MALLORCA '89/'90

INTRODUCTION
 THE CAVES
 TORRENTE DE PAREIS
 SHOW CAVES
 CALA VAL DE BOQUER
 REFERENCES

PHOTOS
 

INTRODUCTION

In 1989, a group of YSS cavers decided to visit and explore some of the caves of Mallorca. Because of the warm weather, we decided to go in October, when it is still in the mid 70s but out of the main tourist season.The intention was to make the holiday as relaxed and varied as possible. The trip was so successful that another team returned in October 1990.

Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands and sits in the Mediterranean, East of Spain. Although it has a reputation for the more typical Three S's type of holiday, the North of the island is quite mountainous. In fact, the mountain chain goes from North East to South West (covering the Western half of the island) and is made up almost entirely of Limestone. This gives the island enormous potential for cave exploration, as well as presenting the holiday caver with some of the most striking scenery imaginable. A couple of gorge walks add to the interest.

There is, reputedly, a caving club in Pollensa but we were unable to locate them. Carbide is available in Inca at the local FERRETERIA (hardware shop). The Spanish for carbide is CARBURO and it must be pronounced correctly, or people refuse to understand you - you could easily end up asking for a Goat! It may be useful to note that Acetylene is ACETYLINO and water is AGUA - these may be useful when trying to explain what you want!

One further point to note is the Mallorquins are very proud and do not regard themselves as Spanish! Thus, if you speak to someone in Spanish, don't be surprised if they pretend not to understand you. Road signs can also be confusing. Eg, when going through Pollensa, after passing several signs to the "Centre Villa", the signs suddenly change from Spanish to Mallorquin (Centro Villo)! Cueva=Cova, Puerto=Porto,etc.

Caving wise, there is a distinct split in areas. The Pollensa area contains most of the more horizontal caves (COVAs/CUEVAs) while, around Escorca, many deep vertical AVENCs can be found. These comprise of surface pits descending to about -150m, ending in sand or boulder chokes. We decided to confine ourselves to the horizontal ones.

Both teams were based at Puerto Pollensa in the NE. This proved to be a good base as it is close to the major horizontal area and is fairly quiet.

Because of the stark terrain, cave location is difficult to say the least. The entrances are often in cliff faces and the walk there can be very tiring. There are few surface streams and no shake holes, so it's no use trying to use logic when searching for new entrances.

The caves themselves are usually warm and dry (about 20 degrees!) and adequate caving clothing is a pair of shorts and a boiler suit. They consist, typically of short sandy crawls and large, well decorated chambers.

THE CAVES

When locating the caves, we used 1:50000 scale maps as well as 1:25000 maps. The following grid references are all given for the 1:50000 series. The references can be converted for use on the 1:25000 series by

ADDING 3 41'05" to the given longtitude. The latitude remains the same.

Cova Del Cal Pesso (Puerto Pollensa 3 04'36"E 39 54'53"N)

Location:

This cave overlooks Puerto Pollensa and is ideal as a "first trip". Leave Pto. Pollensa on the Pollensa/Palma road. Turn right at the Garua Car Rental shop and follow the road into a narrow, low-walled lane and continue to a cross roads. Turn right and follow the lane to the end, where you'll have to park near some villas. Walk up the hill for about 300' in a straight line from the lane. The entrance can be difficult to find, but have a good look round.

Description:

From the entrance, a short crawl is followed to the left to a short steep slope (hand line required). From the chamber at the bottom, another crawl goes to the left and enters a large, well-decorated chamber with a dry sandy floor. A slot in the floor is crossed, at the right hand end of which is a series of well-decorated pitches (140', 60', 40'). These are rigged with a traverse line from a large block to the head of the top pitch where an 8mm bolt and stal-grill form a good take-off. Several deviations are required to the head of the 2nd pitch. Here, a Y-hang from two 8mm bolts reaches the head of the 3rd pitch (undescended).

Continuing along the main chamber, two pots (c. 20' deep, both blind) are by-passed via a climb up flowstone to the right (handline recommended).

Just before the pots, a climb down to the right (handline required) can be followed to the left to a junction. Turning left drops down into a small but superb crystal chamber.

Beyond the two blind pots, the original passage continues high and wide past many large columns and stals and a magnificent stal chandelier. At the far end, pass through a stal grill into another well decorated chamber, through a short crawl and into the final chamber.

A recent report suggests that, in the entrance passage, is a route to another large pitch.

