Asopladeru La Texa – Day 2 – Upper Streamway extensions
Wednesday, 16 July 2008

I awoke at the Sala Osten camp as fresh as a daisy, ready for another adventure filled day. Tony Seddon was also at camp – he’d been diving the downstream sump in the upper streamway – reached via 40m or so of pitches below camp. The previous day Tony had successfully dived the downstream sump in the upper streamway for 70m only to climb into roof passage which doubled back on the sump to re-emerge in the streamway roof. A rope was fixed creating a sump bypass (Diver’s Dilemma). The plan for the day was for Phil and Steve to continue bolt climbing whilst me and Simon helped Tony into the upstream sump and explored the newly discovered streamway beyond the downstream sump once he returned.

Sandy pasta was enjoyed for breakfast along with loads of tea – it was almost like Ingleton on a Saturday morning (except for having to bury your own poo in a sandy hole).
As the streamway was rather moist compared to the rest of the cave, wetsuits were donned by Tony and Si. Unfortunately I didn’t have one so I settled for a Russian goon suit, much to the delight of Mad Phil who thought I looked like something out of Dr Who. I especially liked the rubber straps used to hold a tight seal around the face, unfortunately we must have forgotten to pack the rubber ball for the mouth.

The streamway was reached quickly due to it’s vicinity to camp. After a little fettling, Tony was geared up and ready to dive upstream. Whilst waiting for him to come back, I amused myself by climbing up the rope into the roof (new downstream sump bypass) to look for evidence of any passage heading towards an upstream sump bypass. A small labyrinth of phreatic passage ensued, most of which either ended after closing down, or re-joined the streamway. The most promising looking passage unfortunately ended in a chute back into the upstream sump pool, from where I thought I could see passage continuing above the sump. Excitedly I raced back around, self inflated my goon suit via the rubber nipple and floated across the sump pool (Simon nervously held a rope ready to lasso me here as he thought I was going to deflate and sink like a stone) where unfortunately the passage closed down.

Soon afterwards Tony re-emerged. The sump was a 40m long easy, shallow dive to walking streamway for around 150m to a small waterfall requiring bolting. The last lead in this area was what looked like a passage leading off above the upstream sump. Unfortunately this was just out of reach, but an improvised lasso was fashioned and Simon hooked something out of sight but solid. The ‘solid’ thing turned out to be a tiny piece of crappy calcite, but only after Si had climbed up on it. This passage sadly ended at a small silty sump and a large oxbow back to the stream.
The next port of call was via the new bypass to the streamway beyond the downstream sump. Partway along the sump bypass a strong odour of wee was noticed. The previous day Tony had put this smell down to weeing in wetsuits but it soon became clear it was alot stronger than this. It was made even more clear when Simon discovered a couple of turds on a ledge. Confused we finally realised that the sump bypass was one and the Sam Allshorne as ‘piss rift’ – the camp urinal. This shaft was very close to other shafts leading elsewhere and so had been assumed to connect with them, hence had never been pushed and just used as a toilet.

This pot could then be easily rigged to allow direct access from camp into the bypass – Simon thought it apt that the pot should be called ‘Piss-poor pushing pot’.
Continuing along Diver’s Dilemma through a few waist deep pools reaches the large clear sump pool from which Tony emerged. The hydrology around here is rather strange as the pool appears static and is not part of the streamway which can be found by climbing up over the sump and along a short section of passage. The stream is then intersected, flowing from right to left, with the water emerging from another sump to the right.

The stream passage continued moistly as a pleasant stream passage before reaching a small pitch down a cascade (Good Things Come…), previously dropped by Tony and Hilary on finding the sump bypass. The previous limit of exploration was soon reached downstream at another pitch. The pitch head was gained via a traverse and bridge over the stream. Unfortunately the drill was off with the others up the aven so we had to settle for hand bolting the pitches. Tony bolted the first pitch which ran around a corner at the pitch head, and down a few metres to land on a false floor of large boulders jammed high above what appeared to be a large series of waterfalls along a rift.

The next pitch was bolted but rather than head down into the fray in the rift, another ledge was gained at around 10m down by swinging off to the left. This ledge turned out to be a crows-nest positioned on the ‘knife edge’ of a huge rib of rock separating the watery rift from a large open black void beyond, further to the left.

Simon continued down into this large void but after another 10 – 15m of rope was added it was clear that we were not going to make it anywhere near the bottom with the amount of rope we had. Simon had to abseil onto the knot to be able to reach far enough to place more bolts, ready for when more rope was brought down. At this point Simon was suspended above a huge void with a large amount of moist air blowing up out of it, but no sound of water, suggesting either a very deep hole or a connection round a corner to the deep wet ‘rift’. A rock was thrown down from the end of the rope and it took a good 3 – 4 seconds to hit the bottom. Here a retreat to camp was called with the aim of radio-ing to the surface for more rope.

From the survey, the head of this last pitch was 105m vertically and 36m horizontally from the upstream waterfall in the lower streamway, so a connection seemed pretty likely, though not definite as it was always assumed to be a different stream due to past dye traces and water volume estimates etc. This was later dropped by Paul Windle to the upstream limit of exploration in the lower streamway proving it is one and the Sam Allshorne streamway.

We were back to camp relatively early and spent a good part of the night eating sandy pasta, other noodley carby things and lots of tea, whilst waiting for the aven bolting team. They returned late, having tidied up the rope climbs into the aven replacing Tony’s antique dynamic climbing rope on one section with real caving rope, and boasting of “the most amazing formations ever seen” at the top of the next climb, with more unexplored passage beyond.

By the end of the evening my furry had finally dried out – This being after hours of walking around camp and shivering in just a furry to allow it to dry with just my body heat, as heating the inside of the tent with the stove was apparently “too gay”.

Another quality day of exploration, I was getting to quite like the whole overseas expedition caving by now.


Underground photos to follow

Noel Snape

Thursday, 24 July 2008