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Caplecleugh to Smallcleugh via the Double Rise near Cowhill Cross Vein - Through Trip (22/01/05)

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We had planned to do a through trip via Rampgill to Brownley Hill, but after speaking with Albry, it sounded like there was a good chance that the water level would be very high and possibly even sumping in parts - none of us fancied this, so an explore of Caplecleugh was agreed - cop out? We where only planning on having a recon this trip, but just in case it turned into something else we did a quick cram of the route described in Critchley's Nenthead report - it proved invaluable.

I think that we got to the mine entrance at about 12:00, after entering we came to a concrete lined room on the right which we believe was an magazine, past this a branch to the right was taken along the Dowgang Vein, which lead to a grotty collapse. Returning, we carried along the main horse level eventually reaching the start of the incline where some of the original signalling signs and wires can be seen. At the top of the incline more remains could be seen. A bit further along and it was new ground for us, here we decided that we should try and reach the main junction at the end of this level. The next couple of hours where a long slog crawling though collapses and moon walking in chest deep water - at one point Mark even decided to have a swim - a new sport to rival extreme ironing? Finally we reached a major junction, and from what I could remember of the map this was what we had been heading for - it had passages going east, south and north. Having been going now for about 3 hours, it was time for some lunch. After chomps, no one was keen to have to go back through the water, so a bee line was made heading east, along the Middlecleugh North Vein and hopefully for the rise up into Smallcleugh.

More or less immediately we had to crawl over debris under a shaft - pipes, wood, ladders and rocks to name a few - looking up the shaft you could see a big rock wedged about 10m up, a nice view. After this the water got considerably deeper, up to chin height in places with just enough head space for your helmet, the floor was very silty and made progress slow. Quite a few collapses had to be climbed over along this passage. Along the way there where many rises with well preserved ladders - subconsciously calling to us for further exploration. Eventually we came to a branch which headed left towards Capelcleugh North Vein (this was expected from the map we had looked at before the trip and confirmed that we where on the right tracks). Continuing past the branch, we finally reached a collapse which had a large amount of wood - this was the bottom of Bogg Shaft (see Bogg Shaft Trip), the goal of finding the laddered rise into Smallcleugh was coming closer. Leaving this behind, more deep water passage was navigated and eventually the water level started to drop to something a bit more sensible at waist depth. Here we started to encounter quite a bit of white calcification which looked stunning. The next major structure we came to was the Middlecleugh Sump, a flooded shaft with heavy timber cross beams above and below. Karli and Mark carefully crossed round the side of it to get a better look, they did - the so called solid floor was timber over the shaft. Shortly past the sump we came to a junction and saw the calcified ladders which rose up into Smallcleugh - all worries of having gone the wrong way disappeared as we got a new lease of energy.

The junction here in Capelcleugh warrants further exploration as you can go north along the Cowhill Cross Vein to the Middlecleugh Vein and south to possibly the Longcleugh Vein, but for now it was up the ladders and to known terroritory. At the top of the rise, some 30m, we entered the sub-level below Smallcleugh (see Middlecleugh Second Sun Vein Sub-Levels) and climbed into Smallcleugh proper, emerging on Cowhill Cross Vein. After a second lunch, we headed out along the Middlecleugh 2nd Sun Vein, to Wheel Flats and for a change exited via North End Flats and the Hard Cross Cut. A total trip time of about 6 hours.