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Rampgill Firestone Level, Horse Level Exploration (27/03/11)

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Our first venture in to the Rampgill Firestone Level was over 7 years ago and that was at the end of a long days exploring, so we only ended up going in a short distance. Karli had mentioned that he had been in before with some COMRU members and that they had abseiled one of sumps, but they only went a certain distance due to running out of rope, oh and that there was bad air.

We got up reasonably early and I think that we were at the adit at around 10.30 or so. In under the gate on the portal and we entered in. The entrance passage is nicely stone lined, which then gives way to native rock that varies from sections of walls or roof on the floor. This carries on for a little distance until you come to a dogleg branch, which is a crosscut to the surface. Here more stone lined level starts and you enter very cold waist deep water. The water stays pretty much this depth until you hit the first junction some 220m in from the portal. The junction is filled in with debris from the stopes above, and this has formed a chamber. Straight on the level followed the Rampgill Vein and to the right there was a crosscut that went to the Rampgill Sun Vein. We took the straight, crawling through an old dig. Once through, the level was in good condition with solid rock walls and a stone arched roof. Shortly past the dig a sump on the right could be seen. It went down and we could not see the bottom, also a few metres down there was an opening, which could have been a sublevel. Moving on we soon came to another dig, however this one was not open or finished. It would be interesting to find out who started them as they look a fair few years old now - guessing at 10-15 years?

Returning to the junction we then took the right hand branch. Along this crosscut we came across two rises. One was climbed and it went into a blind little working, the second was not climbable without aids. After some 80m we came to another junction, left was the continuation of the level on the Rampgill Sun Vein and straight on led to a sump. This is the one that Karli and co had abseiled down. Carrying on, we came across a wet hopper and manway, some ladders could be seen up it, but it was very wet and it was difficult looking up without getting an eye full of water. Past this the level curved to the right and we entered a wide section, which must have been a passing place. Here the stone arching ended and we entered bare rock passage with lots of falls and peeling faces. Pete raced a head whilst I took some photographs, he ended up going over a mound of large slabby shale and back into the horse level, which at this point became stone arched again and wide. I heard him shout that there was a double hopper in the level and then he started complaining about the air - shortly after popping down he came back out rather jittery and raced past me to get some 'fresh' air. Sat on the shale mound I wasn't sure if the air was bad, as I had not felt anything odd. Pete promptly told me that I was not the best judge and proceeded to recall the time in Rampgill Deep Level when I thought the air was fine - but on attempt of lighting matches, they wound not. Maybe I have very efficient lungs? Against his advice, I slowly edged to the drop, as I wanted to get a photo of the double hoppers. No real effects of bad air at this point, so I dropped in. At this point, my mind started to run away, was the breathing OK? I took a few hurried photographs and made my way out - to be greeted by a scolding from Pete. When I sat down with him and took stock I realised that my mouth was extremely dry - lesson learned.

Retracing our route we looked at some more features in the level, including a little backed up crosscut heading north. It was possible to crawl into it and past the infill we saw a bright orange ochreous sludge - it was not possible to go further unless you wanted a dunking. Back in the level we carried on out and noticed in the crosscut connecting the two veins a little wriggling albino larvae or worm on the stone arching - the only colouring being the black line of its digestive tract. Then it was out. Speaking with Karli about our trip into the level, he confirmed that the bad air was in the section where the double hoppers were - take heed.