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.