The Puits d'Anglas
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CUCC 4 and 5
The system had been discovered and partially explored in 1967 by members of ARSIP, who asked us to survey and push it. The cave lies approximately 20 km SSW of Larrau.
Once we had made contact with ARSIP, Andy Nichols and Evan France went to try and find the cave and have a preliminary exploration. They had been assured that it was within 100 metres of the road, but found that the road was perched on the side of a mountain with a steep slope down to a cliff. Returning next day with reinforcements consisting of Guy Talbot, Nick Reckert and Jont Leach and a much improved set of directions, they found it at the base of the cliff with an approach guarded by an unstable scree slope. Jont, Evan and Andy explored the entrance, and Upper and Lower Bear Passages, while Nick and Guy surveyed into the Main Chamber. The next day, feeling much worse for a cold night, soggy spaghetti and lack of beer, they pushed Lower Bear to its conclusion and Evan nearly became a permanent part of the floor when Evan's Folly started to collapse around him.
The next night a party of Bob Mathews, Julian Griffiths and William Taylor, exalted by the discovery of the Café in Lique, slid down the slope to attempt to finish surveying the downstream passages. It was noticeable that none of the previous party were keen to repeat the climb down to the cave. Mistaking a passage leading off Lower Bear for Evan's Folly, the party surveyed Shipwreck Passage. Their mistake was obvious when the passage ended and a small crawl went off to the right. William pushed on and came back with news of caverns of unparalleled splendour, so deciding to finish the survey first and then return to explore, they returned to Lower Bear and surveyed that and Evan's Folly. Unfortunately William started to suffer from his efforts in CUCC 4 and so the party returned to meet the dawn and await the Land Rover. Much later it arrived with the rest of the club who had been trying to repeat last year's effort and be arrested again.
The next opportunity to return was four days later when Nick, Jont and Bob surveyed beyond the end of Shipwreck Passage. The splendour was there, but not unparalleled, the formations having dried up, although there were still some amazing shapes. Pushing on through another crawl, they found more large, but extremely unstable passages. The passage ended in a large choke where it had collapsed into another below. In fact it appeared to be still collapsing as the party retired after a rapid survey. On the way out a small oxbow with some unusual formations, including a straw about 1 cm across the centre, was investigated. Meanwhile, Martin Evans, Anne Winstanley and William were looking up Main Passage. This area seemed to be as unstable as the rest of the system and even more complex. Unfortunately, the party had to return to England the next day and so it was impossible to return to survey this section.
(See survey - 1440x890 png (38k))
The whole of the system as now known, is deserted and the only water is in pools in Frenchman's Creek and a trickle in the Entrance Passage. There is considerable collapse from the roof in Main Chamber, Lower Bear and Collapse Chamber which has obscured the form of the origins of these passages. The other passages are of phreatic origin, mostly of elliptical cross-section, with the major axis at about 40 degrees to the vertical. Also, as about 70% of the passages run between 110 and 130 degrees, it is assumed that the fault lines run on these two axes. The bedding is surprisingly horizontal.
The first 60m of passage is of large cross-section and was inhabited by early man as well as Cambridge troglodytes. The Wind Tunnel is a 3m flat out crawl through sticky mud, a feature of those parts of the cave that do not fall on you. The remainder of the passage to the Wind Rift is easy walking but the passage has been narrowed by flowstone, formed by a trickle from the roof. At the six metre pitch the passage enlarges into a small chamber and the way on is up to the right, down a short climb and into a squeeze at floor level. A gap in a stall grille leads into the next crawl which is two interconnected phreatic tubes. After 50m these open out into a large passage with some formations. To the left this passage soon blocks and might have connected with the bottom of the 6m pitch, while to the right, the passage reaches the Main Chamber. The floor is reached by a 12m ladder pitch and is covered in large boulders and slopes up in all directions away from the foot of the pitch.
To the left of the pitch is Lower Bear Passage, which is low and wide with slabs from the roof covering the floor. After 40m the floor drops about a metre and becomes a crawl with Shipwreck Passage leading off. After another 50m a narrow rift is found on the right of the passage and at this point, the passage has a false floor of calcite much undercut from the rift side. To the left, the passage continues as a flat out crawl to Evan's Folly, which is a small chamber with a very loose section of roof. The rift to the right opens out and there is a continuation very similar to the previous part of Lower Bear Passage. This rift can be free-climbed but because of the weak state of the rock a short ladder is preferable. Under wet conditions, a stream can be heard flowing below the floor. This section of Lower Bear ends in a choke, which can be seen to continue forwards and upwards for some distance.
Most of this passage is filled with mud, the floor having a convex shape. The passage is named after a group of fallen stal grilles on each wall which look like the ribs of a wrecked ship. After 70m the passage is blocked, but it looks as if it might continue beyond. Just before this a flat out crawl leads off to the right which again is partly mud filled. About halfway along its 40m length, a small trickle from the roof has washed out a small chamber in the mud and at the end the passage opens out with gour pools on the floor. The walls of this passage have a large number of helictites, some nearly 6" long. From the end of this passage, a short crawl leads into Collapse Chamber. The collapse appears to have been caused by a passage below working its way up by progressive collapse until the floor of the higher passage collapsed, and the process seems to be still continuing. It is probable that this lower passage is a continuation of Lower Bear Passage.
This passage has been inhabited by cave bears. Claw marks and scratches can be seen in the walls and about half way along there are signs of a bear nest. At the moment no route to the surface has been found that the bears could have used, but it is possible that the route could have collapsed. The inclined rift at the end of the passage is blocked by flowstone.
On the last visit to Betzula, a party of three went up the Main Passage to explore and look for the legendary streamway. A short way from the Main Chamber, we found a 3m climb ascended with varying degrees of ease by the members of the party. The way on continued more or less round, over, between boulders, until one of us discovered on poking their head up between two boulders, a very finely decorated grotto. It was decided to call it Crocodile Chamber on account of one of the formations. Besides ordinary calcite, there were some formations of a very soft and powdery substance. The grotto closed down at the end and the way on was by climbing over the right wall and down into a narrow rift. This went into a little chamber caused by collapsing of adjoining rifts, and a cross bedding plane inclined at 45 degrees went off from it; this was then followed. This seemed to be heading in the direction of the surface shakeholes and contained rather rotten limestone. Another cross-rift was then encountered parallel to the first, going in the same direction and heading downwards. A little further down, a hole in the floor was found, which Martin went down and found a passage with a small trickle of water on the floor, followed by a pitch to the sound of water.
It was now decided to defer further exploration until next year as time was getting on. This is undoubtedly the part of Betzula with most promise, for both an exit to the other side of the hill, through a connection with one of the shakeholes and also for a connection with a low level stream passage.
The Puits d'Anglas
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CUCC 4 and 5