Oxford University Cave Club

2008 Expedition: Canal de Montico

Picos de Europa, Spain

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Hilary Greaves


Exploration in Texa has now finished for the year, and another day should finish off the derig.

The "Upper Streamway" is indeed the same streamway as the "Lower Streamway" - Paul and the two Russians pushed downstream in the "Upper streamway" and eventually popped out at the top of the waterfall that was the upstream limit of the Lower. Meanwhile, diving cavers pushed beyond the upstream sump in the "Upper streamway" - a total of about 250m new passage surveyed beyond the sump, ending at an 8-10m climb that needs bolting. Phil's climb from the base of Knife Pitch has also "gone" - it leads into the continuation of the 5m diameter phreatic passage that we have been following from camp down to Knife Pitch. We stopped pushing here as it is extremely well decorated and we wanted to leave it alone pending recruitment of a competent photographer...

After consultation with the OUCC contingent out in the field, we decided to leave the cave rigged, for next year's OUCC expedition to push the dry leads, in cooperation with diving teams pushing the more aqueous ones.

All in all, an extremely productive expedition, with upwards of 500m of new passage found and surveyed, two sumps passed and three great leads left for next year. All that remains is a few days of kit sorting and cleaning, a good feed and the destruction of large quantities of beer.

Speaking of which, I must be off... Yours from the not so terminal sumps, Hil.


Dave Legg

Hilary's expedition to Asopladeru la Texa is going well and has found new passage, although probably slightly crowded.
has been finished with new route on to Muxa and Chicago team have de-rigged the cave.
We now are exploring some shallower caves in the area (expected to be about 100m deep), in particular 27/9 (probably connects to 2/7) and 28/4 which could lead to a brand new deep cave - capping gear should allow easier access past the tight bits in these caves.

Hilary Greaves

Not sure what you've already heard from John & Rob, so there may be some duplication here but...
  1. (Downstream) sump in [Texa] lower streamway: was dived (TS) to 42m depth, 90m long as you know, and looked as though it was still going down. We went back the next day to check for any shallower routes through, but none were found. This is a job for a drysuit, rebreather, trimix, etc, so we are leaving it alone for this year.
  2. TS and HG then went to look at the upper streamway. TS dived downstream. First dive revealed complex passage, making route-finding nontrivial. TS surfaced somewhere that had vocal connection to HG waiting at entry point, but unsure where he surfaced, and sump continued. Went back again the following day. TS dived through and surfaced somewhere else, dive 70m long and less than 10m deep, then climbed back up through fossil phreas and found himself above a streamway. TS dropped a big rock down to mark his location for later reference, creating large crash about 20m upstream from HG waiting at entry point! Rope was hastily retrieved from camp (HG) and hauled up on leftover dive line, pitch up ("Diver's Dilemma") rigged and sump bypass joyfully christened. TS and HG then caved through bypass and pushed downstream for 150m, dropping an 8m pitch ("Good Things Come") and leaving wide open streamway at another 10m pitch (unnamed), having run out of rope. Following camp (not sure who exactly) has pushed this lead a bit further; radio comms this morning reported to Ario (I think) that the 10m pitch leads immediately to another pitch and a more complex area, total 50m depth from the head of the 10m pitch.

    Vladimir Solomentsev, Svetlana Klimenko and Paul Windle have gone down to underground camp today, and will probably continue exploration of this streamway. Survey shows that head of 10m pitch is 36m horizontally and 105m vertically from the upstream limit in the Lower Streamway. We think that these "two" streamways are (unfortunately) likely to be the same streamway, despite negative dye trace in 2005 (which may have been due to detectors not left in place for long enough, given that at least one longish wideish sump is in the way).
  3. Phil Rowsell (PR) and others have been bolting the aven at the bottom of Knife Pitch (near the lower streamway). They have got into some very pretty phreas at the top, which continues. I have less to say about this only because I haven't been on any of the trips there myself; it could be one of our most significant leads, as it is well placed to bypass the downstream sump in the Lower Streamway....
  4. TS dived upstream in Upper Streamway yesterday. Sump is 40m long, easy and shallow, leading to dry continuation. TS explored 150m of "dry" passage upstream beyond the sump, to boltable cascades. PR and Simon Cornhill (SC) will dive through tomorrow to survey this 150m and bolt cascades. Next diving camp is Chris Jewell (CJ) and HG on 20th/21st; our task will be to explore further beyond the cascades, providing previous team do not kill the lead!

That's about all for now... in case it is not obvious, 3 line summary is that expedition is going very well, too many leads and not enough time/underground camp space to push them all and fun I think been/being had by all!


PS, The (unexpectedly successful) radio comms have been a godsend, the ability of overlapping camps able to resupply one another and discuss plans drastically increasing efficiency and flexibility. Graham Naylor rocks! :) (Incidentally comms seem consistently to be *much* better in the mornings than evenings, does anyone know why this would be?)


John Pybus

Sun setting on cloud on Xitu col. Moon rising over purple central.

Chicago has been looked at a couple of times now; no go, so has been derigged back to -200m.

Texa: Tony passed the upper sump and then found a by pass. Open, but wet, streamway beyond. 110m and 2 pitches to top of 3rd pitch so far.


Rob Garrett

Texa: A quick update (also via Nicola radio) - Upper streamway downstream sump has been passed after 70m dive. A dry bypass was promptly discovered. The streamway is similar in size to the lower streamway so we're hoping that the non-positive dye trace (from the upper to lower streamway) done in 2005 was accurate in which case we have going "dry" cave. Two wet pitches have been dropped in very wet, windy waterfall passage and about 100m horizontal to head of a 10m pitch. Next team went down to camp this morning.

Chicago kind of fizzled out and has now been derigged back to the Isle of Dogs (about -200m). The plan now is to go shaftbashing in Area E.


John Pybus

Texa: (brief report via Nicola radio.) Tony Seddon got to -42m in the lower sump without getting through. He is going to dive the sump in the upper streamway today.



Texa: 1st underground camp is on its way out today. Cave is rigged to sump and dive kit has been portered in. Another camp follows today, aiming to put Tony Seddon into the lower sump.

Chicago: Not so good. Gavin and Paul went to bottom and pushed final pitch from last year; no way on was found. It may be looked at again today before derigging.

Doing shaft-bashing.


John Pybus

Texa: have rigged to camp. 1st team in. Radio contact between Ario and underground camp yesterday evening - impressive system Nicola performance. More gone in today, may have first look using wetsuit/mask at lower sump.

Chicago: rigged in to last year's camp. A team is going to rig lower and check for better camp spot.