Through-trip!

Cueva de la Marniosa

In the early 1970’s a group of students from Lancaster University Speleological Society (LUSS) touring Northern Spain heard about some caves near Tresviso, Eastern Picos de Europa.  In 1975, their first year visiting caves of Tresviso, they explored upstream, into the Sobra valley and found a crack in the side of a cliff that is Cueva de Marniosa.  They explored this cave down a few pitches and along some well decorated fossil passage to a high rifty passage with a small streamway in the bottom. Over a kilometre upstream, the streamway ends at the impressive Hall of the Mountain King chamber- a 50 m x 20 m chamber with a height of over 50 m.  The whole cave has a length of 5 km and a depth of 290 m.  Over the next 40 years a few extra bits were added, but other caves in the area were more interesting.

During the summer expedition of 2018 a small group were tasked with surface prospecting in the brambles, bracken and beech at the head of the Sobra valley and found a number of surface shafts. One of the surface shafts, Cueva del la Silvestre, descended a series of pitches to an impressive large 45 m deep, 20 m diameter shaft.  From the bottom of this shaft several ways on were found.  A few days later, on the final day of the expedition, more pitches and climbs were descended and a message from the past was found: LUSS.  A short walk upstream and the explorers entered Hall of the Mountain King.  Much to the chagrin of those involved the 500 m deep traverse of Silvestre to Marniosa would have to wait until next year…

Cueva de la Silvestre to Cueva de la Marniosa through trip (Lydia Leather)

We got to the Silvestre layby at about 11am, kitted up and started walking down the track. This time round it was a lot easier to find having been well travelled. Stu’s white tape on silver birch trees was not so great in the day light as it had been the night before. Whilst we were doing the through trip, Joe and Rob where diving the sumps in Wet Willy and had stolen Alastair for the day to carry for them. As Stu and I weren’t carrying much we took two of their bags down for them (on the basis that Rob would later repay us with a create of beer, but failing that, dancing bear coffee liquor).

The Silvestre entrance had been rigged the day before down to waterfall chamber, where Bob needed to re-bolt before we continued on with the through trip, so Bob and Arwel headed in whilst the rest of us followed behind. The day before Stu had found the jaw of what we think is horse, to match the skull he’d found the year before. Now Bingo (see photo for scale) lives happily in the entrance chamber.

Following through the rest of the cave, Rob who hadn’t been in the cave before grew increasingly more impressed at the fact that it was indeed a cave. We took our time marvelling at the finest bolder I’ve ever seen that sat in the middle of the stream way and is a conglomerate, at first I assumed it was originally the floor of the streamway and had been eroded away, but not all that convinced, think it might just be a boulder.

When we reached Bob an Arwel, there was a short wait for the bolting to be finished before we could reach the bottom of waterfall pitch 
When everyone was down waterfall pitch we left the diving team and their bags and continued on. From waterfall chamber we continued up the aided climb and through into old stream way rift passage. This continued on (picture below), getting slightly small in places (for Bob and Stu) and down climbs and eventully leads to a junction, left being the way on and right being Hall of the MountainKing.

As Stu and I hadn’t been before we went to Hall of the Mountain King which is an aven roughly 50m in height and 20m width, with a mud slope to the left of the chamber and 2 water inlets coming in through the aven above to the right. Here was where we stopped to take a group photo.

From Hall of the Mountain King back to the Silvestre junction we followed the stream and continued down the active passage way. The passage follows onward with multiple down climbs, some more exposed than others. Eventually the passage follows a fault and here the bolder choke began. Alastair Gott had been in Marniosa the day before and placed reflectors along the bolder choke which were extremely helpful and saved a lot of time as there are multiple ways along the choke in which you can go wrong. When the choke ends, the passage re-joins into stream way and this follows straight towards the bottom pitch of Marniosa

We headed up the muddy pitch out of the streamway, where Bob showed us “the boulder” which must not be touched or moved in anyway as it was wedged right between the wall and multiple boulders which became the false floor of the next slope.
Following this onwards the passage is very well decorated series of chambers (see photos), with various calcite flow slopes and formations, including this flying pizza like disc thing… Eventually reaching the bottom of a 22 m pitch. From here there’s 3 more small pitches until eventually you get into the old cheese chamber and we were at the Marniosa entrance. The trip in total took 6 hours and we got out with plenty of time to spend in the bar drinking celebratory beers and eating local cheese. Rob and Joe eventually turned up and kept the promise of buying Stu and I a dancing bear coffee liquor.

