NPC Newsletter 18, October 1987

Pictures in a Spanish Expedition

Salvadore Dani

This is the third year that the club has visited Northern Spain and the first time that a Sports Council Grant was obtained. The main aim of the expedition was to continue the exploration of Cueva Culiembro in the Cares Gorge. Our visits in 1986 showed that there was scope for new discoveries beyond the upstream sump. With this in mind we had a large number of divers plus impedimenta on board. We departed on July 4th in four cars containing twelve people to travel through France and arrive in Spain on the 6th. We finally pulled into the Cares to find a resident Waddington.

The first foray underground was on the 7th. An eleven man team set off into Cueva Culiembro. Gradually the ceiling rose and a pleasant amble ensued. About two thirds of the way to the upstream sump we encountered the duck. Last year this had been a walk through thigh deep water under a two metre high arch. This year there was a pool. The duck now became sump 0. This was an unexpected obstacle to easy progress. Eventually a line was laid and six bundles of equipment ferried through.

On the 8th five divers got to sump 1. Not all their equipment made it and only Rick Stanton dived with the aim of pushing on in the main upstream sump. Buoyancy problems made the dive less successful than hoped for but more line was laid. This route was dubbed the Round Window for ease of reference. On the 9th, the remaining four divers had their opportunity. Chalkie and Barry Sudell headed for the Square Window; the passage beyond the static branch of sump 1; surprisingly christened the Arched Window.

Over the next two weeks the passages beyond sump 1 were explored. The Round Window continued to reach a depth of -35 metres in a small passage of typical Spanish Gruyère chees nature. The Square Window ended in 1986 at two sumps. Both of these were passed but the passages beyond degenerated into a series of rifts separated by short sumps. Unfortunately the main way on was lost. The two ways on in the Arched Window series were both explored. One route through a static sump led to a 5m climb down, a 50m canal and a 5 metre pitch down into a sump. The sump was dived and found to drop into the active branch of sump . The other route climbed upward steeply until it reached a pitch. This was descended and found to be 5 metres deep. A 4 metre pitch followed and landed in a sump. The sump was passed (-23 metres) to approximately 200 metres of difficult passage to yet another sump. Diving this was beyond the limited capacities of our expedition.

Cueva Culiembro was resurveyed and a 23 metre vertical error in the original Swiss survey was found. This unfortunately means that we are now 23 metres further away from Pozo del Xitu than when we started. However, the expedition returned to the UK confident in the knowledge that they had maintained the N.P.C.'s reputation for speleology and all our other club activities.

> Previous/Later trips to Spain:
---> Spain 1985
---> Spain 1986 - the Return Trip
---> Spain 1988 - diving Cabeza Muxa
> Out of print publications list
> Indices to NPC explorations:
---> Listings by date
---> Alphabetical listing by cave
---> Author index to exploration and other articles
> Northern Pennine Club Home page