OUCC Proceedings 9 (1979)

Smaller Caves near Ario  [Ario Area Map]

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John Singleton and Dave Thwaites

The mapping of the Ario area revealed many caves and potholes. In accordance with Spanish regulations, each entrance was numbered and labelled with 'OUCC '79'. To allow simultaneous investigation of two areas, the caves were allotted two numbers, the first identifying the cave, and the second signifying the region: Ario was area 5 so each of the following caves has a number ending in /5. Unfortunately, none of the other areas yielded enough caves to warrant further use of the system (except in John's mind) so it was abandoned. Many of the small caves explored previously by the SIE have their entrances described below. This is to avoid duplication of effort by any future expeditions.

Red Circle Cave (Pozo de la Canaleta) was not investigated beyond the SIE mark, partly because of the abundance of broken glass.

Cave 1/5 is Pozu del Xitu and is dealt with elsewhere. [see also OUCC Proc. 10]

Cave 2/5 is an obvious hole in a small cliff leading to a 10m deep pot. This can be free climbed for 3m to a ledge, where the snow plug and boulder pile at the bottom of the shaft can be seen clearly. Descended by the SIE in the 1970's.

Cave 3/5 begins on a small pit by the Ario-Jultayu path. This drops into a rift with razor sharp walls ending in a small chamber. A very tight hole appears to lead on for a few metres in the opposite wall. Explored by the SIE in the 1970's. [see OUCC Proc. 12]

Cave 4/5 is a small tight pot looked at by the SIE in the 1970's.

Cave 5/5 is an obvious 4m x 4m hole, in the bottom of a dry valley, which can be descended easily for 5m to a small snow plug. From here a passage to the side drops further but was not investigated due to a lack of illumination. Explored by the SIE in the 1970's

Cave 6/5 is in a 2m wide, 8m deep rift which seems to be a continuation of the rift in cave 3/5. The rift chokes at all levels a few metres in.

Cave 7/5 consists of a narrow rift with a boulder floor that diverges into two tight passages a few metres in. The left hand passage is too small for humans and the right hand one chokes almost immediately.

Cave 8/5 (Cheese Cave) is at the base of a small cliff in a dry rocky valley. The entrance is covered with boulders to keep sheep out and the first crawl is occasionally used as a shepherd's cheese store. Removing the largest boulder allows a legs first squeeze into a crawl past foul smelling cheeses which emerges in a rift containing the first pitch of 10m. The second pitch of 20m follows immediately and is a nice free hang form two bolts (ungreased anchors left). At the bottom an awkward climb down is followed by a section of wider, more spacious rift which soon narrows down. Another 5m climb down the rift leads to the top of the third pitch of 15m. The rift chokes at all levels at about 100m beyond this.

Cave 9/5 (Colin's Calamity) is a small unobtrusive hole in the ground on one of the small hillocks near the Cares gorge. The 7m entrance pitch lands on a small pebble bed sloping into a small passage. The only possible way on rapidly became too tight.

Cave 10/5 is a large obvious pothole about 20m deep in a small valley between two limestone outcrops. It was explored by the SIE in the 1970's.

Cave 11/5 is a strongly draughting boulder choke under a snow plug in a deep ravine. It may be worth digging out during some future expedition.

Cave 12/5 is an obvious hole 1m x 0.5m in a depression in striated limestone. It leads to a small very unstable chamber with a boulder ceiling. Two small crawls lead down from this. Explored by the SIE in the early 1970's. [see OUCC Proc. 12]

Cave 13/5 consists of a narrow, 7m deep rift which widens out at the bottom. Unfortunately, it chokes rapidly at all levels.

Cave 14/5 is a small chamber in boulders in the rift containing 10/5. A choke leads to the 10/5 shaft, but this self-destructed when John tried to get in.

Cave 15/5 consists of twin 11m shafts in bare limestone. One of these is free-climbable and can be descended to a connection to a second shaft. Lots of plastic bags of refuse completely cover any way on that there might be.

Cave 16/5 is the same cave as 5/5!

Cave 17/5 is a small entrance that terminates within a few metres.

Cave 18/5 is entered via a rift running SW. A 12m pitch beneath a spectacular rock bridge leads down onto a snow plug. The rift divides into two small passages that choke immediately.

Cave 19/5 has spectacular entrance consisting of an 8m shaft which connects with a rift running NW-SE. The shaft can be climbed with care, as the rock is grassy and slippery, to a snow plug from which two ways on are seen. The left-hand one is steeply sloping passage which leads to a junction a few metres on. The right -hand route is a rift which quickly becomes too tight to follow, but the left-hand route is more promising. This ends in a small chamber with a boulder floor, through which another chamber, about 2m high, can be glimpsed.

Returning to the snow plug, the rift may be followed down the snow for about 5m, when the passage ends in a pebble bed where the roof closes right down to floor level. A line is essential for a safe ascent of the snow plug. This cave may be worth digging sometime.

Cave 20/5 was not explored due to a lack of time.

Cave 21/5 is entered via a crack which is virtually indistinguishable from clints and grikes around it. This crack is in fact a 20m pitch which emerges in a slender aven with an alternative horizontal entrance. Two small chambers occur below a climb down from the bottom of the pitch. One of these can be climbed to a small aven, at the top of which a small crack of light is visible.

Cave 22/5 consists of two intersecting rifts in an area of heavily shattered and jointed limestone. A 9m pitch at the centre of the cross lands on a snow plug. At this level, the W-E rift closes up, and only the NE-SW is left.

Cave 23/5 begins in a small, unpromising hole facing S. Those with large hips will find it much easier to approach the entrance feet first and on their back, but should be aware of the immediate 2.5m drop into a rift. The rift slopes gently eastwards away from the main Ario depression, and many small roof collapses impeded progress. After 50m such a fall effectively block the rift, although various small holes in the base of the may lead on. This cave is unusual for the area because all the development appears to be horizontal.

Cave 24/5 was not explored, due to lack of time.

Cave 25/5 is a large open shaft 8m deep, 8.5m long and 2m wide. A passage at one end quickly leads to a boulder choke.

Cave 26/5 is .................Cave 5/5!