The Art of Jacking
CU 1976 Contents Page Next:
Six Cavers ... go through the PSM

Cambridge Underground 1976 pp 10-14


The expedition was aqain based at Licq, though with some time spent on the Plateau by all members. C.U.C.C. resident members were playing at being engineers and "The Big Four" were going to the Alps, so the team was fairly small:

Vic BrownCarole Leach
Dave FoxGill Copper
Dave HarrisonHilary Bryden
Andy NicholsJanet Johns
Jont LeachRod Leach
Guy Talbot

When we set off the chief aim was the Trou d'Audiette, but we were also offered Arphidia, the Lonné-Peyret and the PSM - ARSIP could hardly have been more helpful.

Knowing the area well helped too; we were made most welcome in shops and cafés and, with a bit of help from the Eldon and Martine we became valley tug of war champions for the third year running.

No great discoveries, but a good deal of sporting caving, the details of which follow below.

Alkatechayako Harpia & vicinity

Several holes had been observed up the cliff of Alkatechaya lying south of the track to Barachegagnako Harpia in 1974, but these had not been investigated. Two trips were made to the holes this year - Map ref (for any enthusiast) IGN Larrau 1-2 332785 1/25,000 series.

There are four holes at the base of the cliff, the most westerly of which was ignored as nobody wanted to traverse out to it. The other three all draught strongly and all were visited. For convenience they are numbered 1-3 west to east.

1. A small hole leads to a tight crawl for 15m before the roof becomes too low. Small holes lead off giving voice connection with 2.

2. Descends steeply to low crawl made unpleasant by very sharp and rotten prolections. The flakes stop progress after about 50m though the passage can be seen to continue beyond and is still draughting. About halfway along a short climb gains a crossrift with loose boulders. The boulders rapidly choke the way on.

3. Offers rather easier crawling at first and a tiny stream was found but sank in gravel. After about 80-90?m the roof became too low. On the scree slope of the cliff is evidence that water issues in some quantity from the caves in flood conditions.

Above the cliff is a very green and pleasant hanging valley with a number of shakeholes. At the northern end of the valley is some tectonic development. Further up the valley one hole descends via a 6m pitch to a choke. Nothing else was found.

Arphidia (Arpideko Lezia)

ARSIP asked us to have a look in the area of the Galerie des Rouennais which is supposed to offer the best hope for the hypothesised parallel series of pitches.

B.E.C. had been as far as the Salle Levi, so there was a ladder on the 20m and ropes on the Salle Accoce (42m) Puits Prebende (48m), and the Salle Levi (31m) pitches. Apart from the Salle Levi we found that the ropes tended to rub in several places and protection is advisable. Also we were all used to terylene and were agreed that we did not like the extra bounce of the braidline used by the B.E.C.

From the Salle Levi a climb up boulders leads to Unamuno, a large and friendly place. Out of here is a 20m pitch at the bottom of which one climbs up boulders to the right. Two routes out of the top eventually reunite in the Galerie des Rouennais.

Along the Galerie des Rouennais the way forward is obstructed by a hole in the floor. This is the head of the Puits Félix. This broken pitch descends in a rift for 30m and tends to have bits that leap off as you go down. At the bottom one clambers steeply down the rift to a round chamber from which the only way on is a flat out crawl emerging into a larger passage which disappointingly chokes off quickly. However a climb down at the end of this larger passage leads to another flat out crawl, apparently running beneath the larger passage. This leads to a squeeze upwards which gives on to the head of a 5m pitch descended by Don. The muddy passage this dropped into was bigger, but could only be followed uphill for some 60m to a squeeze which prevented further progress. There seems little real hope of substantial progress down here and it is likely that it has been looked at before, but ARSIP's information seemed very vague beyond the Salle Levi.

The traverse over the Puits Félix was not done as Audiette and PSM were demanding time, but this leads to the Réseau de la Pucelle which now seems to offer the best hope for extensions in the area.

Upstream in Arphidia (ie. in the Rivière EDF was looked at, but not with any enthusiasm as such climbs as were attempted seemed to come to pieces.

