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JH Over-Engine Mine - Titan Shaft - 11/06/2011

Saturday June 11th 2011

Members present: Chad B,  Mark Sims,  Toby Buxton

Report by Toby Buxton

Friday night at the TSG had been fairly messy, but Mark, Chad and I woke up feeling fairly alright. Unfortunately, this was not because of our sturdy constitutions and ability to hold our drink. We were still very much under the influence.

Nevertheless, soon our ropes were packed and we'd persuaded Ade to drive us up Winnats Pass. At Rowter Farm we met a couple of guys from the Buttered Badgers, who are joining us in the summer for the Berger. We were clearly still drunk and did not give a hugely inspiring impression, I imagine. If you're reading chaps, we're good cavers, honest.

Arriving at the entrance I realised that I'd left the rigging guide stuck in the wall back at the farm. As it was mine and Chad's first trip to JH, and Mark hadn't been in years, he trotted off back to the farm to get it for me. He didn't realise till later that I hadn't been before so probably wasn't impressed. You'd have thought that by the time he got back I'd have sorted the first pitch and probably be at the bottom. You'd be wrong. Chad had distracted me with buttercups and other bits of meadow which he had stuck in my helmet, I was laughing helplessly and Chad had tied a back up round a bit of rust which Mark simply had to see. Mark did not look happy, but in our defence we were considerably battered.

Eventually we got down the first pitch and began to realise how worse for wear we actually were. I had lost the ability to climb things so the traverses in the cartgate were a slow affair. It wasn't all bad though as the alcoholic haze made the hanging piles of rock above my head more amusing than horrifying. We ran out of rope on bitch pitch so had to re-rig. If you're doing JH, I recommend adding about five metres onto all your ropes except the first one, as this recurred on Leviathan.

In the workshop the team behind caught up. Walmslers, also rather hungover, turned up with his harness not done up properly, while Hayley tried to get rid of Chad with a nice big rock. Thanks to him though, as if he hadn't fielded it I'd have had to deal with it while trying to rig the top bit of leviathan. We had to find the way to the Leviathan alternative before this though, and in our fragile state we thought I needed belaying down the hole in the floor (don't ask). Rigging Leviathan having never been down it and while still fairly drunk was quite terrifying, but I managed it eventually. I couldn't find the normal way on at the halfway point so I popped over the dam to some likely-looking p hangers. At the bottom I lay on the ground, severely shocked but rather glad to have made it. I apologised for my rigging, but the others just seemed glad they didn't have to do it.

At this point it transpired none of us really knew the way to Titan, but we got there eventually. It was probably around this point that we moved out of the drunk stage and into our hangovers. It took me several years to drag myself through the Titan boulder choke, and we sat at the bottom for about 15 minutes feeling sorry for ourselves. Nobody fancied it, but eventually I went for it, having to drag the rope down since it wasn't quite long enough. On my way up the bottom section I kept nearly falling asleep while resting. I wondered whether I'd get suspension trauma if I did. Thankfully, we weren't derigging, so before too long I'd got to the top of the entrance shaft and was lying in the sun. Rackman and Chorp soon caught up.

We discussed later the odd fact that we hadn't thought to turn back at the bottom of JH, or even earlier. But it never really crossed our minds, maybe we were too drunk or possibly we just knew we could do it (doubtful). Either way, we agreed that the odds had been rather stacked against us from the start, with no idea of the way, no memory of the cave at all, terrible hangovers and short ropes. All things considered, our success was a pleasant surprise.