Oxford University Cave Club

Huerta del Rey Expedition 1992

Final Report

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1992 Expedition Index

Caves in the Top Camp Area.

For the first time since 1989 the Jorcada Blanca area ("Area F") was revisited in earnest, seeking and providing evidence that its caving potential has barely been scratched yet, that serious shaft bashing there can be undertaken from Ario despite the long walk up and back down, but serious caving cannot and will require re-establishing the old Top Camp. Shortage of people meant that only two day trips took place; shortage of time (we tried to be back at Ario by nightfall and, well, there were the usual 'early' Oxford starts) limited what could be done each time. Attention therefore focused on entrances F44-F49 (logged in 1989) all of which are situated below and NW-NE of Pozu los Perdices at 5-10 minutes' walk from the Top Camp site. The fault controlling much of F20 is visible at the surface in this area as a set of mildly ramified parallel mineral veins, cut and offset occasionally by younger faults. Snow levels were comparable to 1989: little snow at the surface; snow-plugs and snow-piles in cave entrances sometimes larger, sometimes smaller than 3 years ago.

See the 1989 Expedition Report and the 1991-1992 Shaft Bashing Kit for cave locations. All pitches mentioned in the following were rigged from obvious naturals.

F44 Description: The doline was laddered from the N corner giving a 1m climb and 4m pitch onto snow (2m above floor of doline). Rock arch in E wall of doline leads to chamber in iron ore vein with daylight seeping in through roof boulders; all possible routes lead upward and choke. Rift in SE corner of doline on S by E trend passes underneath skylit aven and leads to a drop after a few metres. A 2m pitch lands on top of second snow pile in 5m by 8m chamber with bedding plane roof. The gap between snow and wall was sounded to at least 4m on the left side; this may or may not be a plugged shaft. Descending the snow pile to the right gains a depth of 10m below lip of doline with two ways on: a crawl to the right past fossil aragonite 'popcorn' and some stal ascends back to daylight under snow in the SW corner of the doline, while straight ahead, despite the draught, a narrow descending rift with a snow floor remains unentered due to lack of oversuits.
F45 Description: Snowed out - rather higher than in 1989; apparently completely blocked at the moment and not descended this summer. Would provide, however, a virtually inexhaustible water supply (haul up snow in tackle bags) as well as a perfectly sheep-proof fridge. By using up snow, a future expedition could well re-open the snowplug on its W side, where it had a blow-hole in 1989.
F46 Description: Undescended due to lack of time, this contained less snow than in 1989 and needs a closer look. Take care; entrance is at bottom of steep loose surface rift and large 'holds' tend to come off.
F47 Description: Snow-floored chamber at W side of bottom of doline was entered by rigging a 7m pitch through its skylight, and left by ascending a tricky 2m climb to floor of doline and 1m and 3m climbs up out of same. Snow is resting on either ledges or floor 1.5m lower and remains a dubious affair. Descending 2 badly supported snow "tongues" and a large chockstone in obvious rift down dip (N) leads to 30cm high bedding plane descending further to an estimated 10m drop but obstructed by large floor flake and roof stal. Impassable without hammering.
F48 Description: At present snow levels, The Vestibule, an 11m by 6m chamber on an E-W fault with three large skylights, is still accessible by a 1m climb from the entrance doline, keeping to the right of the bouiders. God knows what the snow is resting on (not on much on the W side). Aided by a rope hung down from a 4th small rift skylight W of the largest one, a large rift leading SW from the W wall of the Vestibule was entered after kicking down the most precariously perched part of the snow; this could be free-climbed (5m climb to snow floor 2m above real floor) but a rope is useful to avoid the snow. At bottom, looking back offers interesting views of VW sized holes 'supporting' much of the snow in the Vestibule, while walking forward eventually gains a decent floor in a tall 2-3m wide by 5m chamber. Ascend boulder slope to the left to enter continuation of rift 50-80 cm wide after right hand bend, with chockstones at various levels. This was followed at floor level to where a well-developed pair of ramps betrayed the original flow direction (inward), shortly before the floor drops out of sight down a (probably short) shaft, and (from the chocks) at an obvious traverse level to where this bells out above same shaft and was seen to continue beyond to what looked like a T.junction into a fault-controlled passage. There is a good strong outward draught. According to a single compass reading, the fault at the T-junction could again be the E-W one seen in the Vestibule, W of the entrance; this would place the junction more or less below F49.
F49 Description: This boulder dig was left alone for the time being (it ought to connect into F48 anyway). Would require 3-5 people, a pulley system and a few slings to be cleared.

Many further entrances await investigation (F23-24, 27, 31, 43; 3/6; to mention some more likely ones) or re-investigation (F40). A large part of area F remains entirely unvisited (most of the higher slopes of the Punta Gregoriana and Pico de la Jorcada ridges, as well as Los Llombes, the slopes hi and NW of Top Camp descending towards the Vega de Aliseda).

Gerhard Niklasch