OUCC Proceedings 13 (1991)

Spanish Exploration

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2/7 Rediscovered: 1/4 cave: Skull Cave: Dowsing: Video Filming

2/7 Rediscovered

Dan Mace

In the beginning...

In 1986, a large, experienced team from OUCC bottomed the top camp caves. Exploration of Ridge Cave and F20 had kept the club occupied for three years. By the end of 1986, the two caves had been explored, surveyed, and photographed. This meant that there were no going caves for the '87 expedition to return to.

Hence the winter and spring before the summer of '87 were spent making up stories of the golden "Third Sistema" that we hoped must lie beneath Jultayu. I don't think anyone really believed the stories; according to the '85 expedition log book, the slopes of Jultayu had been very well scoured and the possibility of finding a major cave there seemed remote. However, I recounted the story of the Third Sistema so many times that I even managed to believe it myself. As a back up to this we applied for permission to reconnoitre Peņa Urbina, an area due south of Oviedo. We were denied permission because Spanish cavers were going to visit the area that year. Had we applied a year earlier we would have been granted permission and might not have made the discoveries that we did.

After a year of persuading people to go to Spain again, eleven of us set off for an expedition of shaft bashing. Typically, when we left the U.K. was in the grip of a heatwave and a couple of days later we were driving up the road from Covadonga in a steady drizzle and near zero visibility. The first night at Los Lagos was miserable. The large gas cylinders ran out of gas almost immediately and an unappetizing meal was cooked on bleuets. The kitchen tent leaked like a sieve. We were then accosted by the inevitable ICONA guard and were unable to persuade him to cancel the annual trip to Oviedo to get a camping permit. This meant another day in the yellow van for myself and Jonathan.

The next morning was just as miserable. Jonathan and I spent the whole day driving around the one way system of Oviedo whilst the remaining nine people carried up seventeen loads from base to Ario camp. Jonathan and I arrived back from Oviedo as the sun was setting and set off for Ario to bring the total number of loads to nineteen. It rained for most of the walk up. We then got hopelessly lost at the top of Sod 4 (neither of us had been there before) and spent nearly two hours attempting to find the Refugio. After yellow dot hopping in the mist and dark we finally reached the Refugio doors and headed down to the camp. It was great to be back in the high Picos.

The weather then took a turn for the better. This didn't exactly help with the shaft bashing. The rocks roasted and everyone fried in the heat. The days seemed to run to a formula. Someone would find a cave of great promise, be it a higher entrance to Xitu, an insignificant crawl on the slopes of Jultayu or a high entrance near the summit of Cuvicente. The discoverers would return to camp jubilant, and write enthusiastic descriptions in the log book. Inevitably the second team down would find that the cave ended at the next corner, or that to pass the "boulder choke that might be diggable" would involve shifting car sized boulders that supported other car sized boulders. People became desperate. Graham used a length of tape to suspend a boulder above the hole he had removed it from. Needless to say the cave did not warrant the effort.

One cave that appeared promising was 9/7. The entrance was a narrow cleft on the slopes of Cuvicente. Stones dropped down it crashed for several seconds _ it seemed to be bottomless. Martin May rigged down to the bottom of the entrance shaft, a fine 100m drop. At the foot of the shaft, beyond a boulder slope, he saw a dark rift leading off tantalisingly into the mountain. Unfortunately the rift proved to be a dark stain down one side of the shaft. The bottom of the shaft was a rocky floor, with no potential for digging. This did not prevent a further two pushing trips down the cave that tried to climb up to a passage that didn't exist.

Shaft-bashing continued. 4/7 was typical. Two descriptions were available from previous log books. Steve Roberts ('85 log book) described the cave as "a promising cave with potential dig". However Richard Gregson in '87 was more pessimistic and called it a "grotty hole full of dead sheep and slime". The latter description was by far the most accurate.

Just as I was expecting morale on the expedition to decline the weather turned again. A couple of Picos thunder storms turned to several days of prolonged drizzle. My diary says it all:- "It is still raining. Nine of us crouch in the mud that is now the floor of the Ario tent. The rain drums continuously on the canvas of the tent and drips down the poles. It is all too much for Jonathan and he heads back to base, although it won't be any better there. Muriel appears looking like a drowned rat. We thrust a soggy loaf in her direction and she accepts it gratefully. Paul staggers in. Eleven of us are now crammed into the small tent. I am crushed between a hot stove and a cold Lynn and am sitting on a pile of damp rope. The water boils again and we all have yet another choc-a-mint".

