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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Pozo Sima Grail

J. Eyre

According to the official handout this pot was 360' to a ledge and still continuing, consequently a winch had been made, a harness bought and many bold plans had been made over beer-laden tables.

The day after the main party had arrived from England, volunteers were looked for. By noon one had assembled - a motley crew mostly consisting of the previous night's revellers, one of which included a gentleman immaculately attired in a green hairy sports jacket, clutching an enormous book under one arm and a bag of melons with the other.

The ladders and ropes were loaded up and the long trek up the rocky spur, behind the camp began. The temperature was well on the 100 degree mark and a 1000' of slogging sun reduced our happy band to a wet soggy mutinous bunch who kept muttering under what breath they had left and shooting dirty looks in the leaders' direction, with bloodstained eyes.

D. Gill had shown the leader the pot the previous day and it was estimated that the first pitch was 180'. This agreed with the details obtained from one of the Spanish Speleos, who had been down it. A, far cry from the official handout! The rocky peak ended in a wild Karstic landscape and the shaft was well hidden an outcrop that overlooked a spectacular drop to the Rio Torio gorge. The entrance was 15' x 12' with ample belay points and a beautiful takeoff which hung clear of the walls. The descent was begun quite happily until one passed a bulging section of wall where the shaft opened up slightly. One suddenly became aware that the ladder was of the unfinished variety and the araldite became sparser and sparser the lower one went, until eventually the rungs were held by nails driven through a very bare looking wire. A steep slope of guano was reached at approximately 190'. This sloped steeply for 30' and dropped through a narrow letter-box into a small passage that ended after a few feet overlooking another pitch. The edge of the pitch fairly bristled with tons of very loose rock which was soon cleared. A Spanish type lamp had been left here and we were fairly certain that this was the limit of their expedition as the rocks overlooking the pitch were unmarked and very unstable.

The pitch was approximately 85` to a floor of broken rock which sloped down to a cleft. This was traversed over and a small pitch of 20' descended to a very email chamber which soon became choked by calcite.

This was excavated for some time and rocks could be dropping below but it was very restricted and looked pretty hopeless without extensive digging. The pitches were ascended without incident and a happy half hour was spent scoffing our hairy melons and drinking somebody else's vino.

See Survey.