Expedition Pre-Meet

 Castleton, Derbyshire. 10th-11th June 2017

“Watch, you might learn something, this is how you remove a harness while at the top of a 70m pitch…”

The BCA AGM weekend was chosen as a suitable venue for the Tresviso 2017 pre-expedition meet-up. A good turnout of the entire expedition contingent (minus 10 people…) meant a comprehensive planning meeting was not required, so it was settled on bucking the trend and undertaking some caving. Friday night was spent catching up and trying to remember what rope lengths were in the car, and whether anyone had any rigging guides for any cave in the area. A few tentative plans were made before retiring for one of the wettest and most uncomfortable night’s sleep in a tent for a long while. The £5 festival pop-up tent just not cutting it in a thunderstorm, but all good training for the hardships of Tresviso…..

A leisurely start on the Saturday, largely due to the continued torrential rain but also waiting for Dave and Dan to turn up, gave way to a greasy bacon and egg bap, another element of the strict training regime. An initial planned trip to JH fell through, so Rowter Hole was settled upon. Further quality faffing time was spent, mainly measuring rope lengths and admiring the new shiny thermal mugs for the expedition. Following complaints from everyone that they had too many t-shirts from various caving expeditions, marathons and fun runs, we went for something slightly different, a mug that can get battered and scuffed, but most importantly allow the transport of alcohol to the underground camps.

Rum Transportation
Rum Transportation

Finally, 2 cars were packed and we set off to Rowter. A slight detour was considered, just so that Dave had longer to charge his lamp battery via the car charger, but by now it was getting close to lunchtime, so we thought we should get our act together, as 6 people down Rowter, could take some time. The rain was slowly easing but it was pretty wet all over the Peaks. Rowter Farm was windswept and cold but the intrepid team had time to stop and get a nice photo showing the scenery.

Ready for action
Ready for action

The entrance to Rowter sounded decidedly wet and given it’s a 70m pitch, a bit disconcerting. Luckily I had help in the guise of a lost chest jammer. I definitely had it with me back at Castleton, but it had vanished somewhere on route. I trudged off across the field to the sound of jeers from the rest of the team. All the way back to the car and no sign off the jammer. However, just to spoil my fun Chris had followed and ,although not finding the missing item either, he had a spare one in the car. Excuses now gone, I headed back over to see the last few people dropping down the entrance pitch.

The pitch is quite impressive, a long way down, and seems to take an age with my shiny new descender. The lack of my usual SRT equipment (it’s all in Spain after the May weekend trip) making me slightly uncomfortable, as to whether the harness was done up, cowstails long enough or old jammers might break. In the end there were no issues and I landed at the bottom of the pitch, to find everyone had gone…didn’t think I had taken that long.

I could hear Dave someone below, so I followed the obvious way down the cave and soon caught up with Dave and Alan, about to climb down a large scaffold climb. At the bottom a few more climbs before we met the others, coming back! The lower pitches were not rigged (after been told the previous night they were). No problem, who’s got the extra bag of rope? It’s back in the car.

No other option but to go out of the cave. A few slight diversions (not much to see, that we could find) and back to the big pitch out. A uneventful prussic out for everyone… .other than me, where I somehow ended jammed against the top knot at the top of the pitch. The less said about a performance of comedic proportions with people pulling my legs one way, and my harness the other, the better. It’s a training meeting after all.

All feeling a bit annoyed with our performance in planning so far we made a quick detour to Winnats Head Cave. Does anyone know the way? No, but luckily someone was left a guidebook at the entrance. A quick swot up and we enter the cave.

A really nice cave, albeit a bit wet on this weekend. An hour or so spent having a look round and then out. Back at the car, found my chest jammer!

In the pub later, Dave was press ganged into booking his Spain flight immediately and then further equipment requirements gathered before the BCA sing a long event started, at which point I left in haste.

Sunday 30th April 2017 – Cueva del Nacimiento

 

A surprisingly comfortable nights sleep was had by everyone, the new sleeping bags, although cheap, proving to work quite well.  The temperature of the chamber was around 7 degrees all night, which helps.  A lot warmer than other camps in the cave.

Over muesli some debate was had on whether to explore a bit of new passage, near camp (Joe’s Crack) but ultimately we decided to strike camp with a view to get out in time for the bar and guarantee a full Monday for any other plans.

