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Bell's Sump, Smallcleugh Mine (24/05/14)

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The connection to Rampgill via Bell's Sump was as far I am aware first documented in the 1990's by WCMRG and we have been wanting to have a look for a fair few years, but have never got round to it. After checking the sump was open whilst passing it on a recent trip we finally set aside some time to have a proper look. Armed with our rigging kit and lots of rope we made our way to Bell's Sump.

We had a new mine explorer (a caver no less - heavens forbid) with us this time and we took the opportunity to give them a quick round trip en route so that they could see some of Smallcleugh rather than just motoring straight for the sump. We went in via the Hard Crosscut, through North End Flats, along Smallcleugh Flats, quick look at Gullyback Crosscut and the clog prints, then on to Wheel Flats, through George Hetherington's Crosscut (a must for anyone new to Smallcleugh). A quick stop at the junction for the Ballroom saw Karli heading to the sump to start rigging and I took Chris to look at the Ball Room and a little way past it. Returning back, we soon heard the sounds of drilling and Karli was well on his way to finishing the bolting on the first pitch. It was rigged up and we all abseiled down, not that 5m can be called an abseil.

Landing on the sump bottom, we went under a lip and entered a short cramped level, running roughly north south. The southern end was blocked, the north end had two walled up sections and to the left at the north end we came to the head of the second pitch. There were three lengths of scaffolding here which formed an anchor across the level and we also noticed a new stainless steel bolt above the pitch. We ended up rearranging the scaffolding and placed two new bolts and anchors in, the scaffolding was used as a lead into the main pitch. The second pitch was approximately 8m deep and on the way down there was lots of stacked deads and walling. The bottom of the pitch gained us entry into another sublevel and a large sump heading down. This was the sump that can be seen from the Rampgill Horse Level.

The third pitch was already bolted and had new looking anchors on (very kind). The sump was rigged up and Karli went down first. Part way down the shaft a rebelay was needed to avoid a bad rub point. At this point Karli came back up and we decided to have lunch in the nice dry sublevel. Once replenished we all started to abseiled down to Rampgill. Past the rebelay, we spotted a potential level and a bit further down we had to place rope protectors over a ledge that the rope ended up running over. A little further down there looked to be another level. In all the third pitch was around the 25m mark.

Once we were all down we had a look up stream to the bottom of the Hydraulic Shaft, a look at the blancmange mega formation on the Middlecleugh Vein and then we headed along the Middlecleugh 1st Sun Vein to look at the fall we had found some 7 years ago. The water levels before the fall and past the Hydraulic Shaft have all been recently dropped by around 30-40cm - the works of Peter Jackson and Nick Green. We made our way up back to Smallcleugh, planning on doing this all again, but as a pull through and of course looking in the levels in the third sump.