Depth through thought

OUCC News 13h August 1997

Volume 7, Number 11

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Cavers are drifting, no fleeing, back from Spain in a last desperate attempt to avoid the massive derig and carry that comes with the end of El Regallon '97. So, here's a brief special issue of DTT to let you all know what has happened to date.

Sorry if you've already seen Gavin's News: I've put it in for those who missed it, and to provide continuity.

Gavin's News (4th August)

C4: This cave was explored last year, and connected with C3, providing an easier way in. This year the cave was re-rigged, with the hope of finding a bypass to the sump. The passage above the sump was checked using a bright light, but no way on was found. A high level passage coming in at the start of the lake was also checked, but again no way on was found. The cave was derigged in a single trip on Friday.

Canalizos (1/8): This is a cave originally explored by the SIE, down to an "impenetrable rift". The rift was hammered for 5 minutes, and then passed into a passage leading to a pitch. This pitch and another were rigged the next day to discover a sump, with a possible duck on the far side. Olly and Andy went back with the aim of floating across the sump pool to disappeared, water levels having fallen by 3m overnight! (There had been a big storm a few days previously.) Beyond, was a large boulder choke, with a very good draught; the choke has been dug on four trips, and progress is still being made, but it's a fairly major obstacle (frigging dangerous if you ask me - ed). When I left, plans were afoot to try to find a bypass. The cave seems to be heading to the west of Xitu entrance, possibly towards Hoyo la Madre; a dye trace is being carried out.

F41: This is a cave originally explored by Sherry in 1988 to a point where it was blocked with ice; Steve and I extended it in 1993 to a depth of about 80m; in 1994 the entrance was blocked with snow. This year, snow levels were very low. A route was explored down to a floor at about -100m. An insignificant looking hole part way down was also explored, and found to lead into a large shaft, down to a floor at about -150m. This is a fairly scary cave, which changes from day to day as more snow melts. The current plan is to leave it for a while, in the hope that more routes will appear as more snow melts.

F56/F88: This was originally explored by me and (I think) Richard Barnes in 1993 to a snow plug. This year, further progress was made, down to about -100m, but the hole is still fairly full of snow, and no way on was found at the bottom.

Overall the expedition is going very well, despite the lack of any major discoveries. There have been no major problems.

Other Picos news: there's a new 1000m deep cave near Bulnes, and Projecto Llambrion have found an 800m deep cave in Hoyo Trasllambrion.
Gavin Lowe

Tim's News (12th August): The search for a bypass bypass

After pushing some 50 metres or so into the Can 1 boulder choke (tentatively named "Croeso y Cymru") following a spectacular draught, a significant breakthrough led to a more open, waterwashed, and, sadly, dangerous section. The draught goes up into the choke and despite the brave digging attempts of half Wales' desperate diggers, and copious amounts of yogic flying, the choke was abandoned in favour of trying to find a bypass (Canalizos 1 itself hoped to be a bypass to the Sump, sorry, Lake in C4). High level passage was found between the temporary sump and the boulder choke full of weird broccoli formations, but heading the wrong way for an overpass. So, attention was turned to other options.

I had a look at Pozu Zastre, and a second SIE cave below the Xitu col which a surface survey by Gavin revealed to be placed above the Can 1 boulder choke. Leads left by the SIE in Xastre were hammered to a conclusion: no way on. The second SIE cave was found to be 13/8, explored and tagged last year. I dug a draughting choke at the bottom, but eventually gave up concluding that this could not be the source of the Can 1 draught.

A parallel shaft series in Canalizos 1 was rigged and exploration was started of a series of high level rifts. Simultaneously, Canalizos 3 was rigged to the bottom, and the nasty dig left by the SIE in 84 was found to be just that, and well worth leaving. Its only 1 metre above the sump and a largely choked overflow crawl in phreas. Nasty. Dare devil antics from Rob Garrett and Rhys Williams resulted in torn oversuits and a few metres of progress in some high level climbs, but no way on. Nevertheless, we had spotted an undescended shaft on the way down, and pushed this into a meander and then a streamway which ended upstream in a beautiful blue 5m deep rising sump, with an obvious way on under an arch (if you're a fish). Downstream was pushed to an almost conclusion by JC, Lou Maurice and myself, and very probable connects with the inlet to the downstream sump previously mentioned. However, a high level rift series half way down the parallel shaft (New Orleans?) still looks very promising despite JC's attempts to swing into it from the shaft.

Meanwhile, the rifts in Canalizos 1 have now led to 60 metres of open passage followed by two further pitches with a way on and a good draught. This was due to be pushed yesterday or today. So the Canalizos story continues its cycle of ups and downs.

D19 and D20 were killed after the discovery of a few nice pitches. F41 seems to have died at the base of its spectacular 70m pitch under ice, but it is galling that a cave with so much potential should peter out in so miserable a fashion.... I don't know much about the other caves being variously dug or hammered in areas E and F, but there was certainly continued activity when I left a few days ago.

As an end note I report that we had a couple of fun evenings in the Refugio with the SIE expedition to Asopladeru la Texa (formerly Bufona?). On the day I left they had reached a pitch into the downstream Cabeza Muxa streamway at -700 or so (I think). Good relations were furthered by our howls of jealousy. Josep talked of another similar entrance somewhere off the Trea path that a Pasteur had told him about. Yes, that should set a few old hearts a fluttering. Large, steaming entrance on the hillside somewhere around choke Egbert..... All we have to do is find it.
Tim Guilford