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Smallcleugh to Rampgill via Hydraulic Shaft (26/06/10)

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With our recent explorations of Hangingshaw Branch I really wanted to have a look at the level south of the Hydraulic Shaft, to see how far it went and what was there, if anything. This was also an opportunity to do a through trip from Smallcleugh to Rampgill via the Hydraulic Shaft. We also had a few members of WMRG with us who had always assumed the shaft was blocked, so the area would be new to them as well. It's strange, why do people think it is blocked? We had also been told it was blocked, until a few years back when we actually went down and saw otherwise.

We made our way to Elliott's String and started to rig the top of the shaft up. I had planned for this to be a pull through, but Karli thought that it would not work, so it was agreed that he and Sally would come back up and meet us in Proud's Workings for lunch. One by one, we abseiled down into the flat below the string. After having a look around we then proceeded down the shaft. Just so you know, make sure you abseil down the compartment with the pipe, as the other one is blocked.

Once all of us were down we entered the deep water and headed south, wondering what we were going to find. The level was in relatively sturdy shale, with a flat roof. Some of the sides had peeled away, but apart from that that it was in good shape. On the top of the water was a crust of calcite, a shame to break it up, but it will grow back. After a while we came to some arching and this took us through to a chamber with a junction. The chamber turned out to be the bottom of a very wet shaft with a fair bit of debris, rocks, timber and small sections of ladders. This was keeping some water back from the level heading straight on, Karli immediately started water management, to drop the water beyond and of course to raise the water from were we had come from. To the right some more arching could be seen, but the branch only went about 5m and ended in a fall.

Entering the now slightly dewatered level, the arching gave way to flat shale roof again. Karli was in front of me and a breeze block sized piece of shale came away from the roof, missing him by a metre or so. We all know rocks fall, but its nice to think it never happens when your there. Moving on we came to some really thick calcite on the water and it looked like an Artic ice sheet. Shortly past this we came to the end of the road, another fall.

Returning to the bottom of the Hydraulic Shaft (in much deeper water than before - thanks Karli), Karli and Sally climbed back up and the rest of us headed down the level to meet up again in Proud's Workings. Approaching the Middlecleugh First Sun Vein we were greeted with fantastic iron stained calcite formations. Here was the only sign of workings above, and from this point to Proud's there was nothing really more apart from a few little crosscuts. I had only been in this part of the level once before and I was surprised at how deep the water was in sections - easy to forget. Finally we reached the hopper that leads up into Proud's Workings and we headed to the jack roll for lunch. It was a very late lunch and we just got stuck in, Karli and Sally arrived some 5 minutes later.

After lunch we had a look in the western section of the workings, a lot, of which we had not seen before - showing yet again that it is so easy to dismiss things close at hand. After looking around we dropped back down to Hangingshaw Level and made our way out to the Rampgill portal.