Into the abyss and out of my comfort zone

I’ve had a sleepless night worrying about my next expedition. I’ve signed up for a caving trip. Nothing unusual in that you might think. Apart from the fact that I am a bit claustrophobic. I keep imagining that I am crawling through a tiny pas

sage with no way back, panicking, tense and short of breath.

As a coal miner, I will never forget having to go into old workings to salvage machinery. One trip in particular involved my mate Gerald and I crawling around in a tunnel three feet high miles form anywhere, 3000 feet underground. I hated this kind of work and felt totally out of my comfort zone. Since leaving mining as an occupation, friends have dragged me on gentle caving trips a couple of times, but I don’t seek out such escapades. Of all outdoor sports, pot-holing is towards the very bottom of my list. However, this particular adventure has a certain allure, as it involves abseiling down a shaft as big as the London Eye.

Above Peveril Castle in Derbyshire lies the entrance to one of the most incredible geological features in the UK. Discovered as recently as 1999, Titan is the biggest natural cave shaft in Britain, at 460 feet deep. Personally, I am still unsure if this is going to be an experience that I will ‘enjoy doing’ or, instead, something that I will simply be glad ‘to have done’.

A lot will depend on whether the team I am joining decide to ascend back up the ropes or continue on the through trip. Ascending the ropes is very strenuous for the arms, but as an experienced climber this should be within my comfort zone. The alternative is to continue on, below the base of the shaft and beyond, squirming through a series of very tight passages, before wading through neck deep freezing cold water. It is interesting why I feel unperturbed by dangling above very large voids, yet detest the thought of being confined in a tight space below ground. All of us have our comfort zones and perhaps occasionally it is good to leave them, as scary as that may be.

I will report back on how the trip goes.

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  1. Steff

    Good luck Andy!

  2. Ollie Ryall

    Good luck with this on Andy. I did Titan about 10 years ago and that was my last caving trip! It’s hard to appreciate the scale of the shaft with just a small light attached to your helmet – it doesn’t even penetrate the blackness around you.

    Unlike rock climbing you never get a sense of the space around you or the drop below you (which is massive). You will have no bother climbing back up the ropes if you choose to go that way. The other way sounds wet and nasty and thankfully we never went there.

    Try and get some pictures (with a good light and flash) as it is an incredible place. As a climber it’s hard to believe people do this regularly and for fun!

    • Andy Cave

      Ollie, Thanks for the encouragement. Well we survived! I will write a report along with some images in the next few days.
      Thanks, Andy

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