ODITA LEZIA (Trou d'Audiette)

Starring:- Vic, Dave Fox, Dave Harrison, Rod, Guy, Jont

This impressive shaft is to be found (with luck and patience) in dense forest above the Kakouetta gorges near Ste. Engrace. A very promising area, but none of the pots on the top has yet been connected with any of the large resurgences in the bottom of the gorge. It seems, however that Martel once deposited cottage-sized boulders down the five hundred foot entrance shaft of the Audiette, and that these were heard by some innocent bystanders in the Trou de Mouton. Enjoyable though this trundle must have been, it did have the unfortunate side effect of comprehensively destroying any connection there might have been. Astonishingly, a visit by Casteret failed to produce any dramatic results, and, apart from an abortive visit by ARSIP, nobody has been there since.

Well, we were invited to follow in these very emminent footsteps. After the initial attack of the screaminq heeby jeebies, we went out and got drunk. We then bought 300 metres of narlow 16 plait and scurried of to BPRP(D)NPGGMS (which if you're not into abbreviations means - Bar, Rowter (Derbyse), Nettle and Gaping Gill Main Shaft) to teach ourselves SRT. Which we did, all going well despite touroids lobbing bricks at us down GG while Boy Wonder stood at the bottom of the rope asking how to put his loops on. Incidentally, the hang from the bolts on Birkbeck's ledge produces a nasty rub about 30' down, below the obvious spot.


This divides into three sections and was rigged as two pitches. The first 100' are down a near vertical grass slope to a huge jam of mud-and-boulder-coated tree-trunks. The next 100' are free hanging to what, in an optimistic mood may be called a ledge. Bolts were fixed at the wrong end of a fifteen foot traverse on greasy holds over 300' of exposure. Bolts are a Godsend for SRT providing you have someone like Vic (ie. with no imagination ) to fix them. The disadvantages of an artificial belay (basically human error in fixing them) are more than offset by the protection they can provide for the rope. Where even bolts cannot avoid a rub further down the pitch, we find flexible rubber tubing with an internal diameter slightly less than that of the rope and split down its length ideal protection. It can easily be removed and replaced by each man, and needs no strings or unsightly straps. Here, however, abrasion was a minor problem. The chief danger lay in speleologically inclined boulders from the jam of tree trunks, and the logs themselves, which took exception to our passage. The far end of the ledge was reasonably safe, but we were unable to prusik on both pitches at once, and the rope was damaged where spare was coiled on the ledge. The final 300' is a superb pitch, hanging close to the walls of a very solid shaft.

Grade 1 survey, 9k png


The pitch breaks out into what, in pre-Martel days, must have been a large passage. The boulder pile on which one lands drops in both directions - towards the Mouton being effectively choked, with no draught, after only 50' or so. Down the other way enters a wide, high passage, via a ten foot climb and a loose boulder slope dropping some 75' in all. The floor of the passage is sandy and after 150' rises over a rock barrier with no ways on.

Back in the main passage, about 50' along, water falls from the roof and drops down two 20' pitches in the left hand wall to what was deemed an impenetrable tube. In the opposite wall of the main passage, a draughting passage rises slightly before descending a 45 degree slope to 60' of broken pitch landing in a further large passage. A trickle of water enters from a fissure behind the foot of the pitch, and it seems likeley that this is the water seen earlier in the main passage. It meanders across the sandy floor before dropping into a narrow slot. A 20' climb/pitch rejoins the water where it enters an excessively tight fissure. Back up the 20' pitch, 150' of dry passage with a fine cross section and a few pretties leads up to linked crawls which end in a choked and narrow rift.


This was the most unpleasant part. The trip was delayed by the visit of a Pyrenean mountain storm, vhich made the pitch rather damp. After paying a call up the valley, it returned as we exited, dropping thunderbolts all around us - funny how an open shaft attracts them. Dave did a hero's job on the ledge, Rod provided muscle power on the surface, and Jont provided technical and utterly useless advice between drags on his Gauloise. 200m of Terylene weighs a lot.


Disappointing in some ways, but enjoyable and remarkably good for the ego. 500' is a nice number to drop into pub conversations. With a total depth in excess of 700' the Trou de Mouton cannot be far away; 100-150' according to our rough calculations, but the prospects of extension in the Audiette are minimal. Only one question mark remained: a hole in the far wall of the shaft at about the 300' level, but it seems unlikely to be more than an alternative descent entering the Main Passage via an aven, possibly where the water enters.

The Art of Jacking
CU 1976 Contents Page Next:
Six Cavers ... go through the PSM