by Tina Richardson
Spurred on by Mike and Tina's stories of warm sunny weather, good caving and some excellent walking, a twelve-strong group from YUCPC went for the week before christmas.
We arrived on the Saturday. As a warmer-upper on Sunday, Tina and Mike suggested that La Torrente de Pareis would be a good start; the weather was cool but bright and sunny, and it didn't look as if there had been too much rain recently.
We parked cars at the bottom and the top, and followed a group a five Spanish down to the head of the gorge, muttering occasionaly about how these foreigners made a lot of noise. Sarnies and such were consumed at the bottom of the hill, then we set of down the gorge a bit behind the Spanish - waving to them occasionally. Everything was fun and uneventful, with a quick look into Sa Fosca (which we intended to do later in the holiday), and the usual entertainment finding ways down the rocks. Shortly beyond the climbs down we encountered a pool, which turned out to be a chest-deep wade. After the obligatory whinging, clothes were removed according to personal taste and modesty, and we crossed, holding rucsacs and the like above our heads. Replacing clothes on the far side, we walked only a little way further before hitting a second pool, which turned out to be a swim. Further mutterings, etc., but we assumed that a shingle bank must have built up, or such like, so we continued, still a short distance behind the Spanish group, who made some jokes about us coming to a nice warm island .....
Me (Tina) and one of the other YUCPC were at the front at this stage and were 'talking' to the Spanish. They were cold but OK and, we thought, better prepared. They had a rope. They didn't think it would be that wet either. And they were Majorcan Spanish.
Beyond this point things went, in one person's words, pear shaped with spikes on. Pool followed pool, it got dark, and it got cold. People variously swam through pools in T-shirts, fleece jackets, skids, bouyed up variously by poly bags of clothes, bum-bags full of empties drink bottles, and will-power. It really wasn't fun any more. All of us felt it was getting too serious.
At one of the pools, a bag, which was presumed to have been abandoned by the Spanish group was found floating; it was ferried across and dumped.
Eventually, after maybe seven or eight pools, in various early stages of hypothermia, we congregated beyond the last pool, where a fire had been started. After a suitable period to warm up, we waded waist-deep across the river, and exited through the tunnels to Sa Calobra. In the village, we met two of the Spanish group, who asked if we had seen two of their friends, which we hadn't. We were mostly too cold and exhausted to go back, but we left the name of the appartments where we were staying in case we were needed the next day. The Spanish called the police and, as we heard from the news over the next two days, there followed a search involving a helicopter with search-light, and about sixty people.
On the following Tuesday afternoon, having failed to find Sa Campana due to some dodgy directions and a memory failure, we drove down to Sa Calobra, partly so that people could have a look at the gorge mouth in daylight, and, if truth be admitted, to see what was going on; we had seen a large number of police and rescue vehicles in the area.
In Sa Calobra, we met one of the Spanish group, who we had spoken to on Sunday evening when we exited the gorge. She recognised us, and told us that two bodies had been found in the gorge; they had drowned in the pool where we had found the bag. It seems by the time we reached that pool, they were already dead, and their bodies must have been at the bottom.
Anyone else going to La Torrent de Pareis would probably be advised to assume that, if they meet swimming pools shortly after the steeply descending sections beyond Sa Fosca, then there are likely to be a significant number of such pools. Unless you are prepared for this, turn back, and put up with climbing back up the hill.