Oxford University Cave Club

1989 "Juracao " Expedition Final Report

Picos de Europa, Spain


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Cave Description

Entrance series; G.S.P. route; Rift series; Shaft series; 1st False Floor to Just Awesome; Just Awesome; Streamway to Camp; The London Underground; Downstream from Camp; Postman Pat.

2/7 - Pozu del Ojo de la Bruja.(Pozu Jultayu)

Location: 1° 13' 48'' W (relative to Madrid) , 43° 14' 00'' N
Altitude: 1860m
Depth: 820m
Surveyed Length: 7345m
Plan Length: 5915m

The entrance is situated below the Jultayu summit, approximately 30m below the eyehole (el Ojo de la Bruja) on the Juracao ridge linking Jultayu and Cuvicente. The best route from the Ario Refugio is to follow the cairned path as far as the Jou del Jultayu and then to cross the Jou, aiming a little to the west of the Jultayu summit. The cave is situated below the most easterly of two obvious notches in the ridge.

Entrance Series

Entrance series; G.S.P. route; Rift series; Shaft series; 1st False Floor to Just Awesome; Just Awesome; Streamway to Camp; The London Underground; Downstream from Camp; Postman Pat.

The entrance is an impressive cleft in the hillside leading from a large shakehole. Almost immediately a 10m pitch lands on a very loose bouldery slope; rocks from here fall straight down the second pitch. Originally, it was recommended that no-one move on this section while anyone was on the pitch below; now, however, three years of use have gardened the slope to the point where, with care, it is possible to avoid dislodging the still-plentiful ammunition.

The second pitch is rigged from a pair of bolts at the end of the slope. 25m down is a bolt rebelay followed immediately by a deviation from a natural belay. The rope lands on an earthy ledge next to a stronglydraughting (hammered) slot 36m below the boulder slope. The pitch continues for a further 10m before ending in a boulder choke.

Beneath the slot is a tight 3m climb below which is a 42m pitch, Seventh Heaven. A rope is best rigged above the squeeze, so that descenders may be attached before the squeeze. There is just room in the climb to put on descending gear although this situation is rather more exposed. 10m down is the main hang, rigged from a natural with a bolt deviation 5m below. This gives a free hang to the steeply sloping floor of a chamber. At the top of the chamber lies a loose, tight passage that remains unexplored. The slope is now very eroded by the repeated passage of most of OUCC, and a handline / haul line is useful. At the bottom of the slope is a 3m climb followed by the first of the squeezes in Paradise Rift. This is a vertical squeeze with no footholds which makes the ascent much harder than the descent.

From here a rift leads off which almost immediately becomes tight. The largest route is at ceiling level until a left hand bend when it is possible to descend the rift through a succession of squeezes. A line is useful on this section, for clipping tackle bags to (to guide their fall on descent, or to slide them up on jammers, with pauses for the extensive cursing necessary to aid their passage, on ascent). The climb lands on a small ledge above a 20m pitch, the Flying Rebelles. This was originally rigged from a large block with a traverse line from a bolt on the ledge to the pitchhead. However, the block no longer exists; the pitch is now rigged from bolts with a deviation 10m down.

From Flying Rebelles, two routes on exist: the original main route (The Rift Series), and G.S.P.


Entrance series; G.S.P. route; Rift series; Shaft series; 1st False Floor to Just Awesome; Just Awesome; Streamway to Camp; The London Underground; Downstream from Camp; Postman Pat.

To the left of the shaft, an inlet enters about half-way down the pitch. Penduling into this enters a rift. Two routes on are possible: a strenuous thrutch in the base of the rift, or a pitch up for 20m. Both unite in a rifty traverse level. Just before the end of the rift is a hole in the floor; this is a 40m pitch. The base of the pitch is well decorated with white moonmilk formations, and the short slippery traverse to stable ground needs care to avoid damage to cave or caver. A couple of short crawls lead to Blind Pot series (c8, p6, p6).

