Cueva de Gusano
Chris Scaife, Pete Smith, Lloyd Cawthorne
Pete and Big Steve had been in this cave a couple of times recently. We dug through a sand blockage, then I squeezed through into a small aven, with the way on a too-tight rift of solid rock, draughting strongly. I turned around here and dug out the floor so there should be space to enlarge this rift on a future trip.
Chris Scaife, Lloyd Cawthorne, James Carlisle
We went down the Golden Void, hoping to connect this area with the MUSC extensions. It’s a real maze in there. We found plenty of unsurveyed stuff, but no connection so, whilst we spent a fair amount of the day in new cave passage, it still somehow feels like a defeat.
Chris Scaife, Carolina Smith de la Fuente, Oscar Scaife, Lloyd Cawthorne, Lizzie Wilkins
After lunch at Pablo’s, we walked over to Agua and went just inside the entrance, then stopped at the Bakers Bar on the way back.
We surveyed 68m of new stuff in Mostajo on Saturday.
Cool, awaiting gov announcement, if it’s good will see you Saturday. (I arrive early so could do caving in the afternoon). See for your eyes only to see what I have been up to.
Chris Scaife, Phil Papard, James Carlisle, Lloyd Cawthorne, Juan Corrin
Pete Smith and Phil Papard had found this lead last year – they had been down a short, narrow pitch that opened out into a wide shaft, which they estimated as 100 feet deep. The shaft remained undescended.
On Tuesday, we took along a 45m rope and descended the pitch. On the way down, there was a real sense of excitement – the pitch is about 30m deep and a rift of at least 20m height was running off in both directions. Once gathered at the base of the pitch, we followed the tall rift downstream. All too soon it ended at a calcite blockage, with a very low, wet crawl the only continuation. Upstream led to a dead end after a short distance.
We explored side passages and found a few chambers, then James had a go at digging the low crawl. It was squalid, even for him, and without neoprene he soon became too cold and had to head out.
We derigged, assuming we wouldn’t be going back; but in the usual way of these things, after a short time in the bar afterwards we seem to have decided that we will go back and push it. There were a few problems with Phil’s survey instruments too, so I think we’ll need to survey bits of it again.
I was waiting to see the survey before posting this, so I would know what length and depth of new cave we explored, but I don’t think the survey is imminent.
Chris Scaife, Carolina Smith de la Fuente, Lloyd Cawthorne, Oscar Scaife, Luna la perra Cawthorne, Pete Smith, Juan Corrin, Andy Pringle, Joe Holder
There’s a helluva draught at the entrance to Socks. Just sitting on the ground nearby you can feel it, and on my way down the pitch dust was blowing off my oversuit into my face.
Lloyd took some magicians’ smoke in to see where the draught comes from in the first chamber. This helped and we dug quite quickly through a sandy crawl to a small increase in size (you can almost sit up). The way on is tantalisingly close to not being too tight, but is going to need a little chemical persuasion to fit even the most svelte potholer. Good progress, and definitely worth pursuing this dig.
There are draughting holes all around it on the surface, but nothing of any size has yet been found in the immediate area.
Chris Scaife, James Carlisle, Alex Ritchie
Andy Pringle had told us about a potential lead in the Knotted Rope area of this cave, which the three of us have explored a fair bit in the past.
We went towards the Knotted Rope area (which is named after a formation shaped like a knotted rope, not an actual knotted rope) and found the only way up was a 30-year-old 20m rope, leaning against a damp wall with two rub points and the hangers at the top were out of sight. Like a bunch of cowards, we decided to look elsewhere.
We dropped down a couple of short pitches (I placed bolts for the first time in a few years) to look for ways on near the Howling. We didn’t find anything new, but it was all jolly exciting.
Next, we looked at holes in the floor and found quite a bit of unsurveyed passage at stream level below the main passage, including a lead down a short undescended pitch, which we have left for now. There’s always a reason to go back to Fresnedo.
Chris Scaife, Lloyd Cawthorne, James Carlisle, Alex Ritchie, Mike Topsom, Fran McDonald
A team of six was definitely too many for this trip. We went down Shunt Pitch – which had been described as nightmarish, but was just a straightforward ladder pitch – and then to the far end of the MUSC extensions. Here, we separated into two teams – I was with Lloyd and Fran.
We crossed the Bridge and looked at various leads en route to Hoodoo Haven. We found a few small unexplored chambers and rifty things, but nothing that WENT. Near Hoodoo Haven, Lloyd looked ahead of a flat-out crawl – marked on the survey as “Tight” and a dead end – and said he could see space beyond. Being a Black Rose caver, I naturally pushed through the tight squeeze into the great beyond.
It looked promising at first – a hading rift heading away from all known cave passage. Unfortunately, it choked after about 20m, in a manner that reminded me of the extremities of a phreatic maze cave – narrowing and filled in.
On the way out, we found the other chaps, who had slithered down elsewhere and found something that looked quite promising. It was late though, so we had to leave the cave, with something to look forward to for another day.
Chris Scaife, Alex Ritchie, James Carlisle
Three of us returned to look at Monday’s promising lead, surveying as we went. Shortly after leaving the main passage, our new find branched into two. We went right first, following a fairly strong draught, but this way soon closed down.
The left branch led to an ominous-looking pitch. We rigged this off some flakes and reached a ledge. There was now a clear hang of 11m into a small streamway, using a rebelay from a rock projection. I was first down and, for the second time this expedition, had a real sense that we were on the brink of a big discovery, with a comfortable walking passage heading off upstream as far as the eye could see.
I waited for the others (I ain’t no scamperer) and we followed the passage around a corner to a dead end. In the opposite direction, a climb up led into a big chamber, which we reconnected with the main passage.
Our biggest find of the summer, we surveyed 200m of unexplored cave.
In homage to Alex’s bizarre comments made during Donkey Night at Pablo’s – in which he, entirely out of the blue, asked Lloyd if he was a donkey from the future who had been reincarnated and was now eating himself – we named the new find the Time Travelling Donkey Series. The bit where the passage branched is called Donkey Three Ways, in tribute to Pablo’s three different donkey dishes on Donkey Night; and the pitch is called Pin the Tail on the Donkey, as it felt very much like blindly trying to attach the rope to something and hope we were right.
Toad in the Hole
Chris Scaife, Alex Ritchie, James Carlisle, Juan Corrin
Juan had found a cave entrance by drone a few days earlier. It appeared in the drone footage as a black void, several metres across, with no sign of the bottom. We walked across to inspect, with a bolting kit and 45m rope.
On the way, we found another small, unrecorded shaft, 5m deep and 3m long. We also walked between sites 1066 and 1067, hoping to find a cave there so we could call it ‘A Period of Great Unrest in England’, but either we were hasting to reach the pot or we all had something in our eyes, because we found nothing there.
The pot Juan had found looked good, 2m by 4m wide at the top and the bottom couldn’t be seen from the edge, not that anyone felt like going right up to the edge without a rope. The bolter from Bolton went down first and I followed. It was 12m deep with no continuation, but a lovely shape. The dimensions at the floor were 7m by 5m. We found a large toad at the bottom and took it out to safety (and the gene pool), hence the name.