Oxford University Cave Club

2012 Expedition: Xitu

Picos de Europa, Spain

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News as it comes in!
23/07/12 Paul Mackrill: For those wondering why we did the cave upside-down it was quite frankly because I couldn't see how to get all the gear down the cave without wrecking it and us ! Also we didn't have a paired team on the other side as the teams last year had set up. Finally we had to find our way in from the bottom through a lot of unknown cave [very impressive and knackering unknown cave]. The weirdest thing was coming UP at the bottom of the cave which felt like nipping in via the back door [in spite of 10 hours caving to get there]. The commitment was also enhanced for us on the return journey when the ropes were literally pulled up behind us within an hour or so of us starting the dive out ... And the more you look at both sides there must surely be a dry way to the massive 2/7 streamway... Now to straighten out my back.
18/07/12 Paul Mackrill: Had one of the most amazing trips of my life along with Tony Seddon completing the Culiembro - Xitu traverse and reversing it two days later. All possible only after years of expeditions and efforts by so many people. It was a privilege to be in place when at last the tiny window of opportunity arrived. A truly Alpine commitment feeling and fantastic to finally achieve the sink to source trip that has been dreamed of since the 1980s. Thanks to all involved!
16/07/12 Fleur Loveridge: I can now add that the return through trip was indeed completed yesterday in a staggering 14 hours. De-rigging now underway.
15/07/12 Fleur Loveridge: The third deepest through trip in the world.
They (Tony and Paul) are due to go top to bottom today to take out the bottles. That was how the logistics were going to work out best. It's been a huge effort from those in the gorge and the team up top to get everything rigged and set up for this to happen. Not to mention the 30+ years of exploration by all those involved in the area. Well done the team.
15/07/12 [Facebook exchange]
David Rose:
You gotta look for the Chunder Pot lead before you derig!!!!
Steph Dwyer: I'm going straight off the hill from my two day de rig to pack up at Cain n head home so minus on the time I'm afraid.......besides it only fitting that you yourself get first dibs. Lots of great plans in place for next yrs trip......it will be an epic crescendo to two yrs hard work....:-)
David Rose: you mean everyone wants to go back to Xitu?
Steph Dwyer: Objective 2013 - your big lead, diving Teresa series, gap etc, etc n a thorough search for the next big thing in Ario Inc. Chemical persuasion perhaps??.... Let the Ario Caves Project commence ;-)
David Rose: Are people going to leave the rope in the cave again?
Steph Dwyer: Yeah - a whole new de tackle plan in order to make sure re rig is super efficient next year. The whole thing is gonna very different.... Well a little I'll ring ya when back. Really disappointed I missed ya. Camp just ain't the same without constipation blues on the harmonica :'-(
14/07/12 Fleur Loveridge: Top to bottom traverse to follow on Sunday then start to de-rig as somewhat undermanned. I am on my way home now so more news will have to come from Ben. He has been underground for a bit plus all round push to get traverse set up hence quiet spell.
14/07/12 Dave Rose: Congratulations to Tony Seddon and Paul Mackrill, who have successfully completed a 1264 metre vertical range traverse from Cueva Culiembro to Pozu del Xitu. The trip involves diving six sumps, then climbing up the 40-odd pitches of Xitu, as well as many kilometres of sometimes demanding cave. Now, after a rest, they have to go all the way back in order to pick up their diving gear. Well done guys, and please be safe on your return. This year's OUCC expedition (which I left at the start of last week after some excellent trips) has in other ways been going well.

[About Chunder Pot] I never got there - slow rigging of Pythagoras the day before my last 3 day trip meant we didn't quite make it. hey're going to look for it now, I believe.

13/07/12 Steph Dwyer: Still alive :-) been thru Culiembro sump 1 n -1,000m into Xitu, pretty tired after a day n a half underground! De rig from the bottom next. Massive congrats to Tony Seddon and Paul Mackrill for making the traverse :-) disgracefully fresh when I met them at Xitu camp!! :-)
12/07/12 Fleur Loveridge: Xitu rigged to sump. Divers to start to attempt traverse today.
08/07/12 Dave Rose: Emerged yesterday evening from a three-day trip into Xitu with Martin Hoff and Andy Chapman. The last team in hadn't got quite as far as hoped owing to the difficulty of locating the bolts in the vastness of the Pythagoras shaft, so in rigging to the the top of The Flyer at about - 900 metres we didn't get quite as far as we had planned. However, it was a great trip. The camp was extremely comfortable and we had plenty of food. My highlight was a wild, swinging pendule halfway down the 40 metre Rape B'Rape pitch in order to grab a deviation. Reminded me of films of similar swings on El Capitan, only in the dark. It was brilliant.
Meanwhile Tony Seddon has been laying diving lines in Culiembro in preparation for the through trip. Today he hopes to get through sump 3 or beyond. If all goes well, the 1264 metre vertical distance, 9 km horizontal traverse will be accomplished towards the end of next week. The deepest or second deepest diving and caving through trip in the world.
05/07/12 Fleur Loveridge: The day before yesterday Callum and I rigged on down to the top of Pythagoras, coming back to spend the first night in underground camp of the expedition. Ben, Noel and Holly went down to pick up where we left off yesterday and should be out tonight. This afternoon Andy Chapman, Martin and David will go down with the plan to finish off the rigging to Chunder Pot tomorrow and and poke Mr Rose in his lead..................
Weather so much better than last year. Certain parts of the cave are unrecognisable by their lack of waterfalls.
03/07/12 Dave Rose: Next El Puritan push is tomorrow. Callum and Fleur on first camp now to rig to Pythagoras and (?) beyond. Weather nice. Good time being had by all, with our friends Don Simon and the one we know as 43 as ever very welcome.
02/07/12 Dave Rose: Did trip into El Puritan yesterday with Ben, emerging at 4 am to glorious Ario night. We rigged the insane climbs Richard and I did back on the day. Got to a place with three ways on: a pitch down, a tight rift, and a big high level canyon that needs a bolt drill for a line above the abyss. All quite intriguing... Camp being set up underground today.
27/06/12 Dave Rose: Rigged entrance series of Xitu yesterday. Weather fantastic. Too hot if anything: carrying loads up the hill risks heatstroke. Team in the cave now pushing ahead. A great start to the expedition.
25/06/12 Dave Rose and Martin Hoff are at Ario; they report that the main expedition gear is on its way up the hill from Cangas.
24/06/12 Expedition vehicle and trailer full of stuff leave Oxford for the Picos.