The route continues down two climbs and a short crawl to the top of Tumbling Dice pitch (p30, p70). Beware - large rocks fall out of the roof without warning! At the bottom is a boulder chamber; short climbs down lead to a chamber where the water disappears into a tiny rift even more miserable than that at the 1987 limit - this is That Tuesday Afternoon Feeling. It could possibly be hammered; the passage visibly widens after the terminal stal blockage. Other possible ways on here are via a parallel shaft visible (maybe) halfway down Tumbling Dice, or maybe via other routes (if there are any) through the boulder floor.

Rift Series

Entrance series; G.S.P. route; Rift series; Shaft series; 1st False Floor to Just Awesome; Just Awesome; Streamway to Camp; The London Underground; Downstream from Camp; Postman Pat.

Flying Rebelles lands in small chamber with a rift leading off. In wet weather the bottom of the rift is filled with water, the last water seen before the shaft system. The way on through is an easy traverse (line rigged) through a squeeze to a crawl in the rift. At an aven it is possible to redescend the rift. This is Pablo Pot, which although free climbable, is best rigged with a ladder.

Pablo Pot marks the start of Popcorn Rift. The rift is easy to follow, although involving a couple of short climbs down. At the end of the rift is a boulder choke with several ways through. The easiest route is a crawl to the right over a hole in the floor to a small chamber (3m x 3m). From here a piece of white rock slopes down to the head of Gripper Pitch (10m). This is rigged as a short roped climb down to a final Y-hang from bolts.

The pitch lands in a chamber with a 2m climb dividing it into two. From here there is another squeeze, Stimulated Emission Squeeze, followed by a right angled bend into Black Crystal Rift. A 6m climb is met halfway along the rift. The route leads back up through a hole in the rift to a wider section. This ends at a very small chamber with a trench in the floor. The trench may be descended to a traverse which is best lined from above the trench.

The traverse ends at the head of a fine 17m pitch, Graham's Todger Pitch. The original route descended the pitch fully and then climbed up (7m) the rift opposite the landing. The current route uses a Tyrolean tight line connecting the top of the pitch and the top of the climb; abseiling clipped to this line saves much effort and an encounter with the irremovable pool of urine in the bottom of the chamber.

The rift bends to the left to a small chamber (4m x 3m) with a trench in the floor. The trench may be descended for 5m to a wider section of rift. From here there are two possible ways on. A tight, awkward rift, Travellers' Scrabble, leads off in a horizontal direction. It is possible to avoid this by an exposed climb through a hole in the roof and traversing above the tight rift until it becomes wide enough to descend. This reconnects with Travellers' Scrabble just before Ascension Pot, an 8m pitch. This pitch is now avoided by traversing over the top (lined) and climbing down the rift on the other side. The rift here is narrow with a number of levels through which it is possible to pass. The lowest route is the best. Care should be taken as the rift ends at Pessimists' Pot, a 70m drop. High level routes in the rift open out directly above Pessimists' and are not recommended.

From the small chamber at the foot of the climbs, a traverse slightly upward gains the head of Pessimists' Pot. The initial short section bypasses the original belay ledge (The Fun Starts Here) and meets a bolted Y-hang off one wall 10m down.

Shaft Series

Entrance series; G.S.P. route; Rift series; Shaft series; 1st False Floor to Just Awesome; Just Awesome; Streamway to Camp; The London Underground; Downstream from Camp; Postman Pat.

Pessimists' Pot marks the beginning of an impressive 400m shaft system. The main hang is a fine 70m drop with a natural rebelay 10m above the floor. This shaft is particularly impressive and is the longest freehang in the cave. Large pinnacles of rock are visible on a ledge on the opposite side of the shaft approximately 35m below The Fun Starts Here, and one wall has massive calcite crystals, round which detackling ropes can snag quite firmly. The pitch lands in a boulder strewn ledge, Supper Time, which has a supply of clean water entering from the inlet above Pessimists' Pot.

A short ascent up the ledge, using a traverse line, leads to the 31m pitch, Sing to the Devil. A short steep slope leads to the pitchhead. Halfway down, the shaft splits into two, the route on being the larger and deeper of the two. Water descends the smaller of the shafts. From here a short traverse round a large hole in the floor leads to a spiky rock bridge from which the next pitch, The Bells, is reached.

The pitch is rigged from two bolts on the wall above the bridge, and rebelayed twice from bolts before the final rebelay from a large rock spike. Two deviations avoid ledges, and land on a large (5m x 3m) wet ledge with a pool. This is a useful carbide fettling spot. From here it is possible to look down to the First False Floor, 140m below.

