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In the second week of October, three "fanatics" (Rudi, Paul & Annette) went to the Anialarra again. We had a long list of things to do:

  • Determine the correct UTM-coordinates and altitude of some caves (AN534, A4, AN542, etc..) because I had found some anomalies when pinpointing them onto the big overview survey.
  • Checking and exploring several caves, partly discovered by us these past years, partly by our predecessors (E.S.S. in 1985-86 and SSP in 1991-93)
  • Fine-tuning a new method of systematical prospection and exploration of the zone. The problem is that the Anialarra-zone has been searched over and over again, but never in a systematical way. So nobody knows what has been done and what not.

There was a certain risk involved in our expedition: normally October is a sunny and dry month, but early snowfall does happen. In the case of snowfall, it is absolutely impossible to work in the zone...

SundayMonday: loaded as mules, up that mountain again!
All camping equipment was carried up, and a small camp was set up at the usual spot at 2100m of altitude. The rest of the day was spent, looking after about 10 different entrances of caves that we would re-explore in the coming week. The weather was beautiful!

Again, sunny weather. The rest of the equipment (caving equipment) was carried up. It was a lightweight expedition; we had only 200 m. of 9 mm rope. That day we tried out our new "systematical exploration" method and it went fine. It goes like this: the complete zoHow many caves are still to be found in this giant lapiaz?ne has been divided in 100 by 100 metres squares. Every square has a unique code (e.g. A17). The corners of each square correspond with an integer UTM-coordinate. E.g. square F23 is between X-coordinate 683,700 and 683,800; and Y-coordinate 4757,500 and 4757,600. Now, using a precise GPS, these 4 points are located onto the terrain, and marked with a flag so that they are visible from far. Then, we check this square in a very detailed way: every crack, pit, fissure, sinkhole and so on is verified. Every pit is abseiled, even those who have already some kind of mark or show signs that they have been explored before. Everything is written down or sketched; the coordinates of each cave-entrance are taken by GPS, and if the cave is somewhat important (letís say deeper than 15 m), it is given a number that is marked with red paint (discretely) at a visible spot.

This way, one can finish a square, and know for sure that never again we, nor somebody else, has to do this again. One small problem: the upstream zone (were we work right now) counts about 200 squares; the downstream zone even more! One square is often one day of work....! It is clear that we still have work for many years to come. Anyone interested in joining us, is welcome!


Fog and rain on tuesday...The weather had changed dramatically. It was raining and we decided to stay as much underground as possible. We re-explored the AN60, where Rudi succeeded in passing the old terminus (-95m) by forcing himself through a squeeze. But a bit further on, it became too narrow, without much airflow. But, at -40m we managed to locate the strong draught again that can be felt in the first part of the cave. The draught disappears in a small gallery, that could be made accessible after some digging work. To be continued.

That night, a storm kept us awake all night. The storm lasted for 8 hours and wind speeds of 140 km/h were registered in the nearby weather station of Soum Couy. Our Northface tent survived barely, and so did we...

Yesterday we stood right here, in shorts!Rudi and me went to the AN211, a -350m cave that still had an un-explored pitch at -50m. But the cave was in flood conditions, and so was that new pitch. We had to give up our attempt and when we got out of the cave, the lapiaz had changed colour: a blanket of snow covered it all! The snow fell rapidly, we headed (heavily loaded) back to the camp. We decided to go down to the valley again, with a part of the gear. Going down was really difficult, about 15 cm of snow had covered the track and finding the way was often guess-work. The combination of snow, limestone rock and heavy backpacks wasnít too good neither, we slipped and fell several times.

The weather forecast was really bad: snow for the next three days! This made us decide to go up the mountain again the next day, and to get the whole camp down (if possible). Leaving the camp there until Saturday, the very last day of our stay, was too risky. A very wise decision, we would later find out!

Very difficult and dangerous: a snow-covered lapiazWe went up again, and found the camp in a picturesque landscape of snow and rock. Blizzard conditions whilst packing our backpacks... 4 hours later we were back at the ARSIP-bungalow, and much to our surprise the sun was shining and life suddenly looked good again. Another surprise was the presence of 16 french "gendarmes", who had planned to make a Gouffre Pascale - Salle Verna through-trip that evening.

To save our week, we went to do some "classic caving". The Arresteliako Ziloa (Trou Souffleur de Larrandaburu) is situated near Ste-Engrace, not far from the tourist attraction "Gorges de Kakouetta". After many years of work, the big continuation was discovered in the beginning of the Nineties. After hardly 10 years of exploration, the cave has passed the 50.000 m in length, and can be considered as being the biggest discovery at the Pierre-St-Martin Massif of the last 30 years. The cave not only is big and complex, but beautifully decorated and nicely sculped as well. We went as far as the streamway, at a depth of -300m. An unforgettable trip, and really a pity that we didnít take our photo camera with us.

The cozy ARSIP bungalowThat evening, the snow-limit had descended and it even snowed heavily at the altitude of our bungalow (1600m). We were very glad to have dismantled the camp, and even more happy when we later heard that the snow had reached 60 cm in height, up in the mountains!


We had a lot of fun, but because of the bad weather the results of our explorations were a bit disappointing.  Next time, we will come a bit earlier, probably by the end of September.


All pictures by  Rudi Bollaert

Contacteer/contact us:  SC Avalon vzw
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