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2003 Expedition Reports

Picos de Europa, Spain


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1/9/03 Josep Guarro (SIE)
Hi all, I've read in your web site that at last Tormenta is connected to La Texa, congratulations!

From what I read, the bolt (and blue hanger) you found is the header of a 3.5m pitch, this is the survey station named texa_97.51 and is where we expected Tormenta to join, nice! Going down to La Texa, we reach a first streamway at this point, coming from the west, in fact the shaft "Balconcillo de Soncillo" drops in the streamway just over the boulders you found just before the blue hanger. The Balconcillo shaft is split in several survey stations, its base being  the point named texa_97.49; but if the rope is not in place is not easy to identify this survey station so the best tie-off for the two surveys should be station texa_97.51 which is the bolt and blue hanger we left there.

I will be pleased to see your new survey data...

1/9/03 Dave Legg (report) The expedition has returned to the UK, weary, smelly and well chuffed! The trailer departed Los Lagos on the evening of the 27th on the back of a recovery vehicle as planned, and the various members proceeded to wend their ways home. A swift summary of events for you all:

We achieved our main aim, hitting Asplodera La Texa at roughly -850m, creating a system which is probably -1003m, although this needs to be confirmed when the surveys are drawn up.

18 people reached the pushing front over the course of the expedition (i.e. got to -721m and beyond). 3 of these people (Gareth Philips, Chris Sinadinos and Matthew Balaam) had never done any expedition caving before, so WELL DONE GUYS!

A new cave, Pozu Chicago, has been discovered. It is about -140m deep and is currently in standard crappy Spanish rift, but is drafting well and has a pitch at the current limit of exploration.

The trailer is unlikely to return to the UK for the next week at least. It will be arriving in Guildford at the garage where the Gordon Foundation asked for the Land Rover to be delivered because of AA rule (not a problem). I'm not sure how we'll get it back but it will need substantial repacking before it is towed as it currently weighs a ton and a half and is 2/3 full! Hopefully gear will be back for President's invite, although a last minute rope wash may be necessary.

All right, there you have it, a (very) potted history of expedition and even some news. Apologies to all for the slight news blackout of late, but I missed my designated comms. day as I was unable to walk c/o bollock rub. Thanks to JC, Chris and Simon for plugging the gaps admirably. Also thanks to Simon Goddard for driving back through Spain and France in a mammoth (generally) high speed burn over 3 days and thus not leaving myself, Gareth and Sarah stranded in Spain. Thanks to Paul for doing the finances, Sarah for doing the medical, and Simon Goddard for doing gear, medical, sponsorship and jut about anything else which I failed to do through inexperience, general crapness or laziness. Cheers also to everyone in the UK who was involved with the Vlad fiasco and to Steve Roberts for a whole bunch of stuff. Finally THANK YOU to everyone who came out and helped push such a fantastic cave.

Award speech over!

I haven't set a date for drawing up surveys yet, but it will be before the expedition dinner, which will be on the Friday of 5th week (no real world time yet as I don't know my own term dates!).

LAST BUT NOT LEAST! Please could people who have photos scan them for me and either e-mail them, put them on the web or burn then on to a CD for me. I will need some visual stuff for the BCRA, and Marc Rubinat is planning to make a slide show of the expedition and would appreciate some photos (I said he'd have a CD some time in September).

Adios, Amigos,


26/8/03 Chris Densham
The rumours are true, Tormenta has been connected to Asplodera le Texa, making allegedly around a 1050 m deep Sistema.

After waiting for the rainstorm to subside last Saturday, Dave Legg, Simon Flower and myself descended the splendid cascades & streamways to camp at Crocopiggy. The Lagos bypass was as foul as advertised, but the passage beyond Battle of the Deities (JC's big aven where the main stream joins in) was really superb river passage. We dropped the p.12m at the exploration limit of JC/SF/GO'D, then after 15 m of narrow rift hit another pitch - Ragnarok, about 25/30 m deep, entering a large rift pitch. "Could this be it?" we thought, then climbed onto some boulders wedged across the rift. And there on the wall was A BOLT! Well, a pretty blue hanger actually. The dot-to-dot exploration actually worked out as planned!

