Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cuevas Humo y Evaporada

We've been doing some caving lately since it is getting to be the dry season. Caving is kind of hard to do multiple days in a row because it is just plain physically demanding. You need to hike and climb and you are using fingers and thighs and knees and every muscle you don't know you have. Add to that a lot of humidity both in and out of the caves and it can be exhausting. Jeff had some people email him from the states. They wanted to see some caves and would be here for a few days. Jeff took Friday off of work to take the guys to Cueva Dos Chorros and then, because they were respectful and careful cavers, to Cueva Sorbetos. They were really amazed at the size and quantity of the straws in Sorbetos. I joined them, along with Bro and Richard and Tom, for a trip to Cuevas Humo and Evaporada the next day. These two caves are near Camuy and both have huge entrances and belch out huge amounts of foggy steam. They are impressive caves for us, but for the visitors they were pretty much astounded which gives us an even more appreciative view of caving here. The day started with most everyone being on time for the drive to the house near the cave. Tom was running late but he knew where the cave was so he joined up with us later. We drove up and the gate was closed! We have caved here several times and the gate was always open. Bro and Richard got the owners' attention and despite not being super pleased they opened the gate, let us park in front of their house and we quickly walked across their property to get to the caves. Never in a million years would people in the states let you do this but here, no one thinks of liability or of denying access. At least not many people. We went to Humo first for a Tom adventure to a passage we hadn't done before that leads to Cueva Angeles. While we waited for Tom I took Patrick and Adam in the lower part to the really nice formations for some photo shots. When Tom arrived we headed to the upper passage and then the for us"unknown" passage. There was a fair amount of climbing, a lot of mud but really nice big passage! Here Adam and Patrick are doing some climbing.

On the left Patrick in crouching near one of the formations in the lower area. After climbing a bunch of rubble we ended up near the part of the passage where Tom has always stopped because ropes weren't rigged (some have to be rigged from the Angeles side). This time there was a set of parallel what-I-call "trapeze" or "tightrope" ropes set by persons unknown with unknown anchors and unknown ropes. This is not something we like to risk since humidity and bat shit and cockroaches and other environmental factors are really hard on everything. (plus Jeff has first hand experience with a poorly rigged unknown rope) We did not consider crossing and the visitors didn't have vertical gear. Bro didn't look too interested and Richard would do it but didn't have the necessary experience to do it safely. Tom decided to have a look so he re-rigged a rope to drop 60 or 80 feet or so into the pit to check things out. While he was doing that Patrick, Adam and Bro had a look at the map.We were only about a fifth of the way on the map and who knows where Humo ends and Angeles begins?

So here Tom is on the trapeze line (only without the balance stick). He dropped the pit on the left hand rope, took a look around at the mound and ledge the parallel ropes circumvented and figured you could balance on the ledge but then there was at least one other big pit you could see and maybe many more after that. Unfortunately he was stuck, again, at the same place he has always ended this trip. Sorry Tom!
Next we went back out and on to Cueva Evaporada. This cave reminds me of the Abyss. The entrance is super huge (especially looking out from inside). When people descend down the slope into the cave they look like little ants and just helmet lights. Otherworldly for sure! We went in and got to the few nice formations and the giant collapse. It is fun to navigate up through the collapse and out to the surface but I think everyone was tired and a few of us had done it before so we stopped. We did head up to what I call the "Jaguar Eyes" - two deep green skylight openings. We went up and kind of under the eyes, through some passage and then were in a large sinkhole-ish area. Last time I found a little tunnel to get to the lip and look back in so I did that. There was also an easier way up.
From near the lip (but not on top of it) you can look down to where you emerge from the inside of the cave and look at the teeny tiny people! There were some other small and short passages we looked around in before heading down. This cave exit is on the opposite side of the entrance - disorienting.

The best part of the cave is when you exit and are looking into the light and the jungle. Patrick is standing up top in the light looking like an alien! All in all a nice day. Jeff and a few others (including the visitors) were heading to Ponor 3 the next day - for me doing a water filled swimming cave after these two would just be too much!. We have spent hours in Ponor 3 and mapped a mile of passage so I stayed home and gave the body a rest. The two visitors started the trip and the water and initial garbage kind of grossed them out so they did something else. Exciting news though -  at the sump Julie and Anthony found their "cookie"  which means when they dove from Boca they did indeed end up at the Ponor sump! Exciting!
We are pretty lucky to be able to go caving whenever we want and have such high quality, unrestricted access. We know that. Caving is the reason we are here and we aren't done yet!

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