Camp equipment was catalogued, packed and stored ready for July and then we started the long slog out of the cave, with three lightly packed bags between the five people (2pm). We gradually split into smaller groups, myself and Gareth at the front, for all of 20 minutes until we got slightly lost in a boulder choke.  Hannah soon turned up and pointed out the obvious way on.

The way down the ramps is a lot quicker and we arrived back at The Hall of the Green Domino in just over an hour.  BJ had some cheese and chorizo wraps stashed here, which was a nice boost over the rather bland muesli earlier.  Once up the muddy pitches into Dan’s Big Room the cave seems to feel it’s going downhill, so a further boost to morale.  Consort Hall is the next major stop and we all reconvene.  All we are making good progress there is rising concern that we won’t make it out to the bar in time for dinner.  Myself and BJ attempt to race ahead but are soon caught up by Chris at Flake Pitch who then runs off to get dinner in, and BJ not far behind him.

While waiting for my turn up the pitch, Hannah turns up, having fallen and possibly twisted her ankle, is now approaching my preferred caving speed….  We cave for a bit, with me still running behind and upon reaching the Sump, realise we haven’t  seen or heard from Gareth in a while. I move onto the next awkward bag obstacle while Hannah waits for Gareth.  It’s not long before they both arrive and we get the bags through the Hole in the Wall.  Gareth had gone the wrong way down a pitch and had a slight fall, hence slight delay.

Son of Ramp
Son of Ramp

My entire body is cramping at the moment but I know it’s nearly all over.  A few more abseils lead back to the big 22m up pitch ( needs a name!) and then back into Boulder Hall.  It’s all down hill from here, down the ramp and into the entrance series.  Exit at 8:00pm.

Only an hours hike up the gorge left to complete………

Saturday 29th April 2017 – Cueva del Nacimiento

A leisurely morning was spent packing, avoiding leaving and, for some, three breakfasts.  Eventually everything was packed and excuses had run out.  The 500m descent down the gorge was its usual enjoyable self but due to the time of year a lot less tree cover, meaning we could see a lot more of the cliff sides and panoramic views.

However all too soon we arrived at the bottom.  Gareth had already pumped the dinghy up, so no further procrastination allowed.  Into the cave at 15.30.  Promptly I decided I didn’t want to be there… I’m convinced the entrance series gets harder each year.  It’s dark, water thundering about everywhere and seems to take forever to get anywhere.  Water levels up slightly, but traverse line still up across waterfall, with only one slight wear point.  I decided to clip in for safety, and promptly fell in head first, great cold and wet right at the start.  Thankfully BJ did exactly the same so I didn’t feel totally stupid.

The Ramp - Cueva del Nacimiento
The Ramp – Cueva del Nacimiento

A lot of teamwork required to get our rather large tackle bags up and down the climbs but slowly we made progress.  At Clapham Junction equipment was left in situ (waterproof first aid, 4 man bothy, 1 AV tackle bag) as this point is the most suitable to sit out a flood in the entrance series.  The rescue kit is usually a bit more comforting, but we couldn’t carry everything this time round.

entance to claphamThe character of the cave starts to change now, starting with The Ramp, a 70m steep climb, generally at a 45 degree angle.  More up and down climbs, continue until Boulder Hall, a large chamber. At the top of the chamber a few more climbs up lead to a 22m pitch, dropping down to the start of a large impressive passage that steeply rises up via a number of up pitches.  Normally, you start to hear a roaring noise, that sounds like water, but is the rushing of air through a constriction.  This time it’s ominously silent… If I’m lucky it’s blocked and we can turn around and go home.  No such luck and we continue down through The Hole in the Wall and more climbs up before we reach the Sump.  Water levels are normal and we chain up the five tackle bags and quickly pull them through so we don’t spend anymore time that strictly necessary in the water.

clapham to holeNormally my spirits would start to lift as we are getting close to Consort Hall, one of the old underground camps, however as our main objectives are in the Death Race 2000 area, camps further in have become the norm and now Consort Hall just reminds me that we are still only a third of the way into the cave!  We stop for some lunch (at 8pm) before carrying on.

hole to consort

The next hour and a half of caving is probably some of the nicest passage in the cave, big and dry with lots of old formations.  This is soon forgotten at the next set of down pitches, from the top of Dan’s Big Room a series of muddy pitches, prove both frustrating and unnerving in equal measure.  The ropes were placed on the 2011 expedition and have become more and more muddy and fast, plus all personal equipment is now of the same mud colour, so clipping into the right rope becomes a critical requirement.

conosrt to danAt the bottom of the pitches The Hall of the Green Domino provides a definite landmark for the start of the next challenge… Death Race 2000 is now approx. 250m above us, up the aptly named Beasts Ramp, Satan’s Ramp and Hellsmouth.

