Oxford University Cave Club

Expedition: "Gustuteru 1996"


Torca del Vasco (D8) - cave description


Alex Harding

UTM coordinates : 	0341859 4788564
Altitude : 		1780m
Depth : 		375.79m
Surveyed length : 	1386.61m 
(All readings from 1996 survey).


The cave is located on the southern edge of the Vega de Aliseda, slightly to the west of the terminal moraine. The entrance is a six metre by four metre shaft, hidden from view unless standing on the rim of the shakehole. The most certain way to find the entrance is to climb out of the Vega de Aliseda from the terminal moraine to the top of the first ridge. Walking west along the ridge for approximately one hundred metres leads to the edge of the shakehole. The cave is marked with a faded Polifemo mark.

Alternatively, from the Snow Pole walk down the left side of Shit Creek across the small shakehole at the bottom. Head directly down the grass slope, round a small boulder filled depression into a large bowl. Bearing slightly left, cross the bowl to a level grassy area. Follow this out of the bowl. Towards the Vega de Aliseda lies a low ridge. The entrance is on the far side of the ridge and slightly left of the point where the grass track leaves the large bowl.

The Spanish Cave

The entrance shaft (P24) slopes down to a set of rock arches from which the rope can be rebelayed. Abseiling from here lands on a snow plug. At the south-west corner of the shaft an arch leads from the base of the shaft into a high rift. The rift heads east down a couple of climbs before narrowing. Dropping here reaches the head of the 2nd pitch (P15). The second pitch and parts of the preceding rift are decorated with moonmilk.

A short climb down leads to a chamber. On the left of the chamber a large, blind pit leads down to the stream, which sinks through an impenetrable crack. Traversing round the pit, a short climb up leads to the top of the 3rd pitch (P7), which descends to a much larger chamber. At the far end of the chamber a climb up into the roof leads to a wide passage. At the base of the climb a cross rift leads left and right. The right hand rift lead to a small inlet aven, whilst left gives an alternative, tighter, route to the top of the climb. Continuing from the top of the climb, a short drop reaches the top of the 4th pitch (P22). WARNING - the fourth pitch is very loose. Anybody at the bottom of the 4th or 5th pitch is liable to be hit by falling rocks. [A window off the fourth pitch leads to a small chamber through which the stream passes.]

The 5th pitch (P6) follows immediately. A short rift leads up from the base of the pitch to emerge at the 6th pitch (P28). The pitch is rigged slightly back from the main shaft, instead descend in the rift which joins the main shaft on a ledge a few metres from the bottom. The pitch lands in a flowstone decorated chamber, briefly rejoining the stream. Ascending the slope on the far side of the chamber a tight rift narrows to a squeeze onto the 7th pitch (P5). The traverse line can be anchored to a chock stone in the floor just before the tightest part of the squeeze.

Descend the pitch to the first ledge. A narrow rift leads off to Pitch 7a (P6). [Doubling back underneath Pitch 7a, a squeeze leads to an awkward climb down to the base of the rift. Following the rift reaches the bottom of the pitch. The rift also heads back towards the seventh pitch, sloping down to a small pool.] In the floor of the chamber a narrow trench bells out into the 8th and largest pitch (P40). Leaving the pitch, the way on passes under a high rock arch to an awkward climb up to a ledge.

On the far side of the ledge is the 9th pitch (P8). This descends to an impenetrable rift which marks the limit of Spanish exploration. However, penduling across to a ledge on the far side reaches a low, narrow tube leading onward.

Pitch 			Rope 	Belays
Entrance Pitch (P24)	40m	Spike, bolt rebelay, thread rebelay
2nd pitch (P15)		25m	Bolt traverse (L), bolt hang (L), bolt deviation (pitch head) (R)
3rd pitch (P7)		20m	3 bolt traverse (R,R,R), spike backup (L), bolt hang (L)
4th pitch (P22)		35m	Spike traverse (R), bolt hang (L), bolt (L) spike (R)
				Y-hang rebelay
5th pitch (P6)		"	Bolt hang (L)
6th pitch (P28)		40m	Bolt traverse (L), bolt (R), spike (L) Y-hang, thread
				deviation (L), spike deviation (end of ledge)
7th pitch (P5)		15m	Thread traverse (L) (before eyehole), bolt (R,R) Y-hang
Pitch 7a (P6)		10m	Spike traverse (L), bolt hang (far wall)
8th pitch (P40)		55m	Bolt traverse (R), bolt hang (L), bolt (R) spike (L)
				Y-hang rebelay
9th pitch (P8)		15m	Spike traverse (L), bolt backup (R), bolt hang (R)

The Crawls

After a few bends the tube ends at an awkward pitch head. Descending Open All 'ours (P6) reaches a chamber. [At ground level an obvious rift leads to a T-junction. The right branch loops back to the chamber via some awkward squeezes, emerging through a tiny hole in the floor. The left branch narrows down through three squeezes until a final squeeze prevents further progress. The passage appears to widen a couple of metres beyond the squeeze but would take several hours hammering.]

