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2006 Matienzo

Report by Jase Rider

Cavers: Dunka (EPC), Dave Gledhill (EPC), Bernie Maddison (EPC), Pete Pollard (EPC), Jase Rider (EPC), Bob Toogood (EPC), Colin Woodley (EPC).

This was a combined sports caving and exploration trip with various members involved in all sorts through the week. Click [here] for photos from the trip. Below is a report by Jase Rider from the Tonio/Canuella through-trip:

22nd August - Sima Tonio / Sistema Canuella through-trip
This was a fantastic trip, with a bit of everything apart from water. Monday 21st August was to be the day of the Sima Tonio / Sistema Canuella through trip. After a late start and a hot and tiring walk up the mountain from Arredondo we had a search of several hours to find the entrance. It was getting late when Bernie suddenly shouted that he found the entrance. It was right under our noses and we'd been searching further away. As it was getting late the decision was made to leave the gear at the entrance and do the trip the following day - I think most of us seemed happy with this decision. The next day saw an earlier start and an easier walk up to the entrance without the inconvenience of heavy bags. Dunka had rigged the first pitch the previous afternoon and Pete and Dunka were soon down. From here Pete took over the rigging and was aided by Jase and Dunka. Pitch three caused a problem as the rope wouldn't pull-through and Bob did well to climb back up to unhook. However, pitch five caused more of a problem as it was extremely tight - I'm sure Dave will testify to this given the noises he was making! Following this was the much anticipated "diaclaster" - this turned out to be a tight rift which opened out onto a balcony followed by another tricky traverse. Quite a few more pitches followed (21 in total), the largest of which was 55 metres, including some excellent swings on to ledges. One in particular stood out where a pendulum was made in to an exposed window between two pitches. The final pitch was truly awe inspiring - a drop over a ledge into a huge black emptyness (a massive sloping-down chamber - Sala Guillaume - the second largest chamber in Spain ). Our comically translated rigging guide described the pitch head as an 'acrabatic take-off due to mediocre rock' and was not far off the mark as the belay was kind of on the underside of the ledge! As I abseiled, Pete, already down, seemed a long, long way away and I took a few seconds to appreciate the size of the place. The bottom section is beautiful, with huge dry fossil passage (Galeria del 10 de Agosto) containing fantastic sword-like formations which have been sculpted by the strong draught. Although the way was marked by arrows and markers I still think we managed to get lost a couple of times as it seemed to take ages to get out. We eventually emerged one by one from the large entrance cave (Galeria de entrada) at 8pm after a trip of 8 hours. Unfortunately the delay in finding the entrance put the Cueto-Coventosa through trip back by a day and so I missed that one - hopefully someone else will do a write-up of that trip... I spent the Wednesday caving with Dan and Dave Cowley. The new sections of passages they discovered in Papa Noel are amazing as Dave's pictures testify. Hopefully they will do a write-up of their discovery.