Sima Tibia to Cueva Fresca
Sunday, 17 June 2012
In preparation for the Cueto ‘ Coventosa through-trip we decided that the Tibia to Fresca traverse would be ideal practice for the pull through in Cueto. Sima Tibia has two 85m pitches which are both broken into two parts, both free or semi free hanging on chains. This provides a good test in your pull through abilities with a relatively shorter distance below your feet and a substantially shorter call out time.
The entrance of Sima Tibia is fairly obscure and we only found this by chance. It would be highly useful, if not a necessity, to have GPS with you in order to find this entrance.
Sima Tibia: WGS84 30T UTM 0450115 4786035 842m
Cueva Fresca: WGS84 30T UTM 0451250 4575578 445m
WALK TO SIMA TIBIA
Leave the car at the end of the small track, just slightly past San Antonio. (Only one car is needed for this trip as the Cueva Fresca exit is close to San Antonio). Crossing over the river via the footbridge, take the footpath on the left through the trees, which is marked with yellow and white footpath stripes. This leads up to a junction with a wide track, where we turn left. Passing cabins, we enter a woodland and continue along the track. A small clearing is reached which holds a tree description information board. Continue along the track, but keep an eye out for your turn off, which is on the right. It is a very faint path and can easily be missed, but it is well marked by cairns and these cairns can be seen from the main track. Once on this footpath, it is very easy to follow and continues up hill. Part way up another path joins this one on the left, so make sure you turn right and continue up the hill here. Youll know if you go wrong as youll end up walking down hill!
Two cabins are reached, but you keep following the track that continues up hill to another set of cabins. From here walk up the hill towards the trees. Entering the trees a footpath is gained, which contours around the hill that is on your right. Once around the other side of this hill, a valley can be seen with yet more cabins spread out within. Access to the ridge beyond needs to be gained and in order to do this it is best to stay high on the left of the valley following the footpath along the side of the dry stone wall. The footpath will soon be lost and you will need to head through the grass and shrubs to the top of the ridge.
From here we had problems finding the cave and our description is definitely not the best way to gain access to the cave. However as we couldnt find a good English description this might have to be the best for now!
Heading north, but also down off the ridge, the terrain on the right that overlooks the Ason valley becomes valley-like, or with ravines. Sima Tibia is located in one of these ravines and it is best to traverse above these ravines until you recognise the correct one needed. The ravine you need is wide and shallow with a group of medium to large trees, at least 10 in number. These trees are the main indication that you are in the correct ravine. They are obvious, so if you dont see them, then you are definitely not in the right ravine! Also on your left, looking down the ravine, is a grassy, steep terraced slope and on the right is a 10m high domed shaped cliff.
Sima Tibia is located approximately 30 metres above these trees. The entrance is not obvious and you cant really see it until you are upon it, but it is marked on the rock next to the entrance as Tibia, so you know when youve found it. It is very useful to have the GPS for this part. There is a cairn near the entrance of Sima Tibia so it may be likely that there is a cairned footpath to the cave, which we unfortunately did not find.
We used the description and survey provided by the A.D. Picos Tres Mares, again translated into Googlish. This was a pretty good description but before Stuart arrived in Spain, Noel and I decided to check that the up pitches of P15 and P10 were sufficiently rigged for our exit during the through-trip.
The route from Fresca to these pitches is fairly straight forward, but there is a bit of route finding and it was definitely advantageous for us to know the way out, providing us with a quick exit for the through-trip.
The P10 and P15 are hard rigged and at the time of the trip, the ropes and bolts all appeared new. However the rigging has a number of rub points, so it wont be long until these ropes are tired. I would advise a trip in here to check on the quality of the rope. To note, it is best to check all the way down to the stream way on P15 as there are a couple of rebelays.
The through-trip through Tibia was very straight forward with pitch after pitch after pitch. The first P85 was intimidating but a fantastic abseil as it was all free-hanging. The chain was found at approximately 30m down. This was one foot long chain and it was not at all comfortable with the three of us dangling, no foot holds and being pressed against each other. We were pretty eager to pull the rope down quickly and get to the floor.
Before the next P85 there are a number of easy pitches and a squeeze ‘ yes an actual squeeze in Spain. In googlish, this translates as The Flap!! Having joked about it all the way down, and thinking that it was going to be easy, Noel had a bit of a surprise as he threw his skinny body into the narrow passage and realised he wasnt going to get through.
The main issue here is the passage is narrow but also does an S-like bend. I didnt have any problems getting through here (and neither did Noel after he actually thought about the problem). I stayed fairly vertical until I reached the bend, then sat down and slid under the S shape. Stuart however had a harder time, but eventually pushed himself through the Sam Allshorne way I had tackled it.
Soon we were at the top of the next P85. Here there are some fixed ropes where you abseil a short distance from the top of the pitch, to a more free-hanging section a short distance below. This is where you set up your rope. From here you abseil to a very large boulder at approximately 25m down that is wedged in the pitch. This, in the Spanish description, is the ledge. We were all very happy to see that there was a ledge in the description, thinking that this pitch would be easy. Oh no!! The boulder is slanting at a steep angle and along with the chain placement, means that only one person can wedged themselves between the ledge and the boulder, and everyone else has to dangle again. So quick as a flash we were pulling down the rope, eager to rest our aching legs.
Once down we continued along the stream way for some time until we found the P15 rope dangling down to greet us. Here Noel and I were on familiar ground and set to stomping through the rest of the cave. The main obstacles on the way out are the traverses of Turn of the Spider (Vira de La Arana), Tracastin and El Bloque 64. All are fairly easy and rigged.
Fresca is an aptly named cave, as youll find out when nearing the exit!
WALK FROM AND TO CUEVA FRESCA
The exit from Cueva Fresca is very easy and takes about 15mins. From the cave turn right, following the path down the hill, through the woods and into the field. Carry on down the hill to the main track where you began your walk up to Tibia. Turn left on the track, remembering that you joined this track from another track on the right, which takes you back to your car.
For those of you who wish to check out Fresca first, follow the beginning of the description for Tibia, head along the main track reaching the cabins. Between the second to last and last cabins, youll see a field on your right with a dry stone wall on the left (south) of the field. Climb up the field, keeping near the wall and enter the woods at the top of the field. Keeping to the left in the woods youll soon find a footpath. Youll need to traverse around a small drop in order to gain the path. Once on the path it is very easy to follow and will take you to the entrance of Fresca, which is very obvious!
2x65m ropes, GPS!