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Titan Shaft - Peak Cavern - 30th May 2009

Saturday May 30th 2009

Members present: Chad B,  George Bunyan,  Imogen Shepherd,  Kevin Francis,  Thomas Blakey

Report by Kevin Francis

Epic: adj.
Of, constituting, having to do with, or suggestive of a literary epic: an epic poem.
Surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size.
Heroic and impressive in quality.

Epic is perhaps a word that is used too liberally when describing caving trips. Our Titan through trip is one of those rare instances where the word epic can be properly applied. Hopefully this report isn't!

We started our day at the Chapel with Westminster Speleo Group. They had invited us to join them on their trip down Titan, with the plan to send 3 teams down, with a fourth heading in Peak to derig. We were to be the second team to enter. Groups started moving a little later than expected, but at around 10am we kitted up and started walking up Cave Dale to the Titan entrance in what can only be described as glorious sunshine. We reached the entrance at about 11, just in time to see the final member of the rigging team descend. We decided to wait a little while to allow them to finish rigging and to get a head start into the system. This decision had nothing to do with wanting to sit in the sun.

At 11.30am Tom was descending and the rest of us almost had all of our kit on. Imogen followed Chad and whilst they were heading down more cavers appeared on the horizon - this would be the final group. They reached us as George was getting on rope. I had a little chat with them before heading down myself. I completely forgot to turn my lights on and had to deal with my hissing rack in the dim light of the entrance shaft.

The Titan shaft is massive, you can barely see all the walls. Each time I go down it (this was my 3rd time in 2009...) it seems more impressive and I spot different features. I went fairly slowly, enjoying the views and whimpering at the continuous hissing of the rack. When I got to the bottom my right foot felt like it was on fire - it really hurt. I had no idea what was wrong with it until I removed my welly and found a stinging nettle tucked into my wetsock. No idea how it got there, but it bloody hurt! The others had already dekitted before I reached the bottom so I removed my SRT stuff and packed it away. Tom then led us through the boulder chokes towards the JH part of the trip. On the way we met the derigging team, Tom and Lisa, who had left the Chapel at about the same time as us! They had realised they were going too fast and had even had time to explore the lower streamway before meeting up with us. We chatted for a while and found that we had almost caught up with the rigging team. Last time YUCPC did Titan we had a look at Major Sump. This time Tom led the people who hadn't seen it before to have a look before we turned our attention to Minor Sump. I think only George will be able to give an accurate description! Chad had a look at another passage leading off. The whole area around Minor Sump was very different to Major and looked like it flooded. We didn't stay long.

On the way to the JH connection we stopped and Tom, Chad and George went to have a look at Calcite Aven (home of Donatella's Aven, Ride of the Valkyries and Western Highway) whilst Imogen stuck her head up a potential dig site. Soon we were at the impressive JH bottom chambers admiring the massive stemples. Imogen found the gate down to Speedwell and we clambered down the ladders and popped out of the choke. We headed right towards main rising, and area I hadn't really seen before. George stopped just shy of entering the deep sump! On the way back we climbed a ladder to see the Bathing Pool, a gorgeous round sump and also the strange Secret Sump, which is found about a metre and a half above the level of the streamway. We were starting to get a little chilly (we had waded through waist deep water to get to main rising) so we headed off to the Bung Hole. The water levels were low - surprising Tom who apparently saw it in more dramatic conditions in a previous trip. The new steel cables at the Whirlpool were very useful and much better than the old broken ropes that were there in April.

The Bung Hole wasn't flowing when we reached it. Hurray! Imogen led the way to Egnaro, stopping only to show the others were Block Hall is. We had a quick snack and then shot up the ladders to Colostomy. It seemed to me that we did Colostomy fairly fast. I think to George it was an eternity! His height doesn't really suit the crawl and he had been doggedly lugging a heavy tacklesack through the trickier parts before finally accepting an offer from Tom to take it further. At one point George optimistically tried to take us the wrong way (up the Ventilator) but sadly we had to continue down the lower, smaller route. Imogen had long since disappeared - she's too good at that crawl! The trenches were fast too, I don't think we stopped except at the Wind Tunnel. We were soon racing down the Fawlty Tower ladder and chatting with Imogen in Treasury Chamber. Chad and George still weren't tired enough so we sent them to have a look down at the atmospheric Treasury Sump.

It had gone six by this point - we'd been caving solidly for about 7 hours but still had plenty of time before our callout. Chad and George led us leisurely back to Buxton Water to clean off before we made our exit through the Peak Cavern show cave into yet more glorious sunshine. We were out for 6.30pm having caved through 4 different and uniquely characterised systems, exploring many of the frequently stomped past side passages and of course abseiling down the biggest pitch in the UK. That, I think, is fairly deserving of the adjective: Epic.