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Report - Titan - the largest natural underground pitch in the UK, Peak District, October 2012

Discussion in 'Underground Sites' started by Garou Garou, Nov 4, 2012.

  1. Garou Garou

    Garou Garou 28DL Regular User
    Regular User

    Jun 8, 2012
    Likes Received:
    I thought you all might enjoy a write up of a proper caving trip.

    Titan is a relatively new discovery near Castleton in the Peak District. It is the UK's largest natural underground pitch at 141.5m (which is an flippin' long way, especially up). The history of the place is as epic as the place itself. Natural caves link up with man-made lead mines and underground canals, totalling about 17km of passage.

    A vague description of a vast chamber was found in a miner’s history, which enticed cavers to spend several years engineering their way through a number of boulder chokes and collapses to find it. Starting at the tourist cave, Speedwell cavern, they broke through into "James Hall Over Engine Mine" in 1993 and then through to a location called Boulder Piles in 1996, which previously had only be accessible to cave divers. On 1/1/1999 they finally broke through the boulder choke at the bottom of the Titan shaft. 5 months of climbing and bolting followed until they reached the top of the shaft. The top was only 50m from the surface, the exact position found by radio location. 3.5 years of digging and blasting through solid rock made a 50m vertical shaft down to a short passage and ledge near the top of the shaft.

    This is the way we went in. There is a small manhole cover in a field near the top of the hill above Castleton. It leads to a locked trapdoor where you rig the first of 3 ropes.


    After a fun abseil down 45m, you need to cool your stop in a puddle to dump the potential energy of your descent.


    You then follow a short engineered passage.


    and emerge on the ledge at the top of Titan shaft, where you see the awesome size of it. Leaning out over the void, you rig your second rope onto three nice, solid bolts (you make sure you use all three just in case).


    Looking down from the top of Titan (This photo credit - Robbie Shone).

    It turns out that what you think is the bottom of the shaft (if your torch is bright enough) is only halfway down. A feature called the Event Horizon is a narrowing of the shaft, where you can stop and rig your third rope before continuing down to the bottom alongside a waterfall that emerges from a passage at Event Horizon level.

    Photo looking up from the Event Horizon.


    Looking down from the Event Horizon.

    At the bottom of the 141m shaft you wonder how the hell you are going to get all the way back up that little 9.5mm bit of string. Happily, you can follow the route of the original explorers through the boulder choke at the bottom of the shaft. It's leads through fairly challenging caves and mines, through other large chambers, small crawly, muddy tunnels (a memorable one called Colostomy Crawl) and ladders up old mine stopes. At one point you hold your breath and duck under a mud-filled dip in the passage.


    You finally emerge into a man-made underground canal. Here, the canal is mostly waist deep, with a short swim where the flow quickens towards the sound of a thundering waterfall. It turns out that the sound is from an overflow called The Bung, which flows down a small hole rigged with a steel ladder. You climb down this with water pouring over your head.

    You re-join the natural caves, eventually emerging in the back of the Peak Cavern tourist cave, with its plastic slide left over from Tom Baker in the Chronicles of Narnia and candles lit by the guide for the next ghost tour.

    There was the small problem of how to get the ropes back that we had left rigged in Titan. This meant a second trip in the next day, abseiling down to the event horizon and then ascending back up the second pitch (70m) and the entrance shaft (50m).

    If anyone is interested in doing some caving and are based in London, let me know. Outside London, contact your local caving club. They will probably buy you beer and persuade you to undertake some equally awesome caving trips.
    Palisade likes this.

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