This weekend I was back caving in Cantrabria, doing the Travesía Azpilicueta-Reñada. It was really good to do a traverse (entering via one hole, and exiting via another) rather than always going back up the same way, especially since the initial entrance (Azpilicueta) involves a descent of almost 300m. The final part of the initial descent was quite wet – abseiling through a waterfall. “The Duck” section was apparently unusually dry, but then the final third of the cave was very muddy (as you can see from the photos). In total it took us 10 hours, which was a little longer than we’d first expected – and doesn’t include the couple of hours we spent looking for the entrance in the first place!
On Sunday we spent quite a while cleaning all the equipment up, before heading to the beach at Laredo for a few hours.
I just got back yesterday from a weeks trip to Mallorca with the caving club. We had a really great trip, 12 of us from the caving club rented a house in Santanyi and we spent most days either caving, canyoning or on the beach. Mallorca has some really fantastic caves and canyons. We were lucky to get permits to visit Vallgornera – it’s a protected cave and only a handful of permits are issued each year (more people climb Everest each year than get permits to visit Vallgornera) and has some really fantastic formations. More info about Vallgornera and photos of the formations. After we landed in Palma last Saturday, we headed straight to the cave, arriving at about 7pm and got out of the cave at around 6am the following morning, so we had the next day relaxing.
As we were such a large group it wasn’t really feasible for all of us to do the same activities each day, so usually we split into different groups to do different activities.
On Monday we’d planned to do two caves, but ended up spending most of the afternoon wandering the fields in the fog and drizzle looking for the entrance to one, which we didn’t end up finding, so we only did L’Avenc de S’Embut
Tuesday we spent canyoning at Mortitx, it was quite a walk (2 hours) just to get to the start point, but then even longer for the return journey, it took us around 5 hours to walk/climb back from the end point, up cliffs and along via ferratas with some really impressive views of the canyons and sea.
Wednesday was a day at the beach in Cala Falco, then Thursday was a long day canyoning at Sa Fosca (Torrent des Gorg Blau). It’s a really impressive canyon, very narrow in parts and walls 300m high, with one section of about 2-3 hours through a cave, with over 30 rappels in all. The walk at the end leads to Sa Calobra beach. Sa Fosca is reckoned to be one of the best canyoning trips in Europe.
Friday was spent being a tourist, visiting Cuevas del Drach and having lunch on the beach.
Photos from our weekend caving trip to Cañon del Rio Lobos (near Soria), visiting Sima de las Taínas, Sima MA-11 and Cueva de los Candelones I:
In contrast to last weekend in the snow, this weekend I was on a caving trip to Cueva del Orón in Murcia – sleeping in the open air. After walking/climbing/abseiling down the cliff for a a couple of hours, the cave is quite a squeeze most of the way, but at the end is a underground salt-water lagoon, with warm, clear water for swimming. Swimming across this leads to another lagoon leading out to the sea (through an underwater passage), I tried to get a couple of photos of this (as you can see the light coming up underneath the water through the passage to the sea), but I had some ‘technical problems’ with my camera – it got wet – so is now drying in a box with rice, and am hoping it will work again.
Here’s a slightly better photo of the lagoon inside the cave.
This weekend we had a self rescue (autosocorro) course, to know what to do if someone injured whilst on a rope and needs to be brought up or taken down quickly. On Wednesday we had a theory session and then at the weekend we went out to Patones (where I did my initial SRT course back in February) to practice outside. There are different techniques depending on whether the ‘victim’ is currently ascending or descending and the rescuer is trying to reach them from above or below, and finally whether you want to take the victim up or down. This weekend, we were mainly just practising accessing the victim from below and bringing them down, so the only variation was if they were currently ascending or descending.
For me, bringing the victim down when they were already on their descender was relatively straightforward, but when they were ascending, it was really tough. I tried 3 times and managed to get something wrong every time – so the supposedly unconscious victim had to help me out and ended up being more injured/bruised then when I started. From the photos below, and the mass of equipment/ropes between the rescuer and victim, you can see why it could be easy to get something wrong – although given your weight is hanging on the ropes it would be very hard to detach yourself completely. Think I will need more practice, but hopefully I never have to ever use anything we learned!
