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Smallcleugh Mine - Hydraulic Shaft, (25/02/06)

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After our last trip to look at the flat underneath Elliotts String and the partial decent of the Hydraulic Shaft, it was high time to see the bottom of this shaft.

It is possible to descend the shaft using the pipes near by as anchors, but I felt it would be better to put something a bit more trusted in place, so we ended up installing 2 bolts. After tapping the rock face for what felt like ages I found 2 suitable spots that allowed a good easy Y hang, this was also backed up to a pipe just in case. The bolts we used where a M8 and M10. A bit of rope protection was needed to protect against the rub point on the rail tracks across the shaft. After rigging up a 20m rope, I and Ryan abseiled down to the flat some 8m below. Charlie and Karli deviated the water coming down Elliotts String so that we would have a dry, no, actually a dryer descent. In the flat below another M8 bolt was installed for a deviation for the rest of the drop. We did not have a rope long enough with us to do the whole lot so another 25m rope was joined to the first one.

Looking down the shaft from the flat, one side was a partially laddered manway and the other side the ore shoot. The deviation was set up so that the rope went down the ore shoot side, I abseiled down and found that it was choked some 12m down and that the recess that looked like a level going of was none existent, oh well, back up and time to try the manway side which was considerable deeper. The deviation was adjusted and Ryan had a go abseiling down first, luckily we had just enough rope to reach the bottom. He confirmed that the shaft was open, Charlie and Karli went down next whilst I stayed up top. After some 45mins and much thumb twiddling finally Charlie shouted up saying that it was amazing. He came back up and I joined the rest at the bottom. Ryan then prussuked back up.

The level at the bottom which is the Hanginshaw branch of Rampgill was open both ways, north west and south east. South east, it headed towards the Longcleugh Vein, but it was flooded and the water was bloody cold, so that was left for another time. The level here is driven in shale and it had the most crazy looking strata lines. Climbing under the debris at the bottom of the shaft the other side of the passage was explored. At this point Karli stayed at the shaft bottom and proceeded to clear some of the debris whilst I went to take photographs. After a short while along the level I came to some fantastically coloured formations, a whole collection of iron stained calcite flows. These where based under a large hopper and laddered rise which was all calcified. I did not investigate this in to much detail as time was pressing, but it looked like there may have been a passage heading to the right by the ladder and possibly to the left, but this may have been via the rise. From here I carried on, the passage is driven in shale and all in all the condition was very good with hardly any serious collapses.

Finally I came to a junction, to the right there was a shaft going up and a flooded passage, a few metres past this a passage to the left could also be seen. There was a stack of pipes on its corner. The left passage was about 40cm deep in thick orange mud, with a little gully down the middle carved out by water. Some 10m into the passage I was greeted by a series of calcified orange terraces. It looked like you could possibly get past them to the right, but I did not try it. After this I returned to Karli who had cleared 'tons' of rocks and rubbish. We then prussakked back up, time was really pressing here and Charlie and Ryan set of for the surface and I derigged with Karli, we eventually got out at 21:30, just half an hour behind the others. It had been a long day, well over 9 hours spent underground.

At the Miners pub we studied a plan of the area and tried to tie in the passage and junctions we had seen. I wish that I had paid more attention to distances as that would have helped in pin pointing locations on the plan. Provided that the laddered rise, is a junction or has a junction higher up in it, then this would coincide with a passage shown on the plan that follows the early part of the Second Sun Vein. The second junction with the pipes could well be in the area of Charlies Sump along the First Sun Vein. The passage with all the orange mud and calcite terraces then would have to be the Drawing Sump and if open would eventually lead to a link with Caplecleugh. We all agreed that another full day is required down the Hydraulic Shaft, because the other big thing is that it should run all the way out to the Rampgill Level mouth via the Hangingshaw Branch. The third through trip from Smallcleugh to Rampgill.