The times they are a changin’

by Howard Jones

Brief history

In the 1970’s LUSS were caving in Northern Spain, inland from Santander. They learned about a village where cheese was made and matured in caves. Nearby a resurgence cave fed a hydroelectricity scheme. Add in some high mountains in the vicinity and it was Xmas for cave explorers. Tresviso was first visited in 1974 and cavers from LUSS and other clubs, both UK and foreign, have been visiting ever since. The resurgence cave (Agua ) has been surveyed in excess of 15km and Sima 56 was pushed to a depth of 1169m. Vertically they have over lapped, horizontally they are 4km apart. If joined they would establish a world class system, and maybe through trip!

The Village

Tresviso is a lovely village of some 25 houses sat at the top of the Urdon gorge. The families used to be subsistence farmers living off the proceeds of goats and cheese. When we first arrived in vast numbers and camped just outside the village, we must have swamped their existence. Yet we were absorbed into their company without rancour and have been so ever since.

When the track from Sores was improved to a road village life changed and nowadays many villagers leave in the winter a return in the summer. There are far more visitors than before and life in the village has changed for ever.

Arrival

In the 70’s there were two ways to Tresviso. A track came in from the village of Sotres some 10k away which could usually be passed by a land rover, though was sometimes blocked by rock fall. The other way in was up from the Urdon gorge, a 6k march with 900m of ascent. The bus from Santander would drop us at the bottom and the nightmare ascent would begin. For many of us this was our introduction to Tresviso expeditions and it was brutal, staggering up this donkey track in the mid-day heat with your caving gear on your back. As a way of making you cave fit it was ideal. Hopefully the expedition land rover had made its way in via Sotres and you could unpack your tent, home for the next 9 weeks.

10 years ago, the track from Sotres was engineered into a metalled road and saloon cars can now drive to Tresviso. This has changed a lot of aspects of Tresviso life, not least cavers can drive to Tresviso and no longer sweat up the track!

Accommodation

In the 70’ we would camp in a field just above the village in a sloping field which had been harvested early. Water was gained from a trough and flies were a problem. A big communal cooking tent was used to store food, you slept in your own. Life was pretty basic and there was little incentive to hang around camp all day. Evenings were spent in the bar, a red wine often lasting all evening for an impoverished student.

Nowadays we stay in a hostel in the village. Bunk beds, electricity, hot water, an oven all make life a lot more comfortable. A store room downstairs is used to leave gear in from year to year which makes logistics much easier. Some things have not changed though, evenings are still spent in the bar.

Technology

Caving in the 70’s meant wet suits, carbides (stinkies) and texolex helmets was all we knew. Over suits were proofed cotton which ripped to bits in rifts, under suits bought second hand from the air force which for some reason had short arms and legs. Harnesses were homemade or the dreaded Whillans which rearranged genetalia. In short caving gear was a mixture of home made or adapted from other uses.

Petzl changed all that and LED and battery technology has made life underground much safer and pleasant. Cave photography and surveying can now be undertaken for hours without the risk of imminent exposure, with better results to boot.

Weather

Snow fall has decreased remarkably over the 40 years. The days of digging out the White house door and cave and mine entrances are largely gone. In May 2019 there was little snow at Andara (top camp area) and by September there was none. A few shafts are still snow plugged, but this must be yearlong. The river caves of Agua and Marnioasa are thus drier and safer and the tracks and roads keep in better condition.

Cave names

One of the joys of exploring caves is you get to name them and the passages within. In the 70’s Bob Dylan songs were popular and a quick glance at the Agua survey proves this to be the case. As time moved on other influences have been reflected.

I was always surprised that the Spanish caving authorities allowed us ( and other foreigners) to come and explore their prime areas, surely in years to come the next generation would be appalled that so many of the world class Spanish caves had been explored by non-Spanish teams, and yet despite changes to the permission rules we are still allowed to keep control of “our area” 40 years on.

However, the Spanish cavers have got their own back by renaming our caves! The Cueva del Agua is now Nacimiento, which is very confusing to us old timers.

Tresviso 2019

Andara (Eastern Massif) viewed from Tresadura (looking South) (Phil Walker)

The 2019 expedition is only 5 weeks away. Hopefully some interesting blog posts will be created, but firstly, as per previous years, a bit of a brief overview of expedition:

Overview & brief history:
The Picos de Europa is a range of mountains 20km inland from the northern coast of Spain, forming a westerly extension of the Cantabrian Mountains. It consists of three main areas, the Western, Central and Eastern Massifs.

