Marniosa: final rig and photos

Yesterday three teams entered Marniosa (2pm) with all three initially helping with the transport of dive cylinders to the top of the short pitch down into the main streamway.

Russ and Nick then headed back towards the entrance photographing the cave. Russ has a proper camera with fancy flash units so has captured some pretty awesome pictures that show off Marniosa.

Nick in main passage
Nick in main passage
Nick in main passage
Nick in main passage
Duncan in morning chamber near the entrance.
Duncan in morning chamber near the entrance.

Emily and David headed upstream with the intention of pushing as far as they could but were soon tharwted by a boulder choke. With a too tight squeeze and sketchy traverse they decided to head back and join up with Russ and Nick to support the photography team.

Bob and Duncan headed downstream to complete the rigging of the instream pitches. With a 33m rope left from the earlier rigging trip and about 6m cut off some unused rope from a higher pitch we travelled downstream rigging the 3 remining pitches.

Bob rigging one of the pitches in the streamway.
Bob rigging one of the pitches in the streamway.

The Main stream has many chert nodules offering good hand-holds that can break off at any time! There is a steeply descending section with amazing eroded rock and pot-holes providing a very sporting up and down trip, often requiring one to traverse several metres above the stream to continue. We rigged the final pitch, ran out of rope and got to a large pool, which was just upstream of the sump.

Duncan at the pool before the sump.
Duncan at the pool before the sump.

Neither of us wanted a swim; we had achieved our primary goals (drag dive cyclinders in and complete rigging) so we returned to the entrance and caught up with the photography team at the big pitch.

When we finally got to the surface (9pm) we were greeted with mist and rolling thunder!

Parting Friends

Joe and I planned to put a line on the climb upto ‘Parting Friends’ sump beyond the road to Wigan Pier, it’s a very impressive bit of stream passage with a major flow of roaring water. Unfortunately whilst trying to ascend up the slope before the pitch I slipped and got carried down the slope and underwater by the force of it. Joe caught it all on his gopro so that’s to follow. Feeling bruised and pride dented currently as I nurse my wounds. Cheers Joe for grabbing me.


Added by Phil with Gareth’s permission :-).  Warning contains some swearing…..

In other news….

Hopefully, more posts to follow with updates on the following:

  • Cueva del Nacimiento – Jurassic World – Dinosuar Aven climbed and still going
  • Cueva del Nacimiento – Parting Friends – located and currently being bolted up to the sump
  • Pozo Natacha – first pitch rigged
  • New cave located on the cliff above Nacimiento
Pozo Natacha (Russ Brooks)
Pozo Natacha (Russ Brooks)

Cueva del Nacimiento – The Wet Aven and Grand Circle

With one group already on an underground camp at Death Race and the tea slurping and crisp munching getting on my nerves at base I decided to start on another underground camp.  A team had already taken in a second set of camping gear to Consort Hall the day before so the team of Phil, Martin, Joe and Sam set off into Nacimiento with 2 main objectives:

  1. Continue aven climb of the Wet Aven, a circa 30m high aven coming in part way up the Teeth of Satan ramps.
  2. Revisit the Grand Circle. Although heavily explored in the 70’s, worth a revisit to see if there were any opportunities for climbing or ‘expanding’ tight rifts

wet aven

Suffering from the effects of a hangover, I entered the cave at around 3pm and promptly wanted to leave.  Every step, seemed to take forever, my bag was too heavy and nailed to the ground, sweat pouring out of very office.  I wanted to quit and go home and sit on nice plumped up cushions.  However, the others were having none of it and my pleas fell on deaf ears. It took a good 2 hours for the hangover to go before I was anywhere near able to cave effectively.  However, it took around 4 hours to get to Consort Hall, which seemed rather good going given the size of the bags we were carrying and the hangover.


Camp was the usual gritty and muddy affair, opting to use group equipment this year round, meant I didn’t have all my creature comforts, so a chillier than normal night was received.

A late start the following day, meant a bit of a rush, but we quickly made it to the Wet Aven.  Martin and Sam staying to climb, while myself and Joe dropped back down the ramps to the Grand Circle.

 We spent a few hours crawling around in the upper part of the Grand Circle but as feared there was nothing new that could be identified (plus it was not as ‘grand’ as expected).  A few holes down were identified but as the direction was not up and 99% certain they are the known pitches down to the stream.  On the return to Consort Hall we re-rigged a few pitches and tidied up some old rope, dragging various bits back to camp.


A few hours later, Martin and Sam returned.  The Wet Aven was still going and had been climbed for another 20m or so and was still going up but starting to narrow.  Lack of time forced a retreat for this camp.

Another chilly night’ sleep and then the following morning we struck camp.  Myself and Martin heading out, while Sam and Joe, took a quick look at I Love Horses, a ramp above Consort Hall.

Out of the cave in 4 hours and then long walk up the hill.

Pozo Castillo

One of the secondary objectives of the expedition is to revisit the Pozo Del Castillo cave on the Andara mountain range.  This cave, and a number of interconnected caves and mines were explored initially by the French Les Speleois Dromis (LSD) club in in the early 1980’s.  The written report at the time talked of a ‘roaring sound’ at the limit of exploration but a return in 1987 by LUSS reported that part of the route through, in the early part of the cave, had collapsed with snow and rock.

The depth potential to Cueva del Nacimiento is approx. 1360m and with the encouragement of a roaring noise, possibly water or a draft, it has always been an interesting site to revisit.  A few attempts in the past year have returned with vague descriptions of ‘yes it’s blocked’ to ‘we may have been in wrong cave’, so it finally came for me to go up the hill and put my mind at rest.