The following pitch, Armageddon, is rigged from the large spike at the extremity of the ledge and gives a 44m drop, with an almost immediate deviation and a bolt rebelay after 20m, to a ledge (5m x 2m). This shaft is very impressive with the far wall only just visible for most of its length. A small amount of water runs down the walls of the shaft. For most of the descent, the rope hangs several metres from the wall.

The next pitch descends in a series of drops, separated by small ledges. Rebelays are all from bolts. This pitch is awkward to rig as the walls slope outwards at approximately 5 degrees to the vertical. The pitch must be rigged near to the drips as, away from the water, the walls are coated in thick mud. The pitch lands on another wet ledge. The next pitch is rigged from a bolts on the far side of the ledge and a traverse line is needed. From here there is a 22m pitch, rebelayed half way down, to the First False Floor.

First False Floor to Just Awesome

Entrance series; G.S.P. route; Rift series; Shaft series; 1st False Floor to Just Awesome; Just Awesome; Streamway to Camp; The London Underground; Downstream from Camp; Postman Pat.

The First False Floor is a fine chamber divided by a 5m ridge which appears to have been formed by a huge fallen rock. The way on is a climb over the top of the ridge and down to the other side of the chamber. There are a number of possible ways on. A large rift enters from the right. This can be climbed for about 5m ending in a very steeply ascending muddy slope. Below the ridge is a short climb.

Here, a route through a very loose boulder pile leads to a 30m pitch, Great Expectorations. This lands in a rift with a stream running south to north. This rift was later explored, and lands back in the main shaft at Cemetery Gates.

From the bottom of the short climb (more easily rigged as a pitch), a route to the right leads between a few boulders to the head of a 38m pitch, Rosy Crucifixion. The head of the pitch is beneath a very large poised boulder.

The original way on was via a hole in the far corner of the chamber. A 15m muddy pitch, rigged on a ladder lands on a sloping boulder floor. Down the slope the rift becomes too tight, but climbing up the slope the rift opens out at the top of Rosy Crucifixion. This pitch, and the one following, are extremely muddy with many potential rubpoints; careful rigging is needed. Nonetheless, ropes quickly become clogged with mud.

The pitch lands in a small chamber with a stream that disappears down a crack in the floor. This may be the same stream that flows down Great Expectorations. The way on is to traverse along a ledge 5m above the base of the pitch to reach the next pitch, Cemetery Gates. This is rigged from naturals which gives a hang just free of the rock for 20m to a buttress where a swing round leads to the final bolt belay for the 10m drop to the start of Gusamo Grovel.

If the swing round the buttress is ignored, the pitch ends on a small ledge behind rock spikes (the original route). The rock spikes and rifts make the route to the final pitch complicated. However, all routes appear to lead to the same place, a boulder chamber with water entering from a number of inlet rifts. A hole in the floor leads to a 6m pitch landing in a small chamber, That Monday Morning Feeling, with a pool in the bottom. A small waterfall lands in the pool. The only possible way on is to follow the water down a westerly trending body sized tube which closes down after about 3m. A narrow slot in the tube draughts strongly but is far too small to be descended. No other routes were found from this chamber.

The 1988 extension was found at the bottom of Cemetery Gates where the water is left behind and a dry high level followed. A short climb down with the help of a handline attached to a large spike led to a climb up into Gusamo Grovel (the site of the squalid 1988 First Camp).

Following the draught through the sandy crawls and stoops of the Grovel soon produces results in the form of the noise of a very large amount of falling water. Shortly after the stream is heard, a descent down a dry muddy slope (rope useful) leads to a stance, in a narrow passage, for the pitches into Just Awesome.

Just Awesome

Entrance series; G.S.P. route; Rift series; Shaft series; 1st False Floor to Just Awesome; Just Awesome; Streamway to Camp; The London Underground; Downstream from Camp; Postman Pat.

