Riano inlet expedition (Matienzo)
Sunday, 10 December 2006

After two days down Torno Paying our respects to Granny and looking at a few leads including around 30 unsurveyed meters down to a sump at the bottom of Torno, we set out on our second project of the trip. Tour guide Footleg managed to get the team fired up with tales of stomping glory after “just knocking out a few small rocks at the top of an aven. No mention of one hour of strenuous caving including 400 meters of narrow crab walk!!!! (Note for the future, Read the tour guides notes when not influenced by Rioja)

So myself (Paul) and Carl (Sharky) started on the aven. I first free climbed the aven to a ledge and placed a bolt to allow me to swing out under the small hole in the roof and place two more bolts for a Y-hang. While drilling the hole for this bolt, a large lump of rock fell off the wall near the bottom of the aven, landing just behind Daves head and pinning one of the tackle bags to the floor. At this point Footleg thought maybe it would be better to take Dave and Chris on a surveying lesson to survey an area he found in August while work continued above. Once clipped in I was able to assess the hole widening situation. I decided that the best option was to attack the calcited rocks on the right of the hole and not the solid lump of rock in the middle of the U shaped hole. With my lesson in Yorkshire caving techniques fresh in my mind from a trip into Torno at Easter I got to work on the stall restriction. Due to tired arms we each took a couple of turns at smashing the hell out of the opening the only problem was that the club hammer we were given was old and did not want to play ball, on a few occasions it needed to be hammered back together but eventually it got its own way and died so we had to result to swearing and another plan, enter the big man-size non-Latte-drinkers hammer drill, then within a short space of time the calcite was reduced to Swiss cheese and we looked like two frost bitten ghosts. I went up without my SRT kit and only my belt with cows tails on, I then gave the rock a few more hits with the bolting hammer and chisel and decided this was the time for a squeeze up in to glory. Halfway in to the squeeze and with my chest feeling the pressure I realised that I had committed a quality “School boy error by leaving one of my cows tails attached to the Y-hang below me. Unable to get a full lung of breath I whispered to Carl for assistance and under a flurry of piss taking he assisted in releasing me from my predicament. The piss taking turned in to shouts of encouragement and with a good amount of B.F.& I was through. At this stage I was in a phreatic passage going left and right with good echoes in both directions. So I then set to with enlarging the hole to Carl gauge. After another 20minutes or so Carl popped through with a howl of delight as this was the first time he had entered a virgin passage! We set up a good Y-hang from the roof so the others could join us and after a lengthy wait for the team (5min) we decided to set off left into the unknown.

After a short stooping passage it opened up to allow us to walk upright to a T-junction we decided to go left as the sound of water drew us in. the passage led to a short 2m down climb in to a mud floored aven with an area on the right that had some nice water droplet formations on the floor, stepping to the left of the formations led to another 2m down climb into a chamber with an in inlet coming in on the left hand wall (Mungo Inlet) and the continuation of the passage heading right round a corner past some nice straws, now carrying the water from the inlet. We climbed along the top of the passage with the water 3m below for about 15m and down into a beautiful stal lined pit (The Jail) after a careful squeeze through the formations we could see a sump (Jerrys sump) ahead. As this was the end of the passage and deciding to leave Mungo inlet for one of the others to explore at a later stage we headed back to the T-junction and took the right hand passage, after a few meters this entered a 3m diameter aven with water entering from an oval hole in the roof and a mud slope opposite.

Once up the 2m mud slope we had a 3m climb (Sharkys step) with limited hand holds so I decided to use Carl as a handy step as he is only 3ft high and perfect for the job. A few meters after Sharkys step there was another T-junction, again left seemed the best option and again I was driven by the sound of water. So as we had been away from the rest of the group for a while and feeling a tad guilty of grabbing all this new cave I left Carl at the climb and headed up the Rift saying Ill only have a quick look ahead before heading back to School boy error aven to see if the others were back from their surveying trip. As I turned left after a few meters there was a large opening on the left which turned out to be the top of the aven with the oval hole in the roof I shouted down to Carl to confirm this a told him that it was about another 10 meters above me to the top of the aven where the water was coming in.