In spite of the rain, this was the period of most intense shaft-bashing. We also did some surveying. 23/5 was a horizontal cave that was reported to be 100m long. We surveyed it to complement our 100m vertical cave but unfortunately it turned out to be only 40m long. It did mean however that we had some surveyed cave to show at the B.C.R.A. conference. Whilst 23/5 was being surveyed, a few people were making clandestine trips into area Four, beyond the ridge behind Ario, away from 2/7. During the height of the rain 1/4 was discovered. Finally we had a proper cave to push, a cave where one could truly escape from daylight and which it was essential to get changed into caving gear to descend. It was both horizontal and vertical. It was also bloody frustrating to explore. In typical Picos style there was a ramp leading upwards at the bottom of the pitch, to almost the height one had just descended from. The ramps and pitches became increasingly tortuous, the most notorious being named Oh No Not Again as the cave was reminiscent of F20. 1/4 was initially pushed continuously with overnight trips following day trips. Enthusiasm tailed off as 1/4 became ever tighter. People began to look elsewhere.

La Jayada was entered, extensions past the snow plug were explored for the first time and the slopes of Jultayu were scoured yet again. A few people had been digging in a cave called 2/7. This had been discovered in 1981, bottomed and crossed out. The log book description mentioned "a boulder choke for suicidal midgets." I had included it in the shaft bashing kit for completeness and was surprised when Graham and Neil had descended it. They had however found a strongly draughting slot and had started to dig in the boulders below it. Unfortunately the rain had washed most of the soil back into the dig but this encouraged a further two bashing trips to hammer at the slot itself.

Finally Lynn, Jonathan and I, fed up with 1/4, decided to have a look. To be honest we fancied a day off. For some reason we were under the assumption that the slot was just inside the entrance and we envisaged a day spent lying in the sun, popping into the cave for a bit of rock bashing and generally enjoying the scenery. Hence we were a bit put off by the fact that the slot was two pitches down. We were more surprised to find that we could wriggle through it after about an hour of hammering. Below the slot the trip became more serious, and the cave was fantastic. We pushed on through a tortuous rift. Whilst I attempted to place bolts at the head of a pitch in a tight part of the rift, Jonathan free climbed through the rift to the head of the Flying Rébellés pitch. We named the rift Paradise as we did not want to put people off the cave by naming it with yet more grisly reminders of F20. We rigged Flying Rébellés with the last of the tackle and pushed onto Gripper Pitch. Now the expedition had two going caves, or at least that is what we thought.

Whilst we were being favoured by the gods of speleogenesis, Graham and JT were having a tougher time. They were trying to force the impossibly tight rifts at the bottom of 1/4. In the end they gave up. We returned to camp to find that 1/4 had been bottomed. Yet again we were left with one going cave. A surveying and detackling team were despatched down 1/4 and the bottom of the cave was re-examined. One possible route was found although forcing this would involve smashing a curtain to pass into a passage that looked as if it closed down almost immediately beyond.

2/7 was pushed with a vengeance and yielded more rifts and a succession of short pitches. Hence the story that a deep pot, "at least 40m", had been reached was greeted with some disbelief. Jonathan had descended it on a 40m rope and had failed to reach the bottom. Until this point the cave had been narrow and descended in small unimpressive pots. 40m was exceptional. In fact the cave had broken into a shaft system. Pessimists' Pot was found to be 70m deep.

Pessimists' was just the start of a 400m deep shaft system. Pushing trips left Ario armed with as much rope as they could carry. This they rigged on down the shafts until they ran out of rope and were faced with the inevitable three second drop. The cave was going like a train. Surveying and photographic trips followed the exploration.

Meanwhile, at Base Camp, a group of Poles had arrived and were camping at Lago Enol. I first met Wlodek staggering into base camp looking exhausted. He collapsed onto the ground whilst Martin rather smugly explained that he had taken him on a walk to show him the area. From the Polish Base Camp they had walked to the Polish Top Camp, on to our Top Camp and then back to Maria Rosa via La Verdelluenga and Ario. They had then run back from Ario. In spite of this relations between the two groups flourished although Martin became known as "Killer" to the Poles. We invited them to visit Oxford and do some caving in the UK and this lead to the successful exchange between Polish and British cavers which is reported elsewhere.

By now 2/7 had been pushed down to the First False Floor and beyond. After some frantic surveying the cave was found to be 620m deep. There was time for one more pushing trip before detackling. The trip almost didn't happen. Martin managed to cut himself badly on a Mornflakes tin, and Steve was feeling ill. Dave lost enthusiasm whilst Jonathan slashed his finger with a knife and Harry managed to repeat the Mornflakes tin trick. Finally the trip left mid-afternoon. Steve was persuaded to go with William, Mike and Harry. Steve was by far the most important member of this trip as he had never reached the bottom of a Spanish cave. Hence his presence would ensure that we would have a going cave to return to in 1988.

