NPC Newsletter (2nd New Series) No. 50 - Feb. 2000

A Brief History of the Pennine Way in Spain


In the closing years of the 20th Century, who would have believed that minds, infinitely more powerful than our own, were viewing our planet across the void of space. Still, who cares? More importantly, once upon a time, when cavers were hard and sheep were terrified, a small nucleus of softies went in search of GLORY. There chosen method was to carry containers of gaseous sustenance into places any tourist could reach. From there they went into the realm beyond ! Now read on.

Genesis, or The Yellow Bus Age

The NPC, an august body of speleological explorers, first departed from the shores of Albion in search of the Golden Fleas in the year 1985. Their destination was the North coast of the Iberian Peninsular. Several years earlier, one of their number had seen a vision in the barren and hostile interior of this mountainous land. He had seen caverns measureless to man that awaited just around the corner.

At this time Oxford University Cave Club became the first British cave club to discover and explore a cave to a depth of over 1000 metres, Pozu Del Xitu. In doing so several lesser caves had been explored. Many of these presented few obstacles, particularly to those versed in the new-fangled ways of SRT. Indeed, it could be argued, that some of the caves would be termed 'classic trips' if they were located in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Many explorations also ended at sumps. In just such circumstances did the blinding flash of inspiration reveal the truth and the way.

The mythical Yellow Bus transported eight cavers to the heart of the Picos de Europa. In only five days they had passed the terminal sumps of three caves and penetrated a considerable distance into a fourth. They had also consumed beer, wine and gin and made full use of the electric kettle. The scene was set for the great advance of civilisation.

Revelations, or Happy Holidays

In the succeeding years, parties of various sizes formed groups who travelled to the Promised Land. More caves were explored and extended. One cave in particular drew the Pennine to its inner reaches: Culiembro. The waters that gush from the nearby resurgence originate in the mountains high above to the West. Dye testing proved that some of the water comes from Pozu Del Xitu, giving the system a depth potential of some 1400 metres. Further tests proved connections with other caves whose entrances litter the ridges some 2000 metres above. However the Grail of the Breakthrough eluded the explorers. However, Hope springs eternal. There is a way on which lies open and awaits those who have the heart to push at this open door. The Route of the Round Window beckons. All that is required is a small team dedicated to the goal of launching two divers into Sump 1 and for those two to carry on beyond so that one can push through Sump 3.

However, the intrepid moles of the NPC also pushed into unexplored territory in the lower hills of the Sierra De Cuera. Here there are truly classic Yorkshire style caverns. One of these, Cueva Negra, yielded up 900 metres of new passage at a stroke. Since that day in 1992 the end of the cave has not been visited! The sump passed in 1992 is approximately 2 metres long. It can be baled to allow non-divers to pass. The potential is for a trip through the mountain to emerge near the sea on the north coast.

Acts, or The Paths of Glory

A new Golden Age could be dawning for the NPC in North Spain. Now is the time to act. In September of this year the way on in both Culiembro and Cueva Negra will be revealed to those who have the instinct for adventure. Beneath the arid limestone of the Picos de Europa, as you read, the buried vowels of the earth are churning in preparation for great discoveries and discourse. A campsite in the very heart of the Picos at Caín has been booked. It is available for our use from the 2nd to the 18th of September 2000. Spanish porters and ciders await. To avoid missing this opportunity to have YOUR name added to the List of Great NPC Heroes write, 'phone, fax or e-mail now!

Job, or What Now?

Picos 2000 is being organised by Dani - 'phone, fax or e-mail now!

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