Against all expectation, everyone managed to make it to Stansted well in time to Check in. Jarv took about an hour to get through security; they seemed to take offense at the rather densely packed X-ray of a rucksack stuffed with a few grand of varying electronics. After unpacking cameras, GPSs, MP3 players, FX3 headsets, MigLights, Flashunits + toothbrushes, we finally got through.
Jo managed to loose her passport by putting it in her bag for safekeeping, but still made it to the gate in time. Flight smooth; cloud cover suddenly broke somewhere near Barcelona, leaving us with a beautiful crossing of the Med. The jutting limestone headlands of the northern Mallorcan coast looked impressive from the air.
After the hire-car companies had lost + refound our booking a few times, we were finally ready to go. Car-Jo took a wonderful little scenic detour via Alcudia before arriving at our Pollenca villa. After essential Pesto-Pasta was located in an oversized off-license [Easter Sunday is not a good day for shopping in Mallorca, unsurprisingly!], we embarked on our first 'caving' trip.
Deepster, TackleMeister extraordinaire, managed to pack the uncharged FX3 batteries, resulting in a Tikka-led expedition. Fair application of stunt driving + navigating, the free tourist roadmap was not really up the job of locating vague cave entrances - something that would become a hallmark of the tour. Once there, we found the gate unlocked + open - no requirement to pirate unfortunately.
Large stone staircase led down the enormous shaft, arriving at a flagstoned-floor with a large cross in the centre, and two shrines built into crevices in the rock. Areas of cave continue behind these brick facades, plenty of room to squeeze past. Main shrine offers an easy squeeze to the left down to a large sump. Small gated section [easily squeezed through] leads past a 'Forbidden' spanish sign to some cave continuation; much evidence of bat droppings.
After awaking nice and early (9am!) we popped out to the supermarket to get some breakfast food and BBQ material for dinner. Thanks to a slow breakfast and sufficient phaffing, we ensured that we weren't underground until mid-afternoon.
The cave for the day was to be Cova de les Rodes, a nice bimbly cave with the promise of underground swimming in sump pools. The cave is located 300m up the valley from the seaside resort of Porto Pollenca and is accesible up a track about 200m from the seafront carpark [a straight dirt track with a rusty iron gate visible ~100m from the road - not the concrete track 50m further towards the sea!]. To get to the cave, walk around the rusted gate, along the left of the abandoned stone building, down some flying steps cut into a brick wall, then a 180 degree turn to the right to end up at the natural gulley entrance.
The cave was described as an 'easy walk in cave' but we found the 'easy climbs' more resembling pitches, with shonky bolts and all. Determined to get further than the 60m graffiti spoiled entrance chambers, we alpine-butterflied together a rope ladder and clambered down [3m straight drop onto flowstone from which the experienced could climb, otherwise 7m total length ladder / rope onto true floor]. After a few hundred metres of fairly easy passageway, we came to the pool described in the ICCC 99 trip, but decided to leave the swim until on the way out, instead clambering through two small muddy windows high up on the left. Easy stooping passageway brought us to the next climb [4m straight drop, tied to stal grill, backed to column 2m further up the passageway], duly passed with another rope ladder.
From the base of the climb, one could enter water from the direction that we came, or continue along fairly grotty and crawly passageway, which went along the top of a tight rift along which a fairly energetic stream flowed 5m below us. Flood debris abounded from this point; the crawl at the foot of the 4m climb was puddled, the roof only about 1m above the height of the static pool. Way continued uphill, along several very slippery muddy slopes, around an enormous 1m diameter column in the centre of the passage and finally arriving at slippery pitch. Looked to be hand climbable with a safety line; mud abounded - couple of dodgy bolt holes and plenty of flakes to tie to - but we were out of equipment and so left it undescended.
Once derigged as far as the large pool, we entertained the possibility of a little swim. Suitably persuaded, Lyndon, Jo & El Deepster stripped down to their swimming costumes, making waves to sink the floating scum. Water was crystal clear until the sediment was stirred up. Quite without warning, I, Jarvist, was stripped bare by the horde of lecherous swimmers left only with a MigLight and waterproof camera to shield what was left of my assualted modesty.
Once in the cold, cold, water we travelled as far as a short duck. My spirit already broken, I was slave to the swimmer's murderous whims. Octopus Jo forced me under the water & through rift. Once convinced I wasn't chocking on CO2 in the next air bell, she dived under herself & pinned me under the submarine ledge until I was limp with asphixiation, drifting to the surface only once Jezebelle-Jo had abandoned her prey in boredom.
