a long journey
From a two weeks job in Beijing and with as stopover at home to swap luggage I flew directly to to the remote Ario Plateau in the lovely PicosSpain.
I stayed the night in Covadonga and was met the next morning by a fellow caver. Together we drove out to Los Largos, the upper lake in the valley. Heavily loaded we started our ascent to the Refugio des Airo, the base-camp of the expedition. On arrival, I got my cameras and caving gear sorted and started photographing as the expedition had started already a week before.
As exploration in the ‘old project’, the 1,2Km deep Pozu del Xitu was finished some years ago, the main project became C4, a 650m deep cave high up in the mountains in 2016. The main goal was to connect C4 to C2/7 via a sump at -650m. Another high priority on the list was a big aven (~100m) in the 2016 discovered ‘Sanctuary Chamber’ plus other leads at the bottom of C4. We also had the outdoor filmer Paul Diffy with us (Hot Aches Productions). He was working on his film ‘The Ario Dream’ which got the ‘People’s Choice Award’ at its premiere at the 2017 Kendale Mountain Film Fetsival.
lots of equipment
The team around Steph Dwyer and Mike Bottomly, the expedition leaders, was able to win a lot of sponsors for the expedition. Alpkit enabled us to equip our camp at the ‘Sanctuary Chamber’. They provided comfortable sleeping bags, inflatable maths, cooking equipment and other gear. The camp was also the home for one of three Cave-Link stations which enabled us to stay in contact with the base-camp. For the vast drilling projects we were able to win DMM and Bosch Professional as sponsors. The earlier providing us with a lot of metal work, ropes and quick-draws, the latter provided us with 2 new drills and other valuable equipment. A lot of other companies, to vast to name them all here, provided us with needed gear and food.
a successful expedition
Equipped as it was, success had not to be waited for: Tony Seddon our cave diver made the connection through the sump in two dives. The aven in ‘Sanctuary Chamber’ was pushed to 70m in only two days and with only two sets of batteries. The search for a dry connection over the sump was pushed as well as open leads from the 2016 expedition. Within the expedition C4 was pushed over 2 Km (without the connection to C 2/7). Besides the pushing fronts, Paul Diffy was able to finish his filming and I was photo-documenting the cave as well as making pictures for our sponsors.
back to civilisation
After nearly two weeks at the plateau it was time for me to leave the base-camp at the Refugio des Ario. With some regret, I left the remoteness of the mountains and returned to ‘normal life’ with all its noise, crowded cities and petty problems.
What stays is the memory of a successful expedition and the spend time with a lot of old and new friends…