  • The Western Massif is to the west of the Rio Cares and has been explored by a selection of clubs including Oxford University Caving Club (OUCC), Seccion de Espeleologia Ingenieros Industriales (SEII), York University Cave and Pothole Club (YUCPC), Sociedad de Espeleologia Geologicas (SEG) and Speleo Club de Paris (SCP). This now includes the area under exploration as part of the Ario Caves Project.
  • The Central Massif is between the Cares Gorge and the Rio Duje and has been mainly explored by the Speleo Club de Seine (SCS).
  • The Eastern Massif is to the East of the Rio Duje. Lancaster University Speleological Society (LUSS) were exploring the Eastern Massif from the early seventies to 1987 with the help of SEII.

It was the Eastern Massif (or Andara) that drew the attention of LUSS in the early 1970s. In the early years exploration was mounted from the mountain village of Tresviso and exploration was dominated by the resurgence cave Cueva del Nacimiento (Cueva del Agua) located at the foot of the mountain range. The resurgence flows into a canal that contours the Urdon gorge with an average flow of 2 m3/s and the cave behind the resurgence leads to >12 km of surveyed passage and a height gain of over +534m.

The catchment is some 40 km3 and includes caves such as Torca Jou Sin Tierre (CS-9) at -1203m deep and Torca del Cueto de Los Senderos (Sima 56) at -1169m deep.

Morning Chamber, Cueva de La Marniosa (Joe Daniels)


In the late 70’s LUSS pushed Cueva del Nacimiento to around the 11km and +300m mark, but after several years the cave was abandoned as all the major routes sumped and no continuation could be found. LUSS then turned their attention to the Andara region higher up the mountain range and sought caves that would drop into the Nacimiento system and hopefully create a record-breaking >1500m traverse. They found a number of deep caves around this ‘top camp’ area; Sara, Tere, Flowerpot, Dosser’s Delight and Sima 56 were all pushed to respectable depths but a
connection remained elusive.


The discovery of newer and deeper systems, plus improved GPS, have changed the figures slightly but a connection between the deep potholes and resurgence would create; a cave in the top 10 worlds’ deepest, deepest in Spain and potentially one of the the deepest underground traverses in the world.

Top EntranceAreaAlt(m)Current Depth (m)Vertical Range (m)
S-33 Torca de la Hendida Samelar2100-4521620
CS-9 Torca Jou Sin Tierre Cueto Senderos 2074 -12031594
Sima 56 Cueto de Los Senderos Cueto Senderos 1975 -11691495
T82 Karen – 2.6 Sara Grajal (Sara depression) 1880 -5911400
T145 – Pozo Castillo Mazarassa 1870 -3091390
2.24 Tere Grajal (Sara depression) 1820-7921340
FT39 Compromisso Mazarassa 1820-3131340
T169 Flowerpot Pico Boro 1785-7231305
T173 Dossers Delight Pico Boro 1706-8311226
T190 Septrin Pico Boro 1696-1801216
3.2 Torca Branarredonda (Fallen Bear) Samelar 1589-4561109
T510 Cueva Entre Cuetos Sierra del a Corta 1305-117825
T69 – Pozo Motilla Sierra del a Corta 1248-70768

Table: Potential depth if connected to Cueva del Nacimiento (2017).

Note: There are at > 70 sites at higher altitude than CS-9 that would surpass -1600m deep through trip, with some close to -1800m depth.

Survex – Mountain range looking E-W

Expedition Dates
• 31 st August 2019 to 14th September 2019 – main expedition dates

Objectives
The expedition has several goals. The following are a few primary objectives:

Cueva del Nacimiento

  • Jurassic World – The Sandy dig, draughting lead, now only an hour from camp
  • Pina Colada Bypass – calcite aven to climb
  • Joe’s Crack – continuing shaft behind Death Race camp.
  • Teeth of Satan – Wet Aven – +30m aven with draft and calcite squeeze, requires enlarging.
  • Dan’s Big Room – unexplored section of maze in area of Dan’s Big Room, Peanut Chamber and Winter Gardens
  • Parting Friends – a dive of the Parting Friends sump is planned.
Pena Coloada Sump (CUeva del Nacmiento) (Rob MIddleton)

