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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1984    1987    1990
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1986    1989    1994
1995-2006

Caves
Pozo de Cuetalbo (M2)
Pozo de Llastrale (β3)
Sima de Cotalbin (K903) Thesaurus Fragilis (M921)

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Camping in β3, 1990

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Caving in the Picos

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Location    Elevation    Plan    Description    How to Find

Four Ways Pot (K897, K997)

Sima de los Cuatro Caminos was found in 1989 by Steve Brooks, Angus Higgins and Martin Williams and its name is derived from the four entrances found that year.. The original entrance (K997) was quite awkward and was fortuitously replaced by the still awkward K897. Except for the middle Firecracker shaft, the whole cave is very broken, with fossil passage linking between what ought to be different pot holes. This makes for an interesting and varied trip.

Location    X: 341,33   Y: 4784,21  Z 1900 m    Depth    -401 m

Surveys

Description

K997 - The original entrance

A 3 m climb up the face of a cliff leads into a short awkward tube leading to a rift opening onto a 18 m pitch. Three further short pitches leads to final pitch into Spitz Cavern.

K897 - The preferred entrance

An awkward crawl leads into a narrow shaft. A short 11 m descent leads to the 33 m HSFM Pitch complete with hanging death also into Spitz Cavern.

Upper Series

In the bottom corner of Spitz Cavern, a 4 m climb down and 9 m pitch lead to Hope Pitch, a rift becoming too tight. An awkward traverse across this rift finds a small chamber with a 15 m pitch into Hanging Death. This is followed by a 10 m pitch into a small chamber. Climbing up over a rubble heap and then back down to a small hole in the floor gains entry to a scrotty rift. This enters a shaft, Triad Pitch, giving an 18 m descent followed by a further 18 m pitch into Babylon.

Babylon is a large chamber with a loose boulder floor. The cave here follows the dip of the formation. Beds of limestone are interspersed with wide dark bands of manganese enriched shales and chert. The way on is via what can best be described as a 45 scree slope with crumbly walls, no foot hold and no hand holds - Hanging Gardens. It is best protected by a traverse line. At the bottom a very bold step gains a massive platform, held up solely by its own inertia. Across this waits the next 15 m pitch.

Next is Firecracker, a massive 100 m shaft with numerous rebelays. The cave closes down to small(ish) passage to the head of the next 9 m pitch, which can be belayed to the rock bridge in front, backing up to a natural. A further pitch follows immediately and following this is a long steep ramp.

Lower Series

The ramp trench has not been passed. At the top a scrotty bit of passage continues. A 2 m climb up to the left leads to a series of pitches, the second being across a marginally traversable pit. Below, a short passage leads through something loose that isn't limestone to several more pitches. A wonderful 51 m free hanging pitch then follows to a stream way. Upstream rises steeply to where it closes down. The way on down stream is through an awkward rift, tight and wet. At the end of this a 5 m drop can be rigged off chock stones (the whole right hand wall pivots).

Below this is a very pretty (for the Picos) canyon way. However, after a short distance the stream disappears under a very, very, particularly, frighteningly unstable looking boulder choke. These 'hanging death' boulder chokes are in place all the way up this rift (apparently spaced by small gaps). Inserting yourself under the bottom one exposes your eyes to a boulder choke beyond, which is a hundred times worse.

How to Find

K897 is located about 50 m north of K901 in the direction of Canal de Capozo.

Bibliography

YUCPC Journal covering 1989 Picos 89, Expedition Report, Paul Thorlby (YUCPC) in English. PDF (15 MB)
 
Top Camp Log Book, YUCPC, 1989 in English.
 
Excerpt from Caves & Caving 49 "Beneath Vega Huerta"; Y.U.C.P.C. Picos '89 Expedition, Caves & Caving 49, Paul Thorlby (YUCPC) in English. PDF (1676KB)
 
YUCPC log book from 1990 Top Camp Log Book, YUCPC, 1990 in English. HTML
Expedicion Picos - 90, SEII, in Spanish. PDF (28MB)
 

WebAuthor: D.Milne[at]Tesco.Net