MinesMine PlansLinksContactLinksHome

Caplecleugh High Level via Archers Rise (22/07/07)

Back to Caplecleugh High Level Trip Index

Martin Critchley had contacted me about meeting up in Nenthead for a trip with Roy Fellows to see the exploration and work Roy and Ian Hebson had done in the early 1990's in Caplecleugh High Level. For those who may not be aware, Roy Fellows and Ian Hebson were responsible for gaining access and discovering a large area of new ground in the Caplecleugh complex. Over a number of years they climbed every rise and explored flats, eventually this lead to them breaking into the High Level - the first explorers to do so since the closure of the mine. The work carried out by Roy and Ian was a major undertaking and they accomplished a great deal in accessing previously unreachable areas, often at great risk to themselves.

We all gathered in the NPHT car park at 10.00, and by 10.30 had entered the Caplecleugh Horse Level adit. After an hour or so we reached the Toilet Box junction, by this point the party had split up. To avoid loosing time, Steve stayed at the junction to direct the others when they caught up. The others and myself carried on, our goal was Archers Rise, and to gain entry to this we had to climb into a sub level and then into stopes, some 16m above the Caplecleugh Horse Level. From the stope we where able to gain access to Archers Rise - it was wet and muddy. Roy SRT'ed up first, followed by Paul, then myself, Karli and Pete. Climbing the rise had to be done in two stages, the first part was a straight SRT up, about 15m. At this point an intersection with a small working was reached. From the intersection the rise angled a bit and the next stage was to climb up the slope and a manway to the top some 30m on, via a handline. Whilst waiting for the person in front to complete their part of the climb, you get a chance to look at the surroundings. The top half of Archer'S Rise was no too bad and the ladders in place seemed sturdy enough, however the bottom half was far more worrying. The ore shoot side of the rise had been filled in, and the wooden partition wall to keep it in place had long rotted and fallen away - nothing but fresh air and maybe a bit of calcification keeping it in. Hopefully it was well compacted! At the top of the rise we arrived at a sublevel. During Roy's and Ian's exploration they had to carry out a dig here to continue on. Passing through it you entered sound passage way, with wooden ventilation trunking snaking away into the distance. A short walk along the passage took us to a small crosscut and from here a further SRT some 5m up brought us into Caplecleugh High Level - we had arrived.

The first thing that hit us was that the air current here was very strong, Roy had mentioned before that this was one of the coldest parts in the mine. Whilst waiting for the others to catch up we had a quick look down the west end of the level until we reached Archer's Vein. Here the level carried on and you could get to within 400m of Longholehead Whimsey, however the route was through some very bad collapses and bad air. Not altogether pleasant prospects. It was also possible to take the southern branch here along Archer's Vein. We returned to the sump which gained us access to the High Level and found that everyone had arrived. All of the party then headed east. The level at this point was in good condition apart from a few falls. Along the way we passed many sumps and a few rises. After the falls the water level became deeper and eventually we where up to chests in parts. Along the level we went past a dogleg junction, which from plans looks like it would have led to the Black Ashgill Cross Vein, then we passed the turn off to Baisbecks Crosscut. After a while we started passing sumps that had concrete dams put up in front of them, the work of the Vieille Montagne Zinc Company. Some of the sumps where flooded and some open. We passed a branch that led to Bogg Shaft and the part of the High Level that it accessible from Smallcleugh on the other side of a fall. Eventually we reached another dogleg junction, that is not shown on the VM abandonment plans, however it is shown on the LLC working plans.

At this junction the party split up, Martin, Steve, Sharron and Brian carried on ahead to reach the start of the concrete arching to see the graffiti that the last VM surveyors had written. The remainder of us went down the dogleg branch, past a large rise and then into some deep water, shortly the passage ended and we climbed up a rather wet rise some 8m high. This gained us entry into a sublevel above Caplecleugh High in the Little Limestone. We explored one side of the sublevel and then climbed up into some small workings above. Here we had a bit of a look around and then Karli and myself had lunch. Roy and Paul went back to the rise we had climbed up. After lunch we dropped back down from the working and joined Roy. Paul had gone back down to the High Level and the others where starting to come up. Crossing the rise we had a wonder in the other direction of the sublevel until we reached a laddered rise, from here we retraced our route to the High Level. Pete had his lunch, and then it was our turn to go and see the graffiti.

From the dogleg junction we had to climb over some very large blocks of shale, after this the passage became clear and was in good condition. Again we passed many sumps that had been concrete walled. After a few 100m, we reached a section of passage that was in a very bad state. Shale was hanging by threads off the roof and the floor was littered with debris - not a nice area to pass though. The passage was like this all the way to the graffiti. Finally we spotted the concrete arching and knew we had got to our destination. Here we saw the dates and part of a hymn that had been written down by the VM surveyors. Photographs were taken and we retraced our route back. We noticed that there was no air movement in this area and only after passing a sump or rise did the air flow start again. We reached the dogleg junction and found Roy waiting for us there.

Retracing our route we eventually reached the sump to take us back down to the sublevel at the top of Archers Rise. We all made our way down and finally had a group photo in the flats above the Caplecleugh Horse Level. The other part of the party had long since gone on and they had exited via Smallcleugh doing the Double Rise through trip. Another hour and we where back out at the portal, an exhausting 9 hour trip. A big thanks to Roy for being our guide, and to Martin for giving us the opportunity to come on this trip.