OUCC Proceedings 6 (1974)

The Expedition

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Pre-departure organisation went very smoothly, apart from a last minute hitch over vehicle insurance. Three Land Rovers and a trailer left Southampton on July 21st, with high hopes of a pleasant journey through France and Spain in these traditionally reliable vehicles. The trailer broke down irrevocably within 50 kilometres of Le Havre. One land Rover suffered a fractured fuel pipe, inoperable clutch, and seized generator. later, in separate incidents, the other two came to blows with a rock in El Mazuco; one of them also hit a milk lorry on the road to Puron.

The budgeted 'contingency allowance' stood up well though heavy demands were inflicted upon it. But an extra 3 a head was needed to finance the acquisition of a replacement trailer, an extremely sturdy ex. U.S. Army design, found in La Rochelle which cost an exorbitant 60 (after considerable haggling). The trailer mishap led, directly to the doubling of the outward leg for ore vehicle, as a result of which the whole party was not assembled in El Mazuco until July 9th.

Once established, the pattern of work was soon settled. Generally, there were two caving parties and a beach contingent each day. Later there were more trips further afield, to Puron or La Borbolla, usually leaving a group of surveyors to deal with the extensions to La Boriza.

The campsite was in the same field which had been used by the 1970 expedition, which seemed to have suffered no lasting ill effects, and still sported the same set of tenacious moles. The village headman was again loath to accept the ridiculously low 1500 pesetas that he regarded as the hire charge. Cooking was the main activity, though the primuses were often reluctant. Sorties to bars in Barro, Posada, Cortines and Llanes were not infrequent. Many enjoyable evenings were spent in the bar at El Mazuco, where the villagers were as kind and informative as before. Charging facilities were arranged at the bar at Cortines, mains electricity having reached the top of the valley only in the form of unconnected pylons.

Although we had to pay a tense visit to Oviedo and to the local Guardia, in order to remove suspicion arising out of some unspecified misdemeanour by an English expedition the previous year, we did receive a number of more pleasant visits. A group from RAF Lyneham were shown the delights of the Pozo de Fresno and Callau Roviera. Dick Hazelwood, a member of previous expeditions, appeared with some friends from Surrey University; he almost left with one less - he who lost the sump line in La Boriza and was dragged to the surface an amazingly long time later, on the same side from which he had set out. Geoff Mathews of Nottingham University C.C. paid us a visit; so also did the Spanish Girl Guides.

One Land Rover, carrying those with jobs to go back to, left on July 22nd and reached England without incident. The rest of us followed on August 2nd and arrived back in Oxford on the 11th, without airy untoward incident. The expedition finances staggered overdrawn into the Michaelmas term, but soon sorted themselves out.

In spite of the traumatic outer journey, the general opinion was that the expedition had been worthwhile, though not as spectacularly successful in its results as predeparture discussion had anticipated. It certainly produced a considerable amount of information about the caves of this particular area. It also produced one of the most expensive club trailers in the country, and the definite information that there is no accessible system behind Calduenin.

The expedition gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the Oxford University Clubs Committee, The A.C. Irvine Fund, and those firms who contributed to the stores of the Oxford University Exploration Club.