Having missed the opportunity to climb up into the stopes above
the North Vein last month, there was no way it was going to be missed again. A
speedy march in, brought us to the toilet junction after around 50 minutes -
not bad going. We decided to do the North Vein first as otherwise on the way
out we might not be tempted to do it. Thinking is was only round the corner we
took the east passage. It quickly became longer than we remembered and soon 15
minutes had been taken up in just getting to the junction. Maybe another 5
minutes and we were at the rise - it looked wet. I started up with a rope in
tow behind me to pull bags up, but this ended up being neither use or ornament
- there were a few platforms to get over and the bags hooked up on that. I did
not count the sets of ladders whilst climbing up, but it seemed a fair few -
maybe 6-8? Once up, Helen joined me at the top, but it wasn't the top, you
could climb further...
Once both of us were in the level a tipped up ore
truck greeted us, along with a grease can next to it. While I took some snaps
Helen carried on past the truck and further in. The level was a little cross
cut which ended with what at first looked like a fall of deads. This in fact,
was a junction with the left branch backfilled and the right going a few metres
further, but ending in the same fate. You could climb up this into a stope.
South west was fully backfilled and we found some newspapers (don't get
excited) from February 1982. North east, there was a slight slope of material
and over this stretching down into the distance a slope to the stope bottom
with Helen a way down it, thigh deep in water. Climbing down I joined her in
the water filled stope which, then turned into a passage where the arching was
made from dressed limestone deads. After maybe 50m or so we came to the end of
the level and the way on was via two routes above that paralleled each other
and ultimately joined. The wall between the routes was a pillar left in situ.
We carried on for a short distance long the higher level eventually coming to
another ore truck and fall that did not go on. We retraced out route to the
rise and climbed maybe another 6-8m higher which took us to another level. Just
before climbing up the next stage of ladders, I had a look past the rise and
hopper in the opposite direction to the ore truck and I could see a shaft going
up with 4" airpipe.
Climbing out of the rise into the level, I took a
look around and glanced onto a ventilation fan in great condition. Looking back
on myself, the level also continued across the rise top via heavy beams and
rails - a scene from the Temple of Doom. Past the fan I could see 4" airpipe
going further up the shaft I saw from just below. Helen joined me and we headed
north east along the level. We saw a collapsed ore truck, some very wide square
sections of ventilation trunking and something that looked to be some sort of
wooden junction box for ventilation. Past this the level soon opened up into
what was a stope with arching above our heads. Again, the arching was made out
of very neatly dressed limestones deads - someone had been a task master.
Passing under many ore chutes, after some 100m we reached the forehead. The
area was wonderfully remote and beautifully new to us. Here, it was possible to
climb up some deads and have a look above the arching we had come in under.
There was nothing really in terms of artifacts up here, but we did see a good
example of the galena vein in the roof which was interesting from a geological
point of view. On the way back to the rise Helen climbed up a chute, but
nothing of major interest was found. We crossed the beams across the rise and
had a look the other way. It was much wetter on this side and the level and
stope did not go that far along. Some tallow candles could be seen along the
walls and ultimately the way ended in a ore chute going upwards at the
forehead. Just before the forehead was a little passage with some tins in it.
We dropped back down to the cross cut and had lunch. We checked time before
setting back down - time had flown up here, as it was now around 15:00. Not
much time for the stopes around Archer's Rise.
Determined to have a poke
around in the stopes, we hurried back to the toilet junction, and climbed into
the sublevel leading to the stopes. A quick burst of SRT and we were there.
With time running low we had a quick look in the eastern direction. We hit a
large area of the main stope with a really flat roof, here we found many
artifacts just lying around, detonator tins, fuse and old newspapers. Moving
further east the floor space lowered and we had to crawl a little to carry on.
Soon, it opened up again and we could see major workings coming up. Rails on
the floor, ore chutes heading up and down and further still a little warren of
passage. The ore chute, thinking about, could also have had a manway in it and
it may well coincide with the shaft near the toilet junction. At a junction, an
old heavy duty plastic Caving Supplies sack could be seen (is it yours by any
chance Roy?). The stopes went further on through a fall that had been dug out,
but we turned back to have a look in the western side. Making our way past
Archers rise we carried along until a strange ore truck came into view. It was
very low and had vee shaped constructs inside. Helen mentioned that she had
seen this before, but not via the way we had got to it. Photos and deliberation
took over and after that we made our way back to the horse level. A mad dash
for the portal and some 1 hour later brought us out to a cold, blowy, and snowy
Looking at plans for the North Vein I saw that the
Caplecleugh High Level does run very close to it and I have been wondering if
there is any link via the multiple sumps up there. The air is very fresh in the
stopes and it could explain the cold air and temperature difference when
entering the North Vein, unless air is getting in from the Middlecleugh Veins
somewhere? Also where does the shaft with the 4" airpipes lead up to, further
stopes and levels higher up or the CCH level?