MinesMine PlansLinksContactLinksHome

Surface Shaft to Smallcleugh Portal, (03/10/15)

Back to Through Trip Index

None of us have recently done anything really that technical underground so it was decided to get back into some SRT and do a through trip via one of the open shafts near Perrys Dam. It was a glorious autumn morning and we had a pleasant walk up to the head of the Nent Valley. By the time we got to the shaft (which I have never been able to find a name for) it was around 10:30.

We rigged the top up and I descended first followed by Pete and then Karli. Once all down, we headed for the next pitch, a hopper with a dividing wooden wall. This pitch had some old 12mm black Marlow (I think) rope which we had found out was prone to *easily snapping with a shock load, so it was removed and we replaced with our own rope (* easily snapping with a shock load - information obtained from someone who did a shock load test on it). When we all got down the second pitch we headed along the crosscut to the Longcleugh Vein. Reaching the forehead we came to the third pitch. This again was already rigged with the 12mm black rope. Declining to use it we arranged a pull through with our own rope, but the black one was left in here. Whilst abseiling down the sump I got engrossed at looking at the walls and ended up abseiling past the level you need to get of at - doh! I wasn't that far past it but just too far to try and get up, an ideal opportunity to practice a change over, which I can't remember the last time it did. Whilst waiting for the others I came out of the crosscut level and out into the stopes that intersect Caplelceugh High Level.

The way on from here was to drop down a little into part of the Caplecleugh High Level and then drop down the fourth pitch which is rigged up to the large diameter water pipe that heads to Bogs Shaft. This is only a short pitch of maybe 8m and it brings you out into the stopes above Smallcleugh Horse Level. Where you land is actually quite high up in the stope and you have to drop down further along a rubble slope that then brings you out into the large open and clear stope which intersects Bog Shaft. At this point you are about 10m above the Smallcleugh Horse Level. We had a quick look around and then it was lunch time.

After lunch it was time to pop down to the Smallcleugh Horse Level and make our way to the Caplecleugh Stopes. We used the ore chute that we had rigged up sometime in 2007 and it was nice to see all the stainless jewellery still looking spotless. On the horse level we had a little surprise. Along the level there always had been a fall and you used to just go over the mound, well this time, most of the mound had disappeared down a sump! It was a long way down and most probably went down to Caplecleugh, we could see some piping in it as well. Food for thought going over mounds… Seeing the hole, I have a feeling this opening had been discussed maybe a year or so ago on Aditnow? Moving on, we soon reached the toilet junction and then climbed up the 10m rise near the forehead to take us up into the stopes above. We had forgotten that there was a tub here that still moves on the rails - blast from the past. We headed on through the stope and then came to the crosscut that intersects with the large sump heading up and down. This was already rigged (I'm pretty sure we had done it), but we ended up using our rope and anyway it was good practice. Originally this sump had been rigged with a rebelay partly down, but since then Karli had put a deviation in and it is easier to get up and down. Make sure the deviation is left attached to the rope.

Finally we got to the Caplecleugh Stopes, an amazing area full of interesting features. We had decided to do this detour as I have been meaning to see the sublevel with the ore filled tub for ages but never got round to it. Pete and Karli had never seen it either. A quick look around the stopes to remind us of the sights and then it was down the manway to the sublevel. When you go down the manway at some point behind you it is possible to go into a sublevel. This can easily be missed as your back it to it. Once in the sublevel, it opens up and you are in a back filled working and there we found the ore filled tub. Past the tub the working continues and you can gain entry into a large high stope and further workings. This was all new to us and good to see. We had to look around quickly as time was getting on. Climbing back out into the manway and up into the stopes we retraced our route all the way to Caplecleugh High Level water pipe.

Here we carried on along the level and climbed down into the Bog Shaft pipe chamber. Karli and Sal had rerigged this area a few years back. Now the way on was down the rubble slope via safety line and then an abseil down to where the original ladder from the 1990's took you up into the stopes. A climb with hand line up the slope on the far side and you were back to the other side of the chasm. Since the rerig, someone has drilled holes in the wall and put in pieces of re-bar, making pegs to stand on. The re-bar traverse is protected via a bolted hand line and is an alternative route. However, the bolted wall looks to be a big flake and you wouldn't want to slip off the pegs - as a nasty gash could be the result of that. Arriving at the pitch down to the horse level we all abseiled down and made our way out to the Smallcleugh portal via Middlecleugh Second Sun Vein, and then for a little sport via the falls on Smallcleugh Cross Vein. Having left a rope on the second pitch we had to go and retrieve it via the surface shaft. Only one candidate for that - Karli.

This was a great trip, seeing the area of our much earlier explorations and in all it still looked in good condition - not much had changed. We plan to go down the surface shaft again and to re-rig the second pitch so that it can be done as a pull through - meaning that an in-situ rope does not have to be left in, especially for a route that does not get used much. If anyone does do this trip, note that the second pitch rope has been removed now.