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.
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……