Oxford University Cave Club
El Regallón 1997
Expedition Final Report
|El Regallon Index
|Originally explored by SIE (Barcelona) 1979-82
|Plan (detail showing connection) and Elevation
The cave is located near the foot of the gully which ascends to the 'notch' on the route to Top Camp. The entrance is on the rim of a shakehole to the true left of the gully, and the 4 x 2m slot is hidden from view unless closely approached. The easiest way to find the entrance is to descend the gully until roughly parallel with the cliffs to the left, clearly identifiable by the striations or 'canalizos', then contouring left to a large shakehole with faded SIE and OUCC markings on the opposite side, close to the Canalizos #1 entrance.
Canalizos #1 - Looking up the Entrance Shaft (Paul Mann)
|The Spanish cave
The entrance shaft (P162) was rigged in a rather more conservative style than previously, with four rebelays. One is at -15m as the main shaft bells out, with the remainder at -50m (on a large shelf where the parallel shaft diverges) and the others at -90m and -100m. On reaching the rubble strewn floor an obvious descending rift is followed to a constriction followed by the second pitch (P7); the rift continues to the third pitch (P10) into a larger chamber and crossrift, which to the right quickly narrows to impenetrability. The way on to the left in the rift quickly reaches the third pitch head (P8), dropping through a hole in the floor to a chamber where a clamber up to the left reaches the start of the rift which marked the previous limit of exploration.
Breakthrough chamber - side passages
The tight rift, which was hammered, pops out into an aven chamber where the nature of the cave becomes more complex. The aven inlet and small rift intersect with a phreatic tube running perpendicularly to the trend of the rift. Off to the right, a 2m climb gains access to a sandy floored crawling sized tube containing a variety of mud formations for about 50m, where it intersects a tight rift containing a small active streamway from the right. This passage continues on as a keyhole cross section trending downwards until it closes down to a tight duck, which continues very low with no sign of larger passage for several metres.
On the left-hand wall, a 4m climb gains the other side of the phreatic tube. This continues with a treacherous false floor to an 8m drop back into the main rift. Traversing over leads again to keyhole shaped passage as the rift has cut through the phreas floor. A cross rift to the right after 10m leads back into the main rift, while ahead continues into a large aven of 5m diameter, the roof of which is not visible, with an 8m climb up to a blind inlet
Olly Hilton in Tear shaped rift
|Main rift continuation
The rift continues to the head of a pitch (P7) into a large chamber, the way on being a short climb up to the head of the next pitch (P10). This lands in a sandy floored chamber with the active streamway. Upstream is impassable, but downstream leads through a low arch to a sharp right hand bend where two sumps rise. Following the rift off to the right leads to a 6m x 4m chamber. The far side of the chamber is filled with mud, but the streamway has cut down on the upstream side to where it disappears into a very immature crack in the floor. This description applies only under low water conditions - when first discovered, several days after a storm, the chamber was flooded to a depth of about 4m. Under these conditions, the archway which is the way on from the chamber is completely sumped, and a bolt on the archway remains in place to anchor a line in case of emergency. Exploration on the far side of this obstacle must be conducted with extreme caution.
Ducking under the arch leads up a muddy slope into a phreatic tube which continues roughly level to a junction. Left closes down immediately in a choked rift, while right leads into a muddy bedding plane. The draft at this point in the cave, blowing inward, is very strong. The bedding plane opens out into a cross rift with a boulder slope directly ahead, and the draft heads into the choke, access to which is gained initially by squeezing under the largest of the blocks. A meandering path was dug and hammered through the choke to a more unstable, clean-washed zone where further digging looked possible if not advisable.
On the left, just before the first right hand bend after the 'sump' area a climb up into the roof leads into 'popcorn'-covered rift passage. This continues up into a large (20m x 8m) boulder floored chamber, similarly decorated with some interesting formations. Ahead, an ascending rift, covered in 'popcorn', was not pushed further to avoid damage to formations. Two climbs, either from the main chamber itself or just before the rift enters the chamber lead to a 5m x 5m chamber with no ways on.
The parallel shaft diverges from the main shaft about 50m below the entrance. It is reached from a sizeable ledge located just above the second rebelay in the main shaft. Reaching the ledge when rigging requires an exciting pendule before tying the rope off to a bolt on the far wall. The shaft is entered through an eyehole on the northern side of the ledge which opens onto a 35m pitch. From just above the base of this shaft the best way on is a short traverse in a high rift away from the ledge. After 5m or so it is possible to descend the rift to its base some 80m below. There are two comfortable rebelays at -10m and -55m.
