Oxford University Cave Club

2006 Expedition: Pozo Chicago

Picos de Europa, Spain

Here were news, opinions, debate. Last updated 20/8/2006


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Chris Sinadinos

Dear All, Just to say that Expo '06 arrived safely back in Oxford this afternoon. Thanks to those who came along to help out. Three cheers also to everyone involved in another enjoyable and successful OUCC Spanish expedition! I'm leaving Oxford now and am switching to gmail, so my new email address will be as below. Do try to stay in touch!


Cheers and adios, Chris.


Chris Sinadinos


Just to let everybody know that Chica is being derigged and that camp is being removed by Simon, Tom and myself at the moment. We are also investigating a cave originally discovered by Gavin in the Cabeza Verde - Cabeza Llambria region of Area 4. Not too deep as yet but will let you know what happens.

We return to the UK on 17th August, ferry at 10am. We will be at the hut unpacking from 4pm into the evening so come along and help out a bit if you can. Hopefully see some of you then.

Thanks to everybody who has helped with the expo... has been great out here.


Gavin Lowe

I typed the survey data in last night. Here are some relevant statistics.

Total length of survey shots = 967.95m Total plan length of survey shots = 350.52m Vertical range = 521.90m

(These figures should be considered unofficial until I've compared them with the figures in the log book, but I think they're right.)

Chicago will almost certainly join with Cabeza Muxa: the horizontal displacement is about 50m, and Chicago is heading in that direction. Chicago will be between about 820m and 875m deep at the connection point, depending upon precisely where it joins (these figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt because of the inaccuracies in our and the SIE's surveys). One interesting prospect is the possibility of getting into a high level in Muxa, to bypass the sump.

When we were in the field, we were using Al's map, which has the relative positions of the two caves wrong, so we were speculating that Chicago might feed the Lower Streamway in Julagua; I now think that's very unlikely.


Chris Sinadinos

Chicago to -600m - Call For Help

Chicago is continuing to confound pre-expo expectations [not mine! - Ed] and continues to drop vertically at an exhilarating rate. The two last pushing trips have uncovered 200m further depth in quickly successive pitches. These 50/60m shafts are very large in size and numerous routes down are possible. They include an undescended shaft discovered by Gavin and Gareth, estimated by the former at 80m.

Gavin has also pointed out that current man power is insufficient to push this cave any further. Densham and Dave are leaving today and Gareth has accumulating severe knee problems that may prevent him from further deep caving. It has thus been unanimously agreed that derigging will commence between Gavin, Mike and myself (Tom and Simon to arrive to help with derig) on WEDNESDAY this week unless we hear from experienced cavers before this that they are able to come out to extend pushing. News about those that have remained ambiguous (Rich S, Elisa, Andy) about possible derigging help would also help us make a decision.

Cheers and fingers crossed that this amazing experience doesn't have to end prematurely,


Chris Densham

Chicago is going well with depth to around -300m and the going getting better (yes it has been surveyed but data not fully joined up with last years survey yet hence some uncertainty). The last 2 trips in gained approx 50 m each with easy pleasant pitches in clean washed passage with some nice crystals on walls. The passage is classic pitch-ramp Picos style, so depth is gained somewhat inefficiently but that has improved with bigger passage, generally 3, 4 m wide and big pitches. We are only 5 right now - Pete Devlin and Jill have gone, and myself and Mike have arrived. It is excellent caving, heading roughly NNE so could do anything, and could easily take more people out here to push the cave!

Chris Sinadinos

Just a quick word to say that Chicago is still going past last years exploration limit. We have dropped a further 3 pitches, one of 30m depth, but these are interspersed with several Picos-style ramps and the depth gain so far is thus modest. We are yet to find way down through the large rift system in this cave. The character of the cave has changed, however, with cleaner rock (reminiscent of mornflake creek in Tormenta) and a little more water. Exploration goes on!

Gareth Phillips

Here is an update to Chris S' last email. Thus far there have been three trips to rig Chicago. The first, involving Jill, Chris and Dave rigged as far as the top of disposable belays. The second (Chris and Gavin) rigged down disposable belays, but further progress was delayed by route finding problems. Yesterday Dave, Jill and Pete D spent some time rerigging the higher parts of the cave, while today Gavin and Chris have set off to rig to the limit of exploration.