The rift (Quake Rift) passage started with a narrow hands and knees crawl along some very sharp small knobbly formations then got wider allowing an easer traverse. The rift also gained in height and depth but the most striking thing about this rift was the evidence of possible a earthquake, there was lots of broken stal on the ledges on both sides of the rift and formations on the sides of the rift with big cracks. After a good distance past some nice formations I gradually lost height and the rift opened out into a large chamber with water coming in from boulders that stacked to the roof, the water was heading back down in the direction of the rift. On the last step down in to the chamber I noticed a dinner plate sized fossil of an ammonite on the right, so named this Ammonite choke. The atmosphere in this chamber created by the water has a great feel so I made my way back to Carl to tell him the news of what I found. Once back with Carl at the top of Sharkeys climb (he got twitchy and decided to come and find me) we made the decision to go back to the head of School boy error aven to check on the progress of Footleg, Dave and Chris, but there was still no sign of them so this left us with the tough decision to see where the passage to the right of the aven would lead.

The first part of this passage is a hands and knees crawl which then opens out in to a bisecting phreatic tube 2m wide by 1.5m high with a vadose trench in the floor of about 3m deep. The left option up a calcite flow we decided to leave for another day and head down the right turn. Most of this zig-zagging passage is well decorated with a nice calcited floor which we avoided by staying above the trench. Just after a calcited hole in the floor and a right hand bend there is a tight oval angled squeeze which I got through but it was too tight for Carl, so again I steamed on alone. This part of the passage (The Doyleys) has a very delicate web of calcited mud in the trench which needed to be avoided by some interesting bridging above. Just after the Doyleys there is a 3m deep mud floored chamber with some very spectacular straws one of witch (The Hypodermic Lance) is around 3meters long and tapered from about 30mm Diameter to a point. From the base of the careful climb down past the Lance and between two meter long straws the passage continues through a squeeze into the last 8 meters down where the floor almost reaches the roof leaving an inch or so of air space for a potential dig site.
When I returned to the chamber at the bottom of the Lance I was greeted by the excited yoo-hoo of Carl who had found a bypass to the squeeze and the pretties and he was about 4 meters above me. Happy that we had achieved something in return for the effort of breaking through the aven we returned again to the head of the pitch only to find that we were still on our own. By this stage the time was really pushing on and we decided that the best thing to do was to descend the pitch have a tidy up and start making our way out and hopefully bump into the others on the way. Fortunately we found the others a short distance into the crab walk and after a short conversation to ask how their surveying went we both burst out with excited tails of the new passages we found. The decision was made that we would leave some of the kit in the cave for a major surveying trip the next day and so we headed out for a deserved beer at Pablos.
(Mostly written by Paul Dold with additions by Footleg)

Surveying Trip the Following Day:

Following the discoveries of the previous day, those of us who had spent the trip surveying 200m of passages discovered in August above the crabwalk were keen to see the new stuff, and explore some open leads for ourselves. Breaking all records, we were packed ready for a long day underground with a BDH container full of sandwiches and at the cave entrance by 10:30am. It took just over an hour to reach the bottom of Schoolboy Error Aven, where we started the survey from the point we estimated the last survey leg of the existing survey data was located. This could be estimated fairly accurately because there was only one way to fit the last two survey legs of the old data into the passages here, where you climb though a small hole at roof level to reach the bottom of the aven. I had brought the data for the last couple of legs to aid us. We were able to get a vertical plumbed leg down the aven which saved any awkward high angle clino readings. While we were recording these legs, the two SRT kits were passed up and down the rope in order to get everyone up the new pitch and through the squeeze into the new passage above. The area around the pitch head had become a bit of a quagmire by now, but the passages going either way were dry. The water coming down the pitch remained in a narrow slot in the floor of the phreatic passage above.
We set off first in the direction where the streamway and sump had been discovered yesterday, turning left at the first junction, left again at the second, and then emerging in a much larger rift passage down an easy climb. From here we turned right, passing a fine mud floor with drop holes to reach a climb down into a chamber where a waterfall came out the opposite wall. With 5 of us in the group people were getting restless with the surveying, so we sent Dave to climb up the waterfall and explore this open lead. Meanwhile we surveyed down to the sump. On returning to the waterfall, we met Dave who described a passage leading to a large boulder choke where a prominent cairn was seen. Paul confirmed that he had built this cairn the previous day, so the two ‘going leads which Paul had not grabbed the previous day turned out to be opposite ends of a short section of streamway.

