things in the desert, but I'm not such a fan of vertical shafts 90 stories deep, 80-year-old wooden ladders, claustrophobic spaces, impenetrable dark, patches of possibly poison air, and left-behind sticks of dynamite and blasting caps so sensitive that it's quite possible that loud talking could set them off. So I say no, thank you. But I love the pictures he brings back. And last weekend, the friends he went exploring with -- some of them who have day jobs are as professionals on movie crews -- made a pretty amazing video of their exploits.

Does this look like fun? Or the scariest way to spend a weekend ever?