1995 Expedition: Boca del Joon
Picos de Europa, Spain
"F64's dead!"..."F64's still going!"..."C3's better!"..."No it's not!"...and on and on.
The only answer to this debate was to travel to the Picos (a mere thousand miles), set up camp on the slopes of La Verdelluenga ( a week of back breaking gear carries), drop a rope down F64 (remind me to tie the rope to something next time) and take a look at Myxamatosis.
Snag one - the Fierce Ladies of Cannock guarded the way to the bottom, denying passage to all those over a certain height or width. Solution - find a bypass!
So, whilst various unbelievers persisted in rigging C3, Will and John sought a bypass by traversing across They Come At Night. With unerring aim, or so they say, they threw a rope across the pitch. Will then followed the rope to the far side. A window led on into the dark. 'Bargain,' said Will, and so Bargain Basement was named.
A short pitch later and they were confronted by a large pitch, tantalisingly placed beneath an unstable boulder slope. Without further ado our hand picked gardening team went into action. Once the dust had settled most of the boulder slope was sixty metres lower down the cave. Unfortunately, this pitch turned out to be an upward extension of Mostly.
Will and I then set off to brave the Fierce Ladies, storm clouds gathered and a deluge poured down upon the mountains. My first warning was a rumbling sound followed by the sudden transformation of Mostly from a pleasant pitch into a hideous waterfall. On the surface Top Camp had developed a spring directly under James and Will's tent and Base Camp found itself in an extension of Lago Ercina. Will and I carried on towards the Fierce Ladies.
Snag two - where was the way on from the base of Mostly, surely it wasn't that ridiculously small hole in the floor? Guess where all those tonnes of boulders had landed. Solution - wriggle harder.
A short period of snag free caving followed during which the cave was rigged down to Skittle Alley. Olly then attempted to put in a bolt, but since he didn't ask a responsible adult to help him, he only managed to completely fill the inside of the bolt with the chippings as he drilled. The bolt was now firmly wedged on the driver and it was only after operating with a tent peg that the bolt was finally attached to rock (a pebble just outside the kitchen tent in fact).
Survey n. A grubby piece of paper which claims that the way on is really over there.
John gazed at the survey and thought he saw a possible way past the Fierce Ladies, climbing back over them from the top of Old Bores' Hill. Mike wanted to try the Fierce Ladies so we decided to look at the climb as well. The climb went up and up and up a little more and came out part way up Mostly. We'd found the M6, bypassing Cannock altogether. Jubilantly, we zoomed out of the cave to join James and William who were celebrating the first new finds down C3.
Using the M6 bypass Myxamatosis was soon reached...
Snag three - the way on was up a sixty odd degree gravel slope which people were getting very good at slithering down but not very good at walking up. Solution - climb up the wall, most of which stayed in place long enough to get to the next foot hold. Unfortunately, at the top of the slope the only way on was down into a boulder choke and no obvious way on could be found.
So whilst others crawled through the boulders in search of a way on I joined the unbelievers down C3, where my tackle bag accidentally exploded. Although this failed to sabotage the cave the event was greatly exaggerated when word reached Top Camp. Next morning two would be rescuers arrived at Underground Camp and presented me with a bill for rescue charges. As a demonstration of the seriousness of my 'injuries' I promptly left the cave, arriving at the surface somewhat ahead of the rescue team with the unpaid bill safely in my pocket.
Expedition was now drawing to a close and Bill, Chris, Will and I attacked the boulder choke with crowbars and hammers, but to no avail. Several ridiculous climbs turned out to be just that. In the end all the leads were exhausted and F64 was pronounced dead. All that remained was to dye trace the cave and derig. Half a kilo of fluorescein dye was dissolved in the trickle of water at the bottom of Myxamatosis and then the gooey remnants were sealed inside two bin liners in a tackle bag. Despite these precautions the remnants slowly seeped out of the tackle bag, leaving a bright green trail in the stream and all over us. This rendered us all so contaminated that we couldn't collect any of the dye detectors, especially the ones in the Cares gorge which where only accessible by swimming in the melt water fed river.