We could not see an exchange trip happening in the immediate future, so derigged back to Lagos. Next trip Chris & Pip derigged from Lagos back to Camp Croco, and had a quick look at the aven back from Los Lagos but did not rate it worth climbing and did not have the time. Over Fri-Sun Dave, Gareth and myself derigged Camp Croco, Saturday Night Fever, Camp SNF and Balrog, bringing 10.5 tacklesacks and 4 Daren Drums back to Area 4 at around -150m or so. When I left on Sunday, the last derigging trip comprising Pip, Chris, Rosa and Sarah had headed off down with plans to Paella out the rope and cart out the remaining tacklesacks. Dave was still crashed out at the entrance, as his harness rub had reached "razor wire wrapped round bollocks" proportions. But liberal application of E45 cream and 2 fairy cakes [he ate them, apparently: Ed] saw him safely back at Ario! Alas he could not make it down the hill to see JJ, but fortunately Simon G was able to make it and relayed the good news.

I think the trailer is due to be picked up tomorrow (27th), so may be in Oxford at the weekend?

20/8/03 John Pybus Just received a text message from Simon:

Tormenta has connected to la Texa.

No more details yet.

18/8/03 Jonathon Cooper
Just back from Picos and can give some news from pushing front.

As you may be aware, the Lakes were sumps but have been bypassed via an extremely muddy climb/crawl. Last week, Gareth and myself dropped the pitch at the far side of this climb. This was a superb dry 50m deep shaft with very nice rock for bolting (no choss) and landed in a large aven. This streamway here is different from that in the sumps (being smaller). The trip ended at a rift with a pitch below that needed some traversing to find a good hang.

On the next pushing trip, myself, Simon Flower (UBSS) and Geoff O'Dell, dropped this pitch (Shark's Teeth) which was another 25m or so into the continuation of the stream. After a short traverse over deep water, the small stream broke into a large aven and a much larger stream. The water coming down the aven is almost certainly that from the sump/main streamway and the stream passage following it is the largest and nicest thus far seen in the cave. Its bottle shaped, on average 4m across at the bottom with no sign of roof. This ended at another 20-30m pitch.

All the new stuff has been surveyed and we have added 85m to the depth of the cave making it 806m deep in total. It wiggles around a bit, but has gone roughly 100m east and 30m north which means it is still trending towards Asplodera la Texa. Another pushing trip went down on Saturday with a view to dropping the next pitch. They also plan to check out leads in the lower streamway, particularly a washed out sump with obvious phreas which is a little back from the Los Lagos sumps. This may provide a less squalid bypass, or maybe high level things not obvious from the streamway.

Elsewhere in the Picos, Pozu Xicago (to north of Tormenta) has been dropped 100m to an impenetrable stream (possibly upstream Mornflake Creek), though a window in the bottom 70m pitch is still to be checked. Also Pozu Jenga in Valley of Dry Bones has been re-opened, stabilised (to an extent) and is being dug from a very windy chamber.

12/8/03 Dave Legg
Well, there has been some caving in the past week, despite the person shortage. The far side of the sump bypass was dropped, as you've all probably heard. The pitch was between 40m and 50m, and was closely followed by another 10m pitch. The pushing front is now a 3m or so drop which needs a rope, which JC and Gareth decided not to go and do (JC did put 7 bolts in just dropping the 50m pitch)

JC, Geoff O'Dell and Simon Flower are now heading underground for a 3 day pushing trip to try and gain even more ground, and maybe make the connection, which now seems achingly close. The bypass pitch drops into a clean washed gully which may take water in flood, which JC does not think is connected to the sump. This meets a waterfall inlet at the aforementioned 10m pitch, which may be where the streamway is rejoined, or it may be something utterly different. The proposed high level remains unexplored although in the next few days a trip will be going down to assess the number and prospects of leads in the lower streamway, with an eye to later trips or *possibly* a return next year. My current inclination is to de-rig, but if people have strong feelings either way please let me know (don't expect a reply soon, mind, I want to go caving again).

In other news we now have a car. A shiny plush Renault Laguna Saloon is ours to trash (ahem), and much to Simon's delight it not only has a flashy push start but goes like shit off a shovel. Yay!

