Nenthead Weekend – Caplecleugh to Smallcleugh by Ian Cummins

Leif had spent a lot of time sorting this weekend – and what fun it was!  With a dryish trip led by Leif into the back of Smallcleugh, it fell to Adele and me to show Mick and Steve G the delights of the wet way from Caplecleugh to Smallcleugh – a favourite of ours that we have become accustomed to using as a training route (down to 75 min, no doubt to the disgust of some mine regulars!).

Anyway, on this day the weather was foul – absolutely belting it down, such that previously unseen torrents were coursing down the fellside, the beck resembled the Colorado River and the track up to Smallcleugh was underwater.

A couple of things to occupy the mind of the leader; 1 – would the areas near the collapses be sumped? 2 – would the shale falls on the Horse Level have ‘fallen’ even more since our last visit?  Mick and Steve were advised to wear wetsuits – ‘Wetter than Dowbergill?’ asked Mick – you bet.  Steve G squeezed into his wetsuit, assuring us his bulk was mobile enough to accomodate any tight bits – after all, he had done Strans…some years ago, but he polished off this trip with some ease.

We set off into Caplecleugh – the water was deep, slowing progress, with Adele leading the way and advising of the underwater obstacles.  Upon reaching the shale falls I took the lead, with Adele, Mick and Steve following, reasoning that Steve was the largest and most likely to bring the roof down! OK as long as we could get through to the calcited ladders!

Shale collapse, Caplecleugh

This area is now quite mobile, so best to lie on one’s back, fix a gaze on the loose bits and carefully slide along, with one nasty bit comprising a couple of wedged slabs close to the duck down into a very wet arched section, thankfully passed by all without incident.

On previous trips with Beth and even Adele getting out of depth in these sections, I have had to push my shorter companions along, whilst on this occasion, a helmet-off, hood-on section led to me being unable to touch base, bridging on the walls and swimming along.

Reaching the first landmark of ‘Toilet Box Junction’ in about 45 minutes, we had passed the major obstacles, with normally only lots of cold wading to come….but would that little collapse be sumped? A dive through or a retreat…what a choice.

Adele at the junction past ‘Toilet Box’ – left to WRPC shaft, right to Double Rise.

We continued to rattle along at a pace to keep warm…..up there is a round trip…nowt up there…..left here for WRPC shaft and the High Level, right for Double Rise.  Reaching the little collapse and climb out over the black blocks, a small airspace was detected….relief!

Back in Smallcleugh

Only the long wade through the knee-deep mud to finally reach the calcited ladders…keep a distance please to not overload the sections and we popped up into Smallcleugh.  Reminding Adele that the route was basically, left, left, left, we took a bit of time to admire the grandeur of Cowshill Crossvein, before motoring out via Wheel Flats, beating out the other team by a fair margin, as we craved food and drink in The Miners.

Walking back to The Assay House from Smallcleugh – pics by Ian and Adele.