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

A few updates

Cueva del Nacimiento

Draughting hole at end of Jurassic World, was hammered and dug out for 4 hours. No progress made. Easy sand gave way to large sections of calcite. Long term dig.

Dinosaur Aven, climbed to a height of 50m, narrow to impenetrable draughting crack

Iam Not into Yoga another aven above Die Hard climbed to 50m

Joes Crack, newly discovered pitch near main Death Race chamber. 20M heading downwards away from Death Race. Draughting

Howling Hole, small aven above hole climbed, minor gains

Cueva del Marniosa – Diving bottles retrieved

New cave discovered near Tresviso, approx 180m long with a few undescended pitches. Appears not to have been explored.

Pozo Natacha – Still being rigged. French survey and rope lengths are completely wrong. Proving a challenge

DR

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.

IMG_2509

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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 

 

T69 Breakthrough

Very hot weather of the past 2 days but the walk was not too bad going round the track. Arrived at cave and promptly had second lunch. By now most of my kit is strewn across Spain or broken. Today’s kit was partly borrowed from Mark, Derek and Martin G. Following on from previous post and Kirkpatick’s article on caving, I decided to try and bring some urban street appeal to caving by wearing just longjohns, jumper and some trainers.

 

Into the cave Alan was quickly at the dig face. Initially the plan was for Alan to try and get down the current restriction but it soon became clear it was still too tight, so the following hour was spent using some more ‘violent’ means to enlarge the constriction.

As most of my vertical equipment was down in Nacimiento I spent most of the hour sat in the dark above Alan with my hands over my ears, you can’t get holidays like this in Portugal.

Eventually Alan was confident to take a chance at getting down the hole. I quickly drilled a hole in the rock near me for the rope to be rigged from, and something I could clip onto. Another rope was dropped for Alan to clip into so I could haul him out, if it all went wrong. Excitement built as Alan slowly edged himself down the constriction, until reaching his chest. A few moments of silence and then the announcement he was through! Off he went down into the darkness, seemed to take ages for him to get down and then further silence before what sounded like rock falling. Eventually a faint shout up, that he had reached the end of the rope, but not the bottom!

Retuning back up the rope meant getting back through the constriction, this was the bit we were both worried about. Cunning plan was for Alan to slowly prussik on his chest and foot jammer, while I hauled the second rope with his hand jammer. Slowly (2cm) at a time, he came through the constriction as I pulled on the rope, without trying to fall down the hole on top of him! The urban trainer ensemble not holding much traction on the rocks.  Eventually he popped out like a cork and back to more spacious surroundings.

So currently the shaft is approx. 60m deep. The floor was about 10m from the end of the rope. Alan’s light not enough to give a good picture of the bottom, ‘sounded flat’ and it was still cold. It could be the size of a Sainsbury car park, but also possibly trolley sized. Need to decide if we try and close this one off in the next 2 days of leave for next year……

The Big Kahuna

So the day dawned where we had to put our money where our mouth was and actually dive this sump and get back in one piece. madPhil, Matt, Martin T and Dave set off early with the plan to go the Death Race 2000 aven to ready things for climbing. MadPhil and Dave to set up a camp in the aven and Martin and Matt to help out before returning to the Consort Hall camp to meet up with the rest.

Our days starts quite leisurely, myself, Martin G and Al having numerous cups of tea and a big lunch before a 12pm start down the hill. A couple more bags of diving equipment loaded up, somehow I end up with the bag of £3000 of electronics. Given in the past 6 months I have lost one ipod and broken another, I’m probably not the best person for the job.

Easy going through the entrance series and then just beyond the “Black Hole” we bump into Dave, returning back through the cave. He only got as far as the “Hole in the Wall” and beat a retreat, suffering from a cold and weeks of carrying equipment.

Alan seems to be cursing the cave, me or both, for talking him into coming back to Spain. But like all good miserable trips we form a plan for heading back to the tropics next year for far less misery out in the jungle.

Some discussion ensures about Andy Kirkpatrick’s article about extreme sports….. “In the end we decided that caving – perhaps also fell running – where one of the last bastions of true hardcore sport because they are so unsexy, and could never be made so.”

We summarised it as being due to it generally involves “rolling around in sh!t”

The usual landmarks are passed, the climbs muddy, the hole howling and the sump wet. We arrive at Consort Hall around 5ish after a four hour trip in. Camp is a grateful respite, dinner being a MOD Corned Beef Hash mix with some Tresviso blue cheese to accompany it. More tea drunk.

Message left by Martin suggests he went onto the Death Race aven with Matt’s camping kit, in order to replace Dave. All confusing. Around 9pm he returns, after nearly 12 hours caving on his own). We are all in bed, so only half aware of what was going on.

Day Two

Morning comes, bad nights sleep once more. Too hot, too many toilet breaks, too much snoring.

