Tuesday September 8th 2015
Members present: Alastair Gott, Alistair Rollinson, Dan Boothby, Kevin Francis, Luke Brownbridge, Rachel Findlay, Vicky Bailey, Will Scott
After travelling along a typical poor but ever interesting Sardinian road we arrived at a pretty little car park. Consulting the car park map we set off along the dry river bed latterly re-joining the path and quickly finding the cave. The change was interesting as we were all spread out along a mud ledge and putting on caving gear, far from desirable in the midday heat.
Brownbridge and Bailey set off into the cave to rig the first pitch. With so many of us there was an inordinate wait until I finally entered the cave at around 1300. The first pitch was at that ever annoying angle which hinders both abseiling and prusiking however despite this hindrance we ploughed on and found our first of the reflectors. Sardinian caves have reflectors throughout the passages to show you the way – some may argue that this detracted from the experience of caving however I thought they were rather useful. A very pleasant duck followed – the water was particularly welcoming however the undulating rock made for a devilish expert at catching unsuspecting pieces of SRT kit.
Following the reflectors with due diligence we worked our way through Alto Loma. Clambering over rocks and following the large passage made for easy and splendid caving. There were some deep but dry gour pools which provided amusement as we tiptoed around their edges. At around 1500 we came across a suitable area for some refreshment which was indeed welcomed as all were sweating profusely due to the unfamiliarly high cave temperature. The rest of the team tucked into their sandwiches but knowing that we still had a very long way to go I didn’t get involved in the school trip picnic.
The next obstacle was a large area of moon milk which unfortunately caught out both me and Boothby. Boothby’s trip resulted in him getting covered in moon milk and he described this as being bukkaked, this caused some hilarity.
We then came across the second pitch and descended roughly 30 m to meet an in-situ traverse line. This traverse was jolly thrilling being in a high rift with water running below and some interesting dynamic maneuvers to complete. Happening upon an unexpected pitch there was some hiatus while the required tackle sack came to the fore. Again descending around 30 m we landed in a streamway – the White Nile.
After following this lovely streamway which become gradually larger we arrive at a truly awesome spectacle. A huge beautifully blue lake, it looked so inviting but the coldness deterred me. Some passionate persuasion to get Rollinson into the lake unfortunately fell on deaf ears. The way on was actually back on ourselves in a parallel passage to the streamway and this brought us to the home-from-home sandy camping chamber. The camping chamber was truly luxurious with a large sandy shelf for sleeping on that resembled and probably rivalled any typical caving hut bunk room. At this point everyone took off their SRT kits only to put them back on after deciding there might be some traverse lines and climbs.
Exiting the chamber we came to a vast passage littered with boulders. I was quite happily going along in my own boulder hopping world when suddenly I was greeted by an enormous drop on scale almost unimaginable to any bog-standard British caver such as myself. This was a sign of things to come. After some poking around we ended up in the Blue Nile, a very deep pool with some beautiful calcite. Although this wasn’t actually the way on I’m glad we visited it as it was a lovely spectacle. Once again there were attempts to get Rollinson to jump into the perilous pool however once again they fell on deaf ears. The way on was actually down through the boulders and along a traverse line. Good job we kept our SRT kits as this traverse was followed by a prusiking section. The first part of which was slightly overhanging and some amusement ensued as Boothby was shoved up.
This brief spell of rope work brought us into the truly ore inspiring Lilliput. An enormous passage which made you feel very small hence its name. Once again we set off following the reflectors and kerns which really were a necessity in this vast passage. Having a spell of bad luck with lighting I was caving off Tikka – not something I endorse, therefore much of the time I couldn’t actually see any of the reflectors or cairns and often had to rely on the spot beams of my colleagues to seek out the precious cairns.
Stopping at a rather large cairn we had a short rest and consulted the survey. We’d also bought along Imperial’s trip report to aid our route finding. Having read the necessary sections we discovered that if we weren’t careful we could end up in a dead end called Mordor. The Lord of the Rings fans amongst the team got rather excited at this.
Continuing to follow the cairns and reflectors we reach a narrower passage with a mud floor and water marks on the wall which were well above our heads. The reflectors and cairns soon became arrows, scorched onto the walls by carbide lamps of times gone by. I was worried; the passage seemed to resemble Imperial’s description of Mordor. However round the corner we discovered a rope which a pitch going up and around another corner there was another pitch with another rope going up. The passage ended so the way on had to be one of these pitches.
We all gathered for a little breather and to consult the survey but it wasn’t much use. I went off and climbed up the further pitch, Ali, Rachel and Vicky followed. The others decided to call it a day and make their way out.
At the top of the pitch there were more black arrows which led into a boulder choke. We followed them however the passage soon became very familiar and we realised we were back where we’d started. There seemed no other way on. Personally I thought the arrows were some sort of sick joke by the Sards.
After descending that pitch I made my way up the alternative one and emerged on top of a pile of boulders in a vast chamber. Clambering over the boulders only brought me a large drop, although there some mysterious traverse lines leading off. I decided to wait for Vicky to come up as she had the survey.
Once she was up we both had a poke around while Rollinson and Findlay waited at the bottom of the pitch. The chamber was so vast and there were multiple ways to go. We’d been underground now for approximately 7 hours and I wasn’t keen to extend the trip much so we’d still have enough energy to do something productive the next day. Vicky concurred and we head down the pitch where the others also agreed with our plan.
All in all we’d done very well to get as far as we did, we were content with our efforts. The way out was straightforward and only one minor incident occurred. While descending a pitch Vicky let go of her rack to push herself over an overhang, this resulted in her landing flat on her back with a small yelp of pain. There were a few moments of panic as we identified what had happened but thankfully Vicky was not severally injured and we carried on in staunch fashion.
Sweat soon became the order of the trip as we rather tanked it back through Lilliput and into the welcoming throws of the camp chamber. Refilling the water bottles and taking a refreshing swig we started up the pitches. Rollinson and Scott were all over the derigging and before we knew it we were back at the duck.
A refreshing dip soothed us before we attacked the sod of an entrance pitch. After multiple expletives and some tangling of rope we were back into the warm of the Mediterranean evening at around 2300. A short stroll through the woods brought us back to car.
In summary Su Palu is an excellent cave even just going as far as the lake is well worth it. After an appalling attempt at a camping trip in Daren Cilau I was put off the idea of underground camping however having seen the camp chamber in Su Palu I’d jump at the chance of a return.
I hope one day to reach the elusive Disneyland chamber.