Oxford University Cave Club

2014 Ario Caves Project Expedition: Pozu del Xitu

Picos de Europa, Spain

Other Expedition reports

OUCC Home Page

This expedition was overseen by Steph Dwyer, and led in the field by Ian Holmes, for the Ario Caves Project; it was not an Oxford University expedition. However it carried on the long tradition of OUCC expeditions to the Picos de Europa, and involved some OUCC members and a wide range of cavers from the UK and beyond.

Final Report (pdf)

Updates were posted here as I got them / harvested them from facebook etc.



Picos de Europa from near Lago Ercina

Paul Mackrill
21 August
Paul has written up an account of his dive in the Trench Pitches.
Read it here!
Jack Healy
5 August
It's a little up from Jenga & the other dig, there are a line of small holes from Jenga & the hole next to Jenga, which are all drafting pretty strongly - The water seems to have come down from above & dropped down into the dig then it seems to be forming a rift heading down towards Jenga. I pulled out a few boulders from some of the holes along the line which have solid-ish sides. I'll put up some photos of the actual dig from before I left whenever I get round to it...
Dave Rose
3 August
News just in: Rowan and team have made excellent progress at the very end of the expo digging in one of the Jenga Pot area holes. (I'm not sure which one.) They've been excavating mud going down between solid, scalloped walls... needs a little scaffolding at the top to hold boulders back but looks like a great prospect for next year.
Steph Dwyer
30 July
Brief summary - by phone to Steve Roberts

Xitu: "Up all night" - tube above terminal sump, briefly explored in one day before derigging; did not seem to go. Xitu is now derigged as far out as Pythagoras pitch. "Sli na Siofra -Way of the Fairies" wasn't looked at. Various leads in Teresa series and Snowcastle looked at but didn't go.

C4: could not be rigged completely due to shortage of ropes and hangers.

Pozo Jenga still being pushed, looking promising.

The "rubbish cave" near the Ario Refugio was cleared of decades of historic garbage, all of which was portered down the hill and properly disposed of.
Thomas Leung
27 July

For those who haven't seen it yet. Some of the photos of my stay, which may (by chance) capture some of you guys.

Paul Mackrill
19 July

Xitu Trenches Diving at -362m in the Cave.

 Looking for a way on at the bottom of the trench series in Xitu. Hit mud at -6m and ends of rift blank except for short passage that closed off. VERY interesting exercise though !!  

David Rose

19 July 17:34

 Got back from the Picos de Europa Ario Caves Project expedition yesterday, straight after a three day trip to the Xitu camp and Chunder Pot. Great time being had by all.

A summary of the news: C4 is loose and much gnarlier than reports suggest. Respect to the 90s explorers, but they seem not to have minded getting wet. YSS team doing some adventurous bolting to try to avoid the water on the big shafts. Paul Mackrill was diving the Xitu first sump the day I left and has apparently killed it.

Snow Castle found - an astonishing, gorgeous sight. It's a gigantic, ancient phreas whoch ends in stal blockages, but there is a draught, it's heading into blank mountain in a 2/7-wards direction, and might with persuasion go. Up All Night to Get Lucky is still to be pushed.

Richard plus a large team pushed his hole in the Cares Gorge wall. It took us three hours to get there, three hours to get back, across razor karst with big exposure and vicious vertical gorse. It's a promising dig, but an epic approach.

And my Chunder Pot lead? Alas. We pushed and pushed for hours, but it just doesn't go. We climbed a lot further up the rift than anyone has been before, through some big, round chambers and some narrow fissures, but the slot I saw in 1981 just goes back to the stream. The end of of a 33-year obsession?

As ever, Ario, Laura and Ignacio were fantastic. 

Paul Mackrill
10 July

Am about to set off to Spain. Caving used to be such a joyfully simple sport. A bag of old clothes and woolly jumpers, helmet, Premier Carbide light and waist cord. Now I can't even think of taking a passenger in my overflowing car with 5 cylinders, compressor, wetsuit, mask, lines, full SRT kit, boulder persuasion stuff, caving suit, undersuit, 5 sets of lights... The trouble is I'm sure to have forgot something too !!!