• Hello From Descent

    The publication date for issue 289 is the 10th of December, meaning subscribers should receive their copies during the week leading up to that date. It is also available from caving suppliers such as Inglesport and Starless River, or from our new website

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Ario Caves Project

Pitlamp

Well-known member
Cracking effort - well done team!
Maybe you should call that next drop "Faceplant Pitch" (LOL).

Joking apart - I hope you're OK Mark. Sounds like you had a lot of bad luck on that trip but well done for determination to keep going.
 

Wardy

Member
Well done to all and good luck with an attempt on the climb if you get chance.

Bet Mark could've done with that spare pair of pants when the belay broke!
Nice that it was nothing worse.
 

David Rose

Active member
Well done guys, and Mark, I hope your nose heals soon. And thanks for all the posts here - it's great to able to keep in touch with exploration in an area that has meant so much to me over the years, and in a cave I had the privilege of descending (gulp) 38 years ago.
 

chunky

Active member
Chris and I are now down off the mountain. I'm fine, if anything even more attractive and rugged looking than ever!
Expect my usual photo heavy blog in the next week or so, but until then here's a pic of one of the many stunning evening cloud inversions as i sat watching the sunset above camp.
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chunky

Active member
The expedition continues. Hopefully one of the guys on the mountain can fill us in soon, but the Muxa de-rig began on Sunday and teams pulled out the underground camp yesterday. C4 had been re-rigged and bolted down below The Monster and a team was heading in on the day of my departure.
 

Chris J

Active member
Follow up.



Due to tight timeframes and concerns about the weather it became evident that multiple dives were unlikely to happen. Expecting a significant deep sump I decided to focus on just doing one big dive and making that really count.



So when I passed the Muxa sump after a relatively straight forward and shallow dive there was no time in this years plan for a return for beyond sump exploration.



So the open passage beyond will wait for another year. The knowledge we’ve gained about the cave and sump will allow us to change our approach. Now it will be possible to dive using wetsuits and much smaller (and lighter) diving kit.



The streamway discovered beyond the sump was identical in nature to the rest of Muxa and the upstream Texa watercourse which has further convinced us that the connection is extremely close.
 

nobrotson

Active member
Unfortunate that time didn't allow for further diving, sounds pretty frustrating. At least this year's attempt leaves you in a good place for next time. Looking forward to hearing about what happens in C4 :)
 

adventurebarbie

Active member
Unfortunate that time didn't allow for further diving, sounds pretty frustrating. At least this year's attempt leaves you in a good place for next time. Looking forward to hearing about what happens in C4 :)
Tbh, it was never on the cards with the resource and time we had so the team are just delighted to have the outcome we have :)

And what’s amazing for those who didn’t come is another chance to see the cave. It really is a beauty.
 

Chris J

Active member
Another post to wrap up my expedition time:



As the dive team were lying in their sleeping bags on 10th Aug, another team of four we’re headed down the cave to take over bringing gear up from the sump. Rich Hudson, Peter Dennis, Vlad Turcuman and Phil Hawcroft were making a two night camp with plans to move all the gear back from the sump to camp over two days.



After meeting with the newcomers at camp, Chris, Lisa, Mark and Stu got ready to exit the cave. Before they left Stu and Lisa managed to locate a break in the Nicola radio arial wire which was the cause of the issues we’d had. Once restored the Nicola would prove to be extremely useful in the forthcoming days.



On 11th August Mike Bottomley and Steph Dwyer did a bounce trip to the bottom and collected two bags on the way out. That meant that on 12th August there were just 5 bags of diving kit to be removed. Sam Lee, Lisa Wotton, Tony Seddon, Shane Diffily and myself agreed to head down to camp and bring these out so that the four campers could just carry their personal kit out. Phil Baker was also going to come down but had ‘technical issues’ with his descender in the 180m pitch…



At this point Mark Burkey and myself had finished our time up at Ario. The remaining team and some new arrivals however have carried on with the de-rig. A sterling effort by everyone involved in the expedition this year.



Huge thanks as always to our hosts at the Refugio who fed and housed many of us this year.
 

Bartek

New member
I'm going to add my two-penny worth of write-up to the existing reports and photo blogs report.

PART1 - Muxa

We arrived at the Ario Refugio after long 21hrs drive and 3 hrs walk, so naturally as we should, next day we went to the deepest cave we ever been to. The plan was to abseil to the -600m camp whilst taking few snaps, meet up with Phil Baker and Tony Seddon who were derigging the streamway, spend the night at the camp and to come out next day.

Lisa Wootton very kindly offered to be the model whilst abseiling the overwhelmingly deep Gran Abisu. After one of the first reports mentioned that the rock dropped in at the entrance falls in for sixteen seconds, I was a little concern about dropping any stuff.

After a long morning faff combined with the previous day travel tiredness, the three of us started to abseil down with Paulina leading the way.

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Lisa Wootton & Paulina on the approach to Gran Abisu


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The first few rebelays of Gran Abisu


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Gran Abisu beyond the Eagles Nest


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Gran Abisu beyond the Eagles Nest

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Paulina on the last free hang of Pozu Lueje before reaching the streamway of Muxa

Lisa headed back out from the bottom of Gran Abisu and the two of us made our way to the camp to meet Phil and Tony on their way back from the streamway. At the camp we managed to get fairly clear comms with Peter Dennis who gave us weather updates.

