0099: Alpine Chough Pot (Chova Piquigualda, Sima de la)
La Colina 30T 453936 4797013 (Datum: ETRS89. Accuracy code: G) Altitude 568m
Length 954m Depth 104m
Area position

Updated 13 February 1998; 19th February 1999; 7th June 2007; 14th June 2008; 6th January 2011; 30th June 2018

A single pitch leads to a short crawl into a silted chamber. 15m up the entrance shaft is hole which leads to a second shaft. This was descended in 1988 and entered a horizontal passage with various pitches. Explorations in 1991 revealed that the whole cave needed a definitive exploration and survey and this was started at Easter 1992.

About 100m of rope is needed for the entrance pitch which involves a large Y-hang to avoid the loose top. The rope lands at the base of the shaft in a small chamber, 71m down. A sandy slope leads under an arch to successive chambers containing much sand, mud and many big blocks.

At the end is a sandy, 3m diameter, 8m high chamber with mud floor and a small inlet from above. On the left before this is a dig leading into traverses over the chamber below, ending at several possible loose climbs to passage visible above.

On the right in the chamber is a sandy climb, maypoled up in 1997. Footholds have been kicked so it can now be free-climbed although a rope is advisable. At the top is a chamber where a climb up on the right leads to a rift going off left which continues tight to a good echo. Climbing up at the start of the rift and going right with care across jammed(?) rocks in the roof of the chamber below, enters a crawl leading to a drop left off a false floor. This enters a small chamber from which Dead Choughed Passage continues to a chamber with a chough(?) skeleton, a climb up into continuing unexplored passage or a drop to passages where unexplored holes down may enter the first chamber.

About 5m above the floor is a possible pendulum to a ledge and window onto a 15 - 20m pitch which may require a ladder for rigging but this is gained via the route to Stuffed Chough Passage outlined below.

Fifteen metres up the main pitch is a swing into a sandy passage which is the main way on. A pitch of 12.3m follows almost immediately is belayed from a large, sandstone flake, hangs mostly against a sandstone wall and drops into the Main Chamber. A scramble up to the north, to the left of the ladder leads back to the window onto the main pitch and daylight.

In the summer of 1992, the dubious pitch here was descended into a large chamber and the start of Stuffed Chough Passage. Various ways on from the bottom of the chamber all lead to pits which have been descended except for one. The obvious way to the northwest eventually chokes and a 5m pitch also chokes in boulders and sand. To the east from the pitch base, Stuffed Chough Passage is easy walking which heads towards a window into a further large chamber. To the left a climb down drops 20m into a draughting, low chamber with no way on. This is the deepest part of the cave. Through the window, it is possible to traverse upwards around the left hand wall of the large chamber and enter the Main Chamber of the cave, thus avoiding the dubious pitch.

From the southern side of the Main Chamber, down a sandy slope, a narrow rift, with high and low levels, heads south for over 100m where it meets a strongly draughting pit and ends 12m further on at a less strongly draughting pitch (with a rusty bolt). The end pitch drops 14m to a passage heading west to a 7m pitch and a small grotto with no draught or way on. The draughting pit in the rift has a tight squeeze and a pitch of 16m which lands on a soft calcite floor in a 50m long, 10m high and wide chamber. Up dip leads through bright red, ochre-roofed passage and a climb down to a mud floored passage. This terminates at a calcite climb about 8m up an inlet and has a very high rift above.

Down dip in the chamber has a mud slope on the left hand side which leads to a series of small chambers (some decorated) and small phreatic tubes. The main chamber ends in a large boss with an inlet flowing down the sides which then seems to disappear at the base of the boss. Off to one side is a chamber containing an impressive stal column and grotto with possible digs. Behind the boss and through a calcite flow squeeze leads to a diggable squeeze into a possible continuation which has been unsuccessfully pushed. There are also digs in the right side of the chamber looking down dip.

One side passage has been pushed up a mud slope and up dip into a decorated bedding through stal in a breakdown area and a crawling-sized bedding. At several edges of the bedding it is possible to look up into a high rift with boulders and also down into a pit / passage about 10m below with no vocal or light connections with the previous bits. An inlet has been climbed to an abandoned canyon, with mud trench, occasional stal and one bat skeleton. This section ends in a choke with no draught.

Back in the Main Chamber, heading out of the cave from the narrow rift, it is possible to climb up to the northwest between two large boulders and a wall and walk down on a sandy slope to a large chamber which quickly closes down to the north. A very well decorated bedding allows crawling between columns and eventually rejoins the Main Chamber. Various routes also exist between the mass of boulders.

The first descent of the entrance shaft was apparently in the 1960s when a man from San Miguel de Aras was lowered down using a pulley system to settle a dispute over some goats which had fallen down.

References: anon., 1977b (logbook); Corrin J S and Smith P, 1981; material in file; anon., 1987 (logbook); anon., 1988 (logbook); Davis J and Corrin J, 1989; anon., 1991 (logbook); anon., 1992a (Easter logbook); anon., 1992b (logbook); Corrin J and Quin A, 1992 (photo); Corrin J, 1993 (survey); Corrin J, 1994b (survey); anon., 1997b (logbook); Corrin Juan, 1998; Corrin Juan, 1997c; anon., 2008d (Whit logbook); León García José, 2010 (survey and photo)
Entrance pictures : yes
Underground picture(s): 200m Traverse  Grotto  Main chamber  Red Roof Chamber 1 2 3
Detailed Survey : 1:1000
Line Survey :
On area survey :
Survex file : yes (Amended magnetic declination December 2013 to align with Eur79 grid and coordinates altered to fit ETRS89 datum, April 2014.)
Passage direction rose diagram: 30/6/2018

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