That night Ario camp was attacked by cows. This was unusual as they rarely venture high into the mountains. However they mounted a concerted attack for two hours. We spent the night dashing in and out of the tents, chasing the cows away, only to have them return fifteen minutes later. In the morning the full extent of the damage was revealed. The camp had been turned upside down. Cups and plates were scattered everywhere. A stack of pans had been knocked over and several small ones had been crushed. The cows had found the salt box and scattered salt around the camp. Worse however, was the cowshit. It was liberally distributed throughout the camp. We spent some time shoveling it away but were unable to save a pan of soaking beans that had been rendered inedible by a particularly skilful shot.

We were ready to leave camp for the first detackling trip when the last pushing trip returned. Steve's magic had let him down and he had finally reached the end of a Spanish cave. 2/7 had bottomed out at about the same altitude as the Top Camp cave sumps. However there was no fine sump at the base of the shaft system. The stream funnelled into a 3cm slot fifteen metres below the previous limit of exploration. It draughted tantalisingly strongly but was impossibly tight. There was no time for further investigating and detackling began immediately.

The expedition came closest to having an accident on the last detackling trip. Sylvia was clipping bags onto the hauling rope on Flying Rébellés when I took over the hauling. I stood on the large natural belay from which the pitch was rigged and lurched off it almost immediately as it detached itself from the wall. I looked down and saw the large boss caught in the rigging a few metres below me. We yelled to Sylvia who retreated far around the corner. The rock was then shaken free and went crashing down to the foot of the pitch where Sylvia had been standing. Curiously a number of people claimed that they thought that the belay had moved whilst they descended onto the rope but had put it down to over-active imaginations. We were lucky that the boss had not crashed down onto someone as they prussicked up the pitch. Rescue through Paradise would not be fun. We jury-rigged the pitch to enable Sylvia to ascend and carried on the detackling. 2/7 was left for another year.

Before we left Spain, a few people went caving with the Poles and there was of course the end of expedition party which was given an international flavour with Poles, Germans and Spanish joining in. It had been a fine expedition. In spite of noting sixty new caves, only three of them exceeded 100m in depth. The deep caves of the Picos were not yielding their secrets easily. 2/7 had appeared to end although the last pitches were complicated and several possible leads were noted. We had discovered a fine cave and had left the 1988 expedition with a gamble to take. Would it be worth redescending 2/7?

1/4 - Cueva de la Roca Naranja

Dan Mace and Dave Horsley

Contents: 2/7 Rediscovered: 1/4 cave: Skull Cave: Dowsing: Video Filming

Altitude: 1860m
Depth: 162m
Surveyed Length: 355m
Plan Length: 173m


The entrance of 1/4 is to be found by heading due North from the Ario bowl and climbing the ridge between Cabeza Julagua and Cabeza del Covu. From here the cairned path to Culiembro is followed for approximately 500m until a large depression is reached on the left of the path, with a very prominent orange rock in the bottom. The cave entrance is in the North wall of the depression almost immediately above a 5m cleft.


The entrance is a 4m deep hole which is free-climbable with difficulty. Alternatively there is an easier, narrower climb down by the side of the obvious entrance which lands on a boulder slope leading to the head of a 15m pitch. This leads to a large boulder chamber from where the way on is not obvious. A climb through the boulders leads to a strongly draughting squeeze (originally entered only after extensive use of a hammer) onto a 4m ladder pitch. A short rift descends to the head of an impressive 39m pitch, Echo Pot, which lands on a boulder slope in a chamber, Echo Beach. The boulder slope ends at a 5m pitch which splits the chamber in two.

From here the cave begins to show its true character. Each pitch is followed by a rift that slopes up at about 45° . Hence each pitch adds only a few metres to the total depth of the cave.

The first rift is encountered just after the 5m pitch in Echo Beach and consists of a short, lined traverse to the top of an 18m pitch. This pitch is tight and best rigged on ladder due to the profusion of rub points in the rift. This is immediately followed by an 8m drop best rigged as a continuation of the pitch above. As the rift narrows, a traverse up and around the corner leads to the head of a 13m pitch, rigged from a rocky ledge. This lands in a small high chamber with a tiny stream running across the floor.

The only exit from the chamber is a tight rift and two routes are possible: a flat out crawl along the stream or, better, a climb up through the rift at about 45° , following the obvious traverse level. When the rift becomes too tight it is possible to rig a rope through a squeeze. This immediately opens out onto the top of a fine 24m pitch. From here another obvious rift, Oh No Not Again, leads off. This soon becomes tortuous and tight and the route is not at all obvious. A short 2m climb leads to an "S" bend and from this point the rift is generally followed by ascending into wider sections, losing almost all the height gained in dropping the 24m pitch. The last section is an extremely awkward left-hand bend best traversed lying horizontally on your right side. This is immediately followed by a vertical squeeze up to a wider section of rift and from here it is possible to climb through a hole into a wider steeply ascending traverse level. This passage ends at a squeeze in the right-hand wall which emerges at the top of an 18m pitch.