Chased by the crack of an FX3 battery belt at my rather exposed posterior, I scrambed up the far exit of the pond, slicing my exposed knees, but noticing that we had indeed bypassed the aforementioned 4m climb.
They were just as mean on the way back, but finally - after a few more abusive photos for future blackmail against me, I was grudgingly allowed my clothes back. Huddled in the corner of the muddy chamber, I wept bitter tears for the apalling, nay tortourous way that I had been treated.
...Hmmm, now we all know that Jarv is mentally deluded. Hence the above account should be recounted by a sane member of the human species: Sandeep, Lyndon and Jo decided to go for a pleasent swim whilst clad modestly in stylish swimming gear. However, 2 minutes after entering the water, a crazed naked-ape like creature plunged after them... Proof of age required for further information.
Drifted home after a quick trip to the sea; Pesto Pasta - the way forward.
Late start to the day, pleasent breakfast under the sun cooled by a strengthening sea breeze. Perfect for beach antics.
Convoy of two cars headed off towards Port Pollenca, Lyndon in lead with Jo, Deepster + Gerardo bringing up the rear. Seperated by a roundabout, Lyndon pulled in to let Jo catch up. As they went past, Sandeep waved like a trooper, reasurring Lyndon that Jo would know that she had just passed us. We followed as fast as the traffic would allow, but failed to spot Jo. Half an hour of a wild goose chase later, we finally met up on the sea front. Sandeep had waved to the other car without breathing a word to the driver, Jo assuming that his seemingly random hand flapping was just him elucidating a point. He then patiently watched Jo drive around like a headless chicken before deciding to mention that he had seen us... Doh!
We found a place to hire sailboats, and decided on the rather oddly named 'Galeon' 14ft keelboat. It would have been large enough to squeeze all five expectant sailors, but we split our 3hr 48 Euro session into two groups of three instead. Tacking back and across the bay in the glorious sunshine, skidding along with the gunwales awash during the many gusts - far too pleasent for a caving trip! Disembarking after many hours fighting the offshore breeze, the Able Seamen drifted home around 6pm; throwing together a rather disjointed but enjoyable BBQ. While huffing and puffing the charcoal into life, Jarv caught a rather nasty red hot ember strike into his eye; no permanent loss of sight though, as exciting as the prospect of wearing an eyepatch while swilling grog would be.
Bring on the SRT! Early start, left the Villa by 10am and were soon wiggling our way up the fantastic bends of the C710, then down towards Sa Compana - flying over the beautiful Scalextric inspired 270 degree bridge bend. Pulled up by 11, we were faffing with rucksacks when an enormous "Mountain Police" 4x4 roared up, and three men in oh-so-tight lycra dived out clutching gleaming tacklebags of prepacked kit. Gerardo applied his language skills, and discovered that these three men in tights were 3/8 of the entire Cave Rescue Organisation for the Balearic Islands, doing a light spot of training for the day. They shot up the hill, we waddled slowly after them; following the many carns up to the ridge, then the vast quantities of red spray paint around to the entrance.
Catching them up at the entrance, we eyed up each other changing with equal amusement / bemusement; us with disbelief at their shiny entirely scratch-free Pretzl metalwork, them at the sight of finest Yorkshire mud that we had imported into the country. I really wonder whether UK cavers have an entirely inverted [jaundiced?] view of caving equipment compared to the rest of the world; we view new + shiny kit with suspicion and an assumption of inexperience, the continent sees inexpeience in not bothering to keep every item gleaming and serviced.
Entrance pitch was a pleasent semi-daylight-lit 10m abseil down a steep slope, into what would be a very large chamber for the UK. Once everyone was safely down, we wandered around the corner into the cave itself.
Big doesn't even start to describe it. Enormous formations, stalagmites and flowstone larger than houses, curtains larger than facades on Oxford Street, gour pools more at home on Brighton beach. Amazing stuff; we orbited the little tea-lights showing our path back out the chamber, calling to each other across the 5s echo and generally exploring the Venusian landscape.
Way on was via a clamber down from the entrance of the cave to the left and down, arriving at a flat ledge overlooking a step drop. Rigging of one good bolt backed to a large Stal, with a deviation above the pitch head to avoid the worst of the rub points, one descends onto a narrow ledge rebeley from a stal-grill which then widens out before turning into an ever-steeper 60m flowstone slope. If you traverse to the left [facing up-slope] as you descend, you can reach a region from where scrambling is possible for all but the least experienced - however you've got to ensure that the rope stays in location!