The very base of the pitch is choked, and the way on follows the draft into a series of walking size passages via a short scramble from a ledge 5m up. These passages appear to be phreatic in nature but are now dry, with many complicated converging rifts. Following your nose leads inescapably to the only junction of note at the head of a 24m pitch. The original exploration led down this pitch to a small streamway in a tall rift, which terminated downstream in a sump.
The Missing Link
An alternative way on from the head of the 24m pitch is found by traversing to a phreatic continuation. The crux of this traverse is best managed by attaching one's footloops to the bolt which is halfway around the traverse. It is then possible to use them as a much needed foothold before gaining the passage on the far side where the traverse line is secured to a convenient natural. Once again route finding is quite straightforward, although care should be taken in some areas where traversing becomes necessary. After about 30m an 18m pitch is reached. It lands in a small chamber with an impressive popcorny floor with miniature castellations at one end which overlook a small drop to a pool from where water appears to flow under the chamber.
The way on continues at the other end of the chamber where the passage gradually deteriorates in size. However, after about 20m, when progress is beginning to become awkward the passage suddenly arrives at a window 27m up an impressive shaft. This is 'Clusterfer' and looking across the shaft and slightly upwards, one can see another window which was the original route in from Canalizos #3.
The Canalizos #3 entrance is about 50m to the north-west of Canalizos #1 and slightly downhill.
The Spanish cave
The cave starts with a 10m pitch down a surface rift. From one end at the base of this the rift continues around a corner and over a boulder pile to a short traverse and pitch. This lands on another boulder pile. From the far edge of this boulder pile a further two short pitches take you to the head of the main shaft.
From here, the Spanish cave consists of several parallel shafts which diverge and converge most confusingly. The main shaft, 'Rajoli', is so called because of its resemblance to a small drain - especially noticeable during thunderstorms. This shaft is an impressive 129m to a boulder floor. However, the preferred route down starts with a ledge rebelay after 20m, which takes you clear of any water which may be falling down the shaft. A further 15m down, a deviation facilitates a pendule into a window onto another shaft. Pitches of 15m and 25m in quick succession take you to a small chamber. From here, a slightly more awkward takeoff leads to a 40m pitch, to another chamber. At the SW of this chamber an easy 2m climb onto a ledge permits access to a window which opens out 40m up a large shaft, 'Clusterfer'. A window in the opposite wall of this shaft is where the connection from Canalizos #1 enters.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the ledge a 15m pitch lands on a boulder floor overlooking the base of 'Rajoli' some 20m below. There are also two small eyeholes accessible from the ledge. Throwing stones through them has led to the conclusion that these, too, open onto the main shaft of 'Rajoli'.
From the base of 'Rajoli' a short climb reaches a ledge from where a rift passage may be accessed. After a few metres of traversing, a sharp corner is reached. A small hole on the left enters a body-sized tube which may be followed for 4m to a small chamber from where the way on is too small to follow. However, traversing carefully around the corner leads to slightly more exposed traversing along the main rift until a pitch of 30m is reached. This has a rebelay half way down, and lands in a high chamber with a small stream. Upstream enters from an impassable rift while downstream slides away to a sump. A mud-choked bedding plane, believed to be a sump overflow, was briefly dug before being abandoned as hopeless.
The 'Clusterfer' extensions
'Clusterfer' was a new shaft found in 1997. Its importance lies in being the connection point, found independently from both sides, of the two Canalizos caves. It also leads to the lowest point of the sistema as well as offering one of the best opportunities for further exploration.
From the base of the shaft a dry passage winds off to the west. After a few metres this intersects 'Tortellini Streamway' running approximately SW to NE. Following this upstream for 10m or so, a comfortable meander arrives at a small blue rising sump. In the downstream direction the water falls away down a series of short cascades. Attempts to follow it soon fail due to more impenetrable rift. However, a higher level permits easy traversing for 10m of progress. From here the way on is not obvious. The original explorers examined several different levels of the rift before concentrating on one of the lower ones. This is accessed by a choice of downward squeezes in the rift. An awkward horizontal squeeze then gains a little chamberette. From here a hammered squeeze allows progress horizontally to a place where progress appears unpromising although it might repay further hammering. The alternative is a slot down that regains the streamway although progress downstream is again prevented by tight rift which might also be hammerable.
All explorations in this rift were conducted with the expectation that the streamway would turn out to be the same one as found in the main shaft of Canalizos #3 entering from an impenetrable rift. However, the survey suggests that this stream is already some 20m lower than its compatriot and may well be the key to the way on. This is by no means assured since without access to the original survey data on the Spanish discovered parts of the cave it is impossible to be sure that the surveys have been correctly joined. Nevertheless it is encouraging enough to justify a more determined look at the streamway and rift. In particular, the higher levels above the streamway were never really pushed and may yet yield easy progress.
Andy King and Rob Garrett