By now I’m feeling pretty tired, those training days at the spa and facial massages seem to have been the wrong choice, maybe more caving would have been the better option.  However, once more my spirits are lifted, BJ looks positively white and slumped in the corner.  He might be feeling worse than me.  Chris, of course, looks like he only started the trip 5 minutes ago.

By now we have sent Gareth and Hannah on to Death Race, the only water source in the area is down a broken 70m pitch that can take a couple of hours to manoeuvre water carriers up.  We are all going to be dehydrated and wanting food later and in the morning, so it seems a sensible idea to do it now rather than post sleep…

These ramps were first climbed in the late 80’s by members of the SWCC, all free climbed or hand bolted, a massive achievement given the scale and conditions of the climbs.  We make steady progress up the ramps, again the condition of the ropes leaving a lot to be desired, either muddy, super fast, super thick or, in one case, a dynamic rope meeting back to 1987, that was found a few years back and put back into service (really needs replacing!)

dan to dr

Finally the pitches up stop and we are back on relatively flat land.  It’s been a few years since I was last in the Death Race area and only small parts look familiar.  A few navigation issues delay us slightly but soon we can hear voices in the distance.  We reach The Death Race chamber at around 2:30am, a trip in of around 11 hours.  The kettle is already on and it’s time for as cup of tea and dinner.  Equipment is then unpacked (the reason we came) and everyone finds a comfortable place to sleep. I don’t have my usual underground camping clothes this time round, but a rather haphazard collection of; base-layers (20 years old), woolly hat (found in gym), bin bags (for wet feet) and a pair of Ron Hill trousers, which should only see the light of day, if that light is down a cave.

 

A day setting up camp

After a 30hr or so trip to deathrace we’ve stocked camp with enough gear for 5 persons and approx 50man days worth of wet rations and camp gear. Come July all that will be needed is exploration and personnal gear.
A good trip without incident save a few navigational errors and out just in time for a bit of food and beer at the bar.

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BJ enjoying a cuppa
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Stall near PI chamber
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More stall ‘can’t remember where’
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Phil getting changed.
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Chris, H and I waiting at ‘hole in wall’
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Life at camp
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More stall near PI chamber
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Enjoying a cuppa at camp
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Like moths in the flame

 

Did you pack this bag sir?

Friday 28th April

Manchester Airport
A leisurely morning packing a few final things soon turned into a frenzied panic when I reweighed and realised I had somehow packed only 8kg fully into a bag and, via a broken luggage scale, thought that it weighed 20kg. I thought I must have just been getting fitter and stronger, but no just a bit stupider.

Luckily this meant I could fit in more group equipment, namely lots of ration packs and another sleeping bag, destined for the Death Race camps. An hour later I was over my weight limit, so final few things into the coat pockets and full hiking clothes for the flight over. A rather fetching pair of trousers and braces made me look like I was about to go yodelling in Austria.

Strensham services at 1pm to meet Gareth and transferred over equipment. Promptly set off and got stuck in the Bank Holiday traffic. Finally got to Manchester airport around 4pm to meet Hannah and Chris. Further repacking and off to the airport.

Incredibly slow security lines, gave me plenty of time to think about how much I didn’t really like caving and not sure how I got talked into coming out to Spain. It’s fine in then summer, I can lord it over people and pretend I know what I’m doing by barking orders and nodding sagely when the Spanish talk to me. However, this time I have to go once more to the back end of Cueva del Nacimiento carrying a ridiculously heavy bag, sleep in the dirt and generally feel bad about the state of my predicament. It is snowing in Tresviso so maybe it’s flooded and we can’t go down……

Naturally we were stopped at security, mine was due to some batteries that I had placed in a glove, so obviously I was trying to smuggle a robotic arm out the country. Chris however was stopped due to an unidentifiable item in the top of his caving helmet….. a salad.