The Spanish rescuers-in-training had already occupied all the bolts with their worryingly tightened hangers, so we chained in our maillons with a spare hanger and did our best to avoid a cats-cradle. Once in the muddy chamber, we lit a fair few lights and cracked open our Darren drum of bageuttes; a very pleasent lunch by candlelight.
Jarvist took over rigging duty, leading a handline along the muddy bolders, noting the very odd [and quickly cooling] breathing of the cave - 3s in, 2s hold, 3s out. Army crawling slope leads directly to a ~6m pitch, two bolts on the right to form a hand-jammer line down to the backup bolt 4m to right of pitch, which then forms horizontal traverse onto the pitchhead where a bolt leads from the ceiling. As I descended the pitch with the five others filing down into the rather constrained area behind me, the Speedy Spaniards met us coming the other way. Squeezing aside to let them past, about 60minutes was spent rerigging to our hangers, with a lot of Spanish swapped between them and our translator Gerardo.
Apparently, the backup bolt which formed the pleasent horizontal traverse snapped on removing their hanger, resulting in them backing the pitch directly to the two bolts higher up. Time was getting late and this was Gerardo + Pella's first SRT trip so we decided to turn around and find our slow way out. Getting off the new pitch head was exciting to say the least, requiring full use of go-go-gadget legs, followed by a hard grovel up a muddy slope dragging sacks.
Trip out was slow but steady; Jo leading Pella & Gerardo in the first wave while Lyndon + Deep derigged as Jarv faffed back and forwards in the middle whistling to the Prussickers, loitering on the rebelay ledge and lighting candles. Sunshine was glorious as we exited; gobbling Bananas and L's seemingly endless supply of Jelly sweets before ambling along the 90minute walk back to our cars. We drove the last couple of Km to the seaside resort, sitting outside for a coffee in the gathering twilight. While hopping race up the slope to the cars, we bumped into the Rescuers staying in Sa Compana overnight; managing a stilted conversation about the size and awe of the cave while pretending not to huff and puff from our wacky race.
Pella failed her Spanish test today. Looking for "Penya de..." she drove us into a Military Zone. We tried to escape as soon as possible from the firing range.
After arriving at "Mirador de la Victoria" we walked for an hour until we reached a cute hermitage at 280m above sea level, and started looking for the cave entrance. The view of Alcudia Bay from the entrance of the cave and the whole walk up and down along made the trip worth the while.
Points noted by Pella:
Once inside the cave, great bimbling ensued; the Salle des Ossos [bone chamber] shirked exploration. A pleasent trip none-the-less.
The vague instructions left us unsure where to park on Cap de Formentor, we found a likely spot with a viewing gallery over a shear cliff. This is not where you want to park; you're on the wrong side of the headland. We set off exploring down something in hindsight looking more valley than doline, poking amongst the undergrowth looking for the 30m pitch of plummiting death. Even without kit, going was distinctly unfriendly. 600m of Grade II Scrambling later [Flip-flops ill advised *ahem*], we reared a 5m cliff face scramble. I sat down in the sun at the top, and left the two mig freshers to clamber the last couple of hundred metres to the coast.
Ten minutes later, Geriatric Jo came gallumphing back to bring joyous news.
Well, whilst Juvenile Jarvist was jaunting round in his flip-flops, hardcore cave explorer GI Jo discovered a new and exciting cave. She battled her way up the "Pooh Mountain" approach and entered the treacherous "Bear Cave". Evidence of previous unsuccesful attempts were apparet by the mountains of skeletal remains heaped up at the cave entrance.
To put it simply, the cave was full of shit. A shit mountain in fact, warm and scrunchy for scrambling in flip-flops. Obviously a refuge for wild goats, the floor consisted of a shag-pile carpet 20cm deep in olive-pit sized + shaped excreta.
Caving off a Red LED key-fob light, we admired the pretty formations, considered the turd-tastic crawling way on + took a smattering of photos. Smelt like goats slept in the place; there were a couple of half-burnt candles stuck to an upturned saucepan. Strange - not exactly the most romantic place for an evening picnic; half expected to find the remains of a decayed convinct who had been hiding out here.
When I got up to the Poo Mountain and Jo was being carried away on teh shoulder of a grizzly bear. I was hand-to-hand wrestling with the bear, but as soon as it ripped off my top and saw my bulging muscles it scappered and I carried GI back to the car. [Ed: I feel we have had a rather troubling insight into Sandeep's dark fantasies.]
