York University Cave and Pothole Club

Explorations in the Picos de Europa

View over the Cares Gorge from Vega Huerta (Photo: Dave Milne)

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Pozo de Cuetalbo (M2)
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Sima de Cotalbin (K903) Thesaurus Fragilis (M921)

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Camping in β3, 1990

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Location    Elevation    Description    How to Find    Future Prospects    Image Galleries

Cueva del Hielo Cebra (H906)

This cave was presumably noted in 1990 but was not explored until the following year when YUCPC descended this cave. Ice Cave Zebra is made up of a series of parallel interconnecting shafts, converging to give two routes: the more obvious (and extremely cold) route follows a glacial snow ramp, eventually choked at -78 m by ice; the second, attained by traversing and climbing a shaft chokes with rubble at -86 m. Through narrow tubes in the walls of this second main shaft, further shafts can be enticingly glimpsed. Quite an enjoyable cave.

Location    X:    Y:    Z:  m    Depth    -86 m

Surveys

Description

The cave contains a mixture of rawl bolts and spits.

John Whittlesea descending the entrance pitch (Photo: David Milne) Andrew Elliot at base of entrance pitch (Photo: David Milne) The Entrance Series

The entrance is along an obvious fault extending in both directions for several hundred yards. The fault breccias appears to be made of very hard crystaline carbonates. The original development was along either side of the fault. The surface rift gradually descends to the entrance shaft proper. This is rigged with a long traverse and backup line to a Y-hang across the rift. A pitch of 14 m with a deviation 9 m down arrives on snow.

Andrew Elliot descending the 2nd Pitch (Photo: David Milne) Andrew Elliot on snow plug at base of 2nd Pitch (Photo: David Milne) Walk down using hand line to a psychological thread on the left, by the hole. Then climb up over the hole to a rubble slope over a huge rocking boulder to a hand line down the other side of choss to head of second pitch. Across the shaft a window leads above the ramp. Drop 9 m to the snow plug below, from where the short climb opposite gains a fossil ramp. This ramp is obviously part of a much older system originally from an entrance to the north but intercepted by the younger series of shafts. From here the ways diverge.

The Snow Route

Looking up the 3rd Pitch (Photo: David Milne) A pitch of 9 m via a distant deviation is followed by a Andrew Elliot standing on Snow Ramp at bottom of 5th Pitch (Photo: David Milne) steeply descending ice slope (care) requiring a hand line to a rebelay. Descend 4 m to a deviation, followed by a further 15 m taking care to avoid the snow and ice dropping from the snow plug above. Having landed on a snow and ice ledge, walk over to the right to the next bolt, using the pitch rope for protection.

Descend between rock and snow plug at about 60, past a deviation round a `really strong' icicle, down the remainder of the snow ramp which curves around to the right using the rope near the bottom as a hand line.

Tail Pitch

John Whittlesea drilling a hole at the top of the Bosch Climb (Photo: David Milne) The other way on from the ramp involves climbing to the obvious fossil window 5 m up over the third pitch. Several rawl bolts are in place and with additional protection from naturals it is quite easy. At the top of Bosch Climb the rift joins with Tail Pitch. A Y-hang from a thread and bolt gives a drop of 15 m to a bridge and Y-hang ― mark II! The final descent is a pitch of 45 m via several deviations (care loose walls). The base ends in choss mainly from gardening of the shaft walls and rigging failures. No draught was noticeable amongst the choss.

View of the Fossil Ramp and the snow plug beyond from the top of Bosch Climb (Photo: David Milne) Tail Pitch has rather complex features. From the top, another shaft can be seen through a window in the opposite wall. This shaft reappears at the bridge. To the eastern side at the bridge a short rift ends in a 4 m descent to a ledge rejoining the main shaft. A phreatic from the ledge leads to `space' behind the wall unfortunately we didn't have a Jack Russel to shove through. This `space' is suspected to be part of a shaft joining 14 m below the bridge. Just below the bridge on the western side a very small crack leads to another shaft inaccessible.

Looking up Tail Pitch (Photo: David Milne) At about 20 m below the bridge, two tubes lead off from the shaft. The higher one, `My Chamber', is a 3 m rift. The phreatic upper section continues and a void can be seen beyond, but the rift is only 8 cm wide. On the opposite side another tube leads off directly to an un-descended shaft. This oxbows back into the main shaft together with another shaft.

How to Find

The path climbs gently, crossing the scree slope from bottom left. It cuts through the base of the outcrop and zigzags up to the far right. Walk along the path from Vega Huerta along the path as if to the Canal de Perro. At the first grassy col, descend down the first major gully on the left towards the base of the large doline with three stone circles. At the circles, keep to the left following the goat tracks (contours), curving round to the right at the end of the depression and climbing over between the col. From here an obvious path can be followed up valley in an easterly direction to a `pass' with many choked shake holes. On the right can be seen a fault. The entrance lies 20 m from the path along this.

Future Prospects

The potential for this cave seems good possibly in a year following several very wet Summers and little snow fall. The ice plugs are however probably quite old as there is no direct entrance for the snow. As discussed in the description of Tail Pitch, there is the possibility of gaining access to further parallel shafts maybe from the surface.

Another rubble filled entrance from an adjacent shake hole probably leads into the second shaft. Along and around the fault are many more impassable shake holes.

Bibliography

YUCPC Expedition Report for 1991 YUCPC Picos 91, Expedition Report, David Milne (YUCPC) in English. PDF (1411KB)
 
YUCPC Log Book from 1991 Top Camp Log Book, YUCPC, 1991 in English. HTML
 
SEII Journal from 1991 Expedicion Picos - 91, SEII in Spanish. PDF (27MB) (Cover)
 

WebAuthor: D.Milne[at]Tesco.Net