Practice Pot (IM2) Cueva Donga (AS 1) & de Silvestre (KJ1)   

By Stu Coxon

 We left the hostel with the intention and kit to look at the tight section in Cueva Donga and hopefully enlarge it. Our secondary objective was to have a look at the pitch in the entrance of what is now known as Practice Pot. Alistair and Dreads went over to Practice Pot to start the day. Alistair quickly donned his SRT kit, tied a rope around the tree above and took everything he needed to bolt down the pitch. Very quickly a shout from the hole came asking for a hammer. The hammer was lowered. A sound of drilling commenced. Tapping of the bolt followed. Another shout came. This time asking for a screwdriver. Much amusement on the surface followed and the request was rejected on the grounds we didn’t have one and Alistair should not be doing D.I.Y when on holiday. Instead we lowered down a rachet spanner, which on the whole was more useful. Alistair placed another bolt and then returned to the surface, muttering about the rope not being long enough.

Stu then took the sharp end and re rigged the rope off a sling round the tree, creating enough extra rope to place one more bolt and reach the bottom on a second rope. Alistair followed on surveying in. Upon reaching the bottom Stu voiced that we were at the end of the cave for us as it narrowed off into a muddy rift. Alistair disagreed and promptly got stuck into a dig. We made a few extra metres with the use of Alistair’sshovel hands and a hammer.

Upon returning to the surface we were greeted by Kelda and Will.  Will had been down Cueva Donga looking for insects and had also been digging and extended Cueva Donga 4m (unsurveyed) upstream. Kelda had been prospecting.

After looking down several large shakeholes with no obvious entry points one had a large tree stump with the rest of the tree down the shakehole with just a small section of it exposed above the mud and leaf that has fallen into the hole. This had no entry point but just to the side as heading up out of the shakehole is an entry rift going down 10m to a large ledge of rock, mud and leaf. KJ went to get the rope and kit to descend the hole and see if it went. KJ met WB and he also came. KJ descended to the ledge and dropped a rock down the continuation of the rift which gets considerably tighter for a section. The rock hit the bottom and then rolled – an estimate of 30m so KJ came back up and went to find SC and AG to see if they had finished investigating the hole they were in and if could get some help and kit from them.

KJ and WB had also been wandering around prospecting and had looked at a few holes and were very excited about one in particular.

 

We wandered over and logged the hole as KJ1. KJ went down first and wasn’t confident in the rock for placing her first bolt. AG then took the lead, followed by KJ and SC. Upon descending we became quickly aware we were into a big hole. The start is an open shaft to a leaf, mud and boulder ledge. From here the cave changed into narrow rift down to a boulder slope with lots of animal bones!  That was not the only thing of interest! The cave opens into a rift chamber with 3 onwards leads. We explored the dry rift to the right upto a boulder jammed in where the passage changes from walking to hands and knees crawling. Not explored beyond the boulder. Boulder is marked. A little further on from the rift chamber is a streamway. Upstream we explored 10/15m to a wet crawl but did not go into the wet crawl. Downstream from the rift chamber we quickly found a cascade (6m) which we handlined down due to running out of drill battery. Downstream from this a short section of passageway leads to another pitch. Due to not having any drill battery we did not descend this pitch.  We returned to the surface to meet WB with tales of caverns measureless to man (mainly because AG would not let us survey!) a top days holidaying had by all!

 

Pozo Castillo – Snow Plug

By Alistair Gott

Castillo, the snow plug “dig” and boulder chocking. I’ve heard a lot about it, after some prospecting on the surface. We kitted up, all were going light just to see what the snow plug and block in the roof looked like. Stories of three previous trips to the snow choke saw the snow plug with too much snow in it, forcing people across to the left of the passage, looking directly up at a set of 4-5 fridge sized blocks held up by fresh-air and rotting wooden stemples.

Fast forward to this year, we entered briefly to work out what the snow  plug looked like, Alistair was posted in first and reported that it looked open. The first visit saw that there were a few blocks on the left and an open pitch past the snow on the right. Lying to the left-hand side of the snow plug was a winch made mostly of wood with some added metal for the winch handle, the winch itself was approximately 6 foot in length and 1 foot wide. We decided with the addition of some rope, a drill and some bolts and hangers, we could drop the pitch today.

