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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).

Rio NostradamusA 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.

Tora Bora, een gigantische dolineIt 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 -648 m.

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…!

 Prospectie nabij de falaiseIn 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

Expedition leader

(pictures: Paul De Bie & Mark Michiels)

Contacteer/contact us:  SC Avalon vzw
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