Cova de les Rodes (Cala de San Vicente 3 03'07"E 39 55'11"N)

Location:

An unusual cave - about the only one we found containing any water!

Leave Cala de St. Vicente and follow the road to a cross roads. Turn right and follow the lane to a car park behind some trees. Walk past the car park over a garden wall by a gate (!) and walk straight forward. Looking down to the right a wall can be seen flush with the path and some steps lead down to some trees. Just around the corner is the entrance, behind a large boulder.

Description:

Care should be taken in this cave as carbon dioxide exists in large pockets. A box of matches are a good idea to use as a test.

At the far end of the entrance chamber, an awkward climb down to a calcite slope leads via several more climbs into a fairly easy passage. Beyond a chamber, a pool leads via a sump to the rest of the cave. A by-pass - up a mud slope - goes via a 12' pitch. At the bottom of the pitch is another pool which can be passed dry with care. From the far side of the pool, several mud slopes are followed into a rift which ends at a 20' pitch. At the chamber at the bottom is a deep-blue pool and a short section of passage and some nice formations and flowstone.

Cova de sa Campana (Escorca 2 48'50"E 39 50'44"N)

Location:

VERY DIFFICULT TO FIND.

Head for Sa Calobra. About half way between the 9-10Km road posts, just before Sa Calobra, is a small pull-in on the right. Park here and head up the hill to the right of the road. Climb in a straight line, heading for a Col. Once in the col, walk along a path to the right and "good luck"! The entrance is marked by a red patch of paint, but you can't see it until you're on top of it.

Description:

This cave is basically one gigantic steeply-sloping chamber, broken by narrow bits! Most of the pitches are really steep slopes and, until you reach about the 3rd or 4th pitch, they can be done on handlines only - with a jammer as a safety aid for the return.

Inside the entrance is a slope to the left (20m handline required) into the first chamber, through which is the second chamber (surprise, surprise!) - SALA DES GEGANTS.

Gegants is HUGE. It is by far larger than any other chamber I have ever been in. As you enter the chamber, take note of your entry point - it isn't so easy to spot on the return. Also note the enormous stalagmite on the left - the one that appears to be the cave wall!

At the far side of the chamber (follow the left hand wall) a steep slope leads into the rest of the cave. A bolt and stal belay gives a good take-off. At the bottom of the slope, rebelay to a stal grill to reach the second ledge, followed by a long calcite slope. A 60m rope will reach the base of the pitch.

Across this chamber is a small grotto. The exit is a steep muddy crawl - awkward to see on the return journey - to the head of the third pitch. There are two bolts set into a slab at the pitch head. The cave changes character completely at this point.

At the base of the pitch, the chamber floor consists of very glutinous mud. This was the final resting place of two of our team! The others went only a little further. The mud continues, but there are some really fantastic formations in this area. Pure white helictites are set off well against the rich brown background of the mud. At the bottom of this chamber are some quite amazing mud formations, including pigs, cows, and even naked men & women! Someone has had a field day down here!

This is as far as we went, due to the amount of tackle required. The total depth of Campana is about 327m. The final sump is only about 3m above sea level.

Cova de Can Sion (Pollensa 2 59'54"E 39 50'09"N)

Location:

Cova de Can Sion is located from the road 7Km between Pollensa and Campanet. Ask for permission to park at the farm (C'an Sion). Walk through the gate near an obvious parking area and follow the track to the end. It is a long walk, but keep to the main path and you won't go far wrong. The path ends at a small cliff. From here, head downhill to two tall Pine trees. The entrance is in a small rock face nearby.

Description:

Can Sion is basically one big chamber, and so cannot really be described. Route finding is, however, a little more complex as you must negotiate giant boulders and stal floes. In one corner of the cave is a steep slope going down about 100'. This area, like the rest of the cave, is extremely well decorated. It is, in fact, probably the best-decorated cave that we did. This cave also contains a large Bat colony. Indeed, at one point, the entire wall took flight! Care should be taken with regard to the large quantities of Guano.

OTHER CAVES EXPLORED

While out looking for the above caves, we also found several apparently new entrances.

Mulu II

Located roughly on the same latitude as Cal Pesso and to the left. The large, blind entrance chamber is well decorated and requires a short rope (10m) on the entrance pitch.