Petunia Pitch (18m) can be rigged from numerous naturals and backed up to a natural on the outward side of the squeeze and lands in a sizeable chamber, Bloodclot Rift, filled with numerous red formations and containing a trench in the floor. Upstream from the pitch landing is a waterfall, whilst downstream the way on is up yet another steep ramp. This bends sharply right and the higher level soon becomes too tight. At the corner it is possible to descend the rift to the streamway. The pitch, Generator Pitch (18m), is rigged from several large columns. From the bottom of Generator Pitch the streamway is well decorated, but quickly closes down. The only way on is to step off Generator Pitch 10m from the floor into an ascending traverse level in a tight rift. This continues to a sharp left hand bend around which is the Burglar Alarm, a 1m high stalagmite which rings when knocked.

The rift continues to a 3m pitch which lands on a ledge. Almost immediately is a 15m pitch landing in a chamber, the walls of which are well decorated with numerous white crystals. A rift from here leads to a 6m climb down which becomes too tight. No other ways on were found in this chamber.

The cave has good potential being on a direct line to and dye traced to Culiembro resurgence. The rift beyond the Burglar Alarm has the best potential, as it was only blocked by a stalactite curtain. Removal of this would give access to a visible continuation of the rift. A number of other sites near the end of the cave might also yield to a hammer.

Hammering in the Skull

Tony Seddon

Contents: 2/7 Rediscovered: 1/4 cave: Skull Cave: Dowsing: Video Filming

By the third week of the 1990 expedition the surface of the Western Massif was pretty dehydrated. As Dave Lacey and I traipsed up the Jultayu green ridge we were the most concentrated source of liquid between Bobbias and the river Cares. Dave especially: he was suffering from the most copiously fluid bout of hayfever from which I have ever felt obliged to stand well back.

Still, I mused, he's a skinny bugger and the rifts in 2/7 are no problem for him. It's only right that he should suffer somehow.

We were looking for an unexplored walking-size passage which Iestyn had found in 1989, high on the ridge. According to his description, it was in the base of a small cliff, and the Ario Refugio can be seen from the entrance. This is no surprise: nearly all the caves which Iestyn has found are within sight of the Refugio, proof positive that the mere thought of alcohol may promote psychospeleogenesis.

The far side of the Ario bowl can only be seen from high up on Jultayu, so we were resigned to a long haul. Three cliffs and as many hours later the stoic resignation was becoming threadbare, as was Dave's shirt, which he was using as a handkerchief. We agreed that shaft-bashing in such conditions is definitely a form of self-abuse.

Being lazy, I stuck close to the easier tourist path towards the top of the mountain, until I nearly walked into a pothole. It is at an unlikely spot; a four foot diameter pot near the top of a grassy, pebble-strewn slope. Not in the karst at all, and with a bush growing from the side of the hole. A decent-sized rock fell with a bounce and a bang for perhaps four seconds. Eventually tiring of playing hooligans, I rejoined Dave, who wrung himself out and set out for the hole with the enthusiasm of one who wants a cool, dark and perfectly pollen-free environment.

The upper parts of the hole being distinctly rotten, Dave rigged two ladders from a wire round a boulder well away from the entrance. I went down first, landing on a loose bouldery slope some 10m down. Upslope was a small, pretty moonmilk chamber containing the bones of a largeish rodent. Downslope was the type of yawning void which makes the unlined caver say "fuck" and retreat for the reassurance of the ladder.

Thinking positive, we fed down a 70m rope and looped it over a perfectly located rock nose. A few metres down a slight rub was overcome by an unlikely deviation off a tiny spike, leaving the remainder of the 31m pitch as a free hang. Moving out of the road of any flying rubble, I gave the "rope free" and looked for a way on.

The light of two lamps revealed a chamber of perhaps 8m by 15m. Where the walls were not concealed by huge, clean flowstone cascades, the limestone gleamed a gun-metal green. Most remarkable was the floor, a knackers-yard abandoned long ago; ribs, femurs and vertebrae were strewn across the level, cobbley floor. The skulls of sheep and rebeccos were most obvious; everywhere was the unfocussed gaze of sockets. The cave practically shouted its name.

The name did not seem to be needed, however, because the cave finished here. The undercuts around the base of the chamber went nowhere, and no draught could be felt. I had already suggested that we go out and derig when Dave asked

"What about this hole here? It looks like it might go".

