Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Re-exploring Cueva Systema Vientos San German.

Over the years Tom has brought up doing the 200+ foot drops into Systema Vientos. Things aligned just right this weekend to make it happen. We met Tom, Tim, Sherly, Julie, and Franklin near our old house in San German. We got to the parking area around 10AM just as the property owners were on their way to church. We said hi and told them what we were doing. They were very friendly and accommodating.

We set off for the Boom Boom entrance to the cave. The Boom Boom entrance is named that way because that’s the noise rocks make when they fall into the cave. More like Boom Boom Boom. Cueva Vientos is an old cave in some very old limestone pockets on the South West side of the Island. It was formed underwater and is not your typical river passage cave found on the North side of the Island. Since it was formed underwater it’s more of a three dimensional maze with many vertical and horizontal components. It’s so confusing you can get lost just turning one corner!
We spent several hours searching the top of the hill for the proper entrance. Piecing together some poor descriptions of the entrance from some old trip reports and using an IPad to do an internet search we finally agreed that we found the correct spot.

Tom then left us to rig the drop while he went back down the hill to find our exit point and rig that with a 40 foot rope. Julie readily volunteered to go down and check things out then come back up the 200 – 250 feet. Unfortunately we didn’t have one really long rope so we had to use two ropes. We rigged the 150 foot rope first and put a knot in the end so no one could accidentally rappel off the end of the rope. Julie stuffed the 100 foot rope into her pack and down she went. It was 1PM and we finally had the first person on rope.

Julie came back an hour later. She had descended to branch where she had to choose left or right. She chose the bigger branch (left). She found a nice ledge before running out of rope. She took out the 100 foot rope and tied it to the rope she was on. She continued down not knowing if the rope touched the bottom! It did but not by much. She got off rope and looked around but soon found she was in a blind passage. It didn’t go very far. This was a dead end. She climbed up the 250 feet of rope and reported back to us what she found.

Tom was back by then and we re-read the old trip reports. The next person had to go down to the first branch and pull the rope up and drop it down the other smaller branch and verify that it entered the main part of the cave. Tim volunteered. Again after a seemingly endless amount of time we heard a very faint “off rope”. That was the signal for the next person.

The distance was only 250 feet but because of some twists and turns we couldn’t hear each other. We had to leapfrog our way down. 130 feet down there was a small ledge with an important little hidey hole. This is where the two ropes were tied together. That made it so we didn’t have to pass a knot on rope and gave us a place where we could communicate with the surface and the bottom.

One person would get to this point and yell up “off rope”. Then they would squat down and press themselves into the hidey hole and hope none of the falling rocks would bounce toward them. We could attach ourselves to the “free” end of the main rope while we waited for the next person to come down. It seemed like an eternity waiting for Franklin to get to me. I had to sit on an angle pressed into the rock and staring down a small hole that dropped into infinity.

When Franklin got to me I was able to finish my rappel. On rope I squeezed through the small hole with my face in the dirt. When I got to the bottom I yelled “off rope”. Franklin then relayed “off rope” back to the top where Julie was waiting. She came down and I assume they did the same sequence.

I didn’t get off rope until 4:30PM. It was 5PM and we all finally made it to the main part of the cave. Tom showed us around for a bit then he realized that the bats would start leaving the cave soon. We didn’t need to be in an exit when 100,000 bats were trying to leave. Again as I mentioned earlier this cave is a 3D maze. I don’t know how Tom did it but he found our way out in no time. I climbed the 40’ up and was out of the cave at 6PM. I didn’t wait for everyone else to get out and set off up the hill to go get the 250 feet of rope and other gear before dark.

By the time I got all the rope out of the cave and coiled up it was dark. I was joined by the others and we carried our gear back down and to the cars in the dark. We cleaned up and headed for Pizza. We enjoyed the pizza and margaritas (not me). We got home around 10PM and Katrina was sick. Julie and Tim also got a bit sick from either the pizza or margaritas. 14 hours and we only spent an hour in the cave but it was worth it.


Anonymous said...

Hi Katrina and Jeff. You should be able to get in touch with National Geographic and sell them all these caving adventures, you have accomplished since you made it to PR. They would publish them so people can enjoy reading and watching all these amazing stories. Thank you guys for entertaining us!

RDWest said...

What an awesome collection of shots!