Cueva del Marniosa – Upstream

Just up valley from Agua is Cueva del Marniosa, a 4k + system that is probably hydrologically connected (although never proven) to Agua. A number of pitches and decorated chambers lead to the main streamway. Plans had been made this year to dive the downstream sump (approx. 20m long) with a view to look at an unclimbed aven just beyond the sump. The diving bottles had previously been left near the streamway and a team of myself, Dave Collins and Fernando (President of the A.D.KAMI club and recently arrived from Madrid) had intended to take the bottles further into the cave, ready for a dive. However, plans changed the night before and the dive was cancelled. The trip was altered to bring the bottles out and also take some time to look upstream in the cave.

Although heavily visited by LUSS in the 70’s the description for Marniosa suggest some possibilities for unexplored passage.

Upstream of the ladder pitch …… small inlets enter at the point of many of these falls and often there are large black holes in the roof. Climbs in the roof of these area many be very rewarding.

However, there is some contradictory information between reports, suggesting these leads may have been visited but not always pushed to conclusion. On area we wanted to visit was a unsurveyed section shown on the survey. However, other reports suggest this was surveyed, yet no data seems to exist and not shown on the latest surveys.

The journey up the upstream sump was very entertaining. A very nice section of streamway, with numerous climbs out and back into the streamway. As we went along, I noticed a lot of sections of cave (high in the roof) that are not marked on the survey, supporting the claims in the intial reports. In particular, one section of streamway, had a very large boulder chamber / choke above, possibly 20m high, not marked on the survey. Any SLUGS reading? Drop me an email on any of this 🙂

The upstream continuation was followed to an immense chamber, called The Hall of the Mountain King. It consists of numerous connected avens, some with waterfalls, others dry and could be anything from 150′ high. The floor is littered with sandstone boulders, suggesting that there is a route through to the surface nearby.

We reached the final chamber after a few hours and it was very impressive, at least 3 x 50m avens in the roof, with water coming down and very cold. One small climb / meander leads to an aven marked in the survey, but just to one side was a tight squeeze to a 9m pitch (not descended). Again not shown on the survey.


On the way back I found the passage we wanted to check out and we surveyed the passage. By now it was getting very late and we exitted the cave. On the way we collected the dive bottles but after passing our call out time we left them behind for another trip and exitted at midnight. An enjoyable trip with some new questions raised.

Today (1st August) was Yorkshire Day, celebrating all things Yorkshire including famous Yorkshireman like James Henry Atkinson, the inventor of the Little Nipper mousetrap.

Hence we called the (new) section of cave Yorkshire Inlet and the aven, Bradford Aven.

yorkshire inlet

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!

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