OUCC Proceedings 13 (1991)

Spanish Exploration

Proc. 13 Contents.

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1/4 - Cueva de la Roca Naranja

Dan Mace and Dave Horsley

Altitude: 1860m
Depth: 162m
Surveyed Length: 355m
Plan Length: 173m


The entrance of 1/4 is to be found by heading due North from the Ario bowl and climbing the ridge between Cabeza Julagua and Cabeza del Covu. From here the cairned path to Culiembro is followed for approximately 500m until a large depression is reached on the left of the path, with a very prominent orange rock in the bottom. The cave entrance is in the North wall of the depression almost immediately above a 5m cleft.


The entrance is a 4m deep hole which is free-climbable with difficulty. Alternatively there is an easier, narrower climb down by the side of the obvious entrance which lands on a boulder slope leading to the head of a 15m pitch. This leads to a large boulder chamber from where the way on is not obvious. A climb through the boulders leads to a strongly draughting squeeze (originally entered only after extensive use of a hammer) onto a 4m ladder pitch. A short rift descends to the head of an impressive 39m pitch, Echo Pot, which lands on a boulder slope in a chamber, Echo Beach. The boulder slope ends at a 5m pitch which splits the chamber in two.

From here the cave begins to show its true character. Each pitch is followed by a rift that slopes up at about 45° . Hence each pitch adds only a few metres to the total depth of the cave.

The first rift is encountered just after the 5m pitch in Echo Beach and consists of a short, lined traverse to the top of an 18m pitch. This pitch is tight and best rigged on ladder due to the profusion of rub points in the rift. This is immediately followed by an 8m drop best rigged as a continuation of the pitch above. As the rift narrows, a traverse up and around the corner leads to the head of a 13m pitch, rigged from a rocky ledge. This lands in a small high chamber with a tiny stream running across the floor.

The only exit from the chamber is a tight rift and two routes are possible: a flat out crawl along the stream or, better, a climb up through the rift at about 45° , following the obvious traverse level. When the rift becomes too tight it is possible to rig a rope through a squeeze. This immediately opens out onto the top of a fine 24m pitch. From here another obvious rift, Oh No Not Again, leads off. This soon becomes tortuous and tight and the route is not at all obvious. A short 2m climb leads to an "S" bend and from this point the rift is generally followed by ascending into wider sections, losing almost all the height gained in dropping the 24m pitch. The last section is an extremely awkward left-hand bend best traversed lying horizontally on your right side. This is immediately followed by a vertical squeeze up to a wider section of rift and from here it is possible to climb through a hole into a wider steeply ascending traverse level. This passage ends at a squeeze in the right-hand wall which emerges at the top of an 18m pitch.

Petunia Pitch (18m) can be rigged from numerous naturals and backed up to a natural on the outward side of the squeeze and lands in a sizeable chamber, Bloodclot Rift, filled with numerous red formations and containing a trench in the floor. Upstream from the pitch landing is a waterfall, whilst downstream the way on is up yet another steep ramp. This bends sharply right and the higher level soon becomes too tight. At the corner it is possible to descend the rift to the streamway. The pitch, Generator Pitch (18m), is rigged from several large columns. From the bottom of Generator Pitch the streamway is well decorated, but quickly closes down. The only way on is to step off Generator Pitch 10m from the floor into an ascending traverse level in a tight rift. This continues to a sharp left hand bend around which is the Burglar Alarm, a 1m high stalagmite which rings when knocked.

The rift continues to a 3m pitch which lands on a ledge. Almost immediately is a 15m pitch landing in a chamber, the walls of which are well decorated with numerous white crystals. A rift from here leads to a 6m climb down which becomes too tight. No other ways on were found in this chamber.

The cave has good potential being on a direct line to and dye traced to Culiembro resurgence. The rift beyond the Burglar Alarm has the best potential, as it was only blocked by a stalactite curtain. Removal of this would give access to a visible continuation of the rift. A number of other sites near the end of the cave might also yield to a hammer.