PSM Expedition Diary - Aranzadi Gallery Trip




Party:  Bruce Duncan, Mark McAuley, Andy Evans and Mike Smith.

Having spent 11 hours caving the previous day, decided to have a relatively short trip to explore the awesome La Verna chamber. After a twenty minute walk from the parking area we arrived at the EDF tunnel just as a large group of tourists were leaving. Before the expedition members entered the cave they were approached by a tourist guide. The tourist guide questioned as to why we had left the door open the previous day as a stranger had wandered into the cave in jeans and a t-shirt. The tourist guide had assumed that it was our fault as we had had the key the previous day, but it soon become apparent that the door wouldn’t lock when shut and that no key was required for entry. With the name of the British MOD cleared, we advanced into the cave.

We walked through the EDF tunnel, a flat tunnel of approximately 700 metres that leads straight into La Verna. The chamber was so large (over 200 x 200 m) that even with the group’s torches on the highest setting, only a fraction of the cave was visible and it was impossible to see the ceiling and opposite walls. After a few minutes of searching for a path, weheaded down a steep incline thatmeandered down the boulder strewn sides of the chamber to the bottom of the cave.

The bottom of La Verna was on the opposite side to the EDF entrance, which was visible due to a dim orange light and provided the first indication of exactly how large the chamber was. We then headed up a separate steep path searching for an in situ rope on the right hand side. Upon reaching the top of the path, it became apparent that the group had walked too far and had started to head toward the East hitting a massive boulder slop. Having retraced our steps the group fount the base of the 55m climb up to a series of traverses that climbed the remaining 70 m up to the Aranzadi Gallery. Bruce and Mike free climbed the crumbly 55 m climb and rigged a rope in place for the remainder of the group to use, whilst Mike climbed higher and recced a higher chamber. Due to time constraints, the group did not manage to all get into the Aranzadi Gallery but planned on returning later in the week to continue their exploration.

As the group climbed back up the Northern boulder slop towards the EDF tunnel a group of tourists were led into the chamber by the Verna show cave staff. All of the lights placed around the cave were switched on, allowing everyone to see exactly how big the cave was. Despite years of caving experience, nobody in the group had seen any caves comparable in size. The chamber was an order of magnitude bigger than anything in the UK. The group then exited through EDF tunnel, and were surprised to find that the weather was pleasant

Bruce Duncan

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