Oxford University Cave Club

2001 Expedition: "Xitu"

Picos de Europa, Spain

1/5 - Upstream Extensions

Xitu 2001 Report Contents

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STILL bolting the supposed 10m climb. We're now 18 -19m up! The wall is rather... unpleasant. A mixture of brillo pad wall, overhangs, and large amounts of loose and rotten rock.'
From Paul Mackrill's logbook entry, 22/7/01

The expedition put a large amount of effort into bolt-climbing its way past the previous upstream limit of the cave, a fifty metre high aven with waterfall. Initially there was no obvious continuation to aim for, but eventually the hard work paid off. Halfway up, a small balcony gave us access to some nasty tight and wet, but new passage! Following this led to larger and very pretty passage, which unfortunately soon sumped.

However, on a return visit to look for a potential high level over the sump, another large and beautiful section was discovered almost by accident, initially heading away from the sump. We were greeted with gardens of gour pools, helictites, almost transparent straws, a real treat. But the passages eventually petered out, and no big leads remain.



Note: for location information and surveys of Xitu prior to 2001, refer to OUCC proceedings numbers 10 and 12.

From the upstream aven, a rope leads 25m upwards to a small (~2x2m) balcony, via a y-hang rebelay three-quarters of the way up. It is possible to ditch your SRT gear here, remembering to clip it to the belay.

The upper half of the aven was climbed from here, past an overhang onto a muddy slope, and up a crack to the ceiling. However, nothing of interest was found and the rope was removed.

From the balcony, heading upstream through tight rift leads to 'Climax Too,' similar to 'Climax rift' at the entrance to 1/5. An effort must be made to keep high in the widest part to gain entry to 'The Shower Room,' a small chamber with shower gushing from a tiny window 2m up. Climb up and wriggle through the window, then follow the passage left into a very low canal section, 'Total Soak.' Once through, the rift grows taller, but the way on is a sideways crawl at ground level, past a squeeze and a too-tight fork to the left. Eventually it becomes possible to stand and walk into the well-decorated 'Totem Chamber.' The right-hand wall is vertical, but the left is a white flowstone slope covered in stal formations including a 2.5m high column, the Totem Pole.

Following the rift upstream past a few bends leads to a gravel-filled sump, about 2m wide. A hole in the roof ten metres back was bolt-climbed into, but was found to be a dead end.

From Totem Chamber, the route up the flowstone slope has been marked by loops of cord around the bases of some stalagmites. Take great care not to damage your surroundings, and follow the cords up to the roof and back in the opposite direction to the sump. This leads to a high rift traverse ending in a climb down to 'Broken Stal Chamber,' and two ways on. The left fork quickly opens into 'Monolith Chamber,' a beautiful place with a 1m high lump, the monolith, in the centre of the floor.

The other exit from Broken Stal Chamber is a traverse through rift, the best route being at roof level. A left fork leads down a slope to a dead-end. The way on is a short climb, then a squeeze past a stal column through a low section which opens into the base of 'Hyperventilation Chamber,' with giant gour pool. It is possible to reach a window near the roof of the chamber by climbing up instead of going through the stal squeeze. From the roof, a tricky roped traverse (rope now removed) gave access to a small hole in the far wall of the chamber. This hole leads to about 30m of tight, unsurveyed passage which becomes too tight.

The floor-level exit from Hyperventilation chamber is a scramble through popcorn-lined rift. Progress is possible at different levels, but in the end everything closes down. All attempts to find a continuation failed.