Kitting up further with SRT kits, drills and other paraphernalia, we re-entered the mine, and quickly found ourselves showing Joe how to put bolts in.

Joe bolted down a 3m pitch to boulder floor, with some rope rub. Pitch descends wall of chocked boulders assumed unstable. Deviation required to pull away and reduce rub. Rebelay bolted and passage through snow plug followed to RH wall, culminating in second 3m pitch. Base of pitch lands at T junction of natural passage leading to mined level, assumed recently uncovered by retreating snow. Mine explored to discover too tight phreatic heading down 60 degrees, small draught. Found several mine artefacts including woven baskets. Mine exited and Joe pressed on following RH wall to reach open hole in snow plug heading up into black void, ~50m. Alistair bolted deviation and all entered Segura 2 into sunshine. Coke at refugio and cushy disco descent to Tresviso.

Castillo Snow plug (2016)

 

Castillo snow plug (2018)

 

!!!

 

 

Quick Updates

More details to follow but a quick taster

Cueva del Nacimiento – new height reached at back end of cave

Fallen Bear – new leads discovered

Torca de la Carneros – possible leads on hill above Tresviso

Cueva de la Marniosa – Sump 2 (previously undived) passed last night…

 

Oh and Pozo Castillo – still collapsed

 

Searching for new caves on La Mesa

A total of six caves found with four of them believed to have never have been descended. The two previously we believe that have previously been descended included Rotten Sheep Cave and the unnamed ‘Sheep Skull Cave’.

The first cave found during the prospecting trip was a small chamber (4m x 4m x 3m) entered from a narrow body sized slot from a small break in the valley limb. Although the cave died instantaneously, it provided confidence for the team that there was potential for caves of a ‘human’ size in the mountain.

The second cave found included another small ‘human’ sized slot in the valley side which Fernando entered in haste. The narrow opening had the appearance of an animal burrow, with both Sam and Pyro envisaging a small bear snarling at a yellow suited Fernando disrupting their afternoon meal. Unfortunately the cave ended after approximately 10m at a narrow constriction.

We progressed further up the mountain, through the thick hill fog, and stumbled across a pot demonstrating great potential.

Approximately 50m from the summit and hidden in a secluded bowl.
As Pyro approached the cave he was confronted by a gentle mountain dog, tasked with protecting the sheep herds of the mountain. The gentle white beast approached Pyro through the dense clouds, offering a hand of friendship before Pyro stood in panic, shivering in the wake of his own futile failure as a ‘man of a mountain’.  Fernando kindly intervened, whispering through the white mist, reminding the temperate beast that Pyro was a mere guest in the fortitude of his domain. Kindly, the giant walked off, in the wake of a Pyro shivering like a coward on the hill.

After a quick check through Fernando’s ‘cheat sheet’ we concluded that the pot in question mirrored the description of ‘Rotten Sheep Cave’, where several carcasses of fallen livestock were dumped on the mountain top.

We continued up, through the cloud.

Scattered across the mountain Sam, whilst taking a rest stop, noticed a flight of birds rising through the karstic landscape. He scrambled up to the hollow to discover a pot, typical of a shaft of titans’ proportion. He called across the mountain, waiting for Pyro and Fernando to venture back across the terrain.

Pyro descended the pot, traversing across the top edge and rigging a y-hang to descend the bottom of the pot. After a 15m free-hang Pyro discovered that the pot, only 25m from the summit of the mountain, terminated with a floor of boulders and mud, with the odd sheep skull for seasoning.

We descended the mountain as the cloud set in, taking the direct route down in an effort to cut short the long wandering route we had taken whilst ascending. As Pyro led the way down we stumbled across an entrance which has clearly been used historically by local hill farmers. Fernando logged the location happy in the knowledge that it matched the description of a previously logged cave.

Again, Pyro led the way down the mountain and through the poor visibility located an open shaft! Measuring approximately 8m x 4m the void clearly showed the characteristics of a cavern of potential. Under the guidance of Pyro, Sam launched a rock down the pit, crashing through the darkness with all three party members confident that the debris plummeted at least 30m. Unfortunately, we only discovered the shaft at 1815 and as the thick cloud was setting in. Definitely waiting for us to return and descend the shaft!