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.

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

Tresviso 2016 expedition begins

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.

 

Brian Baru's Place by Phil Walker (2011)
Brian Baru’s Place by Phil Walker (2011)

Recent SWCC 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.

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

The Plan

The 2016 expedition will be undertaken over 2-3 weeks from end of July into August (dates TBC)

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

Cueva del Nacimiento – Die Hard – Jurassic World

The 2015 expedition successfully reached the highest known point in the cave, the ‘Jurassic World’, with a number of leads left open

  • Sandy dig at end of Jurassic World
  • Multiple climbs in Jurassic World
  • Multiple climbs in Die Hard
Satan's Ramp, Cueva del Nacimiento by Phil Walker (2011)
Satan’s Ramp, Cueva del Nacimiento by Phil Walker (2011)

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 2014 expedition partly climbed 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 – Grand Circle

The Grand Circle is an area of passage around the main stream way at the far end of the cave.  Although explored fairly rigorously in the late 70’s this was before the advent of more powerful lights and better equipment.  Given the profile of the cave, exploration in this area would be worthwhile to try and find a middle dry phreatic level above the Far Upstream Sump.

Cueva del Nacimiento – Parting Friends

This sump lies about an hour from the entrance and is a short 8m dive to a second sump, currently at 200m still ongoing.  A dive at this site is planned towards the end of the expedition.

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 

Cueto de Entre Cuetos

The 2009 trip pushed this cave down to a small stream way, this still requires pushing and the cave is in a good central location for dropping into the top of Nacimiento

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

Al2

Discovered 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. Reinvestigate the possibility of resuming exploration of the Castillo system, currently at -293m .
  1. Locate draughting surface entrance, close to 80m aven beyond Sump 1 in Cueva del Marniosa 

 

Previously..

Once back in the UK only a couple of days rest were afforded before the various post-trip activities needed to be completed.  Finances and various reports for the sponsors were prepared and the annual Hidden Earth conference was attended to give a brief lecture on the trip.  Post lecture the serious discussions,  stimulated by alcohol, began.  Alan had vowed never to return to Spain after spending days underground covered in mud and grit, however, a couple of beers later and he was softening.  madPhil was still interested, so that meant continuing the Teeth of Satan climbs was still on.  All I needed to do now was convince a diver that we could carry all his kit to the back end.  One short dive and history beckoned the lucky person…..

As luck would have it, a diver was keen, and not much alcohol required to convince further.  SWCC stalwart and CDG regular, Martin Groves, had expressed general interest in the trip previously, but other expeditions had gotten in the way.  This year it looked like a free space in his diary meant no more excuses were allowed.

So the next few months were spent one more pouring over the journals, in particular the last accounts of the 86 SWCC trip to Nacimiento, the last time anyone was at the backend of Nacimiento and the last time a diving trip had been attempted that far into the cave.

The 1986 journal merely states:

Our next aim was the upstream sump itself which appeared to be the only way on.  Gear was carried into the cave by Rob, Ian and Howard Jones and the sump was dived on a subsequent trip.  Ian supported by Colin was the first to dive.  He laid out all of his 120m of line at a depth of -24m in passage varying from 10m to 20m diameter.  Rob’s dive followed, and a further 47m of line was added at a depth of -27m until he turned back.  No more dives were made at this site.

Various second hand accounts note that the passage was large and on-going, but so big as to cause agoraphobia and the last dive was undertaken at about 3am in the morning, psychological probably not the best time for a dive.  Unfortunately Ian Rolland and Rob Parker are no longer with us to tell us more about the dives.

Advancements in lights, equipment and re-breather technology meant that the upstream sump was becoming a more and more an encouraging prospect for us and with Martin suitable enthused, planning got going in earnest.  Leaving the logistics of bottles, gas mixtures and rebreathers to Dr’s Groves and Rowsell, I got on with the exciting business of permissions and people!

Permissions in the Eastern Picos have been fairly complicated for a few years, with the area ‘split’ between 3 Spanish groups, with the boundaries of said groups changing and overlapping from year to year.  Luckily a good relationship has been set up with the AD KAMI club of Madrid and all our permission requests go via them and we operate as part of their expeditions.  Generally working in the area at the same time, it is surprisingly difficult to get together at the same time to meet face to face and help each other out, with KAMI working high up on Andara at CS-9 (Torca Jou Sin Tierre) and the SWCC either in the middle ridges of the area or at the foot of the Urdon Gorge where Nacimiento resurges.   However, given that the water from CS-9 probably drains into Nacimiento they always take a keen interest in our activities and even suggested, resources permitting, they would help us with the equipment carry.