The hole was a drop of about a bodylength, the first part being a small squeeze between the walls and a cemented boulder. The carbide flames did not splutter, but they certainly wavered. A bout of hammering removed a particularly galling lump of boulder, and then Dave posted himself through the slot with no problems. I followed him; I grunted, I screamed, I jammed. Pigs. I thrutched out and tried a different position; ah yes, this looks more like it. Much easier this time. I grunted, I screamed, I didn't just jam, my balls got trapped and I cammed. Unprintables.

Ten minutes frenzied demolition saw me hunched up next to Dave in a small chamber, staring through a two-inch crack into a larger but otherwise undefined space. Further hammering was feasible, although the size of the poised boulders which formed the walls of the chamber inspired circumspection. Encouragingly, this small chamber was much cooler than the larger one, and the air did not become stale.

The exit was uneventful, apart from Dave's near-death. I got off at the head of the pitch and shouted "rope free". Observant readers will note that both Dave and I had forgotten about the exciting chossy slope above the pitch. In one perfectly choreographed sequence of moves, I put my foot down and dislodged some lumps while Dave strode up to the end of the rope with the speed of one who now wants a warm, sunny and food-rich environment. The unsuspecting caver bent to put his Croll on the rope as assorted bits and pieces whispered towards him at close to their terminal velocity. The idiot at the pitch head had just finished screaming "Below!" when a chunk slightly smaller than a golf ball connected with the back of the idiot at the pitch's base. The shouts and gurgles of the latter interlaced with the guilt and doom-laden thoughts of the former.

In response to some fairly frantic questioning, Dave replied that he could make his own way up. Quarter of an hour later he emerged into the milky sunlight of a Picos evening with what turned out to be no more than a big red welt between the shoulder blades. The pitch was immediately christened Spinal Tap.

Our find did not inspire the rush up the mountain which we had expected. It must have been sheer bloody-mindedness which took us back up the green ridge with compass, clino, hammer and crowbar. Joan Arthur came with us to provide at least one trustworthy member of the surveying team. After taking the cave's vital statistics, Dave shrugged through the squeeze and I followed, doing my usual impersonation of a case of severe constipation. When the thrashing about was done with, a slightly muffled voice said

"There's a 20m pitch here".

"Great. Don't fall down it. How do I get to you?"

The solution was provided by a devious slither along one block and between two others into a small aven chamber. The pitch was through there, Dave said, gesturing at a circular hole which might have been passable by a suicidally insane dachshund. Dropped stones rattled, paused for around two seconds, boomed, paused and boomed again. The strong outward draught and hollow sound of the rock indicated at least a fair-sized chamber on the other side of the constriction.

While I dug away at the consolidated mud in the hole, Dave headed back to fetch the hammer and bars and implements of destruction. In passing, he demolished the previous squeeze by undermining the boulder and kicking it down into the chamber. Not having to worry about it on the way out made sustained work more pleasant.

The walls of the aperture were mud and calcite, although the roof was limestone. The basic tools worked pretty well, but slowly, and the three of us agreed that our shiny new Bosch was called for. When the going gets tight, the wimps get drilling. The only problem was that it was still in the lower reaches of 2/7, being used in some dodgy aid-climbing.

It was a few weeks before the next trip. It fell to David Monaghan and myself to drag assorted photographic gear, drills, batteries, bolt kits and more crowbars up to the entrance. Having completed the photo session, the breach was entered once again. After three hours of constructively destructive caving, I gave the squeeze a try but my arse didn't come close to fitting.

The last jaunt down Skull Pot was also the last caving of the expedition. Dirk was staggering heroically after an epic drinking session: I shouldn't think that the sustained hammering and drilling did his hangover much good, but perhaps Tasmanians are unusually alcohol-resistant; anyway, he didn't even look like throwing up.

Which is what I wished I had done when I forced myself back into the hole; even the smallest decrease in volume would have been useful. I was wearing no gear, only a rope looped around the waist just in case the tight stuff opened directly onto the pitch, and the helmet and generator were left behind to be passed through later. Getting down was a bit of a problem; the short section of body-sized tube was overcome by breathing out and relaxing as many muscles as could hygenically be managed, but unfortunately it enters a restricted rift at an angle which makes it necessary to bend the body backwards while dropping round a gentle corner.

Oh bugger, I thought, as Dirk passed the carbide through.

"It's gonna be a bit of a pig to get out again. If you give me the hammer, can you carry on walloping the hole with the crowbar?"

"Yeah, sure." A great thing about Dirk is that if you're in trouble, he never sounds bothered. It's very soothing.

