Peru Caving Expedition (Sep-04)

Blog

Peru Caving Expedition 2004 - Yauyos District of Central Peru
By Greg Brock (BEC/CDG)

As we stepped out the hired/borrowed 4x4 trucks at 4378m above sea level the effects of the altitude and lack of acclimatization finally hit us. Suddenly a young and fit international expedition could hardly move from the confines of the trucks. It wasn't long ago that we were all fighting our way through various international airports and then risking our lives in a cab journey from Lima airport to Nick Hawkes (BEC) house. Unfortunately our first bit of exercise was up at 4378m as we had sat in trucks up until this point. We headed down Sima Pumacocha 2 (SP2) to rig the first pitches before heading back down the valley to recover. It somehow took us 4 hours to rig 80m of cave. The locals were very keen that we drunk coca(ine) tea, which is apparently their cure for altitude sickness.

Sima Pumacocha (Cave of the Mountain Lion Lake) was one of our main objectives for the trip. Explored to a depth of 638m to a sump in 2001 and 2002. It was hoped that an ascending muddy passage (Road to Certain Death) down near the sump would bypass this sump and previous limit of exploration.

The next day, 7th September, we headed back down SP2 to continue rigging the pitches. Today I was feeling a lot better which was probably a combination of being better acclimatized, the coca tea and diamox tablets (prescribed altitude drugs). While these activities were going on in SP2 others were rigging the huge entrance shaft of SP1 and also the higher entrance of Qaqa Mach'ay.

We had now rigged down to the x-files ledge and the trips were starting to get longer so we decided it was appropriate to have a day off and visit the San Valentin Mine. All the bang fumes, lorry fumes and wine at high altitude on our tour round this mine meant that most of us went back feeling worse from our day off than if we had been caving. The mine was protected by heavily armed guards and after a conversation in Spanish between Nick and the guard we were allowed in. We were shown a very impressive selection of rock samples and geological maps from the mines and given samples to take with us. We were then provided food in the Cafe where we were treated like royalty.

After recovering from our rest day Pete Whitaker, Chris Densham and myself headed back underground to carry on with the rigging of SP2 (10th Sept 04). Chris insisted on taking his newly acquired video camera on every trip and as it was kept in a yellow pelican case he soon got the nickname "Yellow Peril Productions". With lots of rope, Drills, Batteries, Rigging Gear and more Hangers than we knew what to do with we headed very slowly into the cave with our train of gear. Once at the X-Files ledge Yellow Peril Productions kicked into action and wanted to film us rigging across X-Files and down into Cascadas de Don Jesus. This was protested greatly my Pete and myself. However we soon made it to the bottom of the big pitch where we reached the "Horizontal bit". This consisted of a steeply inclined passage full of house sized boulders. From Here we rigged to the bottom of Rolling Thunder before a shortage of gear, battery power and enthusiasm prompted a return.

After a hard slog up all the ropes we reached the surface at 3am and was greeted by a freezing cold night. A great contrast in weather to the boiling hot day we left when we entered the cave. By the time we reached top camp our gear was beginning to freeze so it was a case of getting changed quickly eating some food and going to bed.

After a few hours of shivering sleep we headed back down the mountain to try and regain some energy. 12th Sept 04, Snablet and I reached the previous limit of exploration and started bolting up an ascending muddy tube which was hoped to be a sump by-pass (Road to Certain Death). Unfortunately this was not the case and it dropped straight back into the sump pool. After some looking round for other leads we headed out.

Further trips into SP2 were done for photography and then the de-rigging commenced.

Meanwhile SP1 was connected via a 282m pitch to "The Shining Path" in SP2 making a fantastic exchange trip.

Further details can be found from the expedition's website that Ian McKenzie and the rest of the 2004 team set-up: http://members.shaw.ca/pumacocha

Caving Logbook

Caving: Peru Caving (05-Sep-04)

  • Martin Holroyd, Snablet, Tom Chapman, Pete Whitaker, Chris Densham, Madphil, Ian McKenzie, Taco Van, Mark Hassell, Nick Hawkes, Henry Bruns

  • Peru Caving Expedition

  • 00:00 hours
  • 1,456:00 cumulative hours

Two weeks of High Altitude Caving in a fantastic corner of the globe. Stunning Scenery high up in the Andes and deep vertical potholes taking lots of water. The Altitude (4500m - 5000m) caused everyone a number of problems of varying severity throughout the trip. The Hostipality was second to none with un-beatable facilities and food provided by the Hyrdo Electric & Mining Company. Weather was generally speaking excellent during the first part of the day with rain later and bloody freezing overnight! During the Expedition we: Pushed further the Deepest Cave in South America & Highest Cave in the World and Explored the Deepest Shaft in South America (281.7m)

Caving: Sima Pumacocha (06-Sep-04)

  • Snablet, Pete Whitaker, John(Peru)

  • Sima Pumacocha

  • 04:00 hours
  • 1,460:00 cumulative hours

A recce trip into this fine cave and also an acclimatisation trip to test out the affect of the altitude. We drove up to the cave entrance on the mining tracks, the altitude seemed fine until we tried to get out the 4x4 trucks and walk. Suddenely a fine International Caving Expedition Team could hardly move. Netherless we got changed and carried some rope over to the entrance where we rigged the first couple of Pitches. It somehow took us 4Hrs to rig about 80m of pitches!! At this point I was suffering with an excrutiating headache due to the lack of oxygen. A quick retreat in the trucks back down the valley and to bed to try and recover. Not to forget the locally produced Coca(ine) Tea.

Caving: Sima Pumacocha (07-Sep-04)

  • Sima Pumacocha

  • 02:00 hours
  • 1,462:00 cumulative hours

Solo trip behind Pete & Snablet to see if the altitude was getting any better. They went on to rig Ammonite shaft while I followed on behind tidying up the rigging. I was not feeling too bad which I'm not sure if that was due to being better acclimatised or the Coca Tea and Diamox Tabelts. Anyway I headed over to SP1 (which Phil & Tom had been pushing) to see what was going on.

Caving: Sima Pumacocha (07-Sep-04)

  • Sima Pumacocha

  • 02:00 hours
  • 1,464:00 cumulative hours

Huge Entrance shaft that takes the majority of the water that is found further down in SP2. I went down to the 100m Mark where Phil & Tom were and then headed out slowly trying to avoid getting another killer headache. Took some photos on the way back but the shear size and amount of water meant they didn't come out on my camera.

Caving: Sima Pumacocha (08-Sep-04)

  • Mark Hassell, John(Peru)

  • Sima Pumacocha

  • 07:00 hours
  • 1,471:00 cumulative hours

Our Aim was to head down to the X-Files ledges and continue rigging down from where the other team left. However it was Mark's turn to suffer with Altitude sickness so we left the bags of rope at the pitch for another day and we all headed (slowly!) out.

Caving: St Valentino Mine (09-Sep-04)

  • Nick Hawkes, Snablet, Madphil, Tom Chapman, Martin Holroyd

  • St. Valentino Mine

  • 03:00 hours
  • 1,474:00 cumulative hours

For our rest day we headed over to the Mine to have a look at the delights of a Peruvian Mine. We certainly didn't go to admire their Health & Safety standards!!. Also Nick was tasked with doing a geological survey for them in return for all their hospitality during our expedition. The mine was guarded by heavilly armed guards and after a conversation in Spanish between Nick and the gurad we were allowed in. We were shown a very impressive selection of rock samples and geolocial maps from the mines and given samples to take with us. We were then provided food in the Caf? where we treated like royalty. Our visit into the mine itself was interesting to say the least and we all came out with stinking headaches due to a combination of the altitude, CO2 from the trucks driving through the mine with next to no ventillation and also the bang fumes. It's the first time I have been in a working mine so it was very interesting to see what goes on. We were all amaized to see explosives and their detonators laying together on the side of the road. Our visit was finished off with some wine which after the fumes and altitude felt like 100% alcohol.

Caving: Sima Pumacocha (10-Sep-04)

  • Pete Whitaker, Chris Densham

  • Sima Pumacocha

  • 15:00 hours
  • 1,489:00 cumulative hours

Chris insisted on taking his newly aquired video camera on every trip and as it was kept in a yellow pellican case he soon got the nickname "Yellow Peril Productions". With lots of rope, Drills, Batteries, Rigging Gear and more Hangers than we knew what to do with we headed very slowly into the cave with our train of gear. Once at the X-Files ledge Yellow Peril Productions kicked into gear and wanted to film us rigging across X-Files and down into Cascade de Don Jesus. This was protested greatly my Pete and myself. However we soon made it to the bottom of the big pitch where we reached the "Horizontal bit". This consisted of a steeply inclined passage full of house sized boulders. From Here we rigged to the bottom of Rolling Thunder before our lack of gear, battery power and enthusiasm prompted a return. After a hard slog up all the ropes we reached the surface at 3am and was greated by a freezing cold night. A great contrast in weather to the boling hot day we left when we entered the cave. By the time we reached top camp our gear was beginning to freeze so it was a case of getting changed quickly eating some food and going to bed.

Caving: Sima Pumacocha (12-Sep-04)

  • Snablet

  • Sima Pumacocha

  • 14:00 hours
  • 1,503:00 cumulative hours

The cave was now rigged almost to where we hoped to by-pass the sump, so Snablet and I headed down with drills and bolting kits and bolted up into a rather muddy ascending tube. We then traversed along mud covered walls before getting to a opening in the floor. Water could be heard rushing below. Rigging the drop was difficult as the walls had a couple of inches of gluttonous mud stuck to them. As I abseiled down into the abyss the rope wasn't long enough to reach the bottom so I was unable to tell whether we had successfully by-passed the sump. We headed out as we had no more kit to explore the cave further.

Caving: Sima Pumacocha (14-Sep-04)

  • Martin Holroyd, Pete Whitaker

  • Sima Pumacocha

  • 02:00 hours
  • 1,505:00 cumulative hours

Photographs in the Entrance Series

Caving: Sima Pumacocha (15-Sep-04)

  • Martin Holroyd, Madphil

  • Sima Pumacocha

  • 11:00 hours
  • 1,516:00 cumulative hours

A trip to the bottom of the cave following on from the previous pushing trip to see if the muddy ascending tube had by-passed the sump. Unfortunatley it hadn't so we took lots of photos instead and then started de-rigging the cave. Prussiking up the cave with tacklebags and at altitude was very very hard work. It was nice to get-out.

Strava Stats

Recent Last 4 weeks

20 nr
157 mi
20:56:59
8,105 ft
2 nr
11 mi
01:32:46
406 ft
1 nr
1 mi
00:40:09

Year-to-date

221 nr
1,666 mi
227:34:37
102,691 ft
8 nr
106 mi
11:09:44
6,200 ft
1 nr
1 mi
00:40:09

All-Time Stats

911 nr
6,386 mi
915:58:03
609,756 ft
787 nr
4,431 mi
343:15:17
319,883 ft
35 nr
44 mi
31:30:21

Social