17/02/17 - Tonight was going to be a dual purpose trip. Bob had been wanting to do Titan for a while, so after a bit of refresher training in the days before, Rob had agreed to escort him down whilst I bimbled off to rig Ride of the Valkyries in order to make tomorrow’s trip easier.

After a last minute rush to get all the kit sorted we met up just after 6 at the end of the Titan track and got kitted up. I set off across the fields loaded with rope, whilst Rob reassuringly reminded Bob which bits of kit “make you go up” and which bits “make you go down”.  I’d not seen the shaft since it’s been repaired and they’ve done a top job of it. Opening the lid does now feel like you’re doing a challenge from the Crystal Maze though, trying to blindly unlock a padlock through 2 slots just big enough for your forearms. All it needs is a resident bald man with a harmonica shouting “30 seconds!” threatening to lock you in if you can’t open it.

18/02/17 - After an early breakfast at the hut we soon found ourselves driving back along the track to Titan. It was just the two of us today and around 9am (far too early) we trudged across the field and headed on down the entrance shaft with three bags between us. We had two objectives today, each mentioned in the pdf guide to Far Sump Extension. The first was to climb an aven located above the Ride of the Valkyries traverse, noted as having been “partially climbed but the existence of what looks like a passage at the top has yet to be confirmed” and to drop the undescended pitch via the window which can be seen approximately 15m down the main RofTV hang with the hope it may reveal something heading off from the main development of Stemple Highway/Balcombe’s Way.

I’d been through the previous evening and rigged RofTV to make life a bit easier today and Rob derigged it as we ascended so we could use the rope later. With the usual amount of faffing, we got the drill and the climbing kit together and I started on my way up the aven. The acoustics in that area are incredible, we’d noticed on the way up that we couldn’t understand each other when shouting down the pitches and the thunder of the drill was immense, the echo seemingly continuing for a good couple of seconds afterwards. Just out of sight of the traverse, the aven turned back over Balcombe’s Way and formed a steep ramp. Progress was reasonably steady, with only one hairy moment after I decided to start bridging my way up the ramp and instinctively went for a hand jam behind a tall narrow boulder, only for the entire thing to separate from the wall and the boulders resting on top of it to start teetering precariously towards me. I quickly whipped my arm out and miraculously watched them rock back into position and gave myself a good talking to for being a tit.

19/02/17 - Day 3 and we allowed ourselves a bit a of lie in, but it wasn't long before all the rowdy, silver-haired walkers arrived at the hut and invaded what had been our private house for the weekend. After a slow breakfast we set off and met Syd at the end of the track at 10am. Claire arrived soon after and we once again kitted up and trudged off across the field with our kit already plastered in mud from the days before. It was Claire's first visit to Titan and when offered to go down first, didn't hesitate and shot off down like she was descending Garlands, completely unfazed by the place.

We regrouped at the top of the choke and decided on our separate plans. Rob and I were heading back to FSE to derig the new Valkyries pitch and retrieve the rest of the kit we had up there, whilst Syd and Claire were going for a sight-seeing tour of Minor and Major Sump. We parted ways at the junction and it wasn't long before I was heading back up our 8mm shoelace into the darkness. We both had another good look on the way up for anything intriguing heading off, but nothing really jumped out. I guess one day we could traverse across to the shaft dropping in from the north just to check if it does go up into Balcombe's Way, but it more than likely does. The whole Stemple Highway/Balcombe’s Way complex really is like a massive block of Swiss cheese. We decided to strip the hangers, as despite being an awesome pitch which would probably be a star attraction in a lesser cave,  we thought it was unlikely to be repeated anytime soon, owing to all the other mega stuff in the area. On the slimmest chance that anyone does fancy a look, we left the stainless bolts and nuts in place just in case (they’ve been over-drilled so can be knocked in if need be). You’ll need 5 hangers, 1 deviation and a 70m rope and can start the pitch by rigging a large Y from the existing bolts approx. 2/3 of the way along the RoTV traverse.

26/03/17 - Back for a flying Sunday trip to have a look at a few bits and bobs. It was just the two of us again for the full trip into FSE, but George and Ed had been lured over for a mini-trip down to the window and back out in time for one of their many prior Sampson social engagements (usually some kind of dinner party or singing competition, or singing dinner party).

The Mine Inspector and his driver came bouncing along the track just as we were kitting up, and after waiting for Ed to stop enviously admiring his uncle's glorious new caving suit, rambled across the fields and bobbed down the entrance shaft. Here we split up and Rob and I continued down to the bottom and through into AI Passage. We made steady progress through Stemple Highway and were soon getting a soaking up Calcite Aven and up into Fingernail Chamber, where we dumped our bags.

One of today’s aims was to have a good ferret around in the Total Perspective Vortex bedding, so we headed on up Vortex II and shedded our SRT kit. Wriggling through to the head of Vortex I, there’s 2 rusty spits at the top of the ramp, but whether these are John Cordingley's original spits, who went down as far as the edge of the ramp, deduced that it connected to Balcombe’s Way and came back up, or someone who's been down there since isn’t clear. So it probably is worth dropping down it at some point just to check if it actually has been fully descended and that there isn’t something lurking part way down.

