Results of the 8th Anialarra Interclub Expedition
In August 2004 SC Avalon
organized the 8th expedition in the Anialarra mountains
(Pierre-St-Martin). Cavers of following clubs participated: Avalon
(9); Styx (1), Hades (1) Speleo NL (3) and FFS (2).
The main goal was to
continue the exploration of the “Réseau Nostradamus”, an
important upstream branch of the Anialarra System. We discovered
this branch in 2002 and pushed it further in 2003, reaching a
temporary terminus after having explored a series of big rooms (Cosmik
Debris, Salle Lieven, Salle du Lapiaz).
After having rigged the 400
m of pitches of one of the upper entrances (AN51), we installed a
small but comfortable underground camp in Salle du Lapiaz (150 m x
60 m) which would provide shelter for teams up to 4 persons for the
following weeks. They would stay there for 2 or 3 days, because
trips to this remote part of the cave were too long and tiring
(going there means an absolute depth difference of over 700 m).
quick exploration past the 2003 terminus yielded a 4th
and giant room; Salle du Grand Noir, which measured about 250
m by 50 m. Unfortunately the way on was blocked by an enormous
boulder choke (Trémie du Crève Coeur). A strong airflow showed the
way on but it was all very unstable. The third team was able,
after digging works, to find a passage that led them into the heart
of the boulder choke. Several days were spent by different teams in
this labyrinth of rooms and passages between boulders. Nearly 300 m
of passages were surveyed here in a cube measuring 50x50x50 m.
However, the so desired 5th big room was not found.
Most probably, this giant collapse area marks the end of these
extreme upstream parts of the cave system.
At the surface, 300 m
higher, the terrain is also very chaotic en has clearly had a very
turbulent geological past. Giant sinkholes shatter the surface. One
called Tora Bora by us, measures 80 m in diameter and 30 m in
depth. Only 100 m more to the East, the Anialarra limestone plateau
ends. A cliff, several hundreds meters high, descents into the
valley of Lescun, 500 m lower.
is very likely that upper entrances to the cave system exist in the
area of the cliff. We spend much time looking for them, because an
entrance at this altitude (2300 m) would make the cave system +/-
150 m deeper. We explored many pits but none of them went any
deeper than 60 m.
Our quest for an upper
entrance brought us also back in the AN546-Pozo Georges, that we
discovered in 2000. At that time, the cave was situated in a less
interesting corner of the plateau. But after the mega-discovery of
the Réseau Nostradamus, it appeared to be located exactly above the
newly discovered big rooms. So several teams turned the cave
inside-out again, and even started digging in the boulders at the
bottom. But time being, we could not make the cave any deeper than
it already was (-87 m).
Back in Nostradamus, we also
discovered a lower level, Réseau des Occitans, which is
situated under Salle Lieven. Its is a labyrinth of galleries and
rooms, all beautifully decorated with the most bizarre aragonite and
gypsum formations ever seen. Over 300 m of passages were surveyed
in this dry, clean and breathtaking part.
In total, we surveyed +/-
1250 m of new passages during this expedition, mostly in the Réseau
Nostradamus (Anialarra System). The total length of the Anialarra
System now reaches 15200 m., for an unchanged depth of
The expedition that lasted 3
weeks enjoyed nice weather, however some big thunderstorms made it
quite difficult and dangerous for us. A first storm struck a team
that was returning from a 3-day stay in the Anialarra System. Their
return quickly changed in an epic battle again raging white water.
The very same storm hit another team exploring in Pozo Georges, they
experienced the same flood pulse and their ropes were struck two
times in a row by lightning! All very exciting…!
September, a small team will continue the work for one more week.
They will also (try to) continue in AN107. In that cave we
reached, in 2003, a depth of -145 m before we were stopped by a new
pit. In August this year, we already re-visited the cave but the
presence of tons of melting ice in the second pitch, made it too
dangerous to go on.
The 8th Anialarra
Expedition was a success. I thank every participant for the good
work, and our sponsors Proviron and De Berghut for
their support. Many thanks goes to Pierre and Maryse, owners of
Camping Ibarra in Ste-Engraçe, the best camping to choose whenever
you want to go caving, canyoning or hiking in the area!
Paul De Bie
(pictures: Paul De Bie & Mark Michiels)