On Saturday we had a day trip out to Cueva del Asno, near Los Rábanos (just south of Soria), to take some potential new caving club members (hence the “cave discovery day”, or “Salida de descubrimiento”). It’s the first cave I’ve been to in Spain that we’ve not had to use SRT in, so makes a nice change not to need harnesses, ropes etc. Although to formations inside are good, there’s quite a lot of damage to many of them, broken off stalactites/mites, (and graffiti) – I guess because the cave is very accessible, so quite easy for anyone to get into with only a torch. Next weekend I have an “autosocorro” (self rescue) course – so will learn and practice what to do in case anyone gets into trouble whilst climbing up/down on the ropes.
Some photos from Saturday:
It’s been a couple of months since I was last caving, as I was away most of July and during August there was only the exploration trip, which unfortunately I couldn’t go on, so good to get caving again. This weekend we were in Sistema de la Cubada Grande, on the border between Burgos and Cantabria. A group from the caving club in Burgos joined us, so there was 12 of us in all. There are 3 (perhaps more?) entrances to the cave, one of which (CM6) is over 150m pitch to enter, so we opted for entrance CM20. Once inside there is a choice of 35m or 50m pitch, so we divided into 2 groups for this since there were so many of us. The section with the crystals was very impressive.
On Sunday we had a short walk up into the mountains nearby.
Some photos from this weekend’s caving trip up to Cueva del Cobre in Palencia. If anyone can identify the (headless) animal skeleton we found (photo) then we’d be really interested to know what it was. We found it around a kilometre inside the cave and couldn’t see any way it could have fallen in (no nearby cave entry points), and have no idea how long it has been there for.
Last weekend I went up to Cantabria with the caving club to do part of Sistema del Gándara, it’s one of the longest caves in Spain with over 105km of passages, so even though we spent the night camping in the cave (34 hours in total), we still only saw a small section of the whole system. On Tuesday we also visited Cueva Mur. Unfortunately my camera broke whilst in Gándara so I don’t have too many photos, but below are the ones I did manage to get. The photos with the cotton wool looking crystals are a type of Aragonite (so I’ve been told) and in Gándara we also got to see a lot of Gypsum Flowers.
Now that I’ve been caving in Spain a few times (also went canyoning yesterday in Poyatos, Cuenca), I’ve learned quite a lot of the Spanish caving words, so thought I’d share them here in case these are useful for the presumably small group of English speakers who go caving in Spanish speaking countries.
I’m sure there are lots of useful words missing, so please send on any suggestions/amendments. I’ll also add to this list as I learn more.
agua – water
albergue – hostel
anclaje – anchor point
arnés – harness
arnés del pecho – chest harness
bajar – to descend/go down
barranco – canyoning
bloqueador – ascender (general)
bloqueador ventral – chest ascender
bloqueadro de puño – ascender
boca – hole (entrance to cave)
botas de goma – wellies
cabos de anclaje – cowstails (literally ‘anchor cords’)
caída (caer) – fall (to fall)
casco – helmet
comida – food
croll – chest ascender
cuerda – rope
cueva – cave
escalar – to climb
escarpines – neoprene boots
espeleologia – caving
espera – wait
estrecho – narrow
fraccionamientos – re-belay/deviation (?)
frio – cold
guantes – gloves
libre – free (as in I’m off the rope)
liso – smooth
listo – I’m ready
llave – spanner (or key)
llave inglesa – adjustable spanner
luz – light (‘frontal’ is also used for headlight)
maillon – maillon
mojado – wet
mono – oversuit (literally ‘monkey’)
moretón – bruise
murciélago – bat
muro – wall
neopreno – wet suit
nudos – knots
pasamanos – traverse on rope (literally ‘hand rail’?)
pato – Petzl Shunt (literally, pato = duck)
piedras – stones/rocks (also shout this if you drop something!)
pila – battery
plano – flat
polvo – dust/dirt
pozo – pot/hole/well
progresion vertical – single rope technique (SRT)
puño – ascender (literally ‘fist’)
rappel – abseil/rappel
refugio – hut (usually open/free and very basic)
roca – rock
rodillera – knee pad
seco – dry
sima – pothole/cave
subir – to climb/go up
tapas – layer (in the sense of layers if rock, as well as free food with drink)