Oxford University Cave Club

British Speleological Expedition to the Cantabrian Mountains of Northern Spain, 1965

in conjunction with the "Espeleologos de Penalba", Leon

British Speleological Expedition 1965 Report

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Jou Cabau and Gentian Hole

R. Cooper

Six members of the expedition spent three days in the Picos de Europa, based at the Redonda refugio. On the first day the party went; by mini-van and Land-rover to Lago Enol and walked up to the Redonda refugio from there. On the second day we split into two groups to look for Jou Cabau. Three of the group found a hole close to Jou Cabau, which was descended and named Gentian Hole. The other three found Jou Cabau and descended the first pitch and explored the top series. On the third day we bottomed Jou Cabau.

Gentian Hole - one of many similar holes in the area.

1st pitch: 45 ft to short passage with an aven to the surface.

2nd pitch: 100 ft, narrow at top, widening lower down. At the bottom of the 2nd pitch, an impenetrable narrow vertical fissure goes down on left. On right, a passage leads off 15' higher up and after 20' reaches the head of a narrow pitch.

3rd pitch: 60 ft. At bottom of pitch small waterfall enters down high over on left. Small stream passage on right blocked by boulder.

Jou Cabau

1st pitch: 175 ft. Very wide shaft with large snow-heap in bottom. Fairly complex system of side-passages. The main continuation is in the bottom corner where small surface stream sinks. A scramble down 20` drop leads into a roomy passage for some distance. The roof in places is curiously formed with Swiss-cheese-like holes in places. A side-entrance leads into a chamber on left. The way on is through an inclined rift with some small formations, stalactites and columns - this gives way to a very tight vertical rift which can be traversed for some way until a penetrable point is found. Climbs in the roof proved futile. There is a lot of damp moonmilk on the walls of the rift. The rift is about 220 ft deep and can be descended, via several ledges of choked boulders and silt, becoming wider about halfway down, but tight again at the bottom.

2nd pitch: 50 ft to ledge of choked rubble.

3rd pitch: 50 ft to another ledge. A short continuation passage over rubble leads to the downward rift.

4th pitch: 115 ft approximately. Tight and very awkward at head of pitch. 75' of ladder were used and it is possible to free-climb the last 35 to 40 ft, but more ladder is advisable as the walls are very slippery.

At bottom of rift a small stream flows with shallow gradient. Upstream rapidly becomes vertical and must connect with the small stream at the cave entrance, through boulders. Downstream is tight and it is soon impossible to follow the stream-bed. A traverse above the stream nay be followed for a short distance until it is blocked. A hole in floor rejoins stream. There is no draught however, and no likelihood of a worthwhile continuation. The general features of Jou Cabau and Gentian Hole were similar and probably typical of the area. Amusing but unpromising for deep holes.