Everyone seems excited, although bit shell shocked that we are now on the way and going to have to do some caving….

There must be nearly 30kg of food between the four of us, 5kg of sleeping bags, 1kg of first aid kits, stoves, petrol and that’s before we meet Alex and then pick up the obligatory Tresviso cheese….

Now in Spain, 5 people and 10 bags crammed into a Nissan Juke…. 2 more hours to go

Tresviso 2017 – the May Bank warm up

Over the weekend of 28th April to 2nd May, a team of 5 cavers are going out to Tresviso with the brave (or foolhardy) plan to set up the Death Race 2000 underground camps, ready for the summer trip.

Die Hard Traverse Chris Jones 2016
Die Hard Traverse, Cueva del Nacimiento – Chris Jones 2016

Over recent years the time and effort spent getting people and equipment to the furthest reaches has caused significant lost time that would be better spent pushing leads. A team of 4 people, with large packs of underground camping, drills and rope can take anywhere from 12 to 18 hours to get to the Jurassic World section of the cave. However, a team with minimal equipment can get to the Death Race camp in around 4 hours.

In 2016 a number of ‘base camp’ items were left at Death Race, including sealed food and sleeping bags. The May trip plans to take some more equipment in to be left in situ ready for the summer trip.

The trip will only really have 3 days in the field, 2 of which spent underground in Nacimiento. Weather is currently good, with minimal snow over the past few months and only light showers of late.

Updates to follow, where possible….

Phil Walker, Chris Jones, Hannah Moulton, Gareth Davies, Alex Burton-Johnson

agua surface overlay
Cueva del Nacimiento – Google Earth Surface Overlay (2016)

Tresviso 2017 Overview

Tresviso 2017 Overview

The latest Tresviso Caving Expedition is planned for this summer and once more a blog will be attempted. Additionally, a long weekend pre-expedition trip is planned.

Looking North from San Carlos (Andara)
Looking North from San Carlos (Andara) – Phil Walker 2016

Overview & brief history:

The Picos de Europa is a range of mountains 20km inland from the northern coast of Spain, forming part of the Cantabrian Mountains. It consists of three main areas, the Central, Eastern and Western Massifs. It was the Eastern Massif that drew the attention of Lancaster University Speleological Society (LUSS) in the early 1970s.

location

The early years were spent pushing Cueva del Nacimiento (Cueva del Agua) located at the foot of the mountain range. Over the years this was pushed to around the 11km and +300m mark, but after several years the cave was abandoned as the major routes sumped and no continuation could be found. LUSS turned their attention to the Andara region higher up the mountain range and sought caves that would drop into the Nacimiento system and create a record-breaking 1500m through trip.

They eventually found a number of deep caves around this ‘top camp’ area. Sara, Tere, Flowerpot and the -1169m deep Sima 56 (at the time one of the deepest in Spain) were all pushed to respectable depths.

Many years were spent pushing the top camp systems but the way through remained elusive.

The idea was always to connect Sima 56 through to Nacimiento, a through trip of around 1500m vertically and ~5.9km horizontally. Exploring Sima 56 downwards is an incredibly large undertaking (approx. -1129m deep, lots of pitches).  Upwards from Nacimiento will also be difficult, the furthest point in 1986 was a +200m ascending ramp, followed by some avens with surface debris. Depending on what you look at, the difference between Sima 56 and Nacimiento is about 3km, but they have overlapped height wise.  Some of the known undescended shafts on the Sierra del a Corta are right above the furthest point of Nacimiento.

Naciemiento Streamway (2016)
Cueva del Nacimiento Streamway – Russ Brooks 2016

Recent expedition activity

In 2005 a small SWCC trip found a number of undescended shafts on the top of the Sierra del a Corta. Al2 remains unfinished.

In 2009 a joint SWCC & SBSS trip further explored Cueva del Entre Cuetos, located on the Sierra del Corta. The 1996 limit at -100m was passed and the cave extended down a number of new pitches to an immature stream way that may repay a further visit

In 2010 SWCC and SBSS spent 10 days examining leads around the Sierra del Corta and Valdeladiezma, including a number of promising draughting shafts. (T69, T507, T504). Torca Septrin, on the Pico Boro, was also revisited and extended for a few more metres and remains an ongoing project.

