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.

The ramp soon came to an end, turning vertical again and a few more meters saw me at the mouth of a steep tube-like continuation about 20m off the floor, so I rigged up a rope and Rob came up to join me. It looked like this was as far the previous guys had been, as there was a furry white krab in the roof and the bolt beyond had only gone in about 20mm – presumably having run out of drill juice.  A few more bolts got us to the top of the steep tube and into a vertical continuation, unfortunately this shortly closed down with flowstone blocking the way on, but you could clearly see why it looked like there might be a way on from below.  Oh well. So we rigged up a pull through, stripped the pitch and regrouped at the traverse for a late lunch.

Suitably buzzing from an entire packet of Tanfastics, it was onto the next objective. We rigged a large Y from part way along the traverse rope, deviated off the opposite wall and I made my way down to the window, the 8mm rope we were using now entirely caked in slippery Peak Cavern mud making it extra exciting. Swinging through the window revealed no signs of anyone having descended it before. No bolts, spits, footprints - just a gentle ramp leading down to a gaping, black shaft approximately 10m in diameter. Rob soon joined me and I continued down to the lip, putting in a rebelay at the edge of the overhang and dropped over. It makes an impressive free hanging descent of about 40m and lands you bob on the top rung of the 1st ladder pitch in Stemple Highway, we couldn't have planned that in a million years if we'd tried. We both had a good look on the way down, but all the ways off appeared to be along the same line as the rest of the major development in the area, with further shafts in the roof likely going straight up into the floor of Balcombe's Way and windows lower down probably dropping elsewhere along into Stemple Highway. Shortly before the base of the pitch you could also see north-west through into the continuation of the main Stemple Highway tube and see the rope leading down to the top of the 2nd ladder pitch, there didn't appear to be anything exciting happening in between.

Despite not unearthing any new leads, we were happy that we'd managed to get both things done and left the rope insitu to retrieve tomorrow. We took a bag each and cheerily plodded our way back through the gloop into AI Passage having just completed the first (and probably only!) Ride of the Valkyries - Side of the Valkyries exchange trip. The jug up Titan felt a little more tiring than the night before, but it wasn't too long before we were back on the surface, with increasing respect for John Cordingley & Co who originally climbed those avens with the only access being via Far Sump.

We stumbled into The Moon after 11 hours underground and must've looked a bit of a mess as Joy very kindly gave us the first two pints on the House. After an enormous meal which neither of us could finish, a few more pints, we once again staggered across the road to the hut, lit the fire and got ready for tomorrow. Two days down, one to go! (Mike, Rob)

Below is an adapted version of the original FSE sketch by John Cordingley (TSG 14 pg.18) showing how things relate: