I've just come back from a fantastic two weeks with the Proyecto Speleologico Sistema Huautla, the continuing exploration of the deepest cave in the Americas, led by the veteran Texan explorer Bill Steele. Until last night the system was about 76km long.
On my first trip I helped survey an upstream lead near the bottom of the entrance series, which had been looked at solo by the legendary Tennessee-Alabama-Georgia and Mexico caver Richard Schreiber, who passed away in 1991. To our surprise, a little beyond the furthest point Schreiber reached we crossed an underground watershed into a streamway heading down in the opposite direction from the rest of the known cave. We called our new series 'Spirit of Schreiber' in his honour.
Via pitches of 35m, 105m, 10m, 10m and 150m (the last shaft dubbed 'The British Invasion') we connected this to another cave, Nita N’Tau, so bringing Carrizo’s length to about 8km. Then, after spending several days enlarging the tiny rift which was the main outlet from the huge chamber at the bottom of the 150m pitch where the two caves unite, we discovered a fantastic descending canyon in beautiful green and black marble. On my last 24 hour trip last weekend we got through the rift and ran out of rope after a further 150m of descent. It was heading straight for an aven in La Grieta, part of the Sistema Huautla, so if it kept going, it was clearly a significant find. Very exciting caving!
Bill just texted me. The next team in 'went down a 60 degree angle shaft series until they came to an awesome 50 m freefall shaft with a breakdown floor. Mexican caver Adrian Miguel Nieto pushed through breakdown to a crawlway with tight spots and came out into passage in La Grieta close to Mazateca Shores where Camp 2 is. He returned to Ellie Watson and Rich Zarria and said, “I saw a rope.”' The connection was made at midnight on Wednesday, local time.
A great achievement and a tribute to Bill's superb organisational skills - this is still a remote area, where putting cavers into caves is no simple matter. Kudos to all concerned!