In 2011 SWCC Cueva del Nacimiento was successfully bolted and re-rigged all the way through the cave and up to the current limit of exploration in the final Death Race 2000 chamber. T69 was investigated further with some digging revealing the head of an un-descended shaft.

In 2012 SWCC spend 3 weeks further exploring Cueva del Nacimiento, including a successful dive of the Upstream Sump, not visited since 1986, extending the sump further and deeper. Death Race 2000 was climbed and a series of pitches descending back toward stream level was discovered.

In 2014 SWCC and others further explored leads in Cueva del Nacimiento and revisited Torca Septrin

In 2015 the Tresviso Caves Project spent 2 weeks exploring Cueva del Nacimiento and discovered new extensions above the Death Race 2000 chamber (Die Hard and Jurassic World). Additionally, a new large sump (Pena Colada sump) was discovered at the bottom of the Death Race steamway

In 2016 the Tresviso Caves Project spent 2 weeks exploring Cueva del Nacimiento and climbed a number of avens in the Die Hard – Jurassic World area. Additionally, Pozo Natacha (in the Mazarassa mine area) was rigged ready for the next expedition.

Previous reports are available here: http://www.trevisocaves.info/reports.html

The Wet Aven (Nacimiento)
Arwel Roberts on the “Wet Aven”, Teeth of Satan, Cueva del Nacimiento – Joe Daniels 2015


The Plan

The 2017 expedition will be undertaken over 2 weeks from July 8th to July 22nd 2017.

The expedition has a number of objectives. The following are a few primary objectives:

Cueva del Nacimiento – Die Hard – Jurassic World

Various Leads

  • Multiple climbs in Jurassic World
  • Multiple climbs in Die Hard

Cueva del Nacimiento – Pina Colada Bypass

A 3-10m rift heads off from the Pina Colada sump

Cueva del Nacimiento – Teeth of Satan – Wet Aven

The 2017 expedition partly continued climbing a promising aven, part way up the Teeth of Satan ramps. The aven requires completing with a possible continuation at the top.

Cueva del Nacimiento – Passages above Dan’s Big Room

Unexplored sections of passage near the 1970’s Terminal Chamber.

Middle Camp

Approx. 200m above the furthest point in Nacimiento is the Sierra del Corta. A heavily wooded area with a number of promising leads, that could potentially drop into Nacimiento and provide an easier route into the back to aid exploration

Andara (2016)
Minas de Mazarassa, Andara – Russ Brooks 2016

T554

The 2014 trip re-discovered a large 100m shaft on the Sierra del a Corta. Another good central location for dropping into Nacimiento, this requires some digging at the bottom

Al2Discovered in 2005. A drafting shaft not yet bottomed. Jurassic World in Nacimiento appears to be heading directly towards this site

Secondary Objectives: 

Time and resources permitting there are a number of secondary objectives that will be attempted:

  1. Pozo Del Castillo / Natacha. Reinvestigate the possibility of resuming exploration of the Castillo system, currently at -293m .
  2. Locate draughting surface entrance, close to 80m aven beyond Sump 1 in Cueva del Marniosa
  3. Upstream series in Cueva del Marniosa. Large black voids above the streamway.
Crystal Spear Cave (2016)
Martin Groves, Crystal Spear Cave – Jason Gotel 2016

A few updates

Cueva del Nacimiento

Draughting hole at end of Jurassic World, was hammered and dug out for 4 hours. No progress made. Easy sand gave way to large sections of calcite. Long term dig.

Dinosaur Aven, climbed to a height of 50m, narrow to impenetrable draughting crack

Iam Not into Yoga another aven above Die Hard climbed to 50m

Joes Crack, newly discovered pitch near main Death Race chamber. 20M heading downwards away from Death Race. Draughting

Howling Hole, small aven above hole climbed, minor gains

Cueva del Marniosa – Diving bottles retrieved

New cave discovered near Tresviso, approx 180m long with a few undescended pitches. Appears not to have been explored.

Pozo Natacha – Still being rigged. French survey and rope lengths are completely wrong. Proving a challenge

DR