David Wilson, Jack Halliday, James Perry, Jennifer Ryder, Kate Smith, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Úna Barker, Ana Teck, Lucie Studena, Yurong Yu, Matti Mitropoulos, Tawfik
At about 18:30, after the bus was loaded with kit and humans, we set off, arriving in Castleton at about 23:00. After the bus had been emptied we headed to the living room upstairs and pot and sling was played, during which I became unusually familiar with Davey’s crotchal region. There had been some slight confusion regarding the allocation of beds which resulted in several sleepless hours for me, but after switching to a free bunk I eventually drifted off too.
James Hall: Jack Halliday, Kate Smith, Matti Mitropoulos
The short walk to JH from the farm where the minibus was parked was incredibly windy but fortunately not too cold. Jack rigged the entrance pitch, I went in second, and Kate closed the hatch behind us. The entrance shaft was impressively deep, almost a straight pitch for about 50 metres (I think). Jack warned us that the entrancing pools of sparkling water were actually bottomless pits of doom in which we’d be fully submerged if we fell in, so would have to turn back. The most precarious ones had traverse lines over them, but even so, none of us fell in. He also warned us that the ceiling quite often consisted of loose boulders that had been jammed into place, so we should do our best not to touch them. I made sure to bang my helmet on only the most precarious piles.
We admired the century-old mining equipment in the dusty workshop before continuing down to join Peak – an actual cave. Unfortunately the first big pitch, Leviathan, looked uncomfortably wet so we decided to head out a little earlier than initially planned. I offered to derig, so once back at the workshop we switched our order and Kate led the way out.
On the way out I felt the trip had been too dry so dived into one of the bottomless pools - unfortunately one with a traverse line so only up to the knees, but I did manage to acquire some welly-water so mission accomplished.
Back at the hut, after dinner, table traversing was suggested, during which my attempt was crippled by Perry after I was told that using the support beam under the table was ‘cheating’. More pot and sling followed, and even limbo featured late in the evening, seeing the bar reach just above knee level.
Titan: Rebecca Diss, Ana Teck, Lucie Studena
Ana was excessively keen to go to Titan which is probably my worst nightmare. For anyone that doesn’t know, Titan is the deepest known cave shaft in Britain at ~141m. Unfortunately, no other old human wanted to go so Ana, Lucie and I hopped into the bus with the JH group and headed up Winnats Pass (terrifying) to park at Rowter farm. We had a GPS location of Titan and my unfortunate phone. This was poorly planned. We decided to walk to Titan using my phone for GPS and then I’d run back to the minibus to deposit the phone whilst Ana rigged the entrance. This did occur, except finding the cave was a bit of a challenge. We trekked through many a field, heading straight for the coordinates (this maybe took 15-20 minutes?) only to find ourselves behind a barbed wire + dry stone wall maybe 10m from the cave entrance. Damn it. We headed back to the main path and followed it to the cave fairly easily once we knew its exact location in the maze of dry-stone walls.
I wasn’t in the greatest of moods at this point, feeling the dread of descending Titan, as well as unease about the ridiculous methods of opening Derbyshire caves. My feelings of impending doom did not improve when I saw that the entrance shaft is rigged off some questionable jangly bolts (apparently something like a swing hanger) bearing no resemblance to a beloved P-bolt. Nevertheless, we all descended safely and found ourselves in the stooping passage that would take us to the pitch of horror.
From the start I had made it clear that I could never rig this pitch (absolute fear of wide, long pitches) so it was up to Ana to see us down. There is a traverse line reassuringly far back from the edge, above a lovely puddle. Ana rigged this and then leant out over the edge (cue absolute horror from me) in search of the next bolts. Apparently, they were very high up and completely unreachable without the use of an exceedingly questionable piece of tat that seemed to be an in-situ foot loop. Ana did not trust this and did not like the idea of falling on her descender if it were to fail. I was in no mindset to offer any rigging help so it was decided we would not descend. Once this happened, a big weight was lifted and my mood greatly improved. I even clipped into the traverse line, sat on the edge and leaned out to look into the abyss. Lucie also turned on her bright light to give us a better view. This was deeply unpleasant. Titan is not just deep but horrifically wide and I am almost certain I could never bring myself to descend it. We all took turns looking at the pitch (me with horror, and the others perhaps with more of an excited awe) and found that there was a random bolt on the wall in a completely unreachable place. This was highly disconcerting. We soon decided to de-rig and vacate this awful place.
An excellent evening of caving games followed, including limbo, which Perry was concerningly good at. Such bendy knees.
Suicide Cave: Jennifer Ryder, Matti Mitropoulos
I had asked whether it would be possible to go on a rigging trip the night before, so Jennifer and Perry offered to take me to P8. Unfortunately, after the rope had been packed, a quick word was exchanged with the TSG members and they were fairly certain that P8 would be too wet to do safely, so plans were spontaneously changed, and Jennifer took me to Suicide Cave, even though she had gone there the previous day already. Apparently it was an easy cave with loads of bolts placed everywhere so good for rigging practice.
After a swift walk up I began rigging the first (free-climbable) ‘pitch’, and placed a crappy deviation. A quick actual free-climb proceeded that, followed by a bit of a scramble after which I was surprised to find myself at the bottom of a rope, and only realised after a good few seconds that we had done a loop. Taking a different route this time, we headed back down and I rigged another small pitch. After a third pitch, we found ourselves at the entrance once more. I could see why people had been trying to rename it to Horseshoe cave. We dropped down and entered the cave a third time, this time scrambling up to as high as we could go until a sign reading ‘DANGER’ stopped us. We had a chocolate bar and a chat before heading back down.
I derigged, during which I made some very dumb mistakes, including derigging on myself, not checking my descender before descending, and putting the hand jammer on the wrong way around. Luckily, Jennifer spotted them before I did fell off something. I made a note to not let easy caves make me careless, particularly since I had derigged JH on Saturday where the pitches were significantly larger and mistakes like the ones made could have been much more consequential.