Sunday 3 January 2010

2nd January 2010 - Cueva de Don Fernando - Day 2

After discovering what was involved we returned to Cueva de Don Fernando with thicker rope for the entrance pitches, bolt hangers, spanner and even a drill in case we thought it necessary to place some more bolts. In superb weather we scrambled up the steep slopes to the cave entrance (approx 50 minutes today as no snow underfoot and a eased by taking a slightly better line in places). We even discovered some in situ cable allowing a higher line to be taken on the last section across the slabs. We were suprised to see in the entrance some equipment that indicated that some other cavers were also making a descent. Sure enough another rope was in place on the first pitch and actually pretty badly rigged as they also had not brought any bolt hangers with them.

This time with the heavier duty ropes for the entrance pitches and by placing more hangers on the insitu bolts we ended up with a much better line for the rope with no problematic rub points.

Soon we were down the first two pitches (30 metre rope and 25 metre rope) and into what was for us new territory. There were two ways on, either a climb over a "wall" to a possible big pitch or down a calcite slope running with water. Checking the latter it ended up in a squeeze that would get us pretty wet, so we decided to check the climb over the wall that had an insitu rope. This only lead us to an unlikely looking pitch with bolt "spits" that we didn't have the right bolts for. So the only way on was down the wet calcite squeeze. Bruce headed through first and made quick work of it and was soon beckoning me to pass the tackle bags through (we had nearly 200 metres of rope left plus bolt hangers, camera and a few other bits and pieces). The squeeze was not as bad as it looked even with full SRT gear on and although a bit wet the temperatures in the cave were quite reasonable. The squeeze led pretty much straight onto more pitches, with what we later found out were fixed ropes (but again not very well hung).

We ran out another 90 metres of rope over a few pitches and got good clear abseils by using our own hangers.
This led us back to another calcite section again running with water, and a larger pitch leading into a huge chamber. This in fact was probably the wettest part as water tended to run down the rope and get you pretty drenched!

We later measured this pitch as 30 metres, so we had 70 metres of rope left over after descending to what was the main lower chamber of the system.
A climb over another barrier with fixed ropes led further into the chamber to where we could hear voices, "Luz, luz! Hola! " (the Spanish cavers must have been impressed with the illumination from my new Stenlight!). Soon we were gasping in awe at the size of the cave, the roof at least 50 metres above us and walls 20 or 30 metres apart, it was immense. The Spanish cavers who turned out to be from Murcia asked us about the Sala de la Colada (Room of Columns), and we compared surveys (Bruce had obtained a photo of a basic survey from the Tourist Info Office that morning).

By now if was around 3pm and we had been in the cave for 3 hours, so we had some lunch and took some photos in the main chamber. By the time we had finished the group from Murcia returned and described the great sights to be seen in the Sala de la Colada, and pointed us in the right direction. A bit more scrambling took us to a climb up impressive flowstone formations and into this amazing section of cave with it wide variety of formations, total unspoilt. It was a great opportunity for some photography and we spent 30 minutes exploring the stalagmites and stalagtites, pools and columns and realising we were probably the first British people to see the superb section of cave.

Before heading back we had a quick look at the "pozo" (well) - a large ramp that descended another 30 metres or so and a rather loose looking scramble that must have led onto more chambers. Another visit may give us chance to explore these further as onm this trip we had really run out of time. It was quite physical work getting all the ropes and equipment out of the cave as the pitches were not really free hangs and so the bags had to be hauled up in short sections as well as removing our bolt hangers and of course returning through the wet calcite squeeze. But we made good time and heading up the last section of rope we could see a feint beam of light illuminating the chamber above us, indicating that it was not yet fully dark outside. With all our gear back at the top of the entrance pitch we congratulated each other on a great trip and then realised that the huge mountain of gear we had needed to be carried back down the steep slopes before we could really say the trip was over.

With four large bags (about 25kgs each) that was quite a challenge, but 60 minutes later, our headlights picked out the car through the trees. Hooting owls talked to each other as we came through the boulder field on the lower section, a fine end to a caving trip that is certainly one not to miss!


Guitey said...

No more caving trips this year?

Come on boys - get it sorted! I want something to read when I'm at work :)

Yol said...

Can´t hardly believe that. I would also dare to say you´ve been the first british people to be in this magestuous cave.
Before going on saying anything: I am one of these crazy kind of people who love getting dirty of mud and hanging on a rope in a dark place. I was born in Granada and live here. My club was the one who made the topographical map of the cave, approximately 20 years ago. But my first chance to get into the cave was precisely yesterday.
As the text seems to show, you did it quite right, because the most interesting area of the cave is "la sala de la colada". But the rest is quite amazing as well.
I got really impressed to find this page with your story about the exploration, and simply wanted to let you know.
¡Congrats, guys!

Tom Phillips said...

Hi Yol

Do you have info on other caves around Castril?