Oxford University Cave Club

Huerta del Rey Expedition 1992

Final Report

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On 3 July the advance party of the OUCC expedition, consisting of two drivers, a car and trailer full of kit, arrived in the Picos de Europa in Northern Spain. We had planned for 7 other members of the expedition to arrive at the same time with the expedition minibus, but they were scattered through France. Five were struggling across the French railway network and two were lying in a tent on a campsite in the town of Saint Maixent L'Ecole, eating French bread and Camembert. The change of plan was due to the fact that the minibus engine had seized up while we were driving through France, and rather than hold the expedition up for a week while it was replaced, we had sent the car, trailer and most of the cavers on ahead so that they could get on with the expedition.

The first few days were tough, there was a bare minimum of camping equipment because it seemed better to use the limited capacity of the trailer to carry important things like rope and rigging gear rather than tents. Despite the miserable weather and the lack of any nice things to eat (all the peanuts and caramel wafers were still in the van in France), the caving was not held up at all, and the rigging of Pozu Jultayu (2/7) was completed ten days after our arrival in Spain. Nor was 2/7 the sole focus of attention, because in the same period another two caves (66/5 and 53/5) were rigged and 18 new entrances located and investigated.

The expedition divided itself into two, and the groups kept themselves to themselves for most of the expedition. The reason for this was simply that it was important to ensure that the underground camp, which had been installed with such effort, was kept fully occupied. The camps needed four people, and each camp lasted for four days before Ěthe camping team had had enough and came out needing four days to recover. There were eight people interested in exploring 2/7 at the start of the expedition, so this meant that they were either down 2/7 or resting, and they were not available to go caving elsewhere.

The group exploring 2/7 knew what they wanted to do, and set to it with a singlemindedness that is detailed later in the report. The group who were not involved in 2/7 wanted an interesting cave as well, but they knew that they had to find it first. The number of entrances that they investigated at the beginning of the expedition is a testimony to the dedication with which they applied themselves to this task. As the diary shows, their attention gradually focused on a cave, Pozu Cabeza Julagua (8/11), discovered in 1991 but not seriously investigated until this year. On the first trips the cavers were tentative, uncertain of the importance of their find, and the expedition logbook records their exhortations to the rest of us that 'this cave has potential'. Then it was potential no more, and every trip down it returned with new discoveries to add to the rapidly growing survey.

By the end of the expedition we had extended 2/7 by over 1km upstream, up narrow canyons, along beautiful stream passages and through huge boulder chambers. Elsewhere in the cave we had found another stream, and followed this along a finely decorated, twisting passage for 300m. 8/11 had proved equally interesting. It had turned out to be highly complex, with a 1200m of interconnected streams, passages and chambers. The variety of passage made it a much nicer cave than many that we have found in the past. Both caves are still open at the end, awaiting our return in 1993.

The two teams united to ensure that all the caves were derigged efficiently and that our gear was carried down to Base Camp in the shortest time possible. We left Los Lagos on time and had an uneventful journey home.

David Monaghan