Oxford University Cave Club

Expedition to the Picos de Europa, Spain, 1994

"La Verdelluenga"


Finding C9 (now known as C3)

On the surface we found another entrance probably to this same cave, very, very close to C8. It's possible that this cave will be a bypass of windows in P50, and maybe we will find a way to heart of massif in this area.


C3 (Sima Verdelluenga)

The entrance lies just over a subsidiary ridge on the Ario side of the NE ridge of La Verdelluenga roughly halfway between Boca del Joon and the summit. Bearings: Cabeza Llambria, 67.5° ; Cuvicente, 94.5° ; El Regallon 355.5° (bearings taken in 1982?). The original description and survey can be found in OUCC proceedings 11.

The 67m entrance pitch, Incoming, follows a winding rift down to a boulder lined floor. On the left, at ground level, an inwardly draughting crawl can be followed to an unascended climb. The way on is along a 5m high rift, through a squeeze, The Manx Manoeuvre, to a 5m drop. Following the rift down an awkward climb leads to the top of a wide 33m shaft, Death Wish. At the bottom a large chamber is seen on the left, needing protection for the 8m climb down to the boulder floor. A second high shaft is situated above.

On the far side of this chamber a strongly draughting crawl, the Vacuum Cleaner, breaks out after 20m into a large passage. Continuing ahead, a small pretty aven coated with moonmilk can be seen. To the right is Reopen Investigations a 14m pitch drops into a large meander, the Piņa Columņada. Following the meander leads to a chamber from which a short piece of rift comes out at the head of Anethical a 27m pitch. The walls of this pitch are covered with a particularly fine coating of moonmilk. At the base of the pitch a small streamway comes in from up on the left. This soon disappears down a 70m shaft on the right, Good Night Vienna, at the bottom of which a tight rift is found. The shaft is bypassed by traversing, using protection, along the left hand wall. A bold step is crossed which again provides access to the small streamway below.

Following the roomy passage in the same direction soon gains a pitch head. After a 5m descent an obvious mouse hole (the Moose Hole) is reached by a 5m traverse. This leads down 20m of rift to a ledge. On the left the narrow streamway can be reached by a further descent. The way on is through a window 5m up on the right hand wall. Immediately, a 15m pitch, Didn't Drink, leads down through large boulders. Around the corner to the left a 20m shaft, Don't Drive, is then descended to the start of another rift.

After going around several corners a short climb down in the rift gains the base of a little chamber with water entering from an aven on the left. Following the water along the 65p Streamway reaches a second small chamber from which the rift gains both height and depth. Continuing at the same horizontal level leads to the head of three classic successive shafts, all of which are wide and free hanging. The first two are Snab in the Dark (P34) and She Rises (P33), joined by a short section of passage. The stream, which is normally a slight trickle, can become very wet after heavy rain. Traversing along the right hand wall provides the best descent of the third, 47m pitch, Smoke Me a Kipper.

At the bottom, the water disappears into the choked floor of a fairly large chamber. A small passage on the right hand wall soon closes down. A bolted 8m climb on the opposite side of the chamber reaches a loose steeply sloping incline that leads 30m up to the left. At the top is Night Games, a large boulder choke. Water can be heard on the left, entering from an inlet above, but it soon disappears into a tight rift, 13m below. Scrambling over a large boulder on the right leads to a 15m pitch. A large aven can be seen above.

At the base of the pitch, a boulder floor dips 20m down to the right to a low wet streamway. This can be bypassed by following the slope up to the left. From here, a short section of rift ends up at the top of a 14m pitch. At the base, a passage to the right leads to a T-junction. To the right connects back with the bottom of Night Games. The left, an initially narrow rift opens out into a meandering stream passage. Eventually a 5m drop is reached and 30m further on is the Entertainer, a spacious 80m shaft.

As the bottom of the Entertainer is choked, a 12m climb up to the top of the streamway, half way between the 5m pitch and the shaft reaches a wider ledge. From here it is possible to traverse, with protection, for 30m along the left hand wall. Continuing down along this wall, a boulder lined slope is reached 56m below. This slope is followed up to the top of a large boulder choke. Several avens come in from above and a small animal bone was discovered here. A 10m pitch to the right soon chokes off. A descent on the left hand wall, behind a huge boulder, leads after 5m to another small slot. A loose floor then provides access to a 10m pitch. EXTREME CARE must be taken here as the floor is very unstable. The pitch leads down beneath the Meat Cleaver a precariously balanced tonne boulder with the rest of the floor balanced on it. Escape would be impossible should it collapse and the way on would possibly be blocked. The Meat Cleaver is currently 'secured' by two tensioned wires, each attached to a bolt.

A short traverse along the right hand wall gains a pitch head the Defenestrator. On the right a large quantity of helictites can be seen. The Defenestrator is a funnel shaped pitch which first shelves down for 30m on a sand floor. A straight 80m descent then reaches the stream below. The streamway immediately becomes impassable but a ledge 15m up from the bottom provides access to a rift. From here it is possible to traverse above the stream, initially at the same horizontal level and then taking the easiest route through the rift, following the slight draught. The sound of the water is quickly lost and several non-draughting holes are passed.

A hammered ground level squeeze is finally reached. Through here a short climb up leads to a constricted horizontal opening in the rift. Continuing in the same direction, a short drop down gains the Klingon a 23m pitch with the stream below. The streamway again closes down. To the right of the Klingon a large unexplored inlet carrying water comes in. Ahead, the draughting rift continues at the same level, heading NNW, 460m below the entrance.

This point marks the end of the surveyed cave. Ahead lies the possible camp site No More Heroes and the continuation of the rift N,N,N,19 (the average age of a caver left behind by Wlodek).

James Hooper