A 17m pitch in a rift is followed by a lined (semi-tension) traverse onto a ledge. A large block forms the initial belay for the next pitch; the bolt for the main hang is just above a large undercut making the changeover airy and somewhat strenuous. This 42m pitch lands on the Big Ledge. A stream enters the chamber on this ledge, descends into a 2m wide passage and falls 50m down to the chamber floor, from a hole about 15m below the level of the Big Ledge.

From here, the full size of the chamber is apparent, if not visible. Thechamber is 40m by 70m and over 120m high, the largest chamber by far at comparable depth in Spain. The Big Ledge is horseshoe shaped, and roughly 100m by 100m.

The stream passage may be followed upstream, after wading across a waist-deep pool, in a tall 2-3m wide rift containing many clean-washed boulders. After about 100m, the way on is blocked by a large boulder over which the stream falls. A possible way on is visible about 8m up. The upstream passage may also be reached from the top of Just Awesome, by following a descending phreatic tube for about 40m to a short ladder climb (can be free-climbed at a pinch!). From here, the route continues in a narrow rift, traversing on jammed boulders (this is high up in the rift reached from the big ledge). A tight section, traversing over a large drop, is followed by wide bridging to jammed boulders, to where the stream is met. After about 10m the way on is blocked by the large boulder over which the stream falls.

About 30m further round the Big Ledge from the main stream is an inlet, with a much smaller stream and passage. This can be followed about 25m upstream before a waterfall blocks progress.

The descent from the Big Ledge uses the rope from the upper section to reach a bolt rebelay; a short drop follows to a small ledge with a further rebelay. 10m of descent against the wall leads to the final bolt. Here, the wall is sharply undercut, leaving the caver struggling in space 5m from the waterfall to accomplish the last changeover. 38m lower, this superb very free-hanging drop lands in the boulder-strewn immensity of the base of Just Awesome.

From here there are two ways on. The original route follows the stream; the 1989 route ascends the cemented boulder pile by the pitch landing to the climb up to the London Underground.

Streamway to Camp

Entrance series; G.S.P. route; Rift series; Shaft series; 1st False Floor to Just Awesome; Just Awesome; Streamway to Camp; The London Underground; Downstream from Camp; Postman Pat.

From the bottom of Just Awesome, moving away from the waterfall leads to a brief scrabble over boulders with a 2m climb down to the stream. The stream at this point is wide (~10m) and shallow, with a gravelly bottom. The streamway passage continues at an imperceptible gradient. On average the streamway is 10m wide with a very variable roof height. The water varies from being ankle deep to being too deep to wade. In several places the stream is blocked by fallen boulders which have to be climbed over or through.

200m downstream from the chamber the 1988 Second Camp was located on a ledge 2m above normal stream level. In the extraordinary floods of 1988, the stream rose 2-3m (the passage is ~8m wide at this point!); the camping party took refuge on ledges on the wall.

After a short wade it is best to traverse above the stream on the left wall (line needed). 100m further along there is a 5m climb down beside a waterfall; this is avoided by rigging as a pitch from high up on the right hand side. This is followed by Fool's pitch, which drops into a large chamber full of massive boulders. The stream continues to a narrow deep section that must be traversed (using a line) in order to reach Mesopotamia.

This is an island that has the stream flowing either side of it and the way on is reached by jumping across the stream which is 2m below (Dan's Bold Step). Another awkward traverse (line needed) comes immediately afterwards. A wide passage then soon closes down and high levels have to be followed by climbing up into a narrow section that opens into a large muddy chamber. A handline climb down rejoins the stream in a narrow passage that has to be traversed to a 1m waterfall.

The stream is best left here, as high levels of huge boulder floored chambers (Mr. Jones) continue for 150m until the stream is met again, just beyond the 1989 camp. An alternative route at the end of Mr. Jones descends to the camp by the inlet waterfall. The route through Mr. Jones is cairned, as it was found to be easy to get lost in the monotonous boulder-scrambling slog through to camp.

It is also possible to follow the water (the Sumpy Streamway) round to just below the campsite, as one very lost party found. This very aqueous route has only been partially surveyed.

The London Underground

Entrance series; G.S.P. route; Rift series; Shaft series; 1st False Floor to Just Awesome; Just Awesome; Streamway to Camp; The London Underground; Downstream from Camp; Postman Pat.

