Titan to The Devil's Arse - A Caving Journey with a BBQ at the End


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Photo: Looking down Titan

Tis was a Saturday, 3rd of September. My second visit to Castleton in a week. I’d spent to previous two days in company of Just Liam of SUSS in Sheffield sampling the Steel City life – climbing, Henderson’s Relish (a bottle of which I bought as a souvenir) and disorientating hills. The plan was to descend Titan then emerge a few hours later down the hill at Peak Cavern.

A car of Liam, Sam and Nat (all SUSS) and myself headed to Castleton where we were to meet Creg, Gamble (both SUSS) and Sam Goodyear (Ex-SUSS, BEC) at the TSG. This is where the first part of the compulsory faffing happened! Mid conversation while listening to Rammstien we drove straight past where we were suppose to be picking up the key for the Titan Entrance Shaft, Hitch n Hike. This was quickly rectified and we continued on to the TSG. Here we got changed into our undersuits and headed back to the cars for the drive up the hill behind Pevil Castle to the Titan Entrance Shaft. Now, this is where the second, my first of the trip and entirely my fault bit of faff occurred. My rucksack was on my shoulder and for some idiotic reason my souvenir bottle of Henderson’s decided to fling out of it. Before I could do anything there was a crash, then a shatter and then a sigh. The pungent acidy smell of Sheffield’s main staple filled the TSG garage. Muttering swear words and listening to perplexed cavers say “can I smell Worcestershire Sauce?!” I set up locating a mop.

We eventually got to the entrance, unlocked it and Sam Goodyear set about rigging. It was raining. The misty cloud was low. And it was at this point it dawned on me that my clothes were in Nat’s car as opposed to the TSG. Balls. Guess I’m going to be standing around just in wet boxers for a bit later.

Titan Entrance Shaft was excavated using one of those massive drills you would associate with drilling for oil I’m told. I was the fourth to descend the 45m straight hanging pitch. As you go down in the darkness you really start to appreciate the effort that has been put in to keep the entrance safe and open. I reached the bottom and crawled through the puddle used for wetting the ropes and saw the black that is the window to Titan. Clipping in my cowstails to the traverse line I peered over. I could not see Gamble who had taken over rigging duties. To start the descent down you must clip into a free hanging Y hang, swing out on to your cowstails, let your feet dangle in the HUGE void that surrounds you and then finally thread you descender. Now, I’m not normally scared of heights and I generally don’t mind swinging out into open space on my cowstails though this was not your ordinary descent. My 900 lumen Fenix was a mere Duo when trying to reach Titan’s far wall. Anyway, all of this was for future me to worry about - both Sam’s still had to descend before me. In the mean time I admired the quite pretty vein of Blue John Stone that runs alongside the puddle.

Soon, the rest of the team joined me and Sam Goodyear started his decent. As Sam Snowden was waiting to get on, the usual cave chat occurred – Harassing Creg about his love life and Liam attempting the longest ever ‘Yeah Boiiiiiiiiiiiii’!!! Sam then started his descent then it was my turn to peer over the edge to watch someone’s light get dimmer and dimmer and dimmer until it complete vanishes. I had my cowstails clipped in for what felt like ages just waiting for the mere murmur that was rope free. Sam had past the rebelay at the Event Horizon, and it was my turn to go down.

After having Nat there just to mumble to keep my head occupied as set about rigging my simple I was ready to descend the eighty or so metres to the rebelay. I tested, I unclipped my long and then I was off. Titan’s big! Very very big! I had my usual philosophical thoughts (which I won’t bore you with here) as I left the window and headed to the Event Horizon. “I bloody hope I don’t have to prussic up here” went through my head on more than one occasion. I was twirling around as I was descending. This was good as I got to admire the subtle beauty of such an enormous cavern but very bad as I started to feel slightly sick…! (I’m not very good at things that spin). I soon reached the Event Horizon where the insitu traverse line to Titan Streamway did cause some confusion - though not as much as it caused Nat! This was soon past and I reached the rebelay. This was fine and then I continued to the bottom. I could now start to see the other three’s lights in the distance and could hear the sound of water. At the bottom I removed my warm simple, shouted “Rope Free” a few times and headed up the slope to the others. Seeing Nat descending high above me once again made me realise how stupidly brilliantly impressive caving is! Like – there have probably been more people on the top of Everest than where I am right now!!

Once everyone was done we head through the hole in the boulder choke and started our exit to Peak. Route finding went quite well, Cow Arse Worms was what you’d expect – Smelly and grim. I didn’t actually get to see any of the red worms since I was one of the last through so the people in front had turned up all the silt etc. but their presence was definitely detected. Next was Leviathan, the bottom of JH Mine, and then the Speedwell for a nice wash – though we were soon to get dirty again while going through Colostomy Crawl…

This was my first time through Colostomy. Now normally I don’t mind a nice muddy crawl, I actually quite enjoy them. Though on this trip it was left to me to drag the tackle sack through, everyone else had shotgunned not too! Grrr!! It wouldn’t have been too bad if I had still had my SRT kit on but I had taken it off so I had to literally move the tackle sack ahead of me for every ‘step’ I took. It was a slow process!! I am eternally grateful to Nat I believe who took it off at the bit at the end. We eventually reached the ladder near Treasury Sump and then from there we had a quick exit out through the closed show cave.

Really good trip, with equally good company, and then had a good BBQ to finish off the day!

By Jacob Puhalo-Smith, 04/09/16