I took a look around. The rift's pebbly floor gave way to a five inch slot which draughted enough to put out a carbide flame. Beyond the cleft a large space echoed. I noticed that both walls of the rift were heavily calcited, and would rapidly repay brute strength and ignorance. But not this year; time to bow out, if I could. The first couple of attempts were half-hearted and failed miserably. A jutting triangle of rock was blocking a particularly vital bit of knee movement, so I hammered it unmercifully. The problem was, getting a decent sideways swing involved standing with my face about three inches from the point of impact. The only thing to do was to keep the eyes closed and try not to imagine splintering bone and gouts of blood and gristle.... Of course, all I got was a couple of cuts from stone shards.

The next attempt, I got one arm and my head through. With no obvious method of approaching the squeeze so that both arms could go in simultaneously, there was no alternative to the time-honoured device of breathing out and thrutching while someone else drags on the available bits of your anatomy. The extraction lasted about twenty minutes and on my part required remarkably little energy, although when it was finished Dirk seemed, inexplicably, knackered.

That's how the story ends. The entrance to Skull Pot (47/7) was tied in to a surface survey along with such features as 2/7. It is located directly over the London Underground just before Marble Arch, which the optimists whisper (so as not to tempt fate) is far enough downstream in 2/7 to drop into the streamway or some other passage beyond choke Egbert. If no lower entry into the system is found, Skull Pot might yet provide a substantially easier way in, simply by bypassing the rifts, although it might be argued that the tight section at the present end will prevent it from becoming an easy cave in its own right.

The squeeze was called the Eft in the tradition of naming tight pitch heads after amphibians. The eft is a close relative of the newt; the original Newt in 12/5 was so named because it was "really hammered". By a happy coincidence, the name of this latest squeeze also perfectly expresses a caver's feelings upon leaving it. But it can't be ignored; the draught indicates that all that stands between OUCC and a lot more cave is a little more hammering.

Dowsing the Picos

Martin Laverty and John Wilcock

Contents: 2/7 Rediscovered: 1/4 cave: Skull Cave: Dowsing: Video Filming


The following hypotheses about the caves of the Dobra, Tabardin, Casano and Cares catchments have resulted from dowsing work carried out by the authors during the 1989 Juracao Expedition. Dowsing for the detection of caves and underground watercourses is a controversial subject, which it is not the place to discuss here; the authors profess themselves to be agnostics about the technique, but maintain there is a case to be answered. It must be regarded as a physical effect, detectable on site, and in no way a mystical technique (the authors, being scientists, can entertain no other considerations). Since the physical effect must pass through many hundred metres of rock, a probable explanation is that there is a magnetic effect which can be detected by some humans, perhaps in the same way that magnetism can be detected by homing pigeons, bees and dolphins. The results are presented without prejudice. Time alone will tell whether the results are confirmed by exploration or dye traces.

Tabardin Catchment

The main inflows to Lago Enol are a small spring from the southeast and a major inlet from La Porra de Enol on the southwest which enters at the bathing place, where colder water can be felt. A stream outflow under the road on the northeast soon sinks, reappearing at the base of a 100m cliff on the southern side of the base of the polje Vega de Comeya. The stream then meanders through the alluvial sediments which resulted from the dressing floors of the Minas de Buferrera, finally sinking on the northwest. Indications are that the flow is then north, where there are many shakeholes, and the final rising may be in the Rio Tabardin.

Dobra Catchment

Inflows to Lago de la Ercina are from the southeast (probably two separate systems). One results from sinks in the floor of the polje La Vega el Pare to the north west of Fuente Escondida, flowing north and then west. A parallel system starts from a shakehole just to the south of the Ario path, flowing north and then shortly west. Both enter on the east side of Ercina. Outflow from Ercina is on the southern tip, under the hill to the polje Las Reblagas (this was proved by dye trace on the 1961 expedition). After meandering across the floor of the polje, the stream then sinks again. It is thought to proceed northwest via Pozo de la Vega el Forcan, west and then north to the vicinity of the Las Rablagas sink.

Another tributary to the Dobra catchment is the Rio Redemuna. It is proposed that Ridge Cave at Top Camp proceeds west-northwest via Cueva del Frieru and Cueva del Viento to several risings in the Rio Redemuna, which again sinks before proceeding northwest to the Dobra.

Casano Catchment

The most interesting results concern the F20 and Jorcada Blanca caves at Top Camp. It is proposed that these proceed due north via Vega de Aliseda (where there are many shakeholes), under the impressive Jou del Agua, through a sequence of deep shakeholes and then to a large relict cave entrance at the western end of Las Fuentes. The course then swings west, going much deeper and joining Cueva del Osu, then north-northeast to Las Bobias, passing under the Ario path 200m west of the houses. The course then proceeds north to the resurgence at El Hoyo La Madre. The "Bobias Spring', 300m east of the houses, appears to be a separate system much closer to the surface.