The boulder pile in Just Awesome ascends for 30m to the base of a flowstone waterfall. A 40m bold climb up this (rope in place) reaches the enormous sloping sandy plain of Heathrow. This is an excellent vantage point for the Just Awesome Chamber. Following the well-trodden route on the left side of the passage (further damage to the sand and mud floor must be avoided) leads up to the base of a wide boulder slope.

On the right-hand side of the passage, a steep stal-coated inlet slope contains numerous small pools with an amazing profusion of cave pearls.

At the top of the boulder slope (some formations on the right-hand side), a cairned route leads off down the 1.6km length of the London Undergound. The passage varies in width between 70m and 130m, and is sufficiently straight that lights can be seen 800m away in places. If the cairned route is lost, follow a bearing of 040o. The route ascends and descends steeply in several places.

After 900m, the route bears slightly right, becoming temporarily narrower (about 70m width), and descends for 50m. One then passes a particularly large block, by which is a 20m diameter shaft (Marble Arch). Descent of this (15m) leads to the Picadilly Line, another large boulder-strewn chamber / passage. Heading downslope on the most obvious route leads to a 12m drop to another bouldery large passage. Fortuitously, this is Mr.Jones, just above the inlet to the campsite. Following the Picadilly Line in the opposite direction (from Marble Arch) leads to a steep descent to a platform which overlooks the stream near the 1988 limit.

Continuing along the London Underground, the route ascends another steep bouldery slope, and after the descent on the other side, levels off in a tubular passage before Euston Choke is encoutered. This is a steep strenuous ascent up loosely packed sand and rocks, first up the right-hand side and then crossing over to the left (the descent is easier on the return). A handline is rigged on the topmost 10m, but this last steep section may be avoided by heading to the right, and ducking under some large boulders.

At the base of the handline, on the left hand side, a promising-looking rift leads off, but all routes here end in mud chokes.

Once over the top of Euston Choke, the descent is easy into a tall rifty passage about 20m wide. A short walk leads to the base of Paddington Choke. A rope is rigged up the left-hand side, ascending about 20m (it is possible to ascend to this point by an "interesting'' climb on the right-hand side). At this point, it is possible to penetrate the choke, and various routes have been pushed to no conclusion as yet. The most explored of these is Lost Paul's Rift. Another way on may be to continue the climb up the left-hand wall.

Behind a large block at the base of Paddington Choke lies a hole in the floor, giving the entrance to Zasadska Way. Short, oversuit-ripping squeezes and rifts open out at the top of a series of six short pitches. The last of these lands in the stream at boulder Choke Cuthbert (see below). It bypasses neither Drusilla nor Egbert, as its optimistic explorers hoped.

Downstream from Camp

Entrance series; G.S.P. route; Rift series; Shaft series; 1st False Floor to Just Awesome; Just Awesome; Streamway to Camp; The London Underground; Downstream from Camp; Postman Pat.

Immediately "downstream'' from the campsite, the main stream emerges from the Sumpy Streamway, in a low (2m), wide, stalactitey passage. The way on is to turn right, up slope, and then along a short length of passage to a climb up behind a block, to emerge in a large chamber at the top of a rockpile. A waterfall inlet can be heard on the right. The cairned route leads over to the left, and back down to the stream just before a region "blocked'' by large boulders.

There are many easy routes through here. Some are cairned. It is also easy to go round in circles. Few people have managed to go through this choke the same way twice. The route emerges briefly into open stream passage, which is crosssed (left to right) and then recrossed. A cairn here marks the 1988 limit of exploration. The stream heads to the right, into Choke Cuthbert. The route on is over the choke, to the left, via an ascending rope (15m). At the top, a brief scramble up leads to the first of two 8m ropes down (3m and 10m), rigged from rather dodgy bolts. The first descent may be bypassed by a devious climb.

At the bottom is Floodlands; progress is made between large rocks at stream level. The passage becomes more open at the point marked by the large rock "duck'' (like one of the bits in Tate Gallery in Swildon's Four), where the route continues along the right-hand wall, a few metres above the stream. A climb up over some boulders follows, then the left wall is followed, round the back of a large block. A descent to the stream, with a few more manouvers around boulders, leads to the impressive wide meanders at Primula Point. The stream runs to the right of a wide sandy ledge, in a wide and tall " L '' shaped passage.

