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Rampgill Firestone Level, Sump Clearance (23-24/07/11)

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23/07/011 (Karli, Mike and Sally):

After having a look at the drafting sump at the start of the Ramgill Vein (Firestone horizon) a few months ago we decided to have a go at clearing it to see if access could be gained into presumably the Pattinson Level as the sump seemed to be the correct depth. Karli suggested that we try and rig up some sort of haulage system to make life easier, so armed with some sections of scaffold tubes we made our short but cold and wet way to the target sump.

We assembled a section of scaffold across the sump window that was supported by two shorter pieces. This along with an existing timber across the sump was used as our anchor points for abseiling and haulage. Once set up, Karli abseiled down to the top of the debris in the shaft, which mostly consisted of broken ladders and timbers along with some rocks. I was positioned at the sump edge with Sally in the passage. Karli would loosen up debris, attach them to the rope and then I would haul up. Sally in the meantime would make sure that the haulage rope was pulled through a croll to prevent accidental plummeting. Once the debris reached the top, she also hauled it into the level. The system worked well, though for some of the larger pieces Karli would come back up to help and be out of the way in case something dropped.

We spent a good few hours doing this and finally the sump was clear to just short of the bottom. At this point Karli was able to look into the level at the bottom. He could see into it, but it was choked a fair bit. The bottom of the sump had a cone of debris that spread in both directions inside the level. From what he could see it looked like the level was orientated perpendicular to the Firestone Level, meaning that it must be on the crosscut between Ramgill and Rampgill Sun Veins. Interestingly the ladder pieces we hauled up had metal rungs, something we have not seen around Nenthead before and a lot of the woodwork that came was studded with large amounts of square nails.

With time pressing on and myself and Sally getting rather cold form just standing around we called it a day with a view to coming back the next day.

23/07/011 (Ian Karli, and Mike):

Next day came and it was a member swap out - Ian in place of Sally. We headed back in and Karli abseiled to the sump bottom, starting to work his way in to the level. A few things became apparent while he was down there. It looked like the orientation that we concluded yesterday may have been wrong and that it actually went the same way as the Firestone. Inbye the level was flooded and outbye there was a big pile of debris. With some scratting about Karli managed to dig a little channel in the debris and lower the water inbye some 100mm, exposing the keystone of some arching. The drafting of air was going towards the outbye side of the level.

I was keen on getting some photographs of level and joined Karli at the bottom, but it was not a pleasant experience. It looks like the sump was driven through a backfilled stope. On the way down there were little blocked up levels going of and it soon became obvious the the fill material was loose and that the timbers put in place to hold it together weren't in the best condition. At first it had looked good, as everything has a coating of calcite, unfortunately the coating is not of the hard variety, but soft and crumbly. I got to the bottom and partially entered the level, there was hardly any space and immediately I forgot about getting the camera out and taking photos. The bottom was a mess and with me being there it was making things worse for Karli and his attempt at clearing some debris. Also just sitting there and getting soaked is not fun! Best bet was to prussik back up. However in view of how the rope was positioned, it was not going to be particularly easy in terms of avoiding the sides of the sump. Slowly I made my way up, using short steps (very inefficient prussiking) so that I did not end up swinging into the sides and loosening any material. It took a while and I only dislodged a few small amounts. Definitely a one person down there at a time job, unless the rope can be rigged straight down the centre of the sump.

Karli spent a bit more time down at the bottom, but to gain more ground we need to sort out a kibble to bring the debris back up as there is no where to put it at the moment. Once he came back up we disassembled the scaffolding and made out way out, rather eariler than we had planned.

Even though the sump we went down is not shown on any London Lead Company or Vieille Montagne Zinc Company plans that we have, we feel that the level it connects with must be the Pattinson Level. Information that we have gained seems to support this - the sump is around 14-15m deep, which corresponds to the Pattinson Level horizon on the section shown on the VM plan, and the only other level under the Firestone Level in that area, again is the Pattinson Level. If it can be opened up a bit more then there is potential access to the Engine Shaft above Rampgill Horse Level and the Pattinson Level itself, which with rather optimistic thinking extends right up to Ramgill Shaft.

By the way, I am still experimenting with my new camera. All the photos taken on this trip where done with just a 1500lm LED flood light, with the camera set to 1/40S shutter speed, it still needs some work on the settings, but not bad for just clicking away with no flash and saves a lot of time with not having to ask people to stay still for 2 or 3 seconds.