An eye hole in the far wall of the chamber, Anita's Hole, provides a way over the squeezes. The passages descends a couple of climbs, followed by a squeeze and a crawl through a sandy tube, before a final constriction leads to the top of The Big Sleep (P10).

The Big Sleep lands in a high rift. Opposite The Big Sleep another dry aven enters. A few metres upstream a small stream enters from an aven. The stream has carved a narrow trench in the floor and the water can be seen some metres below. Rebelaying the rope from The Big Sleep at the point where the trench has been widened descend to the next ledge. The rift continues round a corner and up a couple of steps to a downward sloping phreatic tube. The tube passes round a U-bend and heads back up to another twisting rift. This ends in a series of climbs which lead to the ladder pitch, Cereal Killer (P7). [Part way through this rift the passage turns sharp left over a hole in the floor. This pitch leads down to Alcatraz. Upstream of Alcatraz is unexplored, whilst downstream leads through a tight squeeze which has been light connected with the Marge Tub. Beyond the turn the cave changes from heading east to north.] Upstream from the base of Cereal Killer the passage opens out into a large chamber, The Marge Tub. The water from Alcatraz enters here forming a large, sandy pool, before flowing out through a narrow trench. Downstream, the passage drops down to Lucky Thirteen pitch (P5). This descends into a small chamber. [Descending through the trench in the floor enters a second small chamber carrying the stream. This chamber looks out on to Bolt Farming.] Climbing out of the chamber reaches the top of Bolt Farming (P16). [Looking at the right wall the traces of many failed attempts to insert a bolt can be seen.]

Pitch		 	Rope	Belays
Open All 'ours (P6)	10m	Spike traverse (R), bolt hang (far wall)
The Big Sleep (P10)	20m	Bolt backup (L), bolt hang (R), rebelay (L)
Cereal Killer (P7)	Ladder	Spike
Lucky 13 (P5)		15m	Thread traverse, bolt hang (far wall)
Bolt Farming (P16)	20m	Bolt traverse (L), bolt hang (L)

Streamway and Shaft Series

Below Bolt Farming the cave finally reaches a proper streamway with the water augmented by the dribbles from several avens. Unfortunately the streamway soon narrows down before falling through a narrow gap into a wide, waist deep pool. The stream exits the chamber through a narrow rift. Higher up the rift widens and can be followed to a traverse over a nine metre pitch. A climb up from the traverse reaches a broad ledge.

A pitch, Another Girl (P9), descends to land on a second ledge, which is bisected by an old stream trench. [Following the trench back under a high rock arch leads to the pitch recently traversed over. The stream makes a brief reappearance at the base of the pitch before proceeding to lash Another Planet in spray.] Dropping through the trench, Another Planet (P19) arrives on the broadest of the three ledges. The last pitch in the shaft series, Another Fine Mess (P16), arrives at the top of a meandering rift. The stream drops down a climb and a short pitch (P3). Despite various avens dripping into the streamway below the pitch it soon becomes tight. Climbing up the rift widens and a slippy traverse leads up to a fossil level.

The fossil level proceeds for forty metres down a couple of climbs to a short pitch (P4). Beyond the pitch another climb drops into a small chamber. A small stream (much smaller than the stream left behind) enters from an aven on the left. Following the stream leads to a traverse over a pitch. At the end of the traverse a false floor forms the top of the split pitch I'm Not Going, Down There (P6,P6). Penduling across part way down Down There lands on a ledge. The rift continues beyond the ledge and a climb down reaches the large chamber Giant's Hole. On the right is a pitch whilst on the left a passage leads into the Smegadrive series.

Pitch			Rope	Belays
traverse		10m	Thread (high R), large thread (high L)
Another Girl (P9)	15m	Large thread (high L), bolt (R?) Y-hang
Another Planet (P19)	30m	Backup to previous pitch, bolt (L,R) Y-hang, thread
				deviation (edge of ledge) (long 2m)
Another Fine Mess (P16)	25m	Spike traverse (R), bolt hang (L), spike deviation (pitch
				head) (R)[Bolt rebelay for climb would be useful] 
Pitch (P3)		10m	Bolt traverse (L), bolt hang (R)
Handline		20m	Bolt (R)
Pitch (P4)		15m	Bolt traverse (R), bolt hang (L)
I'm Not Going (P6)	35m	Large spike traverse (L), spike traverse (R), bolt hang
				(L), large spike rebelay (R)
Down There (P6)		"	Bolt (L) spike (R) Y-hang

Smegadrive Series

The passage from Giant's Hole passes round a double bend before emerging at a traverse over a blind pit. Crossing the pit the passage enters a high rift. The rift is easiest at ground level. The rift gradually becomes muddier as it descends. After fifty metres the passage widens and briefly drops to a crawl. Beyond the crawl, a handlined climb, Down In The Hollow (C6), leads onward. [Above the crawl a phreatic tube was ascended through a series of U-tubes until the explorer got bored.] The next section of rift slopes steeply down through gloopy mud to another handlined climb, There We Shall Wallow (C9). On the far side of There We Shall Wallow a muddy slope leads up to Stone The Giants.

