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Rampgill Mine, Hangingshaw Level Stopes on the Middlecleugh 2nd Sun Vein - East End (06/07/13)

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It is possible to access an isolated large stope above the Rampgill Hangingshaw Level, which is on the east end of the Middlecleugh 2nd Sun Vein via Harrison's Sump on the Smallcleugh horizon. We have been meaning to do this for around six years now, after exploring and digging in the area in 2006. When we reached the sump it looked like others had been down it since, as there was a small dam built before it and a rail track across it. Karli had recently made around 20 heavy duty anchor plates and some of these were employed in bolting the sump top so that it was nice a easy to get down. Myself and Karli started bolting whilst Pete built up on the existing dam so that it could hold back more water. We put in a leader plate and two more next to the sump for a Y hang. On the other side an additional plate was put in for a deviation. With this set up it was possible to have a straight drop down the sump, and it was really easy to get on to the rope. Once rigged the rail track was removed as well as the first stemple that was level with the floor. Karli abseiled down.

The sump turned out to be around 22m deep to the floor of the stope below, and was in good condition. About 14m down there was a half boarded up level and some 5m from the bottom a very slight dog leg. The sump also continued down to the flooded Hangingshaw Level for another 8m or so. I heard a rope free shout from below and abseiled down after Karli, soon joining him, Pete followed after. Landing in the stope we had a quick look around and soon were impressed by the size. We headed east wards first, passing four ore chutes in the stope floor until reaching the forehead. Along the way we came to a large flat area with a big overhang held up by wooden pillars. Here there was a drop down into a large excavated cavity. The area was littered with modern newspapers dating from the 1990's that had been dumped by mineral collectors. In the cavity there was a wooden explosives box with a detonator tin and instructions inside. The large flat area had a massive ore chute, that looked like a large funnel. Past this there was a drop down some deads and the forehead was reached - some 50m from the access point. Whilst myself and Karli looked around this end, Pete had a look up the west side of the stope and after some time, came back reporting that it went on for a much longer distance and also ended in a forehead. We sat down and had lunch, took more photographs and then headed westwards along the stope.

From the access point we dropped down a 3m wall and carried on west along the stope. Along the way we found more ore chutes, the stope on this side seemed to be a lot bigger. There were a lot of colourful formations on the walls and we came to a large flat dressing area. At the very end of the stope we found some explosives instructions that were printed in English and German, something we had never seen before. On the way back a number of tallow candle stubs were seen, as well as more detonator tins . The stope westwards we guessed at being around 100m long, so in total around 150m. Height wise, we reckoned up to 10m in places and generally 4-7m wide. I had a bit more of a potter with Karli whilst Pete decided to climb back up, the now very wet sump. All we could hear was all sorts of curses, and eventually a massive downpour of water as he broke the dam. This was a very good example of a water blast, as when the downpour came the amount of air it brought with it was staggering! Finally after around 10 minutes the water dropped to a trickle and I started to climb back up. Half way up, there was a sudden deluge of water again, followed by lots of swearing! Pete for fun had released some water down the sump for me - joy. Once up, Karli started climbing, but he stopped at the boarded level. There was some water backed up behind the boarding, which he released allowing him to enter it. However, it turned out to be a short blind. With all of us up, we derigged and made our way out.

It was really good to return to something we had first come across a while ago and then finish it of. The area is a little of the beaten track, but still very easy to get to and very interesting.