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Paddy End to Hospital Level Through Trip (05/04/09).

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The third day of our Coniston weekend climaxed in a visit to the Paddy End workings to do a through trip from the Crater (an open surface stope) to the Hospital Level. We did know the route roughly, but thankfully Colin turned up and was able to guide us through without having to worry about taking a wrong turn. We set of from the Youth Hostel up the winding track to take us up to Lever Water tarn, passing many mining remains along the way. Following a cloudy start, we soon got full on sunshine, which made the valley and Lever's Water beck look particularly attractive.

Arriving at Levers Water tarn, we did the short walk over to the crater and proceeded to get our gear on and make final adjustments for the trip. Looking down into the crater, towards the bottom right you have the gated portal for Levers Water mine and to the left the open stope that we would be entering known as the Funnel. Once everyone was ready we followed Colin along the path past the crater and into the stope entrance. Daylight was visible for quite a while, but then it petered out and we where left with only our lamplight. We headed for the Arete Chamber, which was our link down into the depths of the mountain; the route was easy with a few hand lines and a fixed short ladder to help with our passage. Once in the Arete Chamber, the first pitch was located and rigged up as a pull through. This first abseil would take us just past the Top Level horizon to land on a ledge some 28m below. Whilst abseiling, it quickly brought home the vast size of the stopes that had been cut into the mountain, it was a very impressive sight, well at least what you could see of it - the rest the imagination filled in quite easily.

Once the last person was down to the ledge, the rope was pulled down and the next pitch was rigged up again as a pull through, around 10m away from the landing point. The start of the second pitch looked to be over some stempled floor, which had fallen away (the norm for these parts), thankfully a safety line was present to clip into before abseiling down. This pitch was 21m and brought us out on top of some stacked deads just above the Middle Level. So far we had seen some blue rivulets of copper staining on the walls throughout our trip, but this was where it was going to get interesting. Dropping down from the deads (not forgetting to pull the rope down) looking back under was the Middle Level, with some planking and a few sumps, but the way on was in the other direction. We entered what looked like nice solid passage (for the Coniston Copper Mines at least) and then shortly we came to the wonderful blue pool - lots of wonderment at this sight, and lots of photo taking! Past the pool the passage took us further along the Middle Level to the Blue Rock Chamber. Amazing is an understatement. The blue rock is a rock that has fallen away from the roof or maybe from the stope and landed on a ledge sticking out of the level that is exposed to a massive stope. Copper minerals dissolved by the water percolating though the rocks here have precipitated out in an orgy of monochrome blue salts covering the rock and surrounding area. It looks like an obsessed painter came down here and mixed his blue oil paints on the rock. We stopped here to have lunch, what better surroundings could you have?

After lunch, Colin showed us a few features around the blue rock area, which again accentuated the vastness of the stopes. Finally we started a scrabble down by what is known as the Gully to reach the final pitch. The whole area here was shattered and punctuated by very large rocks, passing under them and near them made everyone… what's a polite word… think. The Gully opened out into the main stope we were passing through, and looking up we could see the overhanging ledge of the blue rock - hummm. Yet again, I have to say and keep on saying, that the scale of the stopes is amazing. Here we carefully made our way down the stope, trying not to disturb rocks and rubble, thankfully there was a hand line all the way down to the actual pitch head making things easier. Along the way down we had the pleasure of seeing fallen rocks the size of double deckers… From the Middle Level to the pitch head we descended a total of around 35m. The final and third pitch was 21m deep. Rigging the third pitch was a bit difficult to do, as was getting onto it due to a big rock that was in the way. Whilst getting onto it, you could not help dislodging rocks that fell away to the bottom, creating muffled clanging sounds. Once on, you abseiling down and landed on top of the support work that CATMHS had put in, when they dug through the massive fall that had occurred years before. Climbing a few metres down brought us to the Grey Crag Level, our exit horizon. From the entry at the Funnel we had dropped some 126m down through the mountain.

Whilst waiting for the others to abseil down, Colin and myself went for a look up the level following the Belman Hole Vein until we reached a junction. Taking the right side first, we headed along the North Crosscut to intersect the Thriddle / Bonsor Vein and eventually its forehead. Returning to the junction, we then had a look down the left crosscut, which took us to the Paddy End Old Vein. Crawling up into a stoped area, which was covered in sticky grey clay we had a look around for a short period before returning back. Passing through the CATMHS dig we came across the Paddy End Engine Shaft and some more blue formations on the walls. We continued on, passing a horse gin chamber and an area called the Great Open - as the name suggests, a vast open stope. At the Great Open we left the Grey Crag Level and picked up the Hospital Level. The level was driven in nice competent rock and it was a pleasure not thinking about things falling or giving way for once. Along the level, we passed the Hospital Shaft whose surface opening is just to the side of the pool at the water falls, we had walked by earlier on the surface. Past the shaft we then came across some open stopes in the floor, thankfully CATMHS had put planks and pipes with lifelines across them. Falling all the way to Deep Level would not have been pleasant so close to the end of the trip. Passing through yet another substantial dig, supported by telegraph poles and steel sheeting we shortly reached the portal and exited to late afternoon daylight. A fantastic trip and end to the weekend.