Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 28 Feb 2015

Expedition details (GPF2015a-009)

Expedition Name (& Club): Ario Caves Project - C4
Destination country: Spain
Region: Picos de Europa
Lat: 43.2000 Long: -4.9000 Elevation: 1850 m
MEF funding: none

Leader: Mr Mike Bottomley
Total cavers: 11
Cavers ≤25 yrs old: 2
Cavers 25-35 yrs old: 3
UK/nonUK cavers: 10/1
Eligible for grant aid: 0
Alex Pitcher nominations: 1
Expedition dates: 28th Aug 2015 - 13th Sep 2015
Duration (days): 17
Man-days in field: 165 Man-days travelling: 22
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

The expedition will be re-visiting the C4 entrance to the Verdelluenga cave system, which drops into a significant streamway at approximately 580 m depth believed to feed the 2/7 system, ultimately resurging at Cueva Culiembro. Surveys of both the Verdelluenga system and 2/7 show the caves to almost overlap with the likely connection point being the downstream sump of the Verdelluenga system. The primary objectives of the expedition will be to re-rig C4 (some of which was achieved during the 2014 expedition to the Ario plateau) in order to put a diver in the downstream sump, as well as push the upstream limit of the Verdelluenga master cave (currently a 15m high waterfall) towards the highest known feeders to the Verdelluenga - 2/7 - Culiembro system. A connection between C4 and 2/7 would give the combined system a vertical range of approximately 1,500m, with the upstream lead likely to extend this towards 1,800m+
How can the GPF support your Expedition?:

Please explain the aspects of the trip which make it eligible for Ghar Parau funding.

Unlike previous expeditions to the Ario plateau, the trip to C4 will be a smaller affair with a small team size and so costs to individual members are likely to be higher since more ropes, metalwork, bolts, drill batteries etc will need to be sourced, likely bought. The team is still evolving, but currently involves not only several keen and very experienced individuals with many years caving experience, but also the expedition leader from the previous expedition to C4 carried out in 1996, the author of one of the most inspirational caving books of all time - Beneath the Mountains, members of last years expedition who helped to partially rig C4 and finally at least one up and coming young OUCC caver who will enjoy the benefit of learning much of expedition caving with a small, close-knit group of experienced cavers. Unlike many expeditions, we already have 2 exciting leads to go at within what is already one of the deepest cave systems in the world, with potential to go much deeper!
Detailed description of objectives:

Give a more detailed account of the purpose of the trip, including any particular known caves you intend to visit, specific areas where you will explore for new cave, and scientific experiments you will attempt.

The main objectives of the expedition will be to:

1) Continue the re-bolting and re-rigging of C4 to a depth of approximately 580m. The cave is currently rigged to around -300m (2014 expedition).
2) Put a diver in the downstream sump in an attempt to connect the Verdelluenga system to the major 2/7 system. This would put the vertical range of the Verdelluenga - 2/7 - Culiembro cave system in excess of 1,500m (a physical link would remain to be achieved and would involve the passing of Choke Egbert which currently marks the end of 2/7).
3) Climb the ~15m waterfall at the upstream end of the Verdelluenga master cave and push the master cave above towards the highest feeders to the system, many of which are likely to be located at altitudes in excess of 2,000m greatly extending the vertical range of the system.
Previous work in this area:

Give details of any previous work in this area by your own and other teams. Include references to reports and articles published on the area, and the names of any local cavers or academics with whom you have discussed the Expedition.

Oxford University Caving Club have been extremely active in the area since the early 60s, and the results of their efforts well documented. See the following links for more information on expedition objectives by year, as well as a list of journals:

David Rose and Richard Gregson also wrote and published the book Beneath the Mountains based on expeditions carried out by OUCC to the Ario Plateau.

Expedition Finances


Travel plans:
It is likely that most will fly out to Asturias/Bilbao/Santander. If booked early enough (when they are cheap), It is likely that cars will be hired from the airport to help with transporting kit and people from the airport to the car park at Los Lagos, from where the 3hr walk up the hill commences. It is hoped at least one vehicle will travel out from the UK to also help with kit transportation, although we will look into costs of sports baggage for taking some kit on the plane. One vehicle will be travelling from Grenoble, France.

# from UK: 10 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £2,620 £600 = 4 x flights from UK to Asturias (£150 pp return)
£720 = 4 x flights from UK to Asturias (£180 pp return including extra hold bag)
£300 = 2 x hire cars from the airport for two weeks (inc. fuel)
£1000 = 1 x van travelling from UK to Santander via ferry with 2 people (inc. fuel)

# from outside UK: 1 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from outside UK: £300 £300 = 1 x car travelling from Grenoble

Travel total: £2,920 Travel p.p. from UK: £262
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £300


Total: £3,344 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £304 The expedition will be based at the Refugio vega de ario (£9 pppn). Meals will be made by the team to bring costs down (£10 pppd)

16 days in field x 11 people x £19 = £3,344


Total: £1,120 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £102 Rope = £350
Metalwork (hangers/maillons/karabiners) = £300
Tape sling = £40
Throughbolts = £90
Drill batteries = £120
Tackle bags = £160
Dry bags = £50
Dive line = £10
Exped Total: £7,384 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £667
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £705
Mean Exped cost per person: £671

Other Funding

Total: £0 Comments:
Total shortfall: £7,384 Mean shortfall per person: £671

Referees and Report

Please give the names, addresses and phone numbers of two suitably qualified people whom the Committee can contact. You should ensure that they are aware of the objectives of your trip, and that you have their permission for the Committee to contact them.

Referee 1: Mr Tony Seddon
Affiliation: OUCC

Reason: Member of OUCC who has taken part in several expeditions to the Picos in the past

Permission obtained?: Yes
Referee 2: Ms Fleur Loveridge
Affiliation: OUCC

Reason: Member of OUCC who has taken part in several expeditions to the Picos in the past, including leading several

Permission obtained?: Yes

Expedition report author: Mike Bottomley