May 122015

Corey dropping down a virgin pitch

Besides the fun of the main game in San Agustin and La Grieta on the PESH 2015 expedition, there was also some surface activity and trips to smaller objectives. Corey spent a day wandering the jungle and covered a huge distance from our lodgings. The universe being what it is, he found a highly prospective cave entrance on the way home, less than 200m from where we were staying. He came back with this news late in the day and made it sound enticing. Sometime after dark we decided to go and have a look.

Katelyn between flowstone

After sliding down the hill from the road through some particularly spiky vegetation, Corey relocated the entrance. I was expecting a small hole in the ground that required either a climb up or a rope down. Instead there was a comfortable 1m in diameter entrance hole with a sloping rock floor into a large tunnel. Score! Despite best advice we’d followed Corey down in moderately inadequate caving gear. After a short travel down the passage and one hand line drop it became apparent that real equipment was going to be required. We scrambled out and went back for a drill, ropes and a survey kit.

Equipment gathering (and marking the board up at the fieldhouse) caused a bit of conversation. Besides Corey, Zeb, Katelyn and myself a few other people slid down the hill to come and look at the entrance. The four of us grabbed the gear and proceeded in with Corey rigging ahead while Zeb and Katelyn surveyed and I alternated between painting survey stations and taking photos. While the tunnel was relatively straight and allowed long shots on the survey, the sketch needed to take in flowstone formations all over the place. It felt very similar to the start of the Fool’s Day Extension in San Agustin, with multiple short drops covered in flowstone.

The nice thing about having the high speed people occupied with important jobs is that they don’t move very fast. I was able to place strobes on the floor, grab a few shots of work in action and also hijack Katelyn from disto duty. The first image here is the second last pitch of the evening, taken just before 1am. Corey had just placed the bolt and dropped the rope to rappel down into unknown territory. From the top of this pitch we could see a large room continuing around the corner out of view.

The second picture is Katelyn, perched between two massive flowstone formations above the second or third pitch. There is a survey station up there and I turned around from seeking the next station to see her sitting there taking LRUDs. A quick jog down to fetch the camera and up the rope to pass up a strobe and I had this photo. As it turned out, after a handline and five short pitches the next flowstone decoration completely blocked the presumed way on. By this time it was 3am and there was no airflow to give us any hints. We packed up the toys and headed out with a few photos, a dozen survey shots and about 120m of virgin cave in the bag. Not bad for a midnight ramble.


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