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Caplecleugh North Vein and Stopes around Archers Rise, Caplecleugh Mine (12/12/08)

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Having missed the opportunity to climb up into the stopes above the North Vein last month, there was no way it was going to be missed again. A speedy march in, brought us to the toilet junction after around 50 minutes - not bad going. We decided to do the North Vein first as otherwise on the way out we might not be tempted to do it. Thinking is was only round the corner we took the east passage. It quickly became longer than we remembered and soon 15 minutes had been taken up in just getting to the junction. Maybe another 5 minutes and we were at the rise - it looked wet. I started up with a rope in tow behind me to pull bags up, but this ended up being neither use or ornament - there were a few platforms to get over and the bags hooked up on that. I did not count the sets of ladders whilst climbing up, but it seemed a fair few - maybe 6-8? Once up, Helen joined me at the top, but it wasn't the top, you could climb further...

Once both of us were in the level a tipped up ore truck greeted us, along with a grease can next to it. While I took some snaps Helen carried on past the truck and further in. The level was a little cross cut which ended with what at first looked like a fall of deads. This in fact, was a junction with the left branch backfilled and the right going a few metres further, but ending in the same fate. You could climb up this into a stope. South west was fully backfilled and we found some newspapers (don't get excited) from February 1982. North east, there was a slight slope of material and over this stretching down into the distance a slope to the stope bottom with Helen a way down it, thigh deep in water. Climbing down I joined her in the water filled stope which, then turned into a passage where the arching was made from dressed limestone deads. After maybe 50m or so we came to the end of the level and the way on was via two routes above that paralleled each other and ultimately joined. The wall between the routes was a pillar left in situ. We carried on for a short distance long the higher level eventually coming to another ore truck and fall that did not go on. We retraced out route to the rise and climbed maybe another 6-8m higher which took us to another level. Just before climbing up the next stage of ladders, I had a look past the rise and hopper in the opposite direction to the ore truck and I could see a shaft going up with 4" airpipe.

Climbing out of the rise into the level, I took a look around and glanced onto a ventilation fan in great condition. Looking back on myself, the level also continued across the rise top via heavy beams and rails - a scene from the Temple of Doom. Past the fan I could see 4" airpipe going further up the shaft I saw from just below. Helen joined me and we headed north east along the level. We saw a collapsed ore truck, some very wide square sections of ventilation trunking and something that looked to be some sort of wooden junction box for ventilation. Past this the level soon opened up into what was a stope with arching above our heads. Again, the arching was made out of very neatly dressed limestones deads - someone had been a task master. Passing under many ore chutes, after some 100m we reached the forehead. The area was wonderfully remote and beautifully new to us. Here, it was possible to climb up some deads and have a look above the arching we had come in under. There was nothing really in terms of artifacts up here, but we did see a good example of the galena vein in the roof which was interesting from a geological point of view. On the way back to the rise Helen climbed up a chute, but nothing of major interest was found. We crossed the beams across the rise and had a look the other way. It was much wetter on this side and the level and stope did not go that far along. Some tallow candles could be seen along the walls and ultimately the way ended in a ore chute going upwards at the forehead. Just before the forehead was a little passage with some tins in it. We dropped back down to the cross cut and had lunch. We checked time before setting back down - time had flown up here, as it was now around 15:00. Not much time for the stopes around Archer's Rise.

Determined to have a poke around in the stopes, we hurried back to the toilet junction, and climbed into the sublevel leading to the stopes. A quick burst of SRT and we were there. With time running low we had a quick look in the eastern direction. We hit a large area of the main stope with a really flat roof, here we found many artifacts just lying around, detonator tins, fuse and old newspapers. Moving further east the floor space lowered and we had to crawl a little to carry on. Soon, it opened up again and we could see major workings coming up. Rails on the floor, ore chutes heading up and down and further still a little warren of passage. The ore chute, thinking about, could also have had a manway in it and it may well coincide with the shaft near the toilet junction. At a junction, an old heavy duty plastic Caving Supplies sack could be seen (is it yours by any chance Roy?). The stopes went further on through a fall that had been dug out, but we turned back to have a look in the western side. Making our way past Archers rise we carried along until a strange ore truck came into view. It was very low and had vee shaped constructs inside. Helen mentioned that she had seen this before, but not via the way we had got to it. Photos and deliberation took over and after that we made our way back to the horse level. A mad dash for the portal and some 1 hour later brought us out to a cold, blowy, and snowy Nenthead night.

Looking at plans for the North Vein I saw that the Caplecleugh High Level does run very close to it and I have been wondering if there is any link via the multiple sumps up there. The air is very fresh in the stopes and it could explain the cold air and temperature difference when entering the North Vein, unless air is getting in from the Middlecleugh Veins somewhere? Also where does the shaft with the 4" airpipes lead up to, further stopes and levels higher up or the CCH level?