A large group of us went up the hill, 3 cavers (Phil, Martin and Joe) and 4 others (Duncan, Russ, Nicola and Emma).  AS Castillo is made up of a number of entrances; Pozo Castillo, Pozo Natacha, Segura 2 and Clockwork Pot, the tentative plan was for the others to scout out, log and photograph the next entrance ready for the cavers.  My intention was that if Castillo was blocked the other entrances might provide a way in to the system that dropped beyond the collapse.

Straight away we started to hit the same problem with ‘co-ordinates’ as previous years.  Original co-ordinates from the 70’s have an error in them so can’t be fully trusted without converting and adding some degrees.  Official co-ordinates from the various official guidebooks seem to either have used the conversion (but without the additional degrees) or used a set area as the official position and used for the same cave. The most accurate way appears to be a combination of open street map inputted co-ordinates (quite possibly scraped from the expedition website anyway) and a handwritten LUSS map from the 80’s!

The Pozo Castillo entrance was found quickly, after a few detours, and is a large open shaft of about 15m.  Joe bolted down this and myself and Martin followed.



The bottom of the shaft is still in daylight being about 15m x 8m wide with a large snow plug in the middle.  Under one wall is a crouching size hole that leads to another 15m pitch.  This was bolted and dropped to enter the start of a complex series of mine passages.  A couple of side passages were ignored as we followed the known description to a ‘crossroads’.  From this point access to 3 of the entrances could be established.  Firstly I went straight ahead, this lead through 200m of walking size mine passage to exit on the side of the hill, overlooking the Lake Depression.  This is Segura 2.  Unable to shout to the above ground team, I went back into the cave.  Right from the crossroads, leads to another junction with an old wooden miners ladder in place.  This is Pozo Natacha.  We attempt to go up here for a while to try and find the entrance to Pozo Natacha from below, but after a few dodgy climbs we started to encounter proper pitches (about 2 from the entrance proper).  Back at the junction the other route lead to a large 30m shaft (the top of which was encountered higher up when trying to climb out of Natacha.  This was interesting, draughty and the first natural cave passage encountered in the system.  A known system again, running almost parallel to Castillo, to a similar depth and similar reports of drafts at the end.


Finally, we then took the left hand route at the crossroads and went in the Castillo system proper.  Around 200m of impressive min passage, with numerous stacked deads leads to a final flat out crawl.  The reported blockage was described as here and we quickly found it.  A small slumped passage requires a flat out crawl to a small chamber with a snow plug.  Looking up is a rather scary affair, with two car engine sized boulders perched and a bit of rotten timber and the snow plug.  The left hand side of the snow plug has started to melt and it possible to look down into the chamber further and see more of the snow plug.



No way we were going to get through this today and some discussion was needed on whether we should even attempt it.  We exited the cave, regrouped and returned back home

Segura 2 – located and logged.  Safest and easiest way into either Pozo Castillo and Pozo Natacha.

Clockwork Pot – not located, co-ordinates inaccurate from all sources.  Would need to return and use approximation from the Castillo full survey and descriptions.

Pozo Natacha – entrance not located / confimed but enterable via Segura 2.

Pozo Castillo – still blocked, the snow is possibly melting.  Would need to check how stable the boulders are and whether it’s only the snow holding them up






Marniosa rigging trip part 1

Today after a very late start, Emily, David, Derek and Duncan left for Marniosa. The 40 minute walk from the top of the sobra valley was pleasant, get into the cave was not fighting our way through brambles and gorse…

I (Duncan)  had been the only person to have previously visited the cave and thus lead the trip. We planned to rig the entire route to the steam but because of our very late start time and my painfully slow rigging we bailed out on the 4th pitch once we had rigged it, in favour of going home and getting a relatively early night.

Duncan next to impressive formations near the entrance.
Duncan next to impressive formations near the entrance. Photo by Emily Mackinven.

Also I learnt a valuable lesson, it’s all very well spending quality time reading the topo guide and getting the ropes ready but not remembering which rope you need for which pitch well…makes for a trip that ain’t gonna go right!

On the big pitch the rope did not touch the floor so David went back to the previous pitch and cut the excess off (because we had used the wrong length rope for a short pitch) and turned that into a traverse line, releasing the main rope for the main pitch.

At this point we all headed out.

Whilst we had only achieved half of our mission it was a good introduction to the system, tomorrow we will head back and complete the rigging ready for the cave divers and do some exploring upstream.

Still no sump…

On Sunday Gareth, Mesh, Derek and Duncan went back to Wigan pier to find the sump. It was Mesh’s first time into Agua.  We quickly got back to the main passage and spent hours walking up and down it searching for the elusive bypass. At one point Duncan found a promising way up on a treacherous moon milk slope. Gareth and Mesh went up it only to discover yet again it linked back to the main passage. They also had a bit of an epic coming down it as it was incredibly slippy with few hand holds.

Plan “B” was to bolt around a lake at the end of the passage and climb up. Mesh had attempted earlier to climb around the edge but a handhold gave way and sent him tumbling into the lake. Thankfully he was not hurt.

With the lake edge bolted we climbed up put in a hand line down for the descent and carried on. We passed colourful red rock and calcite. We split into 2 teams searched for a while and then regrouped. Re read a description and decided to head back passing under some annoying drips, this turned out to be a useful maker as just around the corner was the kit kat wrapper marking the way on. We had all passed under this without seeing it. 

Time had run out and we headed out for some more punishing walking up and out of the gorge. The mountains were tipped with an orange glow as the sun was setting.

I think it is going to be a case of third time luck!