2017 Summary

Cueva del Nacimiento – Jurassic World – Terror Firma

The ‘final’ aven at the end of the cave was climbed to over 40m, a split in the aven was followed to a new height of 534m above the entrance, but closed down.  The second aven remains unclimbed and is ongoing 

Cueva del Nacimiento – Jurassic World – Pterodactyl Crumble

Another aven at the end of the cave was explored upwards before reaching horizontal passage for another 60m, then finally closing down. 

Cueva del Nacimiento – Death Race 2000 – Joe’s Crack

Initial constriction was passed and the passage continues down another 35m, to head of undescended 12m pitch.  The passage heads under the Death Race chamber, toward the Death Race pitches.

Cueva del Nacimiento – Teeth of Satan – Wet Aven

The Wet Aven was not attempted on this trip, in part due to 2 trips getting lost on the way to the far end and running out of time to climb.

Cueva del Nacimiento – Other

180m of passage found near Death Race passage.

A new aven (+30m) found near P Chamber in Death Race passage, continues.

Cueva del La Marniosa

Sump 1 was dived and the 80m aven beyond was climbed to approx. 47m.  The rock is extremely poor and no obvious continuations could be seen at the top of the aven, using powerful lights.

The Marniosa team diverted attention to trying to dive Sump 2,  an undived sump, discovered in 1987 and unvisited since.  A rather ambitious trip saw two cavers reach sump 2 and allowed one diver to pass sump 2 (30m long t 5m depth) to surface in stream passages.  A further 40m of cave was explored and still continues, before safety concerns forced a retreat.

 Pozo Del Castillo.

Pozo Castillo continues to be surveyed (2km +) and leads explored, attempting to bypass the 1987 snow collapse.  The rediscovery of FT16 and the lower snow levels, allowed further progress in the system, but a sump was encountered at -110m.

Pozo Natacha (a series of pitches in Castillo, rather than a separate cave) was pushed past it’s 1983 limit, down a tight right to the head of a tight 20m pitch.  This pitch head would need serious enlargement before further exploration can continue.

Other exploration

Torca del Carneros was (re)discovered and surveyed.  This lies on La Mesa, above Tresviso, and probably would be connected to caves draining away from Tresviso toward the San Esteban valley.

Fallen Bear was also rigged ready for further exploration in 2018.  The bulk of the cave is a steeply descending ramp, similar to Nacimiento, and contains a number of leads of potential.

Summary:

In total over 2km of cave was surveyed in 2017.  Exploration of Nacimiento continues and has now pushed the height to over 534m from the entrance.  A logistical challenge that is not proving to get any easier, despite fixed camps toward the end of the cave.  Trips to the far end require 4-5 nights of camping, and advanced camps at the far (far) end now need to be considered.  Passing the second sump in Marniosa is a major achievement and unexpectedly has surfaced in passage heading away from Nacimiento and into the mountain, possible towards a hypotheses trunk route that may also feed the upstream sump in Nacimiento.  The rigging of Fallen Bear, and discovery of some new leads, opens up further possibilities of closer deeper systems lying between Nacimiento and the deep potholes high on the mountain.

Pozo Castillo / Segura

Thursday 13th July

Chris and Hannah required a dry way into Segura. Phil responded by rigging a few pitches down Pozo Castillo. Pyro lead us to the start of the ropes from the previous trip. There was a snow plug. We went down it. A few blind pots and cold feet later and a sump was located. Time to find the sun!

Andara (2017)
Andara (2017)

Phil and Pyro started some surveying, as an attempt to connect the dots with Castillo and try and find some missing bypass to the collapse.  Using a Distox and a Nexus 7 with Topodroid (excellent bit of kit!) we started surveying a number of areas; Castillo pitches down to main junction, Castillo crawl and a few further upper series passage.  While approaching the Castillo crawls, Pyro pointed out that he had taken team over the top of the crawl, and that the crawl lead to FT16 probably.  I felt a bit of disappointment, in that I had hoped that the area of the snow plug that the others were working may have been beyond the collapse, but it was looking more likely that they were in Segura 1 or an undiscovered mine area near the surface.  We went into the collapse and I had a quick look, compared to last year the snow appears to have melted further (no much snow in the picos this winter) and exposed more wooden props.  Maybe it just needs some balls of steel and slide down the snow plug at one side, into lower ‘ante-chamber’.  80’s description suggest this is the way forward, possible the collapse is no worse than it ever was, just we are not as hard as the French.

Castillo collapse (2017)
Castillo collapse (2017)

After a quick stop at the snow plug entrance, where we couldn’t hear Hannah or Chris, we exited and located Segura 1.  A short adit, straight onto a wooden winch platform, with nice soft rock and muddy underneath (scary).  This was the same winch platform as can be seen from below, in the snow plug cave.  Again disappointing, but serving to clarify points of entry and conditions.  Exit again and met up with others.

Pyro in FT16 (2017)
Pyro in FT16 (2017)

Friday 14th July

Lots of illness and injuries running through the expedition personnel, myself and Bob headed up to the White House, so that I could survey the ‘new’ snow plug (FT16) and derig.  Bob had no SRT kit and Emma was taking some kit to Fallen Bear  with others before meeting us with her SRT kit (never happened).  Bob and Phil surveyed, Segura 1, Upper Crawl Series and a few little passages. There was still no sign of Emma so I donned my SRT kit and started surveying FT16.  One massive snow plug with various stages of melt, proving tricky and unnerving.  Obviously the survey equipment malfunctioned, requiring a long sit on a patch of snow.  The bottom of the plug suddenly ends in some driven mine passage, containing old mining ladders, before a final pitch down to a sump / flooded level (probably same level as flooded pot in Segura 2.

Started de-rig to eventually greet a worried Bob, who thought I was either buried under snow, or taking too long and he would miss the pub.

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.

GOPR0315-0002

 

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.

GP010315-0001

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.

GP040315-0001-0001

 

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