Darryl Anderson, Goaty, James, Jan Evetts, Joachim, Moritz Guenther, Pete Jurd, Rik Venn, Stefan Bennewitz
We managed to leave the stores at 7:05pm on friday evening. We'd heard about traffic on the M1 at Watford so we took to the M40, doubling back to the M1 at Northampton via the A43 and immediately joined slow traffic, only passing the roadworks 2 junctions ahead after about an hour. This delay wasn't enough to prevent us shopping in derby (we made it with 15 minutes to spare) on the way and then got to the Orpheus Caving Club cottage at about 11:45pm. Goaty and James joined us a bit later, having driven past the entrance track several times before finding it! A few bevvies later these two and I were talking geology so everyone else went to bed and we followed shortly after.
Giants Hole: Darryl Anderson, Jan Evetts, Moritz Guenther, Rik Venn, Stefan Bennewitz
Saturday saw Jan, Stefan, Moritz, Rik and I descend into Giants Hole. We got down Garlands pot alright to start the infamous "Crabwalk", a 650m sideways walk in a narrow streamway. This passed, we continued down Geology pot and through a duck to the start of East Canal, where the water was quite deep and nobody wanted to swim so we turned back. We headed out along the round trip, which takes you above the crabwalk. Giants windpipe, a low crawl through water, was passed before the (unpopular) traverses above the crabwalk - one bit involves a horizontal squeeze through calcite 70' up! The rest of the cave was passed successfully and we were out after 5.5 hours.
JH is an old lead mine leading down into the Peak / Speedwell system. Down the entrance shaft a 50m freehang off a single belay point on an iron bar cemented into the entrance drops you into the first level where you walk, climb and crawl along the mined out vein. The level is quite interesting, with traverses over flooded stopes and a regular need to duck under boulder piles that are either held up by worryingly rotten wood or simply hang there, suspended by some long lost anti-gravity device.
Below this you drop down the narrow Bitch Pitch and into natural cave, where the remains of an old ore cart can be seen with all the wood rotted away. Two further pitches take you down into horizontal cave where we headed off to find Titan. Unerringly lead by Pete through muddy crawls, muddy streamways, down muddy ladders, through heavy iron gates, over muddy traverses, past mud formations and regularly wallowing in muddy water and / or watery mud we got to the dug-out passages that lead up to Titan. Pete eventually found a climb leading up to the bottom of Titan, where a rope disappears into blackness above your head. The echo is excellent, and the pitch is very impressive.
We headed out back through the muddy streamways, muddy ladders, muddy ... etc. All in all an absolutely cracking trip, with a bit of everything you might want and more prussicking than you could ever possibly want.
James Hall Over Engine Mine: Darryl Anderson, Jan Evetts, Moritz Guenther, Rik Venn
Sunday was our turn at JH. Stefan managed to trap his finger in the door of the minibus on while he was getting changed yesterday so wouldn't be caving today, so it was just me, Jan, Moritz and Rik. Even though it was rigged from yesterday, it took 3 hours to get down to the bottom of Leviathan so there wasn't time to look at Titan, and the speedwell connection looked too wet so we headed back out, derigging as we went. I derigged the bottom 2 pitches, the upper one being a little wet as pete didn't rig the Alternative route (ie. the dry route!). On the way up the bitch pitch (while hauling a tacklesack), at a small (and pointless) deviation, I managed to hook the crab in my hand jammer, thus attaching me to the wall. I had to bridge up past the deviation and unhook it to free myself! The deep (50m) entrance pitch was very tiring and I repeatedly swore at the tacklesack on the way up but made it up eventually, if slowly. Time underground 6.5 hours.
A decisive statement about what happened on the journey back to London.
We left the hut at about 8pm. I was driving; it was the second time for me to drive in England. I would have thought I could improve my driving by getting some practise, but instead it seemed to get worse. I just didn't manage to keep the minibus in the lane, though I really gave my best! This swaying finally ended up in hitting a lorry, which tried to rudely overtake us on the left on a motorway merge. This encounter cracked our left mirror and left it useless for the moment.
Then the swaying got so bad that only with a considerable amount of good luck I managed to get the van under control. We virtually went on oscillating over two lanes for several hundred metres before reaching the services between the junctions 22 and 21 on the M1, were we decided to fix our mirror and figure out what the problem was. As soon as we left the car, Pete realised that our right rear tyre was almost flat! That explained a lot. After having a break and some food, we managed to change the tyre with the help of a van driver who happened to have rented the same car as ours and to park it beside us. We asked him to tell us how to get the spare tyre out from under the car, and he changed it for us.
We got to London without further incidents, but two hours late.