Sliding down There We Shall Wallow lands in a small pit. Climbing out of the pit gains the top of Inglorious (P9). An inlet is visible to the left of the pitch head, this is believed to be the base of In Their Brown Cars. Penduling right half way down Inglorious reaches a phreatic tube terminating in a caver trap / mud sump. Below Inglorious, Mud pitch (P6) descends into a small chamber. A squeeze exits into another chamber, consisting primarily of a thigh deep mud bath. Climbing out of the mud bath, the passage continues, but rapidly branches into a series of small phreatic tubes which become too tight and/or mud sump. This bit of the cave is seriously horrible.

Pitch				Rope	Belays
traverse			5m	2 bolt traverse (L,L)
Down In The Hollow (C6)		15m	Bolt backup (L), bolt hang (just below edge L)
There We Shall Wallow(C9)	40m	Bolt (R)
Inglorious (P9)			"	2 bolt traverse (L,L) bolt hang (far R)
					[There is a redundant bolt on R for old Y-hang]
Mud (P6)			"	Bolt (far wall)

Stone The Giants and Small Spanish Boys

Climbing up from the top of There We Shall Wallow the passage is divided by a large thread. Above this the passage becomes a walkable, steeply ascending rift. About halfway up the rift a small hole on the left forms the head of Stone The Giants (P11). Another pitch, In Their Brown Cars (P13), follows immediately. A further pitch follows, this appears to be Inglorious, but was not descended to check. Half way down In Their Brown Cars a ledge can be reached on the far side. A tight rift leaves the back of this ledge and sound connects to the top of There We Shall Wallow.

Continuing up the rift on a false floor the passage splits in to three. The right fork remains unexplored due to the exposed mud climb needed to reach it. The left fork is a crawl which emerges through a hole in the floor of the centre branch. The main branch is a narrow false floored rift. A lower level can be seen but was unexplored. The rift soon widens out into a small chamber before continuing upwards. Opening off the wider section, a climb leads down into another chamber. A hole in the floor leads to a squeeze which drops into the Small Spanish Boys streamway. The stream enters from a small aven. Passing below the squeeze the stream follows a narrow rift down a series of four flowstone cascades (handlines would be useful on the bottom two climbs). The stream then appears to double back on itself through a minute hole in the floor. The fossil streamway then descends a pitch (P14) into a dry, muddy chamber. The chamber terminates in a boulder choke.

Pitch				Rope	Belays	
Climb (C5)			15m	Large thread
Stone The Giants (P11)		35m	Spike backup, bolt (L) thread (R) Y-hang
In Their Brown Cars (P13)	"	Bolt (R)
Small Spanish Boys (P14)	20m	Bolt traverse (L), bolt (L,L) Y-hang, bolt rebelay 
					(far wall)

Chez Nobby and Moon Lizard

Descending the pitch (P6) at Giant's Hole reaches a sandy chamber, at the back of the chamber a small passage can be entered. Upstream is Chez Nobby whilst downstream is Moon Lizard passage.

Chez Nobby

At the bottom of Giant's Hole, a small tube opposite the entrance to Moon Lizard leads, via a crawl and an awkward squeeze at head height, to a ledge above a small rift streamway. Easy traversing upstream soon reaches an aven. Downstream, the rift becomes constricted almost immediately, and although a bypass at a higher level gains a section of choked fossil passage, there is no obvious way of following the water.

Moon Lizard

Downstream the passage is a small clean tube, carrying a fair draught. A couple of small unpromising holes branch off from the main passage. Eventually the passage descends and enlarges before joining a larger sandy passage. On the right the passage closes down, but left continues down a slope to an inlet chamber. The stream immediately exits through a small wet crawl. However a large, muddy, phreatic tube leads back up out of the chamber. After about forty metres the tube corkscrews down to a handlined climb, Lizard's Tail (P15). Beyond Lizard's Tail four other passages converge in a chamber.

The near left passage ascends before dropping down to a sand sump. The far left passage is a high level traverse above the streamway, terminating in a climb. Opposite, a short pitch (P6) drops down to the stream. The passage immediately branches in two. The right hand fork is a fossil passage. The right hand passage leading from the chamber above is an oxbow which leads into the roof of the right fork, bypassing the pitch.

This fossil passage continues for forty metres to an exposed climb down into a chamber. An inlet enters from an aven on the right and rapidly disappears down a small tube to a sump. On the left a large tube leaves the chamber but reaches the sump just round the corner. The left fork carries the stream from the bottom of the pitch. This passage also terminates in a sump pool, It's Twins.

Pitch			Rope	Belays
Giant's Hole (P6)	20m	2 bolt traverse (R,R), bolt hang (R)
Lizard's Tail (P15)	40m	Bolt traverse (L), bolt hang (L)
Pitch (P6)		"	Bolt hang (R)