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Titan Shaft - 14 Feb 2009

Saturday February 14th 2009

Members present: Andrew Gilmartin,  Imogen Shepherd,  Kevin Francis,  Lauren Ellis,  Mark Sims,  Thomas Blakey

Report by Imogen Shepherd

What a great weekend and a great way to spend Valentine's Day, hehe. And what an epic, down and up Titan!

The trip sort of started the night before when we trekked through York with our backpacks filled with caving gear and food for the weekend and got on a train to Sheffield, where we caught the last bus to Castleton. The bus ride was eventful in itself as there was a bus 'bouncer' who didn't like us putting our backpacks on the seats as there was nowhere else for them. But oh well, no one wanted our seats. We also discovered that teenagers in the Hope Valley are a different class to most, as they spent most of the journey discussing such geeky delights as colours of the spectrum that made black and how many decimal places they could recite pi to. Wow.

So, once we arrived in Castleton we headed to the Chapel to dump our bags and find our sleeping bags before heading to the Nags where we found MUSC. A couple of pints of sheep later and we had some port before heading to bed, where some joker (Martyn I'm guessing) had left a plastic bloody hand in our sleeping bags, hilarity ensued.

We got up at just gone 8 so we would have breakfast and be ready for when the others arrived as they'd had a nice early start. There was quite a battle in the kitchen for hob space but eventually we made ourselves some porridge. No sign of the others so we had some boiled eggs, and then some cheese on toast. Three breakfasts and still no others. We packed our bags, changed into our furries and wet socks, consulted the map, drew a sketch to find the cave and still we waited. Eventually Lauren arrived and we piled in her car and drove up the snowy hill.

Tom, Andy and Mark were patiently waiting and after another breakfast (banana) we changed, threw some snowballs and set off for Titan!

We found the cave with no difficulty, although took a slightly odd cross field route. At Titan we opened the massive giant box. Here we found such delights as ways to get into the cave and more importantly a shovel! Lauren, Kevin and I decided to make an igloo/ice cave whilst we waited patiently for Mark et al to rig. It was a brilliant idea as it helped to keep us toasty warm :) We got so carried away I almost didn't want to descend as the snow was more fun.

Eventually I set off. The entrance shaft to Titan was pretty daunting and really not my sort of entrance. I'm not a fan of take-offs like that! Eventually after checking my rack a few times and making sure my maillons were done up even more times I descended into the pretty amazingly engineered shaft. I couldn't begin to imagine how they made it!

At the bottom, bellowing a "rope free" I joined the others (minus Kevin) where Mark was rigging Titan itself and Lauren was taking photos and videos (asking Mark what his feelings were). After a short while I descended again. It felt better setting off from this point (probably being underground) and reached Event Horizon. The rebelay just below wasn't tricky as such but very hard to lift the rope to change over, and then it took a bit to build up the confidence that it was all done correctly! I then abseiled a metre or so, realising I'd got caught on the loop of rope and had to do some acrobatics. Luckily it was easy to lock the rack though to do this as I was moving so slowly at first, having to feed rope through. Descending to the bottom seeing the three little lights was cool and it felt very good to do another very very loud 'ROPE FREEEEEEEEEEE' at the bottom.

Once joined by Kevin at the bottom we headed off to find the way on to JH, making good progress. At the turn-off out of the streamway to JH we decided to follow the stream to see where we got to. Later back at the Chapel we discovered this was AI. It was quite an impressive stream passage which led us through some very muddy streams and eventually to a really impressive sump with crystal clear water. Back up the streamway we this time took the turning to JH. After the ladders we met two other cavers (including the other Imo).

After a bit Lauren, Kevin and I turned back to give us a head start on the ropes. We made good progress, zooming down the ladders. I reached the bottom of the ropes first and after a quick school bar and cheese string off I went. I felt like I was being quite slow but apparently not. Having no one ahead was odd because it seemed like forever before my light made out the rebelay. I swapped onto the rebelay with ease on the way up, much easier than the way down. Going up all the ropes I felt like at many times I was never going to make it out the cave, but I knew I had to continue.

I had a big chat with Kevin going up the entrance shaft as he waited at the bottom and then finally I was out! I had a sit in the ice cave and tried to keep warm. Eventually Kevin joined me and we chatted to Lauren as she came out. We had a brief moment of panic when we thought she was on the wrong rope (the one that wasn't attached to anything except looped over a spit... EEK) but luckily she wasn't.

Once out we yelled to Tom to check the rope he went up on and headed back to the car, following a more straightforward approach. We sat in the car warming up and waiting for the others and eventually they all emerged (10 minutes before we decided we'd look for them).

Lauren dropped me and Kevin off (leaving the boys their stuff to get changed) and everyone later joined us for tea. A jacket potato and some goats cheese later and we joined Martyn et al in the Nags for some very much deserved beer.

It was an amazing trip and left me buzzing for days afterwards, it felt like such an achievement. I would like to say though that this was the first point I felt ready to do Titan in my caving career (50 plus caving trips prior to Titan including a good number of rather epic trips) and I wouldn't have liked to attempt it earlier. This isn't to say I was crap before (well I don't think so anyway), I just think it's the sort of cave you really need experience racked up to try. This isn't just limited to SRT experience, but general fitness, state of mind, experience of big trips, etc, etc. Titan isn't just a long trip vertically but a long trip in general. It's definitely one to do, but shouldn't be rushed into without a lot of thought!

Thanks to our brilliant team for such a good day out :)