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Rampgill Firestone Level, Sub Levels (21/08/11)

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Following on from our sump clearance last month, we thought that it would be a good idea to check out the sump at the end of the crosscut at the start of the Rampgill Sun Vein to see if that connected with the bottom of the cleared sump. Karli had been down this a number of years ago on a COMRU exercise, but could not remember exactly what the lay of the land was. He thought that there was a chamber and then another sump on. One thing he did know was that it was all very ochreous and that you come out tangoed.

We geared ourselves up with scaffold poles, rope, shovels and then headed for the sump at the end of the crosscut connecting with the Rampgill Sun Vein. Here a timber and rail provided a good anchor for the rope, with a second rail acting as back up along the access passage to the sump. Karli suggested using on the poles to as a deviation above the sump, this made getting on and off the pitch really easy and illiminated the need of a rope protector. We all abseiled down and much to Karli's surprise he had forgotten that the bottom of the sump entered a level as well as carrying on further down. We estimated that the sump was some 13m deep, coupled with another 2m or so for rubble, making it around 15m - correct depth for the Pattinson Sill Level. We entered the level, which was open and drafting outbye. Is was really a hands and knees job as a lot of material had come down from the frail roof - a crumbly shaley sandstone. We went some 30m and then Karli shouted that there was a sump. This was unexpected and nothing like that was shown on the LLC plans. There was a ledge on the left hand side and if you were careful it was possible to get round it. We roped up and belayed each other - just in case. Karli went first and he ended up clearing a bit of the orche build up on the other side resulting in a orange river flowing into the sump with a real rush of air to boot. Water / ochre management - Karli loves that. There was what looked to be a stemple across the sump to one side, on inspection it turned out to be some 75mm steel piping along with a thinner steel pipe behind it. Definitely not original, maybe something left by other explorers? All around the sump there were large formations and stalactites of rippled orche. I went across next and then Ian. With all of us on the other side we headed on, to be stopped by another sump some 10m into the continuation of the level. There was no way across this as it was right in the middle of the level and we estimated that we would need something 4m long to span it safely. The walls here were fragile shale, so no chance of bolting. So close to reaching the bottom of the cleared sump and yet so far. We wondered whether one of us should go back up to the horse level to the cleared sump to see if we could get a voice connection. However, after discussing it we thought that it was pointless as from the depths and distances we reckoned that it must be the same level and that the sump that we cleared is just around the corner in the level beyond. Plus the thought of two of us sitting there in a very drafty passage for 30-40 minutes did not appeal. Before we left a small rock was dropped down it, depth we think was around 10-15m and the bottom was flooded due to the sound of a splash, however it did echo a lot leading us to believe that it was just watered and not totally flooded.

Returning to the bottom of the sump from the horse level (getting covered in lots of ochre) we rigged a rope down the next section of it. Ian went down first, then Karli and myself last. This part of the sump was very heavily calcified with orche and had lots of formations in it. Towards the bottom there were the remains of a ladder and the final section involved sliding down a tight fitting letterbox and finally out into a shale chamber. Karli and Ian shouted towards me as they had moved further down into a level. Moving away from the letter box I went down a slippy slope and then entered a wider level. The air was drafting this way. The level had lots of shale on the floor but the interesting thing was that on the right hand wall there was Limestone. How far had we come down? First thoughts were that this was the top of the Great Limestone, humm, no way. The next band of limestone below the Pattinson Sill was the Little Limestone, which is what we must have come into. Now on the Rampgill Vein there are workings in the Little Limestone and a level, but I had could not remember if there was anything on the Rampgill Sun Vein. Moving along the level we came across a large sump on the left hand side. This was where the air was drafting to. A bit of 'old modern' timber was put across the entrance to it, but we did not think that it had been used as an anchor as it seemed too thin - or were we just too cautious about it? We settled down for some lunch and after finishing it, we had really cooled down. Not moving around and a healthy draft does not help. Ian and Karli had a little look around and I took some photographs. Whilst I was doing this I noticed an old rusty spit in the limestone face - so someone has explored this in the past - judging by the state of the spit it was quite a while ago. Before leaving we wrapped a small stone up in tin foil and dropped it down the sump as a marker.

Going back up the sump resulted in more coatings of ochre and by the time was got back up to the horse level we looked well messed up and tangoed. At last there is some use for the stretch of very cold waist deep water on the way out - helps to clean you up, but unfortunately not enough as we found out whilst cleaning up in the river.

Returning home I looked at my LLC copy of the Rampgill Sun Vein plan and some of what we had seen made sense. The Pattinson Sill Level crosscut was on the plan (we already knew that), but it had no sumps on it. The sump we had abseiled down was on the plan and on closer inspection also on the cross section. The sump has a little kink in it at the Pattinson Sill (which we encountered) and it ended in the Little Limestone - again confirmed by the strata found. The bottom of this sump enters a working, also shown on the plan and further along on the cross section there is another sump shown that goes all the way to the Rampgill Horse Level, which must be the one we found. This adds up with the estimate of 30-40m from a rock drop test. This sump also looks to be shown on the plan, but it has no connecting levels to it. Looking further east on the cross section I am kicking myself that we did not go further along the level, as another sump was shown going up to the Pattinson Sill and also down to the top of the Great Limestone. Next time!