Surveying continued up the passage below the waterfall heading away from the sump. We took in a short dead end side passage before completing our first loop back at the climb down in the large passage with the fine mud floor. This was interesting for us because we had never completed a loop in our brief surveying experience, so we would now have some indication as to the accuracy of our work. Back up the climb and back to the junction where we continued the survey in the other direction to the base of an aven. We stopped for the first round of sandwiches here, before continuing. At this point we sent Dave and Chris off to explore so they did not get bored, and continued along a rift. A side passage off this leads to a view point half way up the aven, which remains to be climbed to the top. We then continued along the rift past fine flowstone with fractures in it and broken curtains until the floor receded and we ended up traversing a long way about a stream. At the end of the rift the floor is regained and a large boulder slope leads up to the face of a boulder choke with the stream emerging. The boulders appear to be mostly sandstone. Dave and Chris were back with us by this stage, having had a good look round but not finding any new leads. Dave climbed up into the choke and appeared on top of a massive boulder, so we took one vertical survey leg to measure the height of the passage at the end. Dave reported that there was no obvious way on even at roof level. This area requires closer attention on another trip. From here we surveyed back down stream to emerge at the top of the waterfall and complete a second longer loop.

Next we looked at the passage going off at the first junction we had surveyed past. Paul had not been up this passage, so with some excitement I took the lead and headed off into the unknown. This passage appears to be the source of the water coming down the Schoolboy Error aven, but the stream is at the bottom of a 3m deep, 10cm wide slot in the floor. The passage above the slot is a walking height narrow rift for a short distance until it branches. Left looked smaller and was left for another day. Right was crawling height, but too narrow to crawl, forcing you to progress on your side around many bends until I decided I was getting too tired to push this further with much still to survey. So we stopped at a prominent stalactite in the middle of the passage and started a survey from the top of this, going back to link it into the main passage survey. This would give us a good idea of the trend of this passage. Dave tried to sabotage the work at one point by dropping the survey tape reel down the 3m deep, 10cm wide slot in the floor, but luckily he kept hold of the tape end. Much fishing and gentle teasing (of the tape reel and Dave) later he managed to recover the reel and the survey could continue.

Now all that remained was the passage heading the other direction from the top of Schoolboy Error aven. Chris was getting cold by now, and we decided to split into two groups so he and Dave could head out. Dave first wanted to see the other passage so headed off to see the end of the cave while we had another sandwich break. Carl, Paul and I then started surveying up this passage while Dave returned to the aven and headed out with Chris and some of the equipment. The passage we were now in has a fine pure white calcite floor which has been covered by a thin layer of mud. In places the mud would stick to your knee pads and pull off to reveal the once pristine calcite below. An interesting example of a cave ruining fine formations through natural processes.

The crawling passage eventually emerges into a much larger phreatic tunnel which is largely filled with flowstone. To the left the flowstone fills what must have once been a 3m diameter tunnel to within 0.5m of the roof, making a flat out crawl. In the other direction a trench in the floor enables walking until the formations in the trench force you to crawl on top of the muddy flowstone filling the rest of the passage to protect the formations. Eventually a junction is reached, where left is a long oxbow (left unsurveyed) while right continues through an awkward calcited squeeze which looks deceptively larger than it actually is. Carl could not fit beyond this point, leaving Paul and I to complete the survey from here to the end. After the squeeze the passage changes into a narrower rift with traversing over delicate looking muddy plates below. This reaches a 3m climb down into a larger chamber with an impressive long thin stalactite which is right alongside the climb. A nervous descent to the floor left this in tact, and we surveyed through a high decorated chamber where Paul pointed out where the unsurveyed oxbow emerges high up the wall. A careful crawl between two long straws leads to a flat out squeeze into a final smaller rift chamber. At the end of this the passage becomes too low as the ceiling slopes down to the mud floor.
Our survey work done, we headed out exhausted but satisfied to emerge at the entrance after 13.5 hours underground.

(Photos of Footleg all taken by Paul Dold)

Add comments

Images

Looking up the aven where we made our breakthrough
Posted by: Dr Footleg
Size: 60kb
Width: 433 pixels
Height: 600 pixels
Posted: 29 December 2006
Squeezing through at the top of the aven into the new passage
Posted by: Dr Footleg
Size: 54kb
Width: 600 pixels
Height: 450 pixels
Posted: 29 December 2006
Making survey notes in the Stal Jail
Posted by: Dr Footleg
Size: 75kb
Width: 600 pixels
Height: 450 pixels
Posted: 29 December 2006
The stream emerges from the terminal sandstone choke
Posted by: Dr Footleg
Size: 65kb
Width: 600 pixels
Height: 450 pixels
Posted: 29 December 2006
Surveying along another decorated passage
Posted by: Dr Footleg
Size: 62kb
Width: 600 pixels
Height: 465 pixels
Posted: 29 December 2006