MOD Sausage and Beans for breakfast and some cups of tea, all very quaint and British. Next challenge involved getting out of nice dry and warm camp clothes and back into the wet, gritty and smelly caving clothes. My undersuit sticks to me instantly, sending a nice cold feeling right through my body. Wet socks even worse. SRT equipment back on, mud everywhere and grit rubbing into all the cuts, bruise and insect bites. A low point. Another cup of tea.

Team of 4 of us now make our way to the sump, somehow we have ended up with an extra bag of 100m rope destined for the climbs.

Most of the cave is pleasant from here on and we make good progress to the sump. While I help Martin kit up, Martin T and Al go off for a bit of an explore.

It takes a good hour and a half of setting up and checking equipment before Martin is ready to dive. At one point we have a large fright when a rock the size of beach ball lands in the sump 2 yards from me. We think it might be Alan and Martin high up in the roof, some shouting is unreturned so the next 10 minutes are rather cautiously spent checking for further projectiles.

At 14:20 Martin is all kitted up and he sets off. I film him setting off, and it’s a good 2 minutes before he is out of sight. The sump descending down a large ramp almost immediately.

It all suddenly becomes quite dark and eerie and I notice how cold I’ve become. I dig out the survival bag and crawl inside. I slowly doze off for about 30 minutes, before Martin and Alan return. Another cup of tea made and then all 3 of us climb into the bag.

At around 15:40 Martin returns after an 80 minute dive.

 

Another hour and a half is spent de-kitting and then we start ferrying equipment, in stages, back to the “Hall of the Green Domino”. We have 9 bags, including the 2x12litre dive cylinders, between the 4 of us and at one point my maths fails and I end up carrying 3 bags at the same time as trying to climb the muddiest part of the cave

It takes nearly two hours for us to get the 9 bags back to Green Domino, a trip that would normally take 20 minutes. We get all but one of the 12 litre cylinders back to the foot of the pitches out of the chamber. We are all pretty tired and just after 7PM we start back start back for Consort Hall.

It’s pretty slow going and I instantly get caught up 1/3 of the way up “Dan’s Big Pitch”, just where you have to lie on your side through squeeze at top of pitch, the cord on my tackle bag catches in my pantin (for the non-cavers a cam device attached to my foot) Unfortunately, working as designed each time I move my foot the cam moved further up the rope, until I was paralysed in a z position, unable to move forward or reach the pantin. As I had already removed my chest and hand jammers from the rope, it was just my safety cords stopping me from dropping back down the pitch (all while in this stupid contorted z position). Eventually, I was able to unclip the bag, which promptly seemed to weigh like a block of lead and nearly sent me plummeting down the shaft, and remove the rope. I was probably only stuck about 15 minutes but it seemed far longer and it had sapped what little energy I had left.

From here it was a struggle, slow and painful as my body starts shutting down, and I was consciously having to check and double check my equipment before abseiling or ascending the rope. The time for stupid mistakes was right about now, elegant climbs now just involved throwing myself up them and splaying myself out, like a spider being washed down the plug hole. The bag weighs a ton and cursing everyone and anyone. In particular the person who came up with the idea of diving this sump, so a few choice words with myself….

Eventually crashed back into around 9PM, Beef Ravioli in Mushroom Sauce then a horrible custard sponge pudding, the custard being solid yellow gelatine substance. Cup of tea, bed.

Day 3

Awoke 8ish after a rather cold nights sleep. Plan was for Alan and Martin T to go to “Death Race 2000”. Although we had not seen anyone from the climbing party, they would surely be aware that Dave had not turned up. Martin G and I to start for the entrance carrying out some of the more delicate and expensive dive stuff.

I ended up with a the most stupidly shaped bag, 2 fins creating a comic shape that wedged into every boulder. The first hour and a half of caving was a nightmare. My body is still screaming at me, every other step seems to be a slip or the bag catches, it still weighs a ton and each time I drop it or place it over a climb, the pull almost drags me down after it.

Its only at the 22m pitch that I seem to regain some sense of what I’m doing. Probably as I know we are nearly out. Energy seems to return to me and we get out through the entrance series very efficiently, and out for 3pm, back up the hill by 4.

The Upstream Sump

So the bit everyone is interested in, what happened in the sump?

The knowledge of the sump was limited to published journals and word of mouth as the original divers are no longer around.

Log extracts “Dived 3.15am, reached the limit and laid a further 42m to a maximum depth of -27m. (Rob Parker)

From Caves and Caving “Rob’s dive followed, and a further 47m of line was added at -27m until the diver turned around because he was scared (he is human after all)”

The survey shows the tantalising words “continues…

Martin reached the limit of Rob Parker’s line and found what had scared the divers away! It does continue but straight down! The line is tied off at the head of a 20m shaft. Martin descended the shaft to a depth of -46m. It then levels out. He followed for another 100m or so in a large canyon (on a similar size to Consort Hall) before returning due to gas mixture restrictions.

Martin’s words “have you seen that film Sanctum? It’s was just like that sh!t

Cueva del Nacimiento (3)

Last night the bulk of people arrived. Martin T, Anthony and Simon arrived in the afternoon after a fast non-stop drive down through France. Alan, Duncan and Matt arrived a few hours later.

