Volume 34 Number 1 Article 3
Su Spiria - Condula de Luna
Party: Angela Hare, Graham Bull, Jim Stevenson, Lee York, Buster & Kim Wight, JAK, Liz Daniels, Jon 'Mr Daniels', Hugh St Lawrence, and "That Woman Fay'"
The entrance to Su Spiria lies in the right hand bank of the Condula de Luna, a 40 minute walk from where the metalled road terminates, well hidden behind a thicket of Oleander bushes. The small triangular entrance is well carpeted with debris washed in from the previous winters flood water, which totally submerges the entrance as evidence would indicate.
The team arrived at the shaded entrance in dribs and drabs after a hot walk along the dried up river bed, had a short rest and drink, then kitted up. Hands and knees, forward through the fly-infested twilight zone of the entrance, the insectosphere was soon behind us as we squeezed down the narrow rift and after a few twists and turns the head of the first pitch was reached - narrow at the top but belling out towards the bottom 25 metres down. At this point we waited for more bodies to catch up, eventually Hugh St. L arrived down the rope to announce that a camera box had been dropped into a tight rift and was unreachable.
Buster groaned. This was shortly followed by a flash-flood of unprintable verbs, nouns and adjectives as he accelerated back up the pitch to organise his camera-box rescue. A long time later more of the team came down, things were moving again. The box had been successfully rescued.
A bit of a traverse and climb down boulders and the second pitch, 10 metres, was reached. From the bottom of this pitch the narrow fissure continued and after a couple of climb-downs a rectangular chamber was entered. The route was up a 6 metre climb with fixed-aid and into a complex narrow passage, with the way on at various levels in parallel rifts. This, moderated with a climb down at the base of an aven and up the other side, using fixed-aid, and into pleasant, decorated easy going passage with false floor. At this point we had a wait-break until the others caught up, so as soon as we had audible contact we moved again. Here the character of the cave changed completely.
Veering left up a calcified boulder ruokle using the occasional handline we were in a lofty chamber of large proportions. Massive, bright orange formations were the main feature of this area, stalagmites rose to 5 metres, and 4 metre long curtains adorned the sloping walls. Flowstone and gours made the floor. A magnificent setting for all the party to rendezvous. Within 20 minutes we had all congregated, where unfortunately Liz and Jon decided to return to the surface due to overheating and discomfort by caving in their diving-suits, not to mention the damage in the tight entrance rifts.
We were now moving on down the steep orange flowstone to the far end of the chamber. Just out of the chamber we arrived at the third pitch, a 6 metre drop, belayed to the left wall. This brought us onto a hard clay floor where the small passage cut under our point of descent. A 4 metre climb down preceded a breakdown chamber with a few awkward climbs over mud veneered boulders, then up a fixed rope (3 metres) into a 1.5 metre diameter phreatic tube with some deep, nasty-to-cross holes in the floor. Again the character of the cave changed.
The phreatic section suddenly blended into a 5 x 5 metres, square passage which hosted superb formations and, importantly, a water source for drinking and lamp replenishment. After a hundred metres the passage divided, we went straight on, as the right-hand route looked the unlikeliest option.
Soon the passage degenerated into a grovel in a very unstable granite (yes, granite!) boulder choke, at this point we decided to go for the other alternative. Our alternative soon shrunk dramatically into a flat-out crawl trending upwards. With "Sardinian caving shouldn't be like this" ricocheting about in my skull, we suddenly emerged in the comer of a massive chamber, and as we progressed forward realised it was actual passage size. It was weird, one minute eating gravel, the next reeling from agoraphobia.
Further along this passage, infill presented us with a number of underground hill-walks, rising for what seemed 40-50+ metres taking us right up against the roof in places. Large boulder ruckles were also crossed over often with excellent flowstone highlighting them. When we reached the top of yet another uphill slog we found ourselves at a base-camp, used by various expeditions into the further extents of the system. Cylinders of carbide, spare clothing and bivouac bags were stored there for anyone who was in need. A good place for a rest and pow-wow. Here the party divided, there was the "Photographic Team" which consisted of Buster, JAK, Hugh and Lee, then there was the "Crap-Out Team" which consisted of the rest of us. Myself (Jim), Ange, Graham, Kim and Fay all with an amazing spectrum of excuses of why we must bail out. At that, the two teams headed in their respective directions.
Incidentally, it was on this outing that Buster took the photograph that won first prize at the BCRA conference.
The journey back was not totally without incident with one person getting lost in straight bits of passage, others having transit difficulties in the tight section at the head of the first pitch, some-one attempting to head butt their way out of a blind passage. The "Piece de Resistance" being when one of the "Crap-Out Team" lost their way on the walk back from the cave and, was found by a midnight search-party, bivvyed down for the night, 200 metres from the campsite!