Cueva del Marniosa – Upstream avens (Part 2)

Eastern Massif, Picos de Europa, Northern Spain

Cueva del Marniosa – Upstream avens (Part 2)

by Dan Workman

The planned trip as of Monday eve was Sam and I to continue the climbing whilst Dave and Derek resurveyed the upstream passage behind us. However, in the morning Derek was not feeling up for caving and we were reduced to a group of three. We set off slightly later than planned but with a later callout we decided we should still be able to get a good amount done. The trip down to the streamway went by at a good pace and we arrived at the water after 40 minutes. After arriving at the bottom of the climb we moved all the climbing gear up to the next level whilst Dave stripped yesterdays hangers and maillons beneath us. As Sam had climbed the day before it was my turn to don the buckaroo suit. With a shaky start whilst I tried to remembered how to climb without tying myself in knots I pushed on up for about 8m to a suitable ledge where I rigged an “adequate” pitch off calcite stal for Sam to jug up and join me. Dave was pretty cold by this point so we hastily bolted a Y-hang and short traverse so Dave could also come up. Moving around a large boulder we were greeted by a sizable chamber which was probably 20m across and 30m high in places. The biggest stuff Sam and I have ever aid climbed to!

This is almost certainly the older mature passage above the immature streamway below. A muddy ramp dropped down lower toward what was probably the boulder choke and then streamway. Sam rigged a quick single bolt handline using our climbing rope and we dropped down to have a look. Once he returned I went down whilst Sam’s brew kit was assembled for some noodles. It is at this point that I should probably state that this was Sam’s brand new, very lightweight, and untested stove. As I almost reach the top of rope with my hand jammer I nearly have a heart attack as I look over to see Sam engulfed in a propane fireball with blobs of    burning hell spitting off in all directions covering both Sam and our gear. I rapidly down prussik and take cover behind the nearest the large boulder whilst Sam’s screams and efforts to extinguish it fail entirely. He throws it down and both him and Dave take cover themselves. It is at this point I notice how beautiful the chamber roof looks lit up in a wonderful orange light. We discuss for some time what the next course of action should be as the gas ganister has plenty of gas in it still. After about minute or so the large fire resides and it is evident the stove is now burning normally. I jug up and peek round the rock to see that it is probably safe to turn off and gingerly reach down to stop the flame which was currently doing a very good job of drying mud. Crisis averted. For a good while we all thought it might explode and I wasn’t looking forward to the resulting tinnitus (or missing limbs). Sheepishly we packed up our gear and made do with a few cereal bars to eat instead of same tasty hot noodles. We made good time on our way out and we were back to the entrance in 50 minutes. As there were diving bottles left at the bottom of the 22m pitch I picked up two loose 3’s to drop off in the entrance chamber (not lugging them back up the hill). We arrived back in Tresviso happy to still be alive with a good story to tell.


Alterntive take by Dan Collins

So my story starts gibbering on a ledge in Marniosa waiting for Sam and Dan to aid climb and rig so I could come up. It probably wasn’t that long a wait but minutes seem like hours, hours seem like days, days seem like months, it was probably 1 hour. So they got up the climb and sounded really excited to find a massive chamber but apparently it wasn’t safe to come up yet so I carried on sat down at the bottom of the pitch gibbering. Finally they rigged the pitch and could finally take of Dan’s down jacket, put my wet caving kit back on and start ascending the pitch. After finally ascending the pitch I got to the massive chamber which was very impressive and probably worth the wait. After being convinced that they weren’t going to be much longer and the promise of hot food I decided to stick around and put the down jacket back on.

After Sam came back up from looking around the chamber he got out his brand new light weight brew kit with 25 gram stove. He attached it to the top of the stove where it started to hiss gas, and after getting it connected then lit it. This however then produced a massive fireball, lighting up the newly discovered huge chamber and also setting fire to Sam’s arm and the dry bag. Sam tried to frantically put out his arm. I tried to pat out the dry bag. The stove was still spewing fire, and in his panic Sam tried to throw the water over the stove. This did nothing. We then both decided to run and shouted for Dan to do the same. Now hidden behind two rocks we watched as the orange fireball still spewing out of the stove lit up the chamber. Sam repeatedly asked dan if he had any ideas while trying to form mud patties with some idea of using them to smother the stove. Eventually the orange glow from the stove died down but me and Sam did not want to approach the stove in case the gas canister had got too hot and exploded. Dan on the other hand, saw the stove was burning normally, rather than spewing fireballs went back to the stove and turned it off. After calming down and having a good chuckle about what happened all decided to have a cigarette. Whether this was the best idea after a massive gas leak also made us chuckle. Now with only cold noodles we each had a chocolate bar and headed out of the cave and to tell of our discoveries and incident at the bar.