Beyond Primula Point, the stream deepens in a tall 10m wide passage, and the easiest route is to traverse along ledges on the left-hand wall. A short rope up (4m), with an irritating take-off at the top, reaches the first of these. An easy walk (line for safety) reaches a broader ledge, and then a series of steps down on small muddy ledges (rope rigged from bolts) to a final awkward 8m drop to stream level, needing a pendule or scrabble downstream to gain a small ledge just above the water. With care, water can be avoided above ankle level for the next 10m in the stream. Here, another small ledge above the stream is at the base of an 8m pitch up to a walking ledge (line for safety).

After 20m, two routes diverge. Up goes to Postman Pat and the bypass over Drusilla (see below). Down, a rope is rigged to pendule across the stream to a two-person sized "scoop'' ledge, from which a traverse/climb round the downstream buttress (rope) gives a climb down to stream level. Here the passage widens slightly, and the shallow stream runs round the left hand side of a boulder pile (the peak of which is a survey station) before vanishing into choke Dreadful Drusilla. On the right, a small unexplored inlet enters. A route exists through this at stream level, but this could only be refound (once) by the original pushing party. It has only been partially surveyed, and is likely to remain so, as a bypass exists via Postman Pat.

Postman Pat

Entrance series; G.S.P. route; Rift series; Shaft series; 1st False Floor to Just Awesome; Just Awesome; Streamway to Camp; The London Underground; Downstream from Camp; Postman Pat.

The ropes up from above the pendule ascend past muddy walls (on both sides) and ledges for 10m until a wider (2m) ledge level is reached. To the right ("downstream''), a last ascent reaches a 3m diameter rocky chamber about 2m high. From the far side of this, a traverse past a window looking down onto the survey point in the stream reaches a similar small sloping chamber. Upslope a narrow exit emerges into a vast, steeply sloping, boulder-filled chamber (Postman Pat).

Routes on were initially explored by dangerous climbs upslope. In several places holes lead down into the boulders; these have not been fully explored. Halfway to the top, on the left, a hole in the floor leads, via a series of short pitches, back to the beginning of Choke Drusilla. Near the top of the chamber, a large arch divides it into two. In the left branch, more dangerous climbs and traverses lead an obscure series that may provide a bypass to Choke Egbert. A rift at the end of this appears to be part of Lost Paul's Rift at Paddington. The right-hand branch ascends past several "promising''-looking holes to a traverse rightwards at the base of a steep wall. At this point the climb was abandoned, though continuation may be fruitful. The roof is visible at this point, but a way on between wall, roof and "floor'' appears to exist. Rocks thrown from here crash down for a long period, presumably landing in the Drusilla Bypass.

The bypass is reached through holes near the base of Postman Pat, by the right-hand wall. A "bold splits'' across a drop emerges into a large tubular boulder floored passage, about 30 - 40m across, and very reminiscent of the London Underground. Side passages here have yet to be thoroughly looked for. The main route through is cairned. A steep descent leads to a 20m pitch over loose rocks on the right-hand wall. The passage continues wide and boulder floored until a wide, flat-walled pitch is met. A 30m descent in two stages lands on a rock pile in the streamway, mid-way between chokes Drusilla and Egbert.

Upstream, a climb down from the rockpile lands in an 8m wide rift, filled by the stream. Easy progress in the stream or close to the walls in deep sections leads to the survey cairn on the downstream side of Choke Drusilla.

Downstream, scrambling over the large rocks that fill the streamway quickly leads to open passage. The stream in the 6m wide, tall, rift is 2-3 feet deep, and the wetting can be delayed, though not totally avoided, by a traverse along a muddy ledge on the left. The stream becomes shallow for about 3m after 20m or so, but then deepens to about 4 - 5 feet just before Choke Egbert. This is a dense and dangerous choke of small boulders. Attempts were made at digging through and climbing over, but no success was achieved before time ran out. A possible route is via a climb up on the right-hand wall at the shallow section before the deep water.

A caver at Choke Egbert is only 10m or so below the level of the camp, and about 700m metres above resurgence level, at an unusually remote and, hopefully, temporary frontier of exploration.