Nenthead Caplecleugh to Smallcleugh via Bogg Shaft: Ian, Leif (21 November 2015)
Caplecleugh To Smallcleugh via North Vein Flats.
“Oh no, you don’t want to go in there, that one’s dangerous, you want to go in that one over there…” Replied the lady I spoke to in Nenthead car park when I informed her of the days’ objective. An ominous start to what turned out to be a fantastic trip.
After a rather swift change in the snowy car park, Ian was, as usual, first into the Adit. A quick romp up the horse level brought us swiftly to Toilet Box Junction, admiring the recent work to secure the shale falls on the incline on the way. We were looking for Number 9 Rise, with me making an effort to count each man way to ensure we chose the right one. As it happens, completely pointless as it’s glaringly obvious which rise to take. Numerous ladders brought us swiftly into a large flat, the biggest we’d seen so far. We were into unknown territory now, and took the time to look at the numerous artifacts scattered around. The difficulty of this mine keeps the strays out, meaning a great deal of left overs are still in-situ.
Up an SRT pitch past a dubious rebelay brought us to a short tunnel and another large flat. After a brief look around we followed the obvious route. Down another man way. Heading along the tunnel, we found a junction with a well preserved toilet box. Undecided on which route to take, we headed to another flat. This was the incorrect route, but worth visiting as it had some beautiful quartz crystals lining the wall, the biggest I’ve seen in the mines. Retracing our steps brought us to the junction, along the other tunnel, and quickly to a dead end. We had passed a hopper with some static line hanging from it. Up we go again.
The top of the hopper brought me to another large flat. Whilst waiting for Ian to arrive, I had a quick poke about, finding another length of rope. Up that brought me to a level driven through some bad shale, with a 12-inch pipe running along it. This had to be Caplecleugh High Level. A short look around the immediate area brought me to what was obviously Bog Shaft, and our link to Smallcleugh. After a short snack break we pressed on, traversing across a drop on lengths of rebar crudely forced into the wall. The nature of the mine then changed. We had hit Smallcleugh! It’s funny how each mine complex at Nent has its own character.
Finding a junction I was unsure which route to take. Reasoning that as one way headed uphill, and in theory deeper into the mine, the route on was to follow the boot prints to the right. Schoolboy error. After a wild goose chase and several dead ends I retraced my steps, finding Ian heading my way. In hindsight, the mass of boot prints were obviously because other travellers had made the same mistake, and had to negotiate the passage twice.
A short distance on brought us to a fall. Passing this soon brought us to familiar ground. Knowing the way forward, we were soon headed for Gypsum Corner, an obvious junction in the Smallcleugh complex. I was certain I could smell tobacco smoke, informing an unconvinced Ian. My suspicions were soon confirmed when we saw lights ahead of us.
Heading the other way was someone looking very ill equipped for an underground endeavour, wearing a hooded top, builders helmet with a light duct taped to the top, carrying a hand held flashlight. “Is this the way out?” was his greeting. Nope. He explained he’d been with a group visiting The Ballroom, and had wandered off. We suggested he travel to the portal with us rather than risk a mines rescue callout. After a short while, and many questions about where we had been, our new found friend decided he now knew where he was, and would be better off finding the rest of his party.
After a swift exit and another snowy change we were across to The Miners for a well earned pint. A short while later, our friend arrived, remarking that we were the people who’d helped him, before sitting sheepishly in the corner. Ian jokingly told me he’d have liked a free beer for our services. Maybe next time mate!
All in, a fantastic trip through interesting ground, with events at the end reinforcing the need to properly research any intended route, and take appropriate navigational aids. One of the most surprising and enjoyable Nent trips so far!