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Frog Shaft to Smallcleugh Portal, (06/10/07)

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Finally after two years since going down to the dogleg on Frog Shaft we get it on and do the through trip. Frog shaft is just about 30m deep, with a 50m rope we rigged across the sleepers and abseiled down to the dogleg. Having a quick think about how to rig the next bit for the big descent we used a stemple and rail line at the top of the incline in the dogleg backed up to the 50m rope from the surface - getting paranoid? From the anchor point, the slope was descended to the stemple right above Atkinson's Rise, the 100m bit. The stemple here was used as a deviation, perfectly placed by CATMHS. One by one we disappeared into the abyss.

FIRESTONE DRIFT - Some 20m from the top of Atkinson's Rise we reached the Firestone Drift, this level intersects the rise on both the west and east sides. Swinging into the west side and landing we all agreed that the rise was bloody wet. Around the rise there was heavy calcification and we could see ventilation trunking further in. As we moved away from the rise things got a lot drier and we had the pleasure of seeing a different sort of level for Nenthead, the sandstone gave the passage a completely different feel to what we are used to. Taking the first right we explored two parallel passages, found more trunking and numerous clog prints. Returning back to the main passage we followed it to the forehead passing a striking area of white calcification on the walls. To carry on with the descent we had to get to the other side of the rise to avoid rub points. We crossed using little ledges trying not to think about the distance to the bottom. This at least gave us the chance to see the east side of the level, which was only 10m or so in length.

MIDDLECLEUGH - From the Firestone Drift Level the next point of call was some 40m further down the rise. A couple of deviations had to be put in along the way, and the rise at this point started to slope. About 8m or so above our next port of call we stopped in a little short passage, here there was a fairly large amount of debris and a loose piece of pipe started to slide down the slope. When we landed in the Middlecleugh Level we found the pipe lodged on a ledge - it was moved into the east passage. We had arrived in Middlecleugh and found it to be in relatively good condition. Heading west along the Longcleugh Vein we reached a junction that led to the Cow Hill Cross Vein, by-passing this for now we carried on until as far as we could go. Here we stopped for lunch. At this point the level is blocked and there is a small 'Rabbit Hole' which leads into a large wood lined shaft know as the Climbing Way. The shaft goes all the way to the Smallcleugh Level. After lunch we returned to the junction and took the Cow Hill Cross Vein branch.

Along this branch, on the floor the remains of rotted wooden trunking could be seen. When we hit the cross vein the passage was stoned lined in sections with out croppings of rock. We passed a few sumps, and also found some graffiti in sections. Eventually the passage ended with a mass of calcified orange orche which was fed from a rise with water pouring down it. This was the forehead, and the rise was Barron's Shaft.

HIGH FLATS - Leaving Middlecleugh behind we started the next leg of the descent, about 23m in total. The rise here in places was lined in stone and about two thirds of the way down we reached the split in the shaft. This was very impressive and if it had not been for the down pour of water I would have got my camera out. Shortly past the rise split we landed in the High Flats. This was in the Great Limestone with low passages and lots of stacked deads. We did not explore the area and quickley proceeded to the next level some 10m below via an ore chute. The interesting point here, being a small rebelay - bolted to a large dead in the chute walling.

LOW FLATS - Here the passages were much larger and we found some excellent examples of very flat roof arching, perfectly sound, but they did leave you thinking about the span... Finally we located the ore chute to Smallcleugh and with a short 7m or so abseil we reached ground zero.

SMALLCLEUGH - Even though we were a long time after CATMHS and others who had done this trip, the feeling of arriving in Smallcleugh instilled excitement in us. By the hopper that you exit from we saw a collection of CATMHS's exploration artifacts that had been lost. It felt a bit like being in Scott's hut in the Antarctic. Karli was insistent on going back out via the rise and Frog shaft, no way for me and Pete!, and so we exited via Smallcleugh completing the through trip.

Now that the lay of the land or rise is known, it would be good to do this trip again taking more time to look at all the levels in detail. After the Firestone Level we started to race a bit, feeling the pressure of time getting on and because of this we missed out in the other lower levels.