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Paulina using the Nicola radio

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Camp cooking
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Phil taking notes

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Comfy night

After good night sleep in warm sleeping bags and hot breakfast we made our way back to surface. It was an excellent trip we will not forget for a long time.
 

Bartek

New member
PART2

During the next few days following the Muxa trip, the forecast was deteriorating. It has been decided to visit a weather safe option 27/9. Light rain was forecasted for 6pm and the four of us, Mark Sims, Sandy Wright, Paulina and I, set off for the day. Plan was to re-rigg, survey, photograph and possibly explore. Mark and Sandy carried on surveying pass the squeeze as Paulina and I took few pictures heading back to towards the entrance, as the squeeze was not very accommodating for some members of the party.


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27/9 the big pitch where we got rained

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27/9 the pitch where the old survey finished

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Cave pearls at the bottom of Sound of Silence

All was fine until about 4.30pm when suddenly someone above us opened the tap. Initially we heard the noise, soon followed by a heavy spray which started to increase, as we hung between the rebelays on a 50m pitch with all the camera gear spread out between me, Paulina and the bottom of the pitch. We managed to pack it all quickly and proceeded to come out towards the final few pitches slightly concerned about Mark & Sandy as we didn’t know how the cave reacts to the rain. As quickly as the water came it very soon started to slow down and we also heard the boys following us out of the cave. Only when we got back to the Refugio, we learned how heavy the rain actually was, when we saw the aftermath of the flooded gear tent.

Next day was the bad weather day and coincidentally a deserved rest day as we were all pretty worn after few days of continuous travel and caving. Once the weather improved, in next few days we carried on with the expedition tasks, surface prospects, C4 prep for the next year and slow de-rigg of the camp with only 5 of us left at Ario.

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Tony and Mark packing gear for the re-rigg beyond the Monster in C4

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C4, The Monster

As the weather got better towards the weekend, we’ve had some most amazing cloudless nights stargazing and admiring the milky way.


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Stargazing evening sponsored by the Dinner Mix


Couple of days were spend on surface prospecting, entrance finding, GPSing, shaftbashing and we had an interesting trip to 53/5 and the very end. 53/5 is an interesting cave with an unreal blowy draft coming out of the entrance. We took the path towards the Trea Canal and after a while I realised that I forgot my undersuit (I’ll be fine, I thought, it’s only drafty at the entrance). By the entrance I realised that I had no gloves, no to worry, I did pack all the camera stuff though. Going through the coffin lid squeeze wasn’t as bad as the Ario Reality rift in 27/9, so I thought going through it on the way in. As we later learned it was my first out of 6 passes through that squeeze, last of which was to assist a caver who had to go back to the cave to get his forgotten lunch box out (and it wasn’t me this time who forgot to take it out of the cave). In the cave itself we found the lost draft, kind of, and Mark and Sandy followed it upstream, with me chasing them with the camera. No conclusion was made on which direction the cave develops as the exploration up and down the rift consumed a lot of time, and did not allow for surveying.

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Which way will this cave let us in? Do we look confused enough?

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The Pterodactyl pitch, the pitch of the lost draft.

All in all, it was an amazing time spent in a breath-taking landscape, satisfyingly challenging caves and super fun and friendly company. Thanks to all involved.

Special thanks to our sponsors UKCaving, Petzl, Spanset, MountainFuel​
 

Huge

Member
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the pitch where the old survey finished
So is this the 6th and final pitch in the original part of the cave, Bartek? With the too narrow rift at the bottom that was enlarged over the years to discover the rest of the cave?

If so, did anyone mention the small but very well decorated chambers that can be reached by climbing up the arete at the start of the rift, almost to the height of the pitch itself. I would love to see photos of these chambers as they are probably the prettiest bit of cave I've ever found. I was lucky to drop the 5th and 6th pitches with Keith Hyams, with him being the first down the 5th and me the first down the 6th, during the 1998 expedition.

Nice write-up and great photos, Bartek!
 

Sandy

New member
Yes, that’s right. 27/9 is still going, we only had 2 trips in there this year but managed to survey to the current end and go down the 20m pitch that it was left at in 2019. Climbing back up a steep muddy bank then led to the top of another pitch where the cave meets a large hading rift and another pitch left for next time.
 

Bartek

New member
So is this the 6th and final pitch in the original part of the cave, Bartek? With the too narrow rift at the bottom that was enlarged over the years to discover the rest of the cave?

If so, did anyone mention the small but very well decorated chambers that can be reached by climbing up the arete at the start of the rift, almost to the height of the pitch itself. I would love to see photos of these chambers as they are probably the prettiest bit of cave I've ever found. I was lucky to drop the 5th and 6th pitches with Keith Hyams, with him being the first down the 5th and me the first down the 6th, during the 1998 expedition.

Nice write-up and great photos, Bartek!
I believe it is the place you are describing, the prietties are where the light comes from at the top of the opposite side of Paulina, really pretty indeed. The little black hole leads towards them. Unfortunately didn't take any pictures of the nice parts as I went there first without the camera as Mark and Sandy were beyond the squeeze lower down, I could still hear them very well for a good while. When I went to position the flash there again it seemed to narrow for a decent photo but it is probably worth having another look as they are so lovely. Well done for the initial find and hard work widening the rift.
 

Huge

Member
Thanks for the replies both. Good to hear the cave's still going. I wasn't involved with widened rift at all, btw.

I did think about asking before the expedition, if someone happened to be heading down 27/9, if they could photograph the chambers but thought everyone would have plenty to be going on with in Muxa and C4! Maybe next year. (y)
 
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