Paul Mackrill
(Independent recce to Cares Gorge)

For those interested we did enter the lower part of the valley Chris mentions. We forged a route up from the Culiembro to Oston path and it is partly "cairned". I would be able to provide a description if this helps. However, the logical way in from Ario is to go over Cabeza Llambria and down to the valley from there. We looked at the lower part, below 1000m, and I have reported our finds. Above this altitude the valley is steeper. There is a lot of short scrubby hazel tree growth which, mixed with hidden brambles, makes progress a real treat. Don't be put off, the reward is greater than the pain.

Chris Rogers


There is a slot with a reasonable draught, popcorn and a visible enlargement (and a bone) in 28/4 which due to various faffs was never really hammered to satisfaction in 2001. The entrance to 28/4 is a sizeable 40 m shaft in two pitches, the slot is well placed to bypass a constriction at the bottom of the next (~30 m pitch) to endless depth and glory.

With some willpower, a good hammer and dieting it may be passable... this is in the bowls near the top of Cabeza Llambria so a really prime position, sitting directly over the hypothesised confluence of Cabeza Muxa, 2/7, Xitu... near some other draughting holes... really worth a try.

Otherwise, no one (probably) has ever looked in the valley just to the North of Cabeza Llambria - between La Texa and the gorge. Probably needs a rope to access from above or a treck via Oston to access from below but looks promising.


Paul Mackrill

(Independent recce to Cares Gorge)

We are back from our short recce of the area above the rising of Culiembro. We left last Saturday [1st July] before you set off.

We managed to visit the great hole in the cliff face. It was reached by Richard Gregson and Graham Naylor from above. It is indeed a great big phreatic tube some 10m diameter, however, after 50m it was blocked by stal fill.

Meanwhile Ursula and I made an abseil at a site further down the hill to another gaping hole we'd seen whilst working out how to get to the first cave. This was a 3/4m wide by 10m high entry, however it too closed down after 50 with stal blockage!

Finally Graham, Benoit Joly and I revisited the ridge above the first cave and descended a hole we had located. This went to -20/25m and... blocked with calcite.

A final [tourist] trip was into Culiembro cave. After a few false starts we got to the sump. [the way to the sump is up a stal slope then brief crawl BEFORE the point the passage turns left to a huge gallery] On reaching the sump we could here the river [?!] and, as the dive cord was hanging in the air, I guessed the sump was low. I waded the sump [up to the top of my chest] and came out the other side! So I managed to visit Culiembro 2. This consists of huge phreatic passages which rises, falls [traverse ropes] and then meets the river [climb down rift]. The river has cut a vadose slot in the base of the upper phreatic tubes and is rather immature and narrow in character. There was about 0.5m3/s, at a guess. I went to a point where the riverway narrowed to a gallery that required traversing above the water. I had to return to the others.

My conclusion from our visit, and it is only my opinion, is that the upper ancient galleries are likely to be full of calcite fill. We witnessed this effect in Culiembro cave as well as the caves we found. There seem to be three possibilities. 1 - to follow the river itself upstream in Culiembro. 2 - Look for active vertical [active] caves between the ends of Xitu, Jultayu and Culiembro caves on the eastern flanks of Cabeza Llambria. 3 - find a large drill and a box of dynamite and blow out the stal fill... !!!

I hope you have a good expedition. If people have time the eastern flanks of Cabeza Llambria might give a good area to prospect and a visit to Culiembro might allow a few to see Culiembro 2.


Chris Sinadinos

Just a note to stay that expo safely arrived at Los Lagos Tuesday night and that camp is currently being established. We climbed the hill to find the red circle cave a little trashed by flood but things seem to be under control now. We're using a snow melting system for water due to changes at the refugio that you may know about from last year. We're hoping to be in a position to start rigging Chicago on Friday, and to start pushing the limit of exploration by late next week. Gavin and Pete should be joining us today, making up an early team of 6. Any new members are welcome but please, please tell us about your arrival in advance so that we can arrange things and maybe meet you at Cangas (this means times as well as dates). Cheers and speak soon,