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THE ANIALARRA 2002 EXPEDITION
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For the 6th time in a row, SC Avalon organized an interclub expedition on the Anialarra-plateau (Pierre-St-Martin) in Spain. Members of different Belgian and one Dutch club participated: SC Avalon, SC Marginal, SC33, Styx, Technico, Hades OV, De Grotters, Speleo Nederland.

After almost 3 weeks of intensive work we can be satisfied about the results...

The expedition started with very bad weather, that lasted unusually long: for 8 days in a row we had to challenge rain, fog and even snow. Luckily, afterwards, the sun was there for the rest of our stay.

Our main objective was again the Anialarra System, and again we used the AN51 with its 400 metres of pitches to enter the cave system.

The abundant snowfall of last winter caused us a lot of trouble when rigging the AN51: at –130 m the passage was totally blocked by many metres of snow that we had to dig through. Unstable masses of ice and snow on ledges in the big entrance pitches made going down the cave quite tricky!

Dying of an inlet of the Anialarra riverFirst thing after having rigged the AN51, was to participate in a big dye-test, in cooperation with ARSIP. Three kilograms of fluorescein dye were injected in the Anialarra river at -420m of depth. Collegues of MJC Rodez and GS Bilbao saw the dye in the downstream main drain of the AN8 cave, around -600 m. This proves for once and for all that the AN8 river is the downstream part of the Anialarra river. Between the two caves, an unknown part remains to be discovered which is several kilometres long.

ARSIP also placed dye-testers in Arresteliako Zilao (Lakhoura river) and in the resurgences of the artificial lake in Ste-Engrace.

 

A lot of snow at the foot of the entrance pitch of AN51Then we continued the exploration of the "Réseau des Affamés", an important upstream part that we discovered near the end of the last year’s expedition. In 2001 we quickly explored and surveyed 330 metres; this time we added another 836 metres. The Réseau des Affamés is a relatively small river, that can be followed upstream in an alternation of big passages (up to 5x5 m across) and crawls or narrow passages in collapse areas. It runs in North-East to East direction and climbs up for 105 m of height difference! Halfway, a big gallery runs North into the direction of some other caves we have explored, such as AN534- Pozo de l’Eclipse (-134m).

The Réseau des Affamés now totals 1166m. The end is a squeeze, with not much airflow anymore. Amusing is the fact that for the last 50 metres the gallery leaves the Spanish territory and crosses the border. So now for the first time, a part of the Anialarra System becomes French!

Other discoveries were made in the System, such as the "Affluent Oublié", a spacious gallery (3 by 3 m) ending in big avens. Length is 211m. Paul also passed the 3 metre long "duck" near the base of the AN51. Latex Ponto + Cagoule Marboré were obligatory clothes to pass the 3°Celsius melting water. An 100 tot 150 m. long river was explored, the "Affluent Infernal"; which probably is some shortcut between the Réseau des Affamés and AN51.

Meanwhile, we continued (re)surveying parts of the cave system that our illustrious but lazy predecessors had discovered (but never surveyed) many years ago. We totalled 615 metres.

Other caves in our exploration-zone were reviewed and surveyed as well: AN61 (+/-100 m deep, explo still going on); AN62 (-61m, ends in snow), AN567 (-68m). We also climbed towards an obvious but difficult to reach hole in the AN73-Gouffre des Grands Frissons (negative...). Again, we spend three days prospecting the zone above and past the terminus of the Anialarra System. Unfortunately, no big results, despite digging open a promising blowhole.

We also worked for two more days in our "dig" in AN60 and progressed for 3 metres. We have now made 25 metres of narrow passage wider and we are really close to a big pitch (but that we already stated last year also!)...

Also worth saying: one of our members, Rudi Bollaert, accompanied our friends of MJC Rodez/GS Bilbao, during a 40 hour trip to -800 m. There the terminal sump was dived, but no continuation could be found.

We more or less have the tradition of making a big discovery near the end of our stay, and this year was no different. The nice thing was that this discovery was predicted by "prophet" Paul De Bie, who, after many hours of studying surveys and playing with his laptop computer, had predicted that there had to be a big streamup continuation of the big Fossil Canyon to be found in the "King Kong" zone.

And indeed, after two underground trips we did find it, and even where it had to be found! At the base of the giant aven named "King Kong", a tiny blowhole was found and dug open in about 15 minutes. Only 10 metres further on, we again stood in an enormous gallery, over 30 metres high, and we heard again the smooth sound of a river. Quickly +/- 100 metres of very huge gallery was explored, sometimes 20 m large and as high as 30 metres.

The "Rio Nostradamus" tumbles down a 4 m high waterfallThe next day a party of 3 had the pleasure of exploring and surveying in one long run, 641 metres of giant gallery. They stopped when the sketchbook was filled! They ended at "nothing", still big passage going on and a lot of airflow. So, next year, we are hoping to push this gallery a lot further!

This "Réseau Nostradamus" runs first in Southeast direction, then plain East where it reaches the "cam" between Anialarra and Ukerdi. Several caves exist right above this gallery and will certainly be revisited by us next year.

This gallery is our most spectacular find up to now in the Anialarra System. OK, it runs upstream, but it has the dimensions of the downstream galleries near -600m!

Finally some figures: during this expedition we discovered 1970 m of new passages. We surveyed in total 2728m. The Anialarra System grows from 11053 to 12858 metres, for an unchanged depth of -648 m.

Thanks to everyone for the enthusiasm. We’ll be back in 2003.

Paul De Bie,  expedition leader

Click here for a live report of the exploration of the "Réseau Nostradamus" in the Anialarra-system, in 2002 (in Dutch)

 
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