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Hangingshaw Branch Level, Flats and Stopes Below Proud's Sump (11/02/12)

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At last I have made it back underground after an enforced abstinence due to a bad back, 3½ months of mine exploration cold turkey - not fun. I did not want to go a mad trip to the back ends of Brownley Hill or something like that straight away, a test run was needed to make sure all was going to be well. After suggesting a through trip from Smallcleugh to Rampgill Hangingshaw Level via Proud's Workings it was agreed that this would be a good starter. Being a sedate affair it was going to allow us to photograph the workings in detail and to further explore the stopes running south and parallel to the flats.

With a unhurried start to the day, we were just about going into the adit at 11:30. A short time later we arrived at Proud's Sump and rigged it up as a pull through. For your information the sump is currently and has been for some time now rigged with a permanent rope. Once at the bottom we made our way to the second pitch and found this to be rigged as well. A deviation had been put into the second sump, which improved the abseil down. Also the bottom of the rope was tied of to a peg in the wall, enabling you to pull yourself in to the working in a dignified manner, rather than the usual penduling in with varying amounts of gracefulness. Once everyone was down, it was tripods, lights, cameras and action.

Firstly we had a look at the south end of the flat workings, where the three compartment sump to Hangingshaw Level is, followed by the dressing floor area. Most of this was looking into previously missed nooks and crannies coupled with taking various types of photographs with different lighting effects. Examining the areas in more detail, we soon found a number of items missed before, fuse, detonator boxes and lots of candle stubs, some still in their balls of clay. Moving on from this we returned to the entrance sump through the roof and had a spot of lunch. Then it was a close look at the neatly positioned artefacts on the deads near the roof sump.

Once all of this was photographed we made our way past the artefacts to the stope workings which run parallel to the flat workings. All of this area was photographed and explored in detail. There are two parallel stopes that run southwards, going far beyond the flat workings. It is possible to climb up on to a number of different levels ultimately ending up at the top of the Great Limestone. Where you climb up to the top of the Great Limestone, there is a level that runs through the deads and it can be followed for some distance. The whole of this area has a number of interesting artefacts and judging by the airpipes it looks like it may well have been worked by the Vieille Montagne Zinc Company - some large bore shot holes found, certainly indicate the most recent of mining operations. Having three photographers certainly eats away at time, and we soon found ourselves realising that it was getting on. Returning to the main flats, we then had a look at the most northern part of the flat complex. Myself and Sal went to have a look whilst Karli got it into his head to try and make the exit sump from the flats a bit more tidy and easier to climb.

Sal had never been to the north end and was suitably impressed by the artefacts and particularly by the round working platform that was built from deads. I've only been here once before and it just shows that when you are rushing doing first time exploration how much can be missed for the sake of covering ground. Photography completed we returned to Karli and proceeded to make our way down the sump into the Hangingshaw Level. We exited Ramgill portal at 18:30, having gone in at 11:30, 7 hours still left us feeling short changed on the detailed exploration and photography. Next stage - to survey the flats and stopes to see how far they actually extend.

Having three photographers does east up lots of time and if it is a exploration trip, then it's not a good idea. However for this sort of trip it was a great way to see and compare lighting effects and end results. Everyone has a different style and it is obvious in the photographs produced. A great return trip to mine exploring after being out of it for over 3 months.