Asopladeru La Texa – Day 3 – Phreatic labyrinth
Thursday, 17 July 2008

On the Thursday morning, Tony and Steve prepared for their long prussic out (I was originally supposed to go with them but managed to wangle another night underground). More rope, rigging gear, chorizo, cheese and toilet roll was ordered over morning comms. The plan was therefore to wait to be joined by Paul Windle and a couple of Russian cavers to arrive from the surface hopefully around mid-afternoon with the required gear, then continue pushing passage.

Unfortunately it soon became apparent that the cavers with fresh supplies were not going to make it to camp for lunch time as we had, as they didn’t have Mad Phil whipping them along.
Fairly soon after lunch, Phil got bored of waiting and decided to go back to bed in order for a late night trip when the others arrived, leaving us fresh for the exit the next day.
Not feeling particularly sleepy, I decided to amuse myself by looking around the immediate area of the camp for more passage, with the thought of an upstream sump bypass still in the back of my mind. This seemed especially worthwhile as ‘Piss Poor Pushing Pot’ had been so easily missed whilst being so close to camp, and such an important link.

To start with I was simply looking around the immediate area of camp in just a furry. After about 2 minutes of looking, I crossed the Tyrolean traverse connecting camp passage to the climb down to the stream, traversed about 5m in the opposite direction and discovered a window in the wall. If only new leads were so easily found in Yorkshire. I entered the window after some slight enlargement where I was in danger of destroying my furry on the sharp edges. A quick retreat was made to camp (20 seconds) where tea and ranting ensued before donning the oversuit and popping back through the window. At this point Simon was also getting bored so he decided to look simultaneously around the bottom of piss pot.

Through my window, a rift with plenty of sharp loose Picos style rock led down a climb where it slit in two. One passage led down through a series of squeezes and climbs to a window overlooking piss pot, and about halfway up it. Retreating the other passage led down a climb which turned out to be a blind pit.

Unperturbed, I decided (after returning to camp for more tea) to ascend the last few pitches from Texa into Sala Osten chamber as there appeared to be too-tight phreatic rift heading in that direction form the inside of the window climb. From the head of the last pitch into Sala Osten, I crossed an exposed, loose traverse to gain a sharp phreatic tube. This led on for about 10m before intersecting a tiny stream that headed back to Sala Osten and fell out of a window back into the chamber. Upstream it turned a bend into an open topped rift parallel with the chamber. I climbed up and out of this rift onto a huge ledge in the side of Sala Osten.

From here 3 leads led off, the first was a tight pot in the floor that I climbed down for about 10m. Unfortunately it became too tight for further progress without a hammer but it appeared to be trending back towards the phreatic passages found from below.

The next was a further parallel open-topped rift which was climbed for some hight on crumbling slippy ledges before comon sense prevailed, and the last was another tube that led up a steep incline and eventually doubled back into the chamber and gained a window back into Sala Osten but from high above – the roof was even visible from here. Unfortunately none of these passages revealed anything useful but I was still fairly chuffed with myself as would have been a decent length of passage in Yorkshire, or a full on Mendip pothole!

After returning to camp for more tea, Simon re-appeared and had apparently done the first piss pot round trip as he explored some phreatic passage leading off from the bottom and eventually re-emerged halfway up piss-pot above a particularly pungent pool of wee. He also had a look in the stream passage roof passages that I rummaged around the other day but sadly found nothing too interesting apart from a window looking down directly above the downstream sump in the upper streamway. This whole area is very complicated and could benefit from a (very complex) survey to try and see where the passage heads or to clear up and missed bits.

The final bit of mini-exploration was done above another shaft situated behind camp. This shaft is literally 10m from piss pot but actually connects to a completely different part of the system ie further along the phreatic passage leading from camp to the lower streamway. We could see a large void and what looked like passage leading off above the shaft. A little back from the shaft was a small window that I belayed Simon up to (from a ledge with a large poo on it – this whole area really is disgusting). The window connected through to the large ledge, but unfortunately it ended at another large hole back down into the Sam Allshorne shaft, and an ascending passage that finally just closed down.

Now fairly convinced we weren’t going to see the others anytime soon, we sat down for tea, where Phil warned me not to look directly into Windle’s light when he did arrive for risk of being blinded!
Eventually their presence was announced by the searingly bright orange light emanating from the huge section of pipe attached to the front of Windle’s helmet. Fortunately I heeded Phil’s warning and saved my sight by averting my eyes, though it did leave me feeling a little sunburnt. Unfortunately it was now midnight by which time we’d given up on the idea of a late trip so saved the further aven exploration for the following day before the prussic out.

A half wasted day but at least we looked at a fair amount of new ‘passage’.