Agua: rope replacement, photos and checking out leads.

Yesterday Russ, Nick, Emily, Derek and Duncan entered Agua, it was Russ’s and Nick’s first visit. Primary goals were to replace the aging rope on the ramp, photograph Agua and explore a lead off boulder hall on the way to Tea chamber.

We were also asked to retrieve an abandoned tackle sack from boulder hall.

We got into Agua about 1pm and dragged the two bags of new rope into the cave and all the way to the top of the Ramp.

Russ at the top of the Ramp
Russ at the top of the Ramp

Leaving the rope there we then made or way to boulder hall. Here we split into two groups, Russ, Nick and Emily headed back towards the ramp photographing, whilst Derek and Duncan explored a drafting lead at the top of the pitch down to Tea chamber. This was going to require a tricky high traverse requiring more time and equipment than we had, so after an hour or so we headed back towards the entrance to catch up with the others.

Formations in passage off Boulder Hall on the way to Tea chamber.
Formations in passage off Boulder Hall on the way to Tea chamber.

The others had been busy, by the time we had got back to the ramp the other team had replaced the rope. The top rope does not quite reach the middle level. It was a lovely smooth abseil instead of the usual muddy and slow descent.

We caught up with the others at Clapham Junction whilst they photographed the pool.

Derek and Duncan did do a short bit of surveying just off Clapham Junction.

We then caved out dragging the old rope and extra tackle bag whilst capturing a few photos.

Nick in the main streamway
Nick in the main streamway
Duncan in the entrance series.
Duncan in the entrance series.

After the final photos of cavers crossing the entrance pool in the dinghy  were taken we then headed up and out of the gorge.

Entrance into Agua requires a short boat trip
Entrance into Agua requires a short boat trip

With all our personal kit and three bags of rope it was a hard walk out. We had to share the carrying of the abandoned tackle bag between us. We eventually arrived in Tresviso at 10pm.

A quick shower, food and straight to the bar until we got kicked out at 1am!

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!

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!  

In search of a sump

Emily, Gareth and Duncan visited Agua today in search of the sump and a bypass to it in a section called road to Wigan pier. We had a late start and got into the cave at 13:30. Duncan lead the way in as the others had not visited Agua before. We installed the hose to drain that annoying pool, it had worked a treat as the pool was almost empty on our way out.

All our efforts kept leading us in loops back to Clapham Junction.

We went back to Black hole and went left. Here we entered large passage with a blue rope hanging from the roof. This was the marker we had been looking for and found the sump. We left our kit in this area and headed out for the punishing walk up and out of the gorge. Absolutely knackered and a great first day exploring lots of new passages to me (Duncan).

I also have the dubious honour of being the first to fall out of the boat… 😉