Monday, June 7, 2010

Upper Cueva Zumbo - Journey to Another World (2 part blog)

Friday Jeff took the day off and we headed out of the house at 7am to meet up with Tom in Florida for a cave excursion. We arrived at 9, got the key to the gate from Pipo, drove a mile or so on the old road, parked, packed up, and hiked for 45 minutes to an hour in the jungle to get to this hole. Tom has been to this cave many times. Jeff and I have been here once and did the lower section which ended after 6 hours or so at a sump. This time we were headed to the upper section which we didn't even see the previous time we were here. There's an up stream section that you get to from the same place we went in before? Hmmm. We put on our harnesses and dropped into the hole which was a little steeper/deeper than I remembered.
Down we went. Jeff came down last.

Instead of going into the tight hole that leads downstream there was another tight hole going upstream. We didn't know it was upstream since you can't see or hear the river at that point. We kept the harness and rappelling gear on since in 30 or 40 minutes there would be another drop we'd need it for. This was a tight hole with or without the harness on. We had to take packs off and maneuver our helmets to get through. This section is very different from the downstream section. Lots of breakdown and lots of slippery mud. There were a few bats, but mainly breakdown for a while. We did a lot of climbing on this trip. Lower Zumbo was magnificent but mainly all looked the same. Upper Zumbo has different sections with different looking geology. The climbing was hard work on the arms/shoulders (didn't know it until a day or two after?). In many places there were "hand lines" in place to help us conquer some very steep areas. They didn't seem that steep on the way up, but coming back and looking down it was crazy..we came UP THAT? This cave was fun because of all the climbing up and down and squeezing in and out of places.

There were lots of ups and downs.

Not much continuous crawling. There weren't many real passageways (until the big one) - there were a lot of big rock chunks to find our way through. Lucky for us Tom knew the way (to a certain point) so he could direct us toward places that seemed implausible. That is the best part of going into caves - the discovery part. Thinking that we may be in places either very few or in some cases no one has been in.

Then it started to look more like the Zumbo we knew. This cave is like Disneyland for adults...the photos just don't show the scale or how majestic it is. At this point we were moving pretty fast.

This section looks like soft sand but all this neat scallops and peeks and curls are sharp and hard.

Here we used a hand line to scale a tall area. It didn't look this formidable until we had to go down it! In a cave it is always a different trip coming back.

I thought this formation looked kind of sci-fi gargoyle like. Kind of the gatekeeper for the next part of the journey.

After a lot of mud, a lot of climbing, a lot of breakdown, hand lines and small spots we hit the river finally. It felt kind of nice at first since we were hot from all the physical work we had done up to this point.

Most of the time the water was ankle or knee high except for a few spots where I couldn't touch the bottom. The landscape in this cave is hard to describe. (continued in next blog)

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