Also, here is a brief guide to holidaying in Spain. Do not book any accommodation in advance. Doing so will only spoil the surprise of being refused a room and prevent you from enjoying the quaint tourist past time of scurrying all over town trying to find a room. Having failed to find a room, do not do anything sensible like finding a good bivvy location or going to another town. Good places to sleep include the beach, where a tide may or may not soak you and your gear, or else a bench where the Guardia Civil will be happy to force you to move along every 30 minutes or so. For a truly delightful holiday, experience the above with your (soon to be ex) spouse or partner. Under no circumstances spend more than 5 hours doing what you actually wanted to do with your *leisure* time.

Anyway, enough drivel. See you all in a week, hopefully with news of a connection and a million storming leads for nest year. otherwise we can always shaft bash :)

7/8/03 Dave Legg
It is an ex-Land-rover...it has ceased to be.

For those of you who haven't heard, the main news at the moment is that the Land Rover has had a gear box problem of some kind and is currently unsafe to drive. It is due to be shipped back to the UK on August the 28th, along with the trailer. Fortunately the Gordon Foundation arranged some excellent insurance cover care of the AA, meaning I've had the pleasure of comprehensive English speaking back up whilst dealing with the garage (who nearly made me liable for 1000euros of repair work), and that we will have a hire care (free to us) for the rest of expedition, including all the journey home. Some holiday I've had (I'm meant to be spending this week with my girlfriend, who has thus far been dragged up and down the Ario path, knackered on a "short" walk, and forced to spend about 4 hours in garage just outside Oviedo!).

As far as caving goes we only just have enough people to push the cave, let alone cover call outs and investigate potential high-level passages near the bottom of the cave. As Geoff said, if anyone fancies a holiday with cracking caving and virtually guaranteed pushing, this is it! Also, as this looks like the last year in Tormenta it'd be nice to finish the cave and have it explored and surveyed as comprehensively as possible. Currently Gareth and JC are pushing at the bottom on a 3 day camping epic. The connection remains a probability only limited by manpower.

Best of luck all, come caving, I'm off on my holiday!

1/8/03 Dave Legg

One trip later and we have a bypass (and it only killed me a bit - knees, back, oversuit, all acceptable casualties in the quest for La Texa). The Spanish squeeze was passable without further hammering, despite the dire interpretation of their trip given to Ben, Clare, Neil and Tanya in the Maria Rosa. The tube was something that would be pushed in Yorkshire without hesitation, with deep echoes ringing on and a reasonable draught. The crawl popped out in walking passage, with muddy boulders directly ahead and passage off to the left. Over the boulders a large shaft drops away, with the sound of water tinkling below and a 2 second drop, followed by 4 more seconds of rattling, when stones were thrown down. The passage led to an old inlet, and also to a short, muddy, and easy crawl which links to a small chamber directly above the sump (about 15m up). The connection has been made!

The majority of the draught disappears earlier in the cave, with a possible traverse across to some boulders opposite the top of Mona pitch and a large tube in the Long Dark Streamway of the Soul which still needs to be explored (I couldn't free climb to it). There is nothing in the roof of the LDSotS after this, despite much sketchy climbing in search of anything promising. So, onwards ever downwards!

Gareth is currently taking a well earned days rest (interspersed with lots of eating), whilst I am looking forward to a short holiday with my girlfriend. Knowing my luck I'll return just in time for de-rig. Paul Garver and Chris Rogers are underground as I type, surveying the bypass and preparing to drop the pitch. Those coming out late don't need to worry about bottoming the cave, although you may have to de-rig earlier than expected. The plan now is to push to La Texa in the next week and spend any spare time killing high level leads and thoroughly exploring the cave. Personnel permitting we may try and bottom La Texa, to check out the potential for next year and survey the lower section to validate the accuracy of -1020m.

Here's to Pozu Julagua!

31/7/03 Rob Garrett
Hopefully you've already managed to follow the draught beyond the sump but if not I'll just add to Chris' email by saying the phreatic tube he refers to is a short way back from the final pitch. There is an obvious washed out sump with shingle banks where the roof lowers threateningly before rising again. We felt there was an appreciable draught here and that it might rise with the roof to a separate way on. The ascent looked traversable/free-climbable.
30/7/03 Chris Densham
Shame about Los Lagos being a sump, what a bugger! How about the large phreatic tube ramping up in the roof between two of the last few pitches back from the first lake? We thought that may take most of the draught.
28/7/03 Dave Legg
Well, well, well. A fun week certainly. Two underground camps have now been set up and stocked, with just about everyone on expedition having some rle in their establishment. A camp now exists at the top of Saturday Night Fever (which has proved surprisingly useful, although it might seem quite high up the cave), and one on a ledge just after Croco-Piggy, where two pits fit snugly on a ledge.