Back to the truth... After exploring the little chamber with pleasent formations, we had a little climb-around with played with the ram's skull. For some reason Jarv thought it was ok to walk BAREFOOT in the goat droppings. But this is because, as I have said before, he is completely and utterly stark raving mad. [Ed: If you ever get the chance, try walking in dried droppings with flip flops - when barefoot, they glance off like pebbles - trapped between a flip flop and your foot, the result is far more squidgy] I rescued his flip flop and forced him to wear it. [Jo says: "The fastest I've ever seen Sandeep move!"]
Getting late already, and with our presence requested at the NUCC BBQ; we decided to give up on Les Basses and head on towards the very end of the headland, the most NE part of the Island. We popped in to the lighthouse for a quick view + a turn around, then pulled up a few hundred meters back up the road. We stripped off as the couple in the car in front had an argument [Ed: Lie - they were just eating a late lunch; though they did fold in their mirrors so they wouldn't have to see us change behind them, Hah ha!]. The looks we got from passing cars ranged from astonishment to worry. At the cave entrance GI was given her first bit of rigging practice, though Jarv still tied the bunny-knot for her first Y-hang.
Sandeep Mavadia, corrected by Miss P Frost
I descended the pitch, eager to inspect the "really mad rub-point ... the sheath almost all the way through" of the 1999 ICCC visit. The rock was truly a slab of cheese grater, harsh enough to kneel against with double-skinned neoprene knee pads. Desperate for a deviation, I slung a sling around some dried mud on the right wall, and tried to orchestrate a free hang to the bottom. The walls were covered with crumbly deposits, the stal on the far side that would be ideal to rig from were a 6m swing away. There were other bolts visible, but other than the vaselined two at the top, they seemed pretty appaling - visible by enormous rust stains on the cave wall. Loading up the deviation, one of the two nodules I had wrapped the sling around came pinging off, richocheting down the 30m shaft. However, it now appeared to be a straight drop with a slight rubpoint 4m below the deviation.
If the deviation failed, the rope would be toast - I don't think I've ever seen rock so abrasive as that first ledge. Therefore, unwilling to risk my own life, I sent Jo down instead and got her to attach a rope protector at the slight rub. Sandeep followed, while I loitered at the top ready to repair the riging. Other than the Deepster kicking the rope protector down the drop [what a lovely whoosh they make!], it all held well.
The free-hang on the way down was impressive with some cool green deposits and impressive staligtites. I got to the bottom, and enjoyed a died bar each with the GI, while Jarv checked pulled up half the rope to check the rub point. Jo soon headed up carefully with instructions to rerig the protector, while I was left with a nice warm descender to keep me company. Collecting the protector and derigging the deviation, exit was smooth & the rope was fine - the rub point consisted of a smooth limestone flute, nothing to really worry about.
By now it was quite late, so we stomped back to the car, stripped and reclothed in double-quick time. On the way back along the road, we saw the clear saucer-like doline depression of Les Basses - how we failed to spot it, I'll never know. Next time you shall be ours.Sandeep Mavadia
Having found the rigging guide later than evening, apparently I should have had 3 rebelays and 2 deviations. Lies I say - beautiful Y-hang from a good bolt + a sling through a rock window, with the option of backing up to another bolt if you so wish. Deviation to the right produced a beautiful free hang, minus the slight rub point. Only issue is the poor quality of things to attach a deviaton to - if you could take a bolting hammer to clean up the rockface, it'd be beautiful.
NUCC BBQ was lovely, just a couple of Km down the road, we took a car and walked home gone midnight. BBQ delights, the 1 Euro quality wine, homemade lemonade, scrumptious salads, jacket potatoes + a multicoloured banana cake by the Nazi Baking Meister to round it all off - all good stuff.
Whilst everyone else was lazily lying in, Lyndon & I were super efficient and zipped to the supermarket for fresh bread, stopping off to collect the abandoned car from the NUCC villa. We got back just in time to feed the emerging slumberers.
Prepared for the very worst, we set off with bouancy aides, 5mm wetsuits, hardhats, lights [in case dark by the time we exited the gorge], knives, floating tacklesacks, 2 sets of ascending gear, rescue pulleys et al. Five minutes drive from the Villa, we were turned back by a policeman - a classic car race up the beautiful hair-pin bends of the C.710. As impressive as teh throaty roars of these beatiful cars driven by helmet glad drivers were, this required us to trundle back to Pollenca and take a 45 minute detour via Inca.