Cueva de la Marniosa

  • Beyond Sump 2 – undescended 6m pitch
  • T20A Silvestre – Marniosa – first through trip to be completed
  • T20A Silvestre – upstream leads, heading toward the Valdelafuente

Secondary Objectives:
Time and resources permitting there are several secondary objectives that will be attempted:

Downstream Marniosa (Joe Daniels)


Sistema Castillo
A large mine and natural cave complex in the Minas de Mazarrasa area. Pozo del Castillo series was explored to – 292m depth in 1983, with either a howling draft or roaring waterfall beyond a constriction at the limit. The potential of the cave is significant but currently a collapse prevents getting to the end. Pozo Natacha series ends at -309m depth and is close to the same point in Castillo.

  • Pozo Del Castillo – shoring and bypass of rock collapse Castillo remains a major lead, if we can get past the blockage! In 2018 the snow level had dropped and possible to get into the next section.
  • Pozo del Castillo – other entrances. FT16 entrance snow plug would appear to be the same blockage in lower Castillo passage. Snow plugs are reported further into the cave, so another entrance must exist!
  • Pozo del Castillo – surveying of Natacha upper series and locating possible surface entrance,


Valdelafuente / Sobra Valley

  • Re-locate draughting surface entrance on Valdelafuente, close to 80m aven beyond Sump 1 in Cueva del Marniosa,
  • Yorkshire Inlet in Cueva del Marniosa. Exploration of col above aven

Sierra del a Corta

Above the furthest reaches 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-end to aid exploration at the far reaches.

  • T554 – large 100m shaft on the Sierra del a Corta, this requires some digging at the bottom,
  • Al2 – a drafting shaft not yet bottomed. Jurassic World in Nacimiento appears to be heading directly towards this site,
  • T294 Oh What Pot (La Gobia) – continuing passage,
  • Surface prospecting close to vicinity of Terror Firma in Nacimiento. Terror Firma is only 40m vertically and 200m horizontally from some parts of the surface in the Sierra del a Corta region.

Other

  • Locate and descend FT43, this draughts strongly. It is almost directly above Boulder Chamber in T87 Mazarrasa and would provide bypass to collapse at T87 entrance.
  • Prospecting on Hoyo Oscuro and Hoyo Evangalista. Highest entrances on the mountain range.
  • Mine 2.32a – there is large unexplored level (with tram lines) leading to unexplored passage.
M6 Toll Bypass, Cueva del Nacimiento (Arwel Roberts)

Updates

Pozo del Castillo

After 30 years of a blocked snow plug, preventing access to the lower reaches of Castillo, the snow plug has melted.  The previously scary boulder held up by snow, is now held up by air and luck.  A 100 year old winch has now been revealed, and more large scary boulders.  The ‘pitch’ has been dropped down under the snow plug into continuing passage, but not currently bearing any relation to the descriptions from the 1980’s French description.

A second trip explored further under the snow plug to arrive at some Screwfix through bolts…. FT16 explored in 2017.  It’s not clear how this has happened, no survey detailing such a connection, quite possibly a link revealed by the receding snow.  More work to do….

Cueva del Marniosa

Following a successful set up trip by 2 divers, a team of 4 passed Sump 1 to reach Sump 2 and get 2 divers into the new passage found last year.  The 2 divers explored 185m of passage before hitting a 6m pitch.  Logistics of exploration at such a remote site prevented further exploration.

SUSS updates: https://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=23537.0

Cueva de la Marniosa – Terminal Sump 2 dive

Gareth had been having trouble sleeping over the few days previously, possibly due to the heat. This meant going on a push trip to the end of Cueva Marniosa to the Terminal Sump 2 would not be sensible. Josh was still determined to go but was not keen on the idea of a solo trip to the end (with or without dive kit), based on various reports of the cave suggesting a hard trip was in order (see reports from Boothroyd et al.). Therefore Josh persuaded Arwel to join him since Arwel, despite not being a cave diver, had previously passed Sump 1 without issues to help Gareth in the 80m aven beyond. Thankfully Arwel agreed and an uneventful trip down to Sump 1 was had in good time (45 mins) where both dived through, Josh carrying a bag with SRT kits plus other bits and bobs in a Daren drum (floaty!). On the other side Arwel started to brew a hot chocolate whilst Josh sorted equipment for the Sump 2 dive, including a makeshift dive harness (etriers), a single full 3L cylinder (one of two left on that side of Sump 1 by Josh two days prior), some bolting kit and general dive accessories.

