Oxford University Cave Club

1995 Expedition: Boca del Joon

Picos de Europa, Spain

1995 Expedition Report Contents

Other Expedition reports

OUCC Home Page

C3 Sima de la Verdelluenga



1994: Explored to No More Heroes; Surveyed to The Klingon.

1995: Explored and surveyed to Underground Overdrive, (Upstream continues unexplored).


The entrance lies on the NE flank of Verdelluenga at an altitude of 1952m above sea level. It is located just over a subsidiary ridge on the Ario side of La Rena, roughly halfway between Boca del Joon and the summit. Bearings: Cabeza Llambria 067.5'; Cuvicente 094.5'; El Regallon 355.5'. The original 1982 description and survey of the cave down to the Vacuum Cleaner can be found in OUCC Proceedings 11. The tagged entrance is a shaft with a 9 second rattle, 2m long by 0.5m wide.

Flood warning

In flood, the water levels rise very quickly to attain a huge increase in water within about half an hour. (For a very rough comparison, the volume changes from Swildon's level in summer to Swildon's in flood.) The flood pulse, however, returns close to normal within about 4 hours. Particularly prone pitches are the entrance P8, Snab in the Dark, She Rises, Smoke Me a Kipper and the Cascade pitch in Big Vamos. It is not known how Underground Overdrive reacts.

Entrance series

The 67m entrance pitch, Incoming, follows a winding rift down to a rocky floor. [ On the left, at ground level, an inwardly draughting crawl can be followed to an unascended climb.] The way on is along a 4m high rift, through a squeeze, The Manx Manoeuvre, to a wet 8m drop. Following the rift down an awkward climb leads to the top of a wide 33m shaft, Death Wish. At the bottom a sizeable chamber is seen on the left. Ducking under a large rock gains an 8m climb that is best laddered down to the boulder floor of the chamber. [ The water sinks here and a high aven is situated above.]

The Vacuum Cleaner to Don't Drive

On the far side of this chamber a strongly draughting crawl, The Vacuum Cleaner, breaks out after 15m into a large passage. [Continuing ahead, a small pretty aven coated with moonmilk can be seen on the left. Carrying on along a short crawl leads to two short pitches which drop back in at the base of Reopen Investigations. A short climb to the right of the pitch head leads into a chamber. Two unexplored, high level passages lead off from the top of the chamber.] To the right, a 14m pitch, Reopen Investigations, drops into a beautiful wide meander, Pina Columnada. This is followed to a chamber from which a short vadose trench comes out at the head of Anethical, a 27m pitch. The walls of this pitch are coated in a particularly fine coating of moonmilk. [At the base of the pitch a small streamway comes in from up on the left.] This streamway soon disappears down a 70m shaft on the right, Good Night Vienna, at the bottom of which a too tight rift is found. The shaft is bypassed by a grand traverse, requiring protection, along the left hand wall. A bold step is crossed at the end of the traverse. [ Descending here again provides access to the small streamway below.]

Following the roomy passage on the far side of the traverse, up a 2m climb, 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 30m of rift to a ledge. [ On the left the narrow stream can again 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 poised boulders. Around the corner to the left a 20m shaft, Don't Drive, is then descended to the start of another rift.

65p Streamway to Smoke me a Kipper

After going around several corners in this rift a short climb down reaches the base of a little chamber with water dripping 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. Climbing up 2m and then 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 second of these carries the stream, which, while 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.

Night Games to start of Big Vamos

At the bottom of Smoke Me a Kipper, the water disappears into the choked floor of a spacious chamber. [A small rift 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 aven above, but it soon disappears into an impassable rift, 13m below.] Scrambling over a large boulder on the right leads to a 15m pitch. [ Another large aven can be seen above.]

[ At the base of the pitch, a loose 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 head of Tony's Pitch (p14). At the bottom, a passage sloping down to the right leads to a T-junction. [ To the right connects back with the bottom of Night Games.] To the left from the T-junction, an initially narrow rift and a squeeze quickly opens out into a meandering stream passage, Big Vamos.