Cares Catchment

The Pozu del Xitu system appears to have a previously unknown inlet at the extreme western point of the cave. This immense system has the unfortunate effect of masking much of the Ario area by a blanket reaction. Xitu is thought to enter Culiembro via the southwestern inlet.

The Pozo del Ojo de la Bruja (2/7) is thought to have two main inlets draining about 2 sq.km within the circle of peaks Pico Gustuteru, Cabeza del Burro, El Regallon, Cuvicente and Jultayu. It is not thought to have a contribution from the Top Camp caves. The two inlets join, then proceed to a collapse depression on the southern side of the Valle Extremero, heading 50o. Near here there is a small cave (53/5) about 10m below the surface, which however is on a different heading (30° ) to 2/7 and may be a high-level feeder to Xitu. There is also the small "Black Streak Cave' on the northern side of the valley, which seems blocked, but which lies directly over the 2/7 streamway, here about 30m below the valley. It is predicted that 2/7 passes over Xitu and continues northeast, before swinging north west to 7/4 [see OUCC Las Brujas Expedition Final Report]. A feeder from Vega Maor via Cabeza Muxa joins here, and it is predicted that the combined waters of 2/7 and Cabeza Muxa proceed east to an unknown western passage of Culiembro. On the surface above the proposed juncion of the Culiembro passages is a large cave at Posadorio. There are also large tubes visible at this level across the Cares Gorge in the wall of the Central Massif.

Another inflow to the Cares is Forfau de la Vina, carrying from the Central Massif down a prominent rift from the east.

The Caves of the Ario Depression

A series of small but interesting caves occur in the Ario area. Unfortunately the southern edge is masked by the blanket reaction of Xitu, and so neither the source of one of the main inlets ("Dry valley inlet') nor the destination of the main outflow is known (probably Xitu). There are several inlets, at Cabeza de la Forma, and two separate series of springs, now dry, which are very near the old houses and sheepfolds of Ario, and presumably the reason for their location. There are several deep shakeholes, one of which contains a snow plug, the source of water for the Ario camp when the Ario spring dries to a trickle.


It is hoped that these predictions prove interesting, and perhaps prove an inspiration for future explorations. It seems clear that 2/7 is only about 30m below the bottom of the Valle Extremero, just above the beginning of the steepest bit above the trees, and digging in the collapse depression mentioned might prove useful, or perhaps an entry may be made via the two small caves discovered there. This might prove preferable to future pushing in the interminable chokes of the streamway. Alternatively, an entry might be gained via 7/4, close to the predicted junction between 2/7 and Cabeza Muxa.

Cave of the Witch's Eye

Graham Naylor

Contents: 2/7 Rediscovered: 1/4 cave: Skull Cave: Dowsing: Video Filming

The making of the video.

Following the publication of Dave and Richard's book Beneath the Mountains, Richard became keen on the idea of making a film of Oxford's exploration of caves in the Picos. Having had no experience of filming anything, let alone underground, it was easy to become infected with Richard's enthusiasm. As with all of Richard's ideas it was going to be a bit of an adventure - the undertaking turning out to be somewhat more arduous than his original alluring description suggested! So it all started with avid descriptions of film formats, friends who could do the editing, ccd chips, how the new technology of sensitive video cameras would make it all so easy, fame, fortune, etc., etc.

The initial underground filming attempts using a Radio-Rentals video camera indicated acutely the practicalities and difficulties associated with taking pictures in caves. For lighting I bought a 100W quartz halogen search light from Colemans with the beam de-soldered and re-adjusted in its mount to produce a divergent bulb instead of a parallel one. I also purchased some gas lights and used aluminium foil to try and direct the light - these proved to be quite useless. Having never been down Sunset Hole before I didn't realise how wet it was and so unsuitable for filming. We were able to get about 10 seconds of video recorded before the camera view-finder stubbornly flashed "Dew" and refused to operate any more. A prolonged stop in the Hill Inn was required to dry out the camera.

After several weeks the memory of this initial failure faded and I made the fatal mistake of flipping through camcorder magazines looking at the various models for sale. For underground use a camcorder had to be both compact and sensitive enough to operate under quite low light conditions. VHS-C and Video 8 are compact tape formats and so were the logical choice, with Video 8 offering superior picture quality. A new camcorder from Panasonic using a new format VHS-C claimed to have better resolution still, and Sony had a splash-proof camcorder, the SP5, using Video 8 tapes. I went into a local shop to test these two cameras using a cardboard box with a photo stuck inside it to act as a model cave with low lighting conditions. Pointing the camera through a hole in the side, the SP5 gave better pictures than the Panasonic under the lowest lighting. Given its greater sensitivity and tolerance to water I purchased the Sony.

