Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cueva Jaguar - The Unknown Passages

This cave is very exciting! Jeff and Tom went without me once to locate it (not easy since the opening is obscured by trash) and they spent most of the day looking for it. With time constraints they weren't able to explore some of the smaller side passages so we did that on the next trip. That trip led to some very interesting water passages. One of them sumped. I was sent down a tiny passage and I could hear water far down below but since no one else came down the passage with me, and I didn't think I could fit, I came back out not knowing where it went. Then on the way out there were three other holes that went places. That is what Tom wanted to do on this trip. Tom produced a map of the cave from the 1980's I think. It showed a hole that forked to the right and left and went in a big loop. That was the point of the trip. I popped in and kept going. I knew Jeff would get about 10 feet and go back out. That's what happened. Diana didn't want to do it either so I encouraged Tom to come in and off we went at warp speed. Warp speed is hard when you are crawling in a hot, low, muddy  passage for an hour and a half.
The entrance into the cave had more climbing than I remembered and the mud made things slippery. The cave is freshly decorated with healthy, growing formations. Jeff, Diana and Tom look at the map before Tom and I head in. Well Tom and I  kept crawling and crawling and sometimes could crouch. Mostly it was crawling. I liked the pattern of mud on the ceiling here - Tom said something about electromagnetic forces distributing the mud into that pattern - or something like that. Here he is going down the tunnel. Some parts of the tunnels had formations - some straws, some flowstone and some stalactites. Mostly though it was mud. We got to some complicated things that weren't on the map - the "swiss cheese" effect I call it where things go down and to the sides and up above. We left our packs at the junction since it was just too hard to push them ahead of us and it was too low to wear them. It was tiring and hot. We resorted to making little piles of mud and rocks to mark our routes since things were not on the map and our flagging was in our packs! We did squeeze through some small spots and came out at the junction but on a route different than we had thought. A small squeeze emptied into an 8 foot pit that looped around. We emerged after longer than we thought after exploring it all!

Then it was out, finally, into the big part of the cave which is quite nice! Jeff and Diana were glad to see us and pretty sick of waiting. They were about ready to leave when we emerged. After lunch, water, and looking at the main room Jeff and Tom wanted me to go back into the tiny tunnel from the previous trip to better check out my report of water. Just as before Jeff stopped around half way into the tunnel. Diana stayed with him and Tom went in with me. When we got there there was flagging at the hole that I don't remember seeing. Someone had gotten this far. Tom couldn't see anything because standing in the hole blocked him from seeing into it. Yeah, it was small. Not only small but awkward - I could put two feet in but not anything else. Last time I went head first in to take a peak and that is when I heard water. This time I wanted to go in.

With some encouragement from Tom and my desire to see where it went I tried going down. I needed a rope since it was a pretty big drop and I couldn't see clearly enough to assess the situation. Tom tied off a rope and gave me a super cool little tool - Petzl Tribloc- to attach to the rope to help me out. I attached the Tribloc 5 feet down the rope, dropped it in the hole, and proceeded to squirm into the hole which was a little tight even for me! That is after I broke off a little protrusion of rock! I chimneyed down until I reached the Tribloc (ascender), wrapped my hand in the loop and lowered myself to a little standing area. From there I could see the water but unfortunately it was another 15 feet or so down. No way could I do it without a harness and figure 8. No one could go down this to get me if I fell or couldn't come back up and I am not sure which side of the sump that section of river is in. This drop scratched up my back a little and remains unfinished. I do want to come back with a harness. I think I could attach my vertical gear to the rope, lower it,go down the hole, put it on and drop into the river. The other guys could go the river route and we could try to meet up. Worse comes to worse and I am in an isolated section I am pretty sure I would be able to come back up the hole. The other thing would be to drop the rope and vertical gear down the hole, everyone go the river route and look for the rope from the river. This will be an interested trip to make in the future! Lots of water, tiny holes, small passages? My kind of cave. I especially like that I am the only one who can go down (or up) that hole! It is a challenge!

So we went back out into the main area and then out. There was one last hole to explore and it was a sneaky water passage that went under the collapse area. Very interesting and not at all what we thought it would do! All in all one of the best caving days I have had in a while. A day full of interesting exploration!

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