14/10/17 - Rob and I stayed at the hut Friday night in an attempt to get an alpine start on the Saturday, but squeezing in a fryup, forgetting wetsuit socks and general faffing meant we didn’t rumble along the Titan track until after 10.

There was just the two of us again today, and after dropping Titan we shuffled through the boulder choke with 2 bags of rope and the drill. Having left RotV rigged, progress up to Balcombe’s Way now feels very quick and we were soon eyeing up the last remaining aven/rift above the RotV traverse line. Moose had mentioned a potential way on he’d spotted in the roof during his extended traverse over to Salmon’s Cavern and our hope was that this may intercept the same feature, given its relative proximity, and save us having to repeat his traverse - or at least part of it.

We’d noticed a black void at the highest point in the rift on our last trip, and despite our best efforts with our torches on megabeam, couldn’t make out a top - so we hoped for the best and decided to have a look. I didn’t pick the most sensible line up the wall and I struggled over a few bulges before the going eased as I was able to enter the rift proper. I took a rather wandering line and ended up doing a back to front question mark, managing 15 bolts on 1 battery which seemed pretty reasonable. Other than sending a head sized rock bouncing down towards Rob, which I’d managed to detach from the wall whilst leaning back to see how best to avoid another rock, everything went without too much drama. Unfortunately, at around 20m, the rift pinched in just beyond the void we could see from below and it soon became too tight to make any more vertical progress.

We thought about making a start on Moose’s traverse, but were running low on bolts and decided to have an early finish, seeing as we’d be back again tomorrow anyway. So we sorted the gear for the next day and slipped off down RotV. Despite Rob snapping his footloop part way up the entrance shaft (he must've been producing Tony Martin levels of power) we were out pretty quick and emerged into a rather nice autumnal afternoon. So much so, that we stopped partway along the track and ate the remainder of our food like a couple of pensioners out for an afternoon drive. (Mike, Rob)

15/10/17 - We met Sam at Yonderman's and after breakfast headed over to Bradwell Moor where we were just in time to intercept Matt, who was driving the wrong way down the track and appeared to be doing a runner in his Hovis van. After turning him around, we parked up and started getting sorted and awaited Eddy's perfectly timed arrival - slowly heading towards us through the mist, accompanied by the Sicario soundtrack which was blaring full volume from Rob's van. (For future reference, this makes perfect pre-Titan music and we should probably invest in a waterproof soundsystem and have it playing on a loop at the rebelay just to really shit everyone up).

Rob and I set off down from the window first and got a headstart through the choke. We were heading straight up RotV again whilst the others were doing the round trip up Calcite Aven and would hopefully meet us somewhere along the TPV bedding. RotV was great with no bags to carry and we quickly collected the gear we'd left yesterday and made our way up the 3 short pitches to the head of Vortex III. We swung a right here and crawled through the thick clay and stopped in the roof tube between Balccombe's Way Aven and Vortex I. 

It wasn’t clear if Vortex I had ever been fully descended. John Cordingley went down to the bottom of the initial ramp back in his exploratory days via Far Sump, deduced it connected to Balcombe’s way and understandably decided to use their hard-fought time exploring elsewhere. His 2 rusty spits at the top of the ramp are still there, but we decided to rig further along, as it looked like it might be possible to get a straight hang right the way down and hopefully use as few bolts as possible.

11/11/17 – Only the two of us again for a bit of a last minute trip. Rigged up the entrance pitch with some of the cast-off wind turbine rope and whizzed down with the drill and one very heavy bag full of various cave biggering devices. Through the choke and back up RotV to the base of Vortex 1 and then we split up. Rob was going to check out the hole partway up the pitch and I was heading up to TPV to try and bash and squeeze my way through the bedding. Ascending Vortex 1 speeds things up, avoiding the 3 short pitches and some crawling and I was soon shuffling south along the bedding to the start of the calcited section. I’d rather optimistically hoped that the calcite would just be a thin layer or veneer that would be easily breakable, enabling the clay beneath to be dug out. Unfortunately, it quickly became obvious that the restriction is made up of a whole matrix of calcite, stones and clay all mixed together. This meant it was pretty much impervious to anything I tried to hit it with, prize it up with or jab at it. It would probably need some chemical persuasion to make an impact as it’s just too tight for a drill really, that or someone really skinny - or a toddler. After a frustrating hour, Rob joined up with me, reporting that the parallel hole in Vortex 1 linked back into Balcombe's Way as we suspected it would and after a good ferret around the remainder of the TPV bedding we decided to make our way out. So nothing new, but a few more things ticked off. Rob set off out Titan first with me de-rigging and he volunteered to take the two bags, which included (amongst some rubbish we'd picked up) the drill, 2 batteries, a lump hammer, a crow bar, a chisel, an ice hammer, a trowel and various bolts, hangers and krabs. He was understandably pretty knackered by the time we made it back out. (Rob, Mike)