Cova del Chamois

Located a little further to the left of Mulu II, near a large boulder. The rather tight entrance drops into a 12' long rift, from which a short but well decorated passage leads into a small chamber with some fine formations. A large formation with a small hole at the base forms one of the walls. Digging this out gave us just enough room to squeeze through - not into another passage, but actually inside the formation! The calcite here, as with other caves visited, is quite unusual, being very knobbly.

Monica's Hole

This find was made on the walk to Torrente de Pareis. It was only about 35' deep, landing on a rubble floor with no way on.

ALTERNATIVE ACTIVITIES

Torrente de Pareis

Not all of the time was spent underground. Two visits were made to this spectacular gorge near Escorca.

Location:

From the Restaurante D'Escorca, walk through the churchyard, turning left at an old Olive tree. The book "Walking in Mallorca" gives a good description of the route. Walking along the path to the gorge, a very deep shaft - Avenc de sa Miranda - is passed on the right. Stones dropped down here take a long time to hit the floor! The main point to note is if you reach a large rock window on the left, you have just passed the path down into the gorge!

Description:

Once in the gorge, follow the way to the left. Where the gorge takes a sharp right-hand turn, a side gorge - Systema Sa Fosca - enters on the left. This can be climbed for a fair distance until a lake is encountered in a short "cave" section.

Back in the Torrente, the way continues around, over and through many massive boulders. On the first visit, the gorge was almost dry. However, on the second visit, several lakes had to be crossed. This didn't cause too much of a problem as the water is quite warm. Shorts are all that is needed, at most. It is a good idea to carry a short rope (about 20m) to use as a Tyrolean Traverse on the longest of the lakes. The route continues through some very impressive scenery, with the walls reaching a height of about 300m and only 3m apart!

Eventually, the gorge opens out to form the beach at Sa Calobra, at the end of the Restaurante road. It is good pre-planning, if possible, to arrange a car to be parked here for the return journey up the long hill to the restaurant. However, lifts back up the hill are easy to come by.

One point to note is, once Pareis has been entered, it would not be a good idea to try to return up the gorge. The steepness of the path would make such a journey very tiring indeed. A lamp is a good item to carry, as well, as darkness falls very quickly here.

Show Caves

We also visited the (in)famous Caves of Drach and the much less touristy Caves of Arta. The latter is very impressive, with many large chambers and 20m columns. The lighting is also quite discreet. Drach, on the other hand, is much more commercial and very tacky.

Cala Val de Boquer

This secluded little cove is located just outside Pto. Pollensa and can only be approached on foot. It is at the Eastern end of the Cal Pesso ridge (Serra del Cavall Bernat). Find the farm "C'an Boquer" and, walking through the gate, follow the obvious path for about 1 mile. The cove is very picturesque and offers some very good swimming.

CONCLUSION

Mallorca is an almost ideal centre for a caving holiday. It boasts many well-decorated caves with good prospects for new discoveries. As a popular holiday destination, cheap package deals are available and, in late season, the place is very quiet. Good food, beer and wine is available at a reasonable price and the locals are very friendly.

Thanks must be offered to Dave Elliott (Lizard Speleo), Baz Hunt (Earby P.C.) and the Mendip Caving Group for the masses of information supplied and also to the many other individuals and groups who offered their help at one point or another.

ROAD CREW

Kev Sheard, Alan Speight, Malc Hudson, Ady Kemp, Andy Maloney, Graham Shooter, Ian Scott, Helen Daley, Nick Sutcliffe, Jane Sutcliffe, Barry Smith, Chris Gill and family.

REFERENCES

Yorkshire Subterranean Society Newsletter No. 238, pp 3-11 (Nov '89)

Yorkshire Subterranean Society Newsletter No. 239, p 3 (Jan '90)

Yorkshire Subterranean Society Newsletter No. 250, pp 9-15 (Jan '91)

Yorkshire Subterranean Society Newsletter No. 259, p 8 (Nov '91)

Prestwood Exploration Group Newsletter No. 2:5, pp 8-13 (Feb '90)

University of Leeds Speleo. Association Review 11 pp 41-42 (Feb '73)

University of Leeds Speleo. Association Review 13 pp 7-11

University of Leeds Speleo. Association Newsletter 2 pp 8-11 (Spring '88)

Northern Pennine Club Journal 1982 pp 47-50, 82-83

ENDINS No. 5-6, pp 89-108 (1979)

"Walking in Mallorca", June Parker (CICERONE PRESS)
 
 
 
 

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