The journey down to the limit explored by Josh on a solo trip two days before was much nicer this time, with company, and the obstacle turned out to be an awkward squeeze between a fallen block and the passage wall (which Arwel climbed on the way back, whereas Josh squeezed back up). After this, relatively pleasant stream passage with the usual climbing, traversing, rifts and stooping was followed for some time, via some large chambers, passing a sump pitch to the left noted on the survey, to the 14m pitch into the “bear pit” obstacle. This area had been the site of frustration for multiple previous explorers, as evidenced by equipment left behind, including Brian Judd’s lead and diving cylinders. Multiple lengths of rope were left on or near the pitch, and the first attempt to descend by Josh was shaken by one of the Y-hang “anchors” failing, when a natural rock flake inconveniently broke away. During the subsequent fall/swing encountered by Josh, an impact onto an extended left arm caused some pain and aches for the remainder of the trip. The anchors were re-rigged and the pitch descended into a large resurging pool, likely the regained streamway after it is lost in one of the aforementioned chambers. A swim across this and a short section of walking passage lead to a tight rift and a climb above.

This area is not well represented on the survey, no climb is specified in this large walking section however having communicated with MadPhil Rowsell previously, who had bolted up this climb, Josh was aware that a rope should be nearby. This was found to be about 4m up, anchored to a bolt. Josh went back to cut a short section of excess rope from the bottom of the previous pitch before Arwel, being by far the better climber, clipped it onto the 4m bolt and continued up, carefully, to the top. Midway AR found another rope from across the void attached to the rope he was climbing, which turned out to be the main hang rope installed by MadPhil for the pitch after climbing the corner. This ascending pitch is around the same height as the previous descending pitch (15m or so) and is not on the survey, despite having been climbed by the 80’s explorers (dive line was found above and below the pitch).

There are a couple of ways on at the top, and given the inconsistency of multiple descriptions a long while was spent looking around for what matched the descriptions and survey best. A retreat to the bottom of the pitch to explore the rifts below was carried out, to cover all routes, until after a discussion on whether to continue or not, it was decided to choose the ongoing large passage at the top (which didn’t match survey direction or description). This continued into sharp, snaggy, nasty traversing at high level and became obvious that it was the way, where there was no possibility of staying at the same height, with lots of up and down climbing on extremely weak and sharp rock (a fall would NOT be conducive to life). A point high up, on an S-bend was reached where progress began to look bleak and dangerous. More discussions were had where Arwel seemed happy to turn around, with Josh agreeing subject to one more attempt to bottom the rift. This turned out to be fruitful, where an exposed, cautious, but relatively straight-forward series of descents led to rifted streamway and eventually the difficult, tight, friable jagged rifts that were expected based on prior reports.

With the bag of dive gear, the journey through this rift had to be methodical, slow and careful. Everything snagged, at all levels, with multiple restricted and resistive climbs up and down, chest-tight squeezes and a deep pool midway through, requiring a cold swim across. Finally the rift widened slightly, leading to a boulder choke (easily passed) and more pleasant streamway. This got appreciably easier until stomping streamway lead off, with periodic obstacles, to the final chamber with the large, clear blue Terminal Sump 2 at the far end.

Without wanting to waste time, Josh kitted up into his dive kit and entered the water, buoyant, using two compact reels (i.e. search reels) as dive line. The crystal clear underwater passage dipped gradually down to a shallow 5m depth, where it continued to an elbow. Surface was visible ahead and was reached after approximately 25-30m, using both reels with only a metre to spare to tie off on the far side. Approximately 40m of open, lightly cascading stream passage was explored, after removing some kit, to a calcite/mud climb on the right and rifted stream passage on the left. The climb was pushed until it became too exposed for the divers’ situation, but was seen to choke ahead. Down on the left, a very short foray into the narrow stream passage saw an ongoing rift continuation, relatively pleasant with no sign on an imminent sump. Aware that Arwel was waiting on the far side and would be getting cold/feeling isolated, Josh began a return. The security of the join between the two line sections was inspected once more, in doing so, due to very positive buoyancy, Josh found himself stood upside down near the far side of the elbow of the sump with feet on the roof and head on the gravel bottom – an amusing situation in such a place. The line was left in place, and an exit was made to a pleased Arwel.