Big Vamos to Terminator 3

Big Vamos is an 80m long stream passage, with erratic meanders at different levels, breaking out into a few small chambers. It is best negotiated several metres above the water. Eventually an 8m Cascade pitch is reached, the head of which is several metres above the stream. 30m further on is the Entertainer, a spacious 80m shaft. As the bottom of the Entertainer is choked, the Sting, a 12m climb up to the top of the streamway, situated halfway between the Cascade and the shaft, should be ascended to a wide 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 gained 56m below. Scrambling up to the left leads to a huge boulder choke, Terminator 3. [ Several avens come in from above and a 10m pitch to the right immediately chokes off. A small animal bone was discovered here and reception of BBC radio 4, BBC world service and several MW channels is very clear.]

The Meat Cleaver and The Defenestrator

An elusive descent on the left hand wall of Terminator 3 behind a huge boulder marked with a carbide arrow, leads after 5m to another small slot on the left hand wall. A loose floor then provides access to a 10m pitch. CARE must be taken here as the floor is fairly unstable. The pitch leads beneath the Meat Cleaver, an intimidating tonne boulder with the rest of the floor balanced on it. [ The Meat Cleaver is currently "secured" by two non-tensioned steel wires attached to bolts and 3 ropes.]

A short traverse along the right hand wall gains a pitch head, The Defenestrator. [ On the right a considerable quantity of small helictites can be seen. Also a partial decent down and then up a slope to the right leads to a large, unexplored chamber/passage.] The Defenestrator is a funnel shaped pitch which first shelves down for 30m to the left on a loose sandy floor. A straight 85m abseil then reaches the stream below.

Gotta Have Faith

The streamway at the bottom of the Defenestrator immediately becomes impenetrable but a ledge 10m up from the bottom provides access to a slightly draughting, northwards heading rift, Gotta Have Faith. A climb down of 4m in large steps and then a step up a wedged block leads to a traverse. This is followed at the same horizontal level for about 15m. At the far side, a short 2m grovel is passed after which it is necessary to climb up several metres. At the top the rift is followed down into a small chamber lined with mud-covered boulders. After crossing this chamber, continuing northwards, a sandy tube at floor level slopes down to the top of a small climb. Near the base of this climb a section of meandering rift soon leads to a well-hammered, 2m long squeeze, The Crunchy Frog. The way on continues at floor level until a climb up on the left through loose boulders gains a widening of the rift. From here, a 7m ascent up a large buttress reaches a chamber with a sandy floor. A climb down over a 30m drop (needing protection) then leads to a substantial ledge on the right at -5m. [ The 30m drop is the Klingon which can be descended to a streamway. Continuing down this small stream soon reaches a sump pool (presumed to be the other side of Well, Jim). To the right from the ledge, a stream enters from a high aven and joins the streamway at the base of the Klingon.] On the far side of the ledge, the relentless rift continues (again northwards). After several metres an awkward thrutch up reaches an opening out of the cave. [ A dry inlet enters on the right which can be followed into the draughting high level Hope and Glory series - unsurveyed, climbs and chambers high up in the rift that could provide an easy bypass to the current route. ] From the opening out of the cave, protection is needed to cross two bold steps. [ To the left, a large unexplored fault leads off needing a 15m rope to reach the floor.] A final section of narrow rift provides a last tacklebag destroying opportunity before a climb down of several metres reaches a 20m high chamber, No More Heroes.

