Author Topic: Makita Competition-Exploration in La Grieta with Bill Stone  (Read 826 times)

Offline andychapm

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In May this year, I was invited on the Projecto Espeleo Sistema Huautla expedition in Mexico by Bill Steele (of Yochib and Huautla fame).
One of the expedition objectives was to push a passage called the Upstream Refresher lead in La Grieta, in the Huautla System. Bill Stone (of Beyond the Deep) had arranged an elite team of American cavers to camp at Camp 3 for thirty days, in order to push the leads.
Unfortunately, due to illness, lack of enthusiasm and many other illnesses and maladies, after 3 days of camping underground, only Bill and his girlfriend Vicki Siegel were left at camp. Bill had been leaving messages at Camp 1.5 asking for people to come in to support but no-one was keen to go.....
This was until Bev Shade arrived at Surface Camp. I'd not seen Bev for 6 years but she still had maintained her optimism and massive drive for caving. She soon had me motivated for a trip to Camp 3 so we packed up and were ready to go.
But not until the local Shaman had performed a blessing to appease the cave gods. The expedition members were told to stand in line, light candles and were then vigourously rubbed with a live turkey (This turkey was later thrown down the entrance to La Grieta meaning there was a decomposing carcass near the entrance for most of the expedition).
Once this had finished, Bev and I set off, for the Hobbit Hole entrance of La Grieta. Forcing our oversized tacklebags in front of us, we wormed our way through the awkward entrance series, eventually breaking out in walking size passage. Pitch after pitch followed, dropping us down 400 metres to the horizontal passage of the Refresher. The first stop was Camp 1.5 for a quick meal and a brew. Unfortunately, the only drink was 0 calorie energy drink, so realising we'd use more calories in opening the thing, we just had hot water.
A long commute upstream commenced after, walking, crawling and passing precarious boulder chokes. After about 5 hours, at 11pm we prussiked up the final pitch and caught sight of two people staring at us from their sleeping bags.
"You must be Andy" Bill said. (I was shocked he knew my name but as the only British person on the exped, it can't have been that difficult to guess). "Think we're going back to bed but we'll talk in the morning". Me and Bev cooked some food and then found some camping spots and slept.
In the morning, Bill told us the plan. We were going to check out the upstream lead, Bill and Vicki would go on ahead and Bev and I would survey up to them. After a couple of hundred metres of surveying, Bev and I caught up with a very dejected pair of cavers. The lead had blanked out. However, we had noticed another passage back down the passage so Bev thought we could go to survey that.
It started off tight and grotty, a hading rift passage but after 100 metres, it opened up all of a sudden. "It's a massive borehole passage, Bev".
We decided to call Bill and Vicki, they had been down there a good while and would appreciate getting the chance to explore whilst we surveyed some side leads.
We headed back to camp, ate and waited for Bill. Eventually, they came back. "How's it going?"
"200 metres more but it ends in a climb"
"Not too bad then, bit of aid climbing then?"
Unfortunately, Bev and I had to go back out but it was good to know that Bill and Vicki had a good lead to push.
The last thing I did before I left was to record an audio interview with Bill about his explorations in Huautla and here it is.....


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