Oxford University Cave Club

1998 Expedition: "Jultayu"

Picos de Europa, Spain

1998 Expedition Report - Contents

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Upstream Route Description

This has been put together by Gavin Lowe, who emphasised that he has not been there himself, based on accounts gleaned from the original explorers. These proved relatively easy to follow with a few allowances for translation. All of the ropes we used were already in place and have been there since 1992. There was little sign of wear, which is not surprising as they are placed well out of active water and have primarily been rigged as hand-lines rather than SRT pitches.

In addition to the rigging described to the described rigging, a handline would be useful on the climb up the flake before Barne's Loop the Loop. Its not difficult, but some of the holds are fragile. In addition to the three pitches of Barne's Loop the Loop, there was a short hand-line climb, shortly beforehand. The Blowhole was interesting.

The stream passage may be followed upstream, after wading across a waist-deep pool, in a tall 2-3m wide rift containing many clean-washed boulders. After about 100m, the way on is blocked by a large boulder over which the stream falls. A possible way on is visible about 8m up. The upstream passage may also be reached from the top of Just Awesome, by following a descending phreatic tube for about 40m to a short ladder climb. From here, the route continues in a narrow rift, traversing on jammed boulders high up in the rift upstream from the big ledge. A tight section, traversing over a large drop, is followed by wide bridging to jammed boulders, to where the stream is met, about 10m downstream from the large boulder described above.

Upstream begins at a 5m climb at the back of the Big Ledge camp, into The Forbidden Zone. At the top a window on the left looks back down onto the stream, but the way on is to climb up over car-sized boulders, until a spikey flake on the right hand wall is reached. This slopes up at about sixty degrees and provides another easy 5m climb. At the top of this climb the route moves to the left hand wall, where a scramble between boulders and a solid wall leads to the stream.

Straight ahead are two climbable cascades, but the best way up is to double back where the water is met and thrutch up in the narrowest part of the rift. This leads to the bottom of a 45m handline up a three stage climb to the top of the cascades. At this point the main route follows the water upstream through boulders into The Paris Metro, a large stream passage. Doubling back and following the rift back towards The Big Ledge leads, via Barnes Loop The Loop, to a fork. Straight on opens suddenly at a window where rocks fall for five seconds into Just Awesome. An easy but obscure climb goes up to large fossil passage which connects, after an exposed sloping ledge, with downstream end of The Paris Metro. The Paris Metro continues as a wide stream passage, with the driest route changing sides several times, until The Windy Sump is reached. Slightly downstream of the sump a window at chest height on the right leads into dry rift but becomes too tight. Directly above the sump, a chain of footloops make the climb up through The Blowhole reasonably straightforward, although the strong draught makes a working electric light necessary. Once through The Blowhole, a rift on the right, similar to the one downstream of The Windy Sump, but carrying a small inlet, also becomes too tight.

Upstream from The Blowhole a sump pool is met after 15m. This has been plumbed to a depth of 5 m, and, although a traverse over the pool is probably possible, the safest route is a handline protected climb up through a squeeze into a chamber. Climbing up on the upstream side of this chamber leads to a loose 20m pitch down into a very large chamber, with the stream flowing through the middle. This is Echo Beach. Following the water downstream leads back to the sump pool; upstream ends at a low arch where complete immersion might lead to a continuation. The way on is to climb up on the left of the chamber, where a route down through boulders leads to a static pool, The Dead Sea. This deep pool is passed by a climb up the left hand wall and a bold step across at the narrowest part onto a broad ledge, worse on the way back, which comes down to meet the floor of a fossil streamway. 15m along the passage there is pitch down to the stream.

Rather than descending to the stream, the way on is an exposed traverse around on the right into The Dead Sea Strolls, a continuation of the fossil level. This is 300m of passage on two levels: a fossil floor and a high level on boulders. The route is not always obvious. At the first inlet climb up on the right. At the second inlet climb down on the left and then traverse along the rift. Under a rock arch on the left the passage opens out again and the only remaining tricky bit is where the bouldery level suddenly ends. Circling round and down between the boulders is the least exposed way of regaining the solid floor. This ends with a 5m pitch, Oregano Pitch, at the bottom of which is a short series of disproportionately noisy cascades. Upstream two easy 2m climbs lead to wide stream. This is a temporary end to exploration.