I ended up spending about five real-life hours over the course of two or three real-life days lighting up the place, then going back in and picking up the ores. It ended up being a huge haul.
Before I even got into the caves, the game was out to get me...
There are actually two main ravines my mineshafts intersect. The first one is about 6 blocks wide at the most, and the ground is dry. It leads to a whole mess of caves and the second, much larger ravine. It bottoms out at the lava layer and appears to reach nearly to the surface. The widest point is about a dozen blocks.
I didn't take pictures for most of the expedition since I way mainly concerned with lighting up all the caves and fighting the mobs. Here's a good rule of thumb for exploring caves: keep moving! Don't stay in one spot for too long, because that will give mobs a chance to spawn in your area. Personally, it's surprising how much land I can clear without running into a mob, even on Normal mode. That's probably due to being mobile, thus not giving the game an opportunity to drop a mob by me.
One of the more interesting formations was a pair of circular caves stacked upon each other, connected by a water stream.
And diamonds, hooray!
Then there is this awesome find:
Spider dungeon about 170 meters from home. This will be converted into an XP farm, one that I intend to make with some aesthetic flair.
The caves kept going and going but after a while it was time to stop. I've lit up so many that they won't be pestering me for a while. Now it was time to collect the ores! This could have gone on forever, too, but after a couple hours of collecting them I called an end to it all and processed what I got. Here are three pictures of my progress, showing the approximate amount of stuff collected.
That should be enough for a while! It's disappointing that there were so few diamonds (my world appears to be rather devoid of them) but the staggering amount of iron makes up for it. Just look...
My last bit of experimentation was making an anvil. It sits quite nicely on this inverted stair.
Out of curiosity I checked to see if it could repair iron tool, and it can - with iron! I thought you could only use diamond with the thing. This gives me an idea. Since it will probably be forever until I can have enough diamonds to use diamond tools and items all the time, it would be wise to get a good set of iron tools and repair them with the anvil. As you can see, iron is in no short supply for me.
It was nine days after 1.5's release that I updated. That's how long it took my preferred mods (ModLoader, Optifine, Single Player Commands, and Rei's Minimap) to all get up to date. But now I'm in 1.5 and I'm excited, mostly because of the hopper. You all know how much I love the idea of automation, and the hopper provides that capability. You can move, sort, and store things with these handy devices. Containers in conjunction with comparators will let me set up automatic sorters and smelters.
Really, my only complaint about 1.5 are the trapped chests. Apparently you can tell regular and trapped chests apart by slight color differences around the latch and rims. Perhaps you've heard of colorblindness? It's when colors that are similar in shade look the same to a person. About 7% of the population in the USA have it, including me. I can't see the difference between the two types of chests. Hopefully they will fix the default texture pack so there is a bit more noticeable difference.