The trip back to Sump 1 was a long, uneventful journey, where Arwel got a brew on and heated some ration packs, while Josh prepped all kit for bringing back through the sump (it was at the time improbable that either Gareth or Arwel would return with Josh to Sump 2, hence all kit was due to exit from the diver-only section of the cave). This included all kit used to aid the aven downstream, plus cooking and excess dive kit. This amounted to three large bags for Josh to exit with, which were tied together and made as neutral as possible for the return, which was successful and unhindered. AR being uncomfortable in deep canals (which are extensive on the exit side of Sump 1) continued through after the dive to warm up at the dryer Sump 1 dive base, whilst Josh ferried the remainder of kit through the canal and up the cascade to meet him. Kit was then sorted, a brew was heated, and a further uneventful exit was made, reaching the surface 16 hours after entering the cave (at least 12 of which beyond Sump 1). Thanks to Arwel for enduring yet another Marniosa Sump 1 cave dive!

Cueva de la Marniosa – Further setup

It was decided that an assault on the final Sump 2 would need full cylinders, since the ones currently in the cave had been used to the point where it’d likely not be worth taking them the distance. Since GD decided to have a rest day after the previous days trip had caused much aching, and JB had arrived in Spain the previous day, JB chose to head in solo and transport some full cylinders into the cave and leave them beyond the sump, with a stretch aim of investigating the ongoing downstream passage beyond the 80m aven.
The trip down to Sump 1 was uneventful, though some route finding was required prior to the streamway and the bag with 2 cylinders, full diving kit and bolting kit/neoprene certainly caused some less energy-efficient circumstances. Kitting up at the sump JB put his wetsuit on straight over his base layer undersuit, and dived through with 2 x 3 and 1 x 5 litre cylinders. Visibility was OK after the previous few trips and upon surfacing JB dumped the cylinders and continued downstream.

The cave beyond the aven continued in periodically energetic climbing/traversing fashion on crap rock, not helped by the layers of neoprene being worn – perhaps changing back into normal caving kit might be worth considering for the passage between Sump 1 & 2. Eventually a turn was made at a slippery climb/squeeze with no visible simple way back up. Being aware of his isolation JB chose it a good place to turn around. An uneventful exit of the cave was made, leaving the two 3 litre cylinders beyond Sump 1 and diving back on a single 5 litre cylinder.

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

 

Sunday 30th April 2017 – Cueva del Nacimiento

 

A surprisingly comfortable nights sleep was had by everyone, the new sleeping bags, although cheap, proving to work quite well.  The temperature of the chamber was around 7 degrees all night, which helps.  A lot warmer than other camps in the cave.

Over muesli some debate was had on whether to explore a bit of new passage, near camp (Joe’s Crack) but ultimately we decided to strike camp with a view to get out in time for the bar and guarantee a full Monday for any other plans.

Camp equipment was catalogued, packed and stored ready for July and then we started the long slog out of the cave, with three lightly packed bags between the five people (2pm). We gradually split into smaller groups, myself and Gareth at the front, for all of 20 minutes until we got slightly lost in a boulder choke.  Hannah soon turned up and pointed out the obvious way on.

The way down the ramps is a lot quicker and we arrived back at The Hall of the Green Domino in just over an hour.  BJ had some cheese and chorizo wraps stashed here, which was a nice boost over the rather bland muesli earlier.  Once up the muddy pitches into Dan’s Big Room the cave seems to feel it’s going downhill, so a further boost to morale.  Consort Hall is the next major stop and we all reconvene.  All we are making good progress there is rising concern that we won’t make it out to the bar in time for dinner.  Myself and BJ attempt to race ahead but are soon caught up by Chris at Flake Pitch who then runs off to get dinner in, and BJ not far behind him.

While waiting for my turn up the pitch, Hannah turns up, having fallen and possibly twisted her ankle, is now approaching my preferred caving speed….  We cave for a bit, with me still running behind and upon reaching the Sump, realise we haven’t  seen or heard from Gareth in a while. I move onto the next awkward bag obstacle while Hannah waits for Gareth.  It’s not long before they both arrive and we get the bags through the Hole in the Wall.  Gareth had gone the wrong way down a pitch and had a slight fall, hence slight delay.

Son of Ramp
Son of Ramp

My entire body is cramping at the moment but I know it’s nearly all over.  A few more abseils lead back to the big 22m up pitch ( needs a name!) and then back into Boulder Hall.  It’s all down hill from here, down the ramp and into the entrance series.  Exit at 8:00pm.

Only an hours hike up the gorge left to complete………