Eastern Massif caving expeditions


This is a word I use far too often. In the past few weeks I must have mentioned it at least 10 times a day at work. Generally used by me to avoid telling what I really think about a question I’ve been asked. So I’m vowing to stop use it.

Saying that it’s probably going to be used a lot on this trip by everyone. There is a lot of hypothetical scenarios that may come up. Hypothetically there is a huge cave system right under our feet, hypothetically we may break into new ground this trip, hypothetically it might all turn to sh!t tomorrow.

However, with the presence of some scientist types on the trip, the new phrase today was “hypothetical conjecture”. It’s a double whammy, it’s conditional and pure guesswork. I may start using this one instead.

Cueva del Nacimiento

Up at 7am with a banging headache, probably dehydration. Breakfast was a rather bland muesli, purchased by myself so no excuses, and some bread. As bags were largely packed an early start was a possibility, but it was not until 10 that we got away.

Everyone headed down the hill with a bag. My plan was to at least set up the dingy and get a lot of the bags across the canal and into the cave. In addition Derek had some science type stuff that needed setting up and I was along to help hammer a hole for him to set up his gadgets, plus learn what I needed to do for the same setup at the back end of the cave.

Sun was baking on the way down which didn’t help my headache, but grand views as always and down at the bottom in a reasonable time.

Unpacking the dinghy, found out that it had a peculiar valve and I didn’t have a pump. Some sheepish looks from myself and some half hearted offers that I would swim across the canal as punishment. However, Laurence pointed out that, you could put your whole mouth around the valve and blow, so no excuses now, dinghy was pumped up and placed in the water. I was first in, luckily nowhere near as flimsy as last year, so no dunkings.

Equipment was ferried across to myself and Derek and then the others left to go back up the hill. One small monster in the pile of bags was quite evident. Martin’s diving bottle, filled with what must be the heaviest gases known to man.

First off myself and Derek set off to the sump, in the entrance series to set up his gadgets.

The Science bit……

Plans earlier in the year to try and do some proper dye tracking of the deep caves on the hill had fallen by the wayside, but Derek had been chatting with an ex-LUSS and Draenan explorer, Ian Benson, about the possibilities of monitoring water flow in the cave.

Very last minute, Ian had kindly lent us to rather expensive depth sensors that we planned to set up, one near the entrance and one toward the backend of the cave. The sensors should give ‘w’ an indication of the amount of flow coming through the cave, possibly flood pulse rates and some indication of possibly inlets. However, a lot will rely on whether is subsequently rains!

The sensor and pipe to house it have been setup in the upstream sump (entrance series) and will log data for the rest of the trip. Hypothetically we may get some results.

Martin’s Bag from hell

Back at the entrance we had some lunch, a rather splendid water-logged salami sandwich. Cling film just doesn’t work in a cave.

Picking up the rescue kit and a diving bottle we set off back into the cave. Getting the diving bottle past the entrance series was the primary goal and despite the wait (and a rather bad back strap design on the bag) we moved through the entrance series. Main problem area was expected to be the bypass, out of the stream and up towards the Black Hole. A comedy puddle of water slowed me down a bit, failing miserable to stray dry. Eventually foot of the Ramp was reached and the two bags left. I pondered taking the diving bottle up to the top of the ramp, but Derek, with a wiser head than me advised against it due to the the weight and my lack of a hand jammer to stop my falling back down the ramp.

Quickly back to the entrance, marvelling at how bright my new Rude Nora was, seeing various parts of the cave I’d never seen before.

Back at the entrance and up the hill.

Plan tomorrow is for one group to start rigging (madPhil and Dave) and myself and Laurence to carry on ferrying gear, hopefully a second diving bottle and get them at least to Boulder Hall.


I’m sure everyone doesn’t care about any of this and are waiting to hear the update on my knee, which may become more famous than the expedition. So in the cave and coming back up the hill, no problems. Going down in the morning another matter. All I can equate it too is feeling like my knee had been replaced with jelly. Every step was a small wobble that got progressively worse and when I stood still my leg shaked continually. Just being a weed. A week of walking down the hill will toughen me up.