Recruiting of a team for the expedition was relatively easily, reaching a peak of 26 interested people at one point.  This eventually settled around the 18 marks, as per last year.  The core, previously made up of SWCC members, has slowly shifted with the majority of members being drawn from the ranks of the NUCC.  An encouraging sign and something we have been keen to cultivate.  Potential is still high in the area and the decline in student numbers within LUSS was the beginning of the loss of interest in the area in the late 80’s.  Hopefully, a successful trip once more this year might encourage even more interest and before long we will be back down Sima 56…..

Into the start of 2012 and the sponsorship and funding requests started to bear fruit.  Lyon Equipment once more generously provided a number of high quality tackle and dry bags for transporting all the dive equipment.   More rope was purchased and the previous years dusted off and partly cleaned.

Sports Council WalesGhar Parau and the SWCC all provided further funding and theWelsh Section of the Cave Diving Group provided dive line.

All seemed set, ferries were being booked, car and travel arrangements made and excitement was building.  For me the just the small matter of some knee surgery 8 weeks before my departure date……

A little bit of historical context

I’m not going to go into the usual arguments around, exploration, adventure, ‘because it’s there’ etc. but the following post briefly details a little bit of the motivation and competition related to the specific exploration in this area.

The Goal….

The main goal of the work, undertaken by LUSS and now by SWCC, is to attempt to find a route through the Eastern Massif mountain range from the deep potholes on top of the range to the resurgence (where all the water draining through the mountain range re-emerges) at Cueva del Nacimiento.

At the time of the original exploration, it was believed that such a cave would be one of the deepest in the world.  Around the same time as LUSS was exploring the caves of the Eastern Massif the Oxford University Caving Club (OUCC) was in the neighbouring mountain range looking for a similar deep cave to break the records.

 The 80’s…

OUCC, centred around the Ario plateau, were looking for a connection between the potholes in the Western Massif and the resurgence, Culiembro. In particular a deep pothole called Xitu on the plateau was the centre of attention.

In 1981 OUCC broke a couple of records, extending Xitu below -1000m, the first British team to achieve such a feat.  At the end of the 1981 expedition the cave had reached a depth of -1139m and exploration terminated at a sump.

Within 2 years LUSS, concentrating on Sima 56 (Cueto de los Senderos) surpassed this limit by 30m, reaching a depth of -1169m, with the last few bits of passage referred to as the ‘Oxford By-Pass’ and ‘FUZ2’ (you can work this one out..)

Despite numerous expeditions in the following years these limits in both the caves were not passed.

 The 2010’s…

In 2010 the sumps at the end of Culiembro were finally passed and the divers reached the terminal point reached in 1981 at the bottom of Xitu, making a -1264m traverse a possibility.

http://www.casj.co.uk/index.php/culiembro-expediton

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1303152/A-mile-daylight-4-145-feet–deepest-British-caver-been.html

 Last Week…

Finally the first full traverse from Culiembro to Xitu (and back) was achieved on the OUCC 2012 expedition.

http://www.oucc.org.uk/expeditions/expedition2012/2012_index.htm

This makes it the 3rd deepest traverse and the World’s deepest diving traverse.

Next week…..!

The caving world and exploration has moved on since the original exploration and the deepest cave goal is no longer geologically achievable.

However, modern mapping and GPS techniques still provide some exciting reading and recent extensions in another deep cave (Torca Jou Sin Tierre) in the Eastern Massif, still give hope for some records to be broken in the next few years.

Sima 56 – Cueva del Nacimiento would be a -1475m deep underground traverse, this would make it the 12th deepest cave in the world.

Torca Jou Sin Tierre – Cueva del Nacimiento would be a -1530m deep underground traverse.  This would make it the 8th deepest cave in the world, 2nd deepest in Spain and the 2nd deepest traverse in the world (I still need to confirm this… any takers?)

It would be a close one but we would just miss out on the deepest cave in Spain which is currently Torca del Cerro del Cuevon-Torca de las Saxifragas at a depth of -1589m.

List of deepest caves in the world.