Oxford University Cave Club

2011 Expedition: Xitu

Picos de Europa, Spain

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Short reports from the field, via "Twitter".

14 Jun Only 17 days to departure. We've packed tacklebags to Flat Iron and beyond. Sponsorship goodies starting to arrive. Getting excited now!
15 Jun Yummy stuff coming from Tunnocks, Blackfriars flapjack & Your Piece Baking Company for starters. Thanks guys. That'll keep us prussicking. 
15 Jun New survey notebooks arrived. All ready for sketching the dry way to Culiembro.
16 Jun Thanks also to our gear sponsors: Lyon Equipment, Starless River, Inglesport and Beast. Cheers guys.
19 Jun Less than two weeks to go....... big pile of shiny new rope.
24 Jun Ferry sails a week today. Last week of exams and packing mania. Mixture of stress and excitement all round.
30 Jun  Got a nice new drill to place those 200 stainless steel bolts. Instructions say "for indoor use only".
30 Jun Also thanks to Hot Pack Meals for sending us some "instant" nosh. And not forgetting our long term supporters Mornflake Oats.
1 Jul Today's the day.
1 Jul And we're off! Chris, Ben, Callum & and HUUUGE mound of gear have left the hut in Oxford. Very low on the wheels on Chris' car.
1 Jul Portsmouth. Waiting for the ferry.
2 Jul Watching dolphins in the Bay of Biscay on route to Bilbao.
3 Jul First six tacklebags up the hill and in Xitu
4 Jul First caving trip today
5 Jul Rigged almost to end of entrance series
6 Jul Callum manning through with acute boulder-to-toe syndrome.
6 Jul  The A team have arrived: Andrew, David, Vicky & Jamie at Ario, 2 carries down. Can confirm the sods are still here.
7 Jul Huge new phreatic series found through window in pitch above Customs Hall. Heading for 2/7. Dave Rose: "I am utterly gobsmacked"
8 Jul Chris D just rang me from Spain re Xitu: "there is no shortage of leads"
11 Jul More on the new lead: 30m above Customs Hall, initially a crawl, forks then gets big, 1 way prob connects back, other off into blank space
11 Jul  ....ends with 2 open leads, a 50m pitch and a traverse level.....meanwhile rigging continues.....
11 Jul  Flat Iron should be rigged by now, camping equipment going in today, plan is for first campers to go in tomorrow and rig to Pythagoras.
12 Jul Dave Rose: "Back in the day we were bonkers not to have rigged the drops that now are! Insane."
13 Jul Immobilised by storms for 2 days. Hoping forecast for improvement is correct.
14 Jul  Two days of storm have given way to lovely sunshine. Andrew, Dickon & Ben at underground camp; Dave, Steph & Callum about to relieve them.
14 Jul  Hoping to reach Chunder Pot and glorious new leads by Saturday, assuming the cows don't eat any more of our gear.
14 Jul Jamie looking extraordinarily dashing. Unwashed, unshaven caver chic suiting Andrew less well.
16 Jul  JJ just surfaced after two days in a dark hole; CD & George not far behind. Made it to the top of Dampturation before drill batteries died.
 20 Jul Underground camp now equipped with all modern amenities, including stalactites and mud. Truly a home from home for the discerning caver.
 20 Jul Fleur, Ben & Callum surfaced last night after rigging trip + flood-enforced stay at UG camp. Rain in Spain does not fall mainly on plain.
20 Jul Chunder Pot playing hard-to-get. Life would be significantly easier if Xitu would stop flooding, but morale kept high by JJ's charm & wit.
20 Jul Dye tracing reveals that Xitu upper streamway emerges... in my tent. Everything. Is. Green. Green-mouthed cow providing solid entertainment.
21 Jul Weather forecast is for more light rain today but then fine for the next week. Let's hope this is the window for the big deep push....
21 Jul Tony, Jamie & Pete off to underground camp. Hoping water levels now acceptably low. Clag, clag and more clag on the surface.
22 Jul We can see the sun!
24 Jul We're at Chunder Pot! Tony, Pete & Jamie hand-bolted through Friday night after drill died; 3 days underground, -900m reached.
24 Jul Fleur, Paul & Dickon took over Sat morning & pushed from The Flyer to Chunder. Nick, Ross & Harvey about to go lead hunting.
 24 Jul Most importantly: can confirm that there is now decent coffee at underground camp. On related note, dire lack of coffee on surface.
25 Jul Vicky, Rosa and Jamie gone down to check out lead at the Flyer. Fleur and Pete listening to TMS at refugio waiting for weather to turn.
26 Jul Guess what? Its still raining. The local shepherd, who has been here all his life, says he has never seen it so bad.
27 Jul Last push down deep has limited success. Jamie, Vicky & Rosa did well in more high water below camp. Sun now out at least & settled forecast
27 Jul Rich Gerrish, if you were here you would be obsessed by the weather. Deep leads crapped out, but will be more time to look properly in 2012.
27 Jul A momentous few days: we've made (probably) the world's deepest ever espresso, -550m at underground camp. Awesome.
27 Jul Big thanks to Handpresso for helping us to bring the dream alive. Utterly fantastic product.
27 Jul Jamie, Vicky & Rosa pushed lead at head of The Flyer: JJ broke into new rift via interesting free climb, but route closed down after ~ 20m
 27 Jul Exciting exit from pushing front to UG camp in high water, but got through Marble Steps safely thanks to CD, GH & JJ's pro rigging skillz
27 Jul Gear destroyed/worn out by Jamie thus far: croll, descender, foot loop, shock cord, 2 sets of cows' tails, oversuit, lamp, knees...
28 Jul Weather providing another severe impediment to caving: it's too sunny to go underground.
28 Jul Fleur & Dickon currently derigging; Jamie & Ross to take over tomorrow (read: sit at underground camp and make espresso).
30 Jul Derigged back to camp. A mountain of metal emerges from the cave. Very interesting phreatic roof tube spotted opposite the top of the gap.
31 Jul Ross, Vicky & Jamie derigged 450m & carried camp to top of The Gap; coffee & Pro Plus proving more effective fuel than Mars Bars.
1 Aug Time to say farewell to sun; many tacklebags to be hauled before tomorrow's storm hits.
2 Aug Xitu detackled ahead of impressive thunderstorm last night. Beers in the refugio and now just carrying (and a spot of shaftbashing if time).
3 Aug Prob last sunny day and a party are going to investigate area D (again). Desparately short of wine and petrol at Ario but we struggle on.
4 Aug Cows have mounted a series of devastating assaults on camp. All of Jamie's spare clothes eaten; wine & coffee mercifully safe.
7 Aug After final cow attack, final clag, mud fights on last carry, and beers in Cangas, the expedition has returned; just don't smell the trailer
8 Aug Jamie still trying to escape Spain and the ravenous cows. Easyjet has other ideas...
8 Aug Attempts at shaft bashing in the airport hampered by obstructive antispeleological ideologies of Spanish police.