No More Heroes to Big Kahuna Burger

No More Heroes was the site of the 1995 underground camp. [ On the right a high dripping aven lands in a pool, the water sinking into the floor. Ahead the continuing rift N N N 19 is initially wide and meandering before closing down completely after about 60m. It is remarkably still possible to receive LW radio here at a depth of -450m.] On the left hand wall of No More Heroes, a pitch leads down under a rocky boulder to a blind 25m pot. However, a short traverse to a window on the left emerges in another section of rift, The Next Degeneration [ which remains unexplored to the south.] Continuing along this rift, descending at the first right hand corner and then whenever it is easy to do so, several hammered sections and an easily missed drop down should be passed. Eventually a phreatic chute slopes down into a small sump exit pool, Well, Jim. [ The other side of the Klingon sump.] The way on is now with the water and the draught through two sections of keyhole shaped rift. [ Huge 30cm octahedron shaped crystals can be admired on the left.] The rock then changes from hard, black limestone to a softer lighter rock. Beyond several broad meanders it is necessary to pass carefully beneath dubious boulders before reaching the head of You Know I Don't Think Walter's Coming (p45). This spacious shaft is best descended by scrambling up into a sizeable chamber on the right (a line of foot prints in the sand slope should be followed to preserve the chamber) for a dry free hang. At the base, the streamway is easily negotiated round several bends until a traverse down (needing protection) leads immediately to Human Time Bomb (p12). This lands in a large chamber with a wide 40cm deep pool. [ To the left, the incinerated remains of parts of Alex and a tacklebag can still be seen.] The stream flows out into a too tight rift but by climbing up at about 45 degrees in this rift a way on can be found. [ An alternative route to Human Time Bomb is to climb up above the pitch and traverse above it, an alternative pitch can then be descended to this point in the rift.] When the rift turns a sharp right, climb down to the left. This leads to a high chamber, Big Kahuna Burger with a fissure running down the middle.

[ Thunderbolt and Lightning, (Very, Very Frightening) ]

[ This series of pitches ends in a sump and is not the main way on. Climbing down the rift in Big Kahuna Burger, the stream is soon joined. Following the water down a few cascades leads to the head of Thunderbolt, an 8m pitch. A further 40m shaft, Lightning, follows, broken into two sections by a large ledge. At the base, the stream is Met. Upstream reaches a low wet duck (2.5cm airspace). Downstream a phreatic arch-shaped passage goes into Very, Very Frightening with no draught and 30cm of airspace.]

Big Kahuna Burger to Shoot To Kill

The way on to the big streamway. From Big Kahuna Burger a traverse up and along the right hand wall continues round a sharp corner to the head of Ponche Rustlers (p34). [ At the bottom an aven enters on the left.] Straight away a 35m pitch, BBC World Service provides a straight descent to a chamber. A traverse across the left hand wall is followed by a short drop onto unenticing boulders, dubbed Three Men in a Boat. An obvious hole on the far side of these is the head of Shoot to Kill (p32).

The Boys Are Back and Underground Overdrive

At the bottom of Shoot to Kill, two inlets come in from high up on the right. This sizeable and airy streamway, the Boys are Back, is followed initially several metres above the water on chert ledges and then at floor level. After about 200m a junction with a large streamway is encountered. C3 is clearly just an inlet into this main drain that has developed along a southwest-northeast fault line.

Upstream from the junction the streamway leads through collapsed passage that is nevertheless easily negotiable. [ After 40m a tortuous side passage, Working for the Yankee Dollar, on the right leads up two cascades to a boulder choke.] Eventually the stream opens out into a huge 6m wide, boulder filled passage. Exploration was stopped by a 7m pitch down, [ though there could exist a bypass down through the boulders.]

Downstream from the junction the clear green streamway enlarges considerably, 6m wide and at least 40m high in places. [ After 95m a tall passage to the left, Whiskey With Your Giro, gains two high avens. Another inlet to the left comes in after a further 90m down Underground Overdrive, opposite a large rock, shaped like the USS Enterprise. This can be followed to a wet crawl and a boulder choke. Climbing up at the start of this inlet leads to a large chamber, A Hard Days Knight, with another two avens dropping in from above.] Eventually, the walls of the streamway open out and the floor becomes sandy. Ahead lies a deep green sump pool, The Special Agent Sea, that has been sailed for 72m on a bearing of 050° . The walls are sheer all the way around and no obvious leads can be seen. [ A constricted outlet on the right, just before lake connects back with the sump.] The draught is lost somewhere between the junction and the lake. Of interest is that this sump, the third found in C3, is about the same level as the first Xitu sump. A high level traverse over the lake could be possible and little time has been spent searching for other ways on.

James Hooper