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Wellgill Shaft - Part 3, Nenthead (30/10/10)

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After yesterdays faffing about with lowering materials down, things could hopefully only be better today. I arrived with Pete at the shaft top and lifted the cover up, shortly Karli and Sal joined us. Pete and I then abseiled down, followed by some more materials, a bag of scaffolding and four more timbers. Sal then abseiled down and lastly Karli. There was no point in all of us hanging around the debris pile, so it was decided that Karli and Sal would start putting in the scaffold frames to the side of the debris pile whilst myself and Pete went up stream to see how far the level went. This time we were armed wit ha gas meter. Out of interest, the oxygen reading at the shaft bottom was 17.5%, quite a surprise to us.

We headed up stream and slowly the oxygen level dropped. At about 300m it was down to 16.9%, but thankfully there was no imagining's of poor air affecting us like last time. The level up to this point was in excellent condition with no fractures in the concrete arching and the only falls encountered were small ones that occurred in the concrete arch breaks - nothing major at all. Maybe another 100m on and the level widened out, we had come to a siding. The walls were covered in graffiti, but non of it was very legible. The points were still in place, but towards the end of the siding a large fall greeted us. Pete scrambled up it and looked over the other side, the water was backed up a little but thankfully the shale was very large in size and most of the water was getting through without causing a back up. The oxygen level here was 16.7%, past the fall the water was indeed not that deep - at most up to knee level. Carrying on, no more falls were encountered, but the level got a bit lower and made it more awkward. Finally we emerged out of the level into an unsupported section of passage, here as expected there was a lot of shale on the floor. This section continued for around 50m, once at the end of it we saw the continuation of the arching - however it only had around 5cm or airspace. The oxygen level here was 16.4%, and as we stopped for a breather (is that a pun?) it dropped by a few tenths of a percent. We made our way back to the shaft bottom, where the air was definitely sweeter. Along the way some graffiti was noticed that had been chiselled into the shale.

Once back, we dropped down into the debris chamber to see how Karli and Sal had got on. They had progressed really well and were just finishing the last set of scaffold frames. Time for a break, time for a lunch break, time for a lunch pic. After lunch we piled into the chamber and started slotting in the first timbers, these with the scaffold frame would give us protection against the debris pile moving. A bit of adjustment was needed with some of the uprights on the frame, so that the timbers sat against them, but nothing to major. In the end everything was slotted in nice and tight. We did a bit of tidying up, and a channel was dug into the floor so the water was clear of the timbers and frame footings.

With the grill nicely exposed now, it was time to do the last bit of work - opening it up. Unfortunately there was no way to get past it and the only way it could be done was to remove some of the upright bars. At first we had visions of having to saw them, but the timber frame was fragile and with a bit of persuasion the bars came out easily enough. Finally we had an entry point into the passage down stream, the start of the incline to Nentsberry Hagg's Shaft. Sal went in first and her first comment was, it smells in here, never mind that - what can you see woman! Karli went in, then me and Pete. Directly behind the grill there was a little chamber and then the level curved away to the left, it did not look promising. The level was very silted up with mud and fine timber pieces, the walls and parts of the floor were covered in calcite, it was clear no one had been here in a long time. Karli decided to try and go along the level, Pete followed him and they managed about 10m or so before turning back. It looked like it sumped out. Not exactly what we had in mind when we started this little project .

Disappointment? Yes and no, I suppose when we first saw the grill we got visions of getting into the incline for some distance, but there always was the risk of finding what we did. However, we had accomplished all that we had set out to do; concluding the upstream part and getting into the level beyond the grill. Any takers for unblocking the downstream silt? Dynorod? Finally we gathered up the remaining scaffold poles, clamps and tools and loaded them into the big builders bag at the shaft bottom, Karli prussiked up, followed by Sal and me. Pete was last, and had the job of making sure nothing snagged. It was a while before the bag came to the surface, even with a 3:1 pulley system it took a lot of effort. A late finish, however we had a great meal to look forward to, drink, bonfire and some professional fireworks.