On Thursday a trip of three waves reached the bottom of the cave and began pushing beyond Los Lagos. Myself and Paul dropped the final pitch just as Fleur, Nobby and Neil Pacey reached us. They in turn were met by Ben and Claire about three hours later. The five lags were tasked with rigging past the lakes before camping on the way out. And then the bastard went and sumped! Unfortunately the third lake was a sump, not a lake. However, the draught persisted, up a smallish tube in the roof, and anyone who has seen Tormenta in Survex can see how clearly it heads for Aspolederu La Texa.

Dismayed but not defeated a Friday night piss up (complete with Spaniard-irritating singing) decided to send Marc and Edu, the two hard, keen SIE members, down in search of a bypass. 30 plus hours later they returned to say the tube was still draughting but needed hammering, although a corner could be seen beyond the obstruction. A strong draught was also present above Enlightenment pitch, at which point the limestone also changes according to Ben, so prospects for a bypass are still reasonable. If all else fails (or we breakthrough) the rope is in La Texa below -100m, so the possibility of rigging down there to check the numerous remaining leads (including something Marc mentioned which may well have met master cave) is now open. Tomorrow I am hoping to find a bypass even if it kills me...(well, kills me a little bit...so I can get better).

So the lead is slightly less promising, but is still there, with a good prospect for a breakthrough and a big system heading slap bang for the proposed streamway to Culiembro. Come, push, discover, be dismayed by the lack of a crocodile at -721m.

In other news Fleur and Nobby will be delighted to know that we've now had a couple of really good days, whilst a new expedition rule has been declared "For reasons of liability whatever you are about to do, El Jefe expressly forbids you from doing it." We have also discovered a wine half as cheap as Don Simon but less than half as rank...

Adios, onward, to a bypass and La Texa!

21/7/03 Paul Garver
Hey all! Expedition going stormingly (get it?), as we have rigged to the bottom of D pitch and a trip today should be advancing several further pitches. Many of the upper pitches have had the rigging improved upon slightly, most notably Saturday Night Fever, the longest pitch we have at nearly 100m, which has now been rigged with a completely different route that avoids the muddy slimy ropes that several of us remember from last year with dread.

With the arrival of Neil and Tanya (of Red Rose) the expedition now has a fair amount of experience among its members, and could achieve a lot over the next few days (setting up an underground camp should be possible pretty soon). We have yet to coax Matthew Balaam through the entrance squeeze, but I'm sure that with lubrication, threats and starvation tactics we'll have him under fairly soon.

Most notable non-caving event would be Vlad's unexpected bout of hyperventilation and cramps on a walk up the hill, a terrifying scene, as he appeared to be unable to move or breathe without great effort. Several people will have received text messages about it already as we frantically attempted to contact the university's medical staff for advice using a phone that would text but wouldn't make international calls... fortunately the situation resolved itself fairly quickly, and Vlad has been underground since without any trouble.

Sidre the night before last... I can still feel things moving in my stomach!

15/7/03 Chris Densham
Well done all of you - that sounds like good hard work. Good luck with the camp site and on beyond Los Lagos - look out for the comedy obstruction (a 4" wide and 4" long chert 'gate' - don't smash it up, climb over!) followed by the enormous crystals on the LH wall just before the first lake. And don't forget to take a boat, or tyre inner tubes. That lake is deep!
15/7/03 Dave Legg
We have now rigged to the bottom of Balrog, with Nobby and Chris Sinadinos currently re-bolting and re-rigging Saturday Night Fever (without comedy knot pass 1m below a rebelay). With a little luck we should have made it to a camp site by the end of the week.

Today I am going to wash. Joy.

A note to all coming out - the Maria Rosa has now gone up market, shuts at 9.30pm and doesn't let you pass out under tables after all night sessions anymore. If you end up at Lagos late at night then this may be useful (and frustrating - hurry up and buy the place Simon!)

10/7/03 Dave Legg
We made it here eventually, despite trouble escaping the evil web of the M25 and me forgetting my passport. Drive down was fine and Ario camp is now resembling a proper campsite rather than a caving bombsite with tents. Rigging should start in a day or so.
6/7/03   Expedition vehicle leaves for Spain