Just as well, doubts had begin to set in as to whether we could get all the equipment through the cave and too the sump. With more people, no problem? All were quickly press ganged into carrying bags to Consort Hall.

In the morning Martin G, Dave, Matt and madPhil set off around 8ish with the intention of heading toward Consort Hall, picking up the 12litres dive cylinders where I had stashed them at the top of Boulder Hall and take as far as the camp. A second group left an hour later, compromising myself, Alan, Simon, Martin T, and Anthony, we would collect up all other bags on route, mainly personal camp equipment, stoves and a collection of neck braces and first aid kits, in case of accidents.

Down at the entrance Simon has forgotten his helmet and light, undettered (or forced) he donned 3 balaclavas and a survival bag wrapped under them to protect his head. The state of my kit was no much better. My oversuit completely trashed I had borrowed Laurence’s oversuit, which was slightly too short for me and a chest harness. Holes in wetsocks and a ripped undersuit that didn’t keep me warm at the best of time.

On the way through the entrance series I placed a couple of reflective markers to aid route finding for the others who would be coming out of the cave later in the day.

The trip was at a good pace, although eventually we separated into two groups, myself and Martin T with the stoves and 2 sets of camping gear. The rest following with more camping gear. Just before the pitch down to Consort Hall, Matt and madPhil appeared and helped get the bags through the calcite squeezes leading up to the pitch.

At camp a quick conflab, dive bottles as far as Dan’s Big Room, an added bonus and speed up the trip in the morning.

The rest of the team quickly departed for the entrance, leaving the team of 4 (me, Martin G, madPhil and Dave) at camp.

Camp always seems a rather dismal affair, like some low budget wedding on the beach. Wet tarpaulins draped over pieces of string, stove in the center with a collection of bags and plastic drums to sit on. Food is generally some dehydrated affair or ration packs for those splashing out.

Cold soon starts to set in, so I change into my dry clothes. Undersuit has shrunk at some point over the past year, with the arms now only coming up to my elbows. Incredibly tight, so I’m partly bent over double. Few extra layers over the top, 2 balaclavas and some tesco carrier bags wrapped round my feet. A fashion icon. Opening my camping mat, I found a great big hole through the middle! A bit of gaffer tape (previously wrapped round a cut across my hand) quickly patches things up.

Food eaten and with no much to do now I’m in bed by 6.30. Still awake at 9 before slowly dropping off. I wake around an hour later and hear some boulder falls deep in the cave, then I hear what I think is someone calling for help. Really quite freaky, then I realise it’s the acoustics in the chamber and it’s just Martin snoring.

Rather uncomfortable nights sleep, just can’t get a spot without a rock sticking in my back and then too hot in my down sleeping bag. A few layers shed and I spend a few hours sleeping part out of the sleeping bag. A first for an underground camp for me, normally I’m freezing!

Cueva del Nacimiento (Camp – Day 2)

We are all up around 7ish. More dehydrated food stuffs and a cup of tea and we set off for the upstream sump. I’m still half asleep and most of the landmarks pass in a blur. I wake up around the time we reach the bottles at Dan’s Big Room, where I’m handed an oxygen cylinder to carry.

Most obstacles now are easily passed with a combination of hauling and dragging employed to get up and down some of the pitches. We arrive at the upstream sump around 12ish. It’s an impressive place, a large (15mx6m) blue sump pool heading off, Rob Parkers dive line still in place from the late 80′s. Madphil and Dave shoot off to take more gear up the Teeth of Satan climbs ready for their push on these later in the week, leaving myself and Martin to sort out diving gear. Well Martin to set it all up and me to clean mud of the bits and pieces. Close call at one point, while I was holding the oxygen cylinder, when the two rocks I was standing on decided to collapse, dropping me 2 foot. Somehow I managed to keep the cylinder perfectly upright and not injure myself. Not sure it’s the kind of place I would want to be rescued from (if possible to be rescued safely).

We exit the cave from the sump in just over 4 hours and slog up the hill once more. The holiday in Cuba looking for more appealing about half way up.

In addition the second depth sensor was set up at Colin’s Climax.

 

P.S Photos will appear eventually, once I take my camera into the backend of the cave…

Cueva del Nacimiento (2)

I pushed on and caught up with Martin G and Dave who had got lost close to the Black Hole. We carried on together and knocked off the next few bits of cave before we reached the Ramp and headed up to Boulder Hall. All the bags were stashed with the 2 diving bottles.

On the way back down we bumped into a LUSS reunion of sorts at the top of the Ramp. Jes Peterson and Mark Sefton, along with Derek were on their way to Boulder Hall to undertake some resurveying for me.

Martin T, Anthony and Simon arrived. Bunkhouse getting crowded.

Plan for tomorrow is for Martin G, madPhil, Dave and myself to start ferrying all the dive equipment from the top of Boulder Hall to the camp at Consort Hall. One night camp and then move diving equipment from Consort Hall to the upstream sump, before exit same day. Its going to be two long miserable days….