Finally parked by the reserviour [just beating the race marshalls setting up the next section of the race], we slithered and squeezed ourselves into the elegent folds of our rubber, under the suspicious eyes of aged German walkers & amused toddlers. Sealed inside our gimp suits, we waddled along the lip of the bulging reserviour - in hindsight, it was clearly overfull, preparing for a hot summer they had sacrified the trees at the edge to hold onto every drop. Once at the head of the stream, we admired the trickle of water flowing into a stagnant pool, readied ourselves for the hypothermic ordeal ahead and then plunged onwards.
The Canyon was almost totally bone dry. We jumped into our chests at one point - just to cool down; but the entire thing could have been done far more pleasently in shorts + walking boots with a bit of careful traversing. The 7m deep pool was an empty dustbowl; wedged under a likely rock was an oddly familiar size 10 welly. After a few posed photos, we trundled onwards along the river red - a good few metres below the tide mark.
Our only worry was to pull-through a rope and find ourselves trapped within an unscalable pool. A half dozen abseils later, with very dusty and thorny rope-retrievals, we reached the scree slope halfway escape, shouted a few obscenities at the sunbathing Pella and then wandered up + back to our cars.
Desperate to keep our luggage within weight restrictions, the Villa's hitherto unused sittingroom was converted into an energy-wasting drying room from hell. Wet kit was slung from the room's central I-beam, utilising the shonked rope we intended to donate to the NUCC the next day. Heaters were wheeled into position, and an electric fan that looked as if it had been liberated from a Supermarine was positioned at an open window to extract. Our horrific affront to the environment was immensely effective, freezing us in our beds as air was sucked through the house, drying our kit beautifully.
A fury of activity to pack all the kit; ten minutes before we trundled away, the pool man finally turned up - manana was a mere four days. Went on to gatecrash the NUCC villa and hand over the last of our precious information folder + a piece of gnarly rope we would have otherwise dumped. Braced by NUCC tea, we were finally prepared for our long bimble back across the island.
Intending to visit Sa Compana, and the final end of the Torrent Palais [sic.]; we set off along the folds of C.710. We soon caught up with, and attempted to drive off the road, the NUCC caving contingent. After one last farewal at the rather overflowing pull-in for the cave itself, we continued on to the beach. Postcards were bought, lunch eaten + random scrambling embarked upon - much to the bemusement of the German tourists.
We continued on to Port Soller; icecreams were eaten, coffee downed + catnaps enjoyed in the sun. An attempt was made to visit the exceptionally picturesque lighthouse on the headland, but it turned out to be a military base. I hope that it constitutes Mallorca's single + exceptionally well hidden ICBM, permanently aimed at their mortal enemy :- Ibiza.
The airport reached, we attempted to get Gerardo to his plane; a prospect rather complicated by the fascist parking regulations + the scattergun method of packing that we had employed in the morning. The two halves to Palma's hire-carpark are perfect mirror images of each other, which makes them greatly entertaining + exceptionally disorientating to run around.
After all the hijinx in the carpark, there wasn't enough time to visit "Mallorca's only strip club", heavily advertised on the billboards along the Palma motorway. Instead, we entertained ourselves with a disused pair of airport scales; somehow we'd actually managed to loose a fairly considerable mass during our Mallorca trip - about 10kg in total. Reassuring ourselves that we had all our kit, we are left with the very real possibility that we exported a good few kilos of Yorkshire mud to Mallorca.
Euros were pooled to buy some dirty airport food, security checks were wandered through + our belated flight finally boarded. Softly sleeping as we were whisked back to Blighty, only interruption was the incessent drone of a family elatedly returning from some business deal + attempting to buy quite literally everything in the tax-free shop, credit-card limits be damned.
Once at Luton, the JetSetters were arrested for credit card fraud by a gang of serious armed police [different family members had managed to submit the same cloned credit card from different ends of the plane - doh!], and we collected our baggage. One bag, containing approx. £300 of metalwork and Pella's dirty clothes, was missing. Whoops. Luckily, the description was probably fairly unique - I doubt a large Darren drum full of metal is normal Easter holiday faire, and it eventually turned up at Pella's house after a week of hassling Easyslut on the telephone.
Walking out of the airport into the cold english air, the limestone-induced gash across one arse-cheek of my trousers was rather noticeable. A lady flirting with the armed policeman at the entrance seemed to find it particularly amusing + pointed it out to her Bobby, the aggressive looking submachine gun waggling at my receding behind.