More underground tests were performed using this camera down Swildon's and Nettle Pot, with somewhat more success than previously due to the water tolerance of this camera. I was able to carry it around in the cave using a large (and consequently troublesome) ammo can. For lighting I initially experimented with a home-made carbide light using twelve jets to get a lot of light and an umbrella sprayed with silver paint to direct the light up Elizabeth shaft. This proved to be quite ineffective, and besides a big boulder landed on it. The best solution proved to be quartz halogen lights powered by 12V sealed lead-acid batteries. The batteries (from Farnell and Maplin electronics) were fitted into ammo cans with cut-up pieces of Karrimat as padding. Connections to the lights were made using car cigarette lighter sockets mounted inside the ammo cans to keep them dry during transport.

The quartz halogen lights used in addition to the Colemans search light were two car fog lamps (55W each) and two utility lights from Halfords (55W each). Normally only one to three lights were used at once, but some redundancy of equipment used underground was necessary due to multiple equipment failure. These lights did however give non-uniform lighting due to the moulded lenses and caustics produced from the reflectors. This was overcome by sticking frosted gels to the front of the lights to spread the light out. These lights proved to be adequate in most passages and small pitches but wholly inadequate for large chambers such as Just Awesome and large passages such as the London Underground.

The camera was powered by small Ni-cad batteries of which I had two, each lasting about 30 minutes. When using a camcorder you can, with 30 minutes of camera life, expect to record no more than 15 minutes of video. It was necessary then to be able to recharge the batteries underground. I built a small charger using a pair of 4.5V flat pack batteries in series, a resistor to limit the current and a simple timer circuit and relay to disconnect the current after a pre-set period (about an hour). One battery was always charging while the other was in use.

I found The Video Maker's Handbook by Roland Lewis was very useful for details of how to use the camcorder.

In Spain the first filming was on the surface at the camps and on the walks up the hill to Top Camp and the cave entrance. It was later when we came to edit the shots in the studio that the lack of a prepared storyboard before the filming showed itself as a serious deficiency.

The underground shots were taken on two trips, the first a one-day trip to film and carry the equipment as far as Pessimist's Pot. The style of filming was to try and give the feel and impression of a real caving trip rather than show highly illuminated passage. Filming in Paradise Rift gave some shots which though they had little technical merit did give a dramatic impression.

The filming of the next section, from Pessimist's Pot to the underground camp, was done on a camping trip. On the trip down to the camp the equipment was picked up at Pessimist's Pot and the first job was to film down the shaft. From the top it was easy to shoot Harry abseiling down carrying a light while Sherry shone her light up. Given the size of the shaft, illumination was very poor, but at least gave the impression of descending into complete blackness! I then tried filming on the way down. I hung from Harry on a cowstail, and he operated the descender while I pointed the camera and the light. The shots turned out to be useless as we spun round the rope faster and faster as we approached the bottom. By the time I got down I was dizzy and completely gripped.

Filming continued down the main shaft with notable communication diffficulties on the numerous rebelays. The whole process was made all the more difficult by the tackle bags of camping gear we had to carry in addition to the filming equipment. At Just Awesome we met the photographic team, so we left the filming gear and returned with them to the underground camp.

The following day Sherry and I filmed down the streamway. Carrying all the filming equipment down the streamway between just two people was quite difficult, though at least the passage was substantially flat and without squeezes or rifts. Meanwhile Wlodek and Harry went to climb up to a passage that Wlodek had picked out with the quartz halogen lights high up on the side of Just Awesome. Wlodek, who is crazy, climbed 40m up a smooth, overhanging flowstone cascade with very limited protection to find a massive, dry, bouldery passage some 70m wide. Not only did this add substantially to the length of the explored cave, it turned out to avoid the streamway and provide a very handy short cut to camp. It was immediately christened the London Underground.

That evening at camp the remainder of the video tape was used to film the jovial and not so musical activities around the camp stove. The next day we surveyed the London Underground, and the following day the filming equipment was taken out again. Carrying ammo cans of lead acid batteries and a large ammo can with the camcorder up 800m of pitches and through the various rifts can only be described as extremely arduous. I must thank Sherry, Harry and Wlodek very much for all the help required on this undertaking.

Back in the UK Richard had lined up Alan Lacey to help us edit the video using the studio at Moorfields Eye Hospital. It was a long job converting the rough shots we got in Spain, some slides taken by Martin Hicks and graphics of the cave survey into what in the end made quite an interesting video. Now that my memories of all the carrying and hard work are beginning to fade, I think the end product was worth all the effort!