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The Greater Nenthead Traverse (24/05/09)

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Over the last two months, we have managed to clear and shore up the fall near the exit of Nentsberry Hagg's Mine. Due to this, it is now possible to enter the mine more easily, rather than having to take the long trip via Brownley Hill, oh and it also allows you to carry out the famous through trip - The Greater Nenthead Traverse - a 9.25km, 7 mine (Caplecleugh, Longcleugh, Smallcleugh, Rampgill, Scaleburn, Brownley Hill and Nentsberry Hagg's), 8 sublevel underground assault course - bring it on!

Caplecleugh Adit to Smallcleugh Level: How time dilates in Nenthead, an 08:00 start was planned, to which all agreed, ha. Dog Pete arrived at 08:15, then Karli arrived and between them it was 08:35 before all were good to go - wrongens! 08:40 saw us entering the Caplecleugh adit, spirits very high with thoughts of the trip ahead of us. It took an hour or so to get to the Caplecleugh Vein having stopped a few times to take photographs of the group at key stages along the drive in. All feeling good. From the junction we started to head east towards our next goal - the calcified double rise. We passed various rises up into stopes, the Caplecleugh North Vein junction and its 'temperature drop wall', the really deep water, bottom of Bogg's Shaft, and the section that looks like you are in a sewage drain (all the silt and mud growths). Finally we reached Middlecleugh Sump where a quick break with some refreshments was taken. From here a short distance took us to the bottom of the calcified double rise, signalling the end of our journey through the Caplecleugh Horse Level.

We all climbed up the 25m rise with no problems apart from a few bag jams and ended up in the sublevel below Smallcleugh. From here we went back on ourselves and climbed up into the Smallcleugh horizon via the large stope that extends west from the Cow Hill Cross Vein. A group photo was taken at the junction of Cow Hill Cross and Middlecleugh 2nd Sun Veins. Next destination: Proud's Sump.

Smallcleugh Level to Top Sills Sub Level: From the Cow Hill Cross Vein we upped the pace and ended up speed marching to Gypsum Corner. Here Dog and Student Pete wanted to go via the crawly horse level, the rest of us went via George Hetherington's (bless him) Cross Cut, Wheel Flats and the Flat Cross Cut to meet up at Luke Hall's Sump (bad karma to have split the group up in my view). Continuing on along the horse level, we finally reached Proud's Sump, which Student Pete had pre-rigged the day before. Ian, Dog and Student Pete put on their SRT rigs and we posed for the last photograph in Smallcleugh, another stage done.

We started to abseil down Proud's Sump and then when a few of us had gathered in the sublevel below, all continued on down the second pitch landing in Proud's Flat. Student Pete pulled the rope through, and making our way into the flat we settled around the old jack roll to have a much needed in take of sustenance materials - in other words, lunch. How nice it was to sit down and eat. Just gone 13:30 and almost 6 hours into the trip. After lunch the next stage was tackled, a quick and easy climb down an ore hopper took us into the Hangingshaw Branch Level of Ramgill mine. Here we quickly made our way to Whiskey Bottle junction, continuing on to Scaleburn Vein and mine. Reaching the famous steps, we climbed up into the Top Sills Level and headed north along the Scaleburn Cross Vein crawling through a number of falls. Upon reaching Brown's Sump, this was rigged up and we all abseiled down the short pitch into the sublevel below. Another stage done, with the Brownley Hill horizon beckoning us some 40m below. The final pitch was rigged up and we all one by one disappeared into the depths of this nasty rise come narrow stope working.

Brownley Hill Level to Nentsberry Haggs Adit to Miners Arms: I and Dog Pete were the first ones down, knowing it would be a while before the rest joined us we had a wonder down the western extension of the Scaleburn Cross Vein Level. Most of it was driven in limestone and there were a few rises on narrow workings. Old candles and their sooty tell tail signs could be seen all over the passage. We passed some nicely decorated passage with greyish calcite flows and ultimately we reached a large shale fall, probably not that far off the forehead. Not wanting to keep the others waiting we returned to our landing point. Once everyone was down, the rope was pulled through for the last time and we had our first snap on the Brownely Hill horizon. All commented how cold the water was here. The next section of the trip that was coming up was deep and very cold water, hummmm. Slowly we made our way along the deep water, having to climb out over falls which made us feel like dead lead weights, coupled with the annoying fact that warmed up water drained away from our wetsuits every time! Half an hour of this, brought us to a sharp corner, and the passage turned into nice solid limestone, however this also signified that the deepest water was yet to come!

Finally coming into a high chamber in the limestone signalled the end of the water, a little crawl through a dig, then some stomping through orchous orange mud brought us out to the junction with Gudhamgill Vein and mine. Probably the most difficult stage of the trip over. Here we stopped for a while to take on warm drinks and left over bits of soup, coupled with Mars bars. Tackle bags back on shoulders, we hit the next leg of the journey along the Gudhamgill Cross Vein, which provided lots more hydrotherapy for us - water just the right depth to really work the leg muscles. Just under half an hour saw us in Brownely Hill proper, with a quick stop at the Engine Shaft junction on the Wellgill Cross Vein. Moving out we headed north westerly towards the link to Nentsberry Haggs mine. Just past the Brownley Hill North Middle Vein, a climb up a mound and drop down a tight hole brought us to the ladder way, which gave access to the Nentsberry Haggs horizon. Wow, we are really here and almost done!

Another 20 minutes or so moving along the cross vein, and passing a surprising number of fresh falls, finally brought us to the junction with the main drive in, where the nice Vielle Montagne Zinc Company concrete block arching is. A quick snap and we made our way towards the portal - it was almost all over. Not having been here before due to the fall and backed up water it was interesting to see all the cross cuts along the passage and small workings (a trip is needed to explore and document them). At last we came to our dig from the other side (sorry another photo of us here was needed). The excitement was starting to build up as we passed the familiar ground of the last few months and finally rounding the corner we all saw the bright light at the end of the tunnel - looked like Nenthead weather was favoring us today. We reached the portal gate and looked out like prisoners from behind bars, the gate was swung up and out we poured in to glorious sun shine, the trip completed after 10 hours 28 minutes. Shaking of hands and big smiles followed along with lots of cursing about the trip - which translated into 'it was fantastic'

We piled into Students Pete's Landy and headed to the Miners Arms for a quick pint, which was downed far to quickly, only one thing for it, another round was needed.

The last thumbnail shows an overlay of the route that we took superimposed on to a section of OS map. I have to say that Ian faired excellently, since this was his first experience of deep water and SRTing for real, having only had a few practice goes. Can't really say more apart from that it was an absolutely amazing day.