Majorca Easter Tour

Ben Ogborne, Mike Rogerson (Goaty), Tim Wright (Shed), Pete (Shrub), Fabienne Marchard

Article originally published in ICCC Newsletter/Journal 21.

Famous Five go to Majorca

During the Easter holiday of 1998 Goatman, and myself introduced the apprentices of the club to the joys of caving tours. Shrub (Pete) was in charge of all things to go with getting fucked after the caving trips while Ben and F.A.B. headed the photographic section.

The trip was first dreamed up several years ago by the legendary Mark Evans who has fled to Ethiopia. This time, the five being the disorganised rabble that we are (with the exception of F.A.B.) left organising the trip until the last minute but eventually planned the trip for the first week of the Easter holidays. A late booking was made in the resort of Sa Coma for £159 per head. We consulted our map and were pleased to discover that Sa Coma was in the north west of the island very close to the caving territory. Insurance was sorted out at the last minute with the BCRA and that was about all the planning we had to do. We were very kindly provided with information on the caves by several people but particular thanks go out to Wookey.

The day before the flight we all piled down to stores to pack the kit. Packing 300m of rope, hangers, tackle bags, slings, bolting kit etc as well as personal kit into 5 bags with a weight allowance of 20kg each seemed like an impossibility. In fact it was an impossibility. Goatman was prepared to wear 40m of rope and 20 hangers on the flight but this decision was left until the airport in case we got away with it. One major advantage was that oversuits and furries were not needed because the caves are very warm. The flight was at some obscene time the following morning so we decided not to go to sleep that night, but just stay up until the taxi driver arrived at 2am. The trip to the airport was an epic in itself. The taxi driver was barely conscious and the taxi dangerously overloaded. Somehow we managed to get there in one piece.

When we arrived at Gatwick our main concern was the baggage allowance. Luckily for us, the conveyor belt at the check-in desk had stopped and the girl just told us to load all our bags on. She failed to notice that the weight was well over the limit, my bag alone weighed 35kg. Anyway the journey from here was pretty normal until we got off at the other end.

We piled through customs, picked up our luggage and bumbled off to meet our holiday rep. He was a total cock. So fucking nice and helpful. The journey to the hotel from the airport was by coach and it then that we realised we weren’t going to Sa Coma, or at least the one we were thinking of. On consulting the map (with no help from Prick the Rep) we found to our horror that there were 3 Sa Comas on the island! Fortunately Majorca is quite a small island and it was still possible to drive to the caves quite easily. This was a particular relief when we arrive at our peach-coloured apartment block in our Sa Coma and released the name of the place was the same in English as Spanish, the Coma! So we were staying in a dead-end shite-hole that was basically still a building site. It took them four days to fill the swimming pool with a garden hose and the only available restaurants can be summed up by one being called “Britannia Pub Grub”.

We were down hearted, but just could not wait to go caving. We consulted our literature and decided the first cave would be one called Penya Rosta. It is situated at the end of a peninsula in the north east corner of the island. We had a car and next day 9am we were ready to go by 9:00am. (Perhaps the club trips could learn something from this!)

Penya Rosta

Penya Rosta looked like a very odd cave. It was described as an inverted bowl, with amazing decorations, but the path to the cave sounded just as interesting. The path clings to the edge of a peninsula, some 200m above the seal. We managed to follow the path until we got to the end of the peninsula where we apparently took a wrong turn. We spent about 2 hours, picking our way down several very dodgey scree slopes and generally getting lost. Eventually we found the way and followed it round to the end of peninsula where there was some kind of old settlement: it was very odd. We were standing over a 60m cliff and apparently the entrance to the cave was directly below. The way down from here was to beat a path through the undergrowth and eventually we arrived at the cave. The entrance was amazing. When you approached it a blast of warm air hit you. The entrance was shaped like an upside down smile about 7m long and 3m high. Sitting just inside, the view was stunning.

When we were all ready we entered the cave. As I mentioned before the cave is an upside down bowl. As this was our first trip we had no definite objective, except just to look around for a few hours. We had some rope with us, but it turned out we didn’t need it. Just in from the entrance was a chamber full of sand. This made crawling in T-shirt and army trousers very unpleasant. From the back of the chamber a slope led up to another chamber above the entrance. It was here we got our first glimpse of the stal’ in the cave: a huge column about 1.5m in diameter (I made this figure up as I can’t remember, but it was damn impressive!). From here on in it’s very impressive with many steep sloping chambers with low roofs. The place is covered in huge quantities of stal’ and helectites. We also found some bones in the cave which we discovered later are extremely old (but don’t know just how old).

Next day we took off. We attempted to go down a cave but it was on other side of some private land with no access. We were stalked by a big fat security guard (Cherry Lips). The land was owned by the manager of a very posh hotel, but when we went to see him he still would not give us permission as the land was rented out to other people.

So we went for a drive down crazy roads – all very scared as I was driving – up to a lake in the mountains. We ended up getting chased by men with guns. It seems there is some kind of military installation on top of tallest mountain.

Sa Coma

The next day we did Sa Coma. Fuck me, very impressive. The walk to it was difficult, tacking round the side of large mountain. The cave is basically a series of massive interconnected chambers. First chamber is about 25m deep. Pitch from ledge. From the back of first chamber you walk into second with a 9 second echo (no joke!). It took 40 minutes to walk all round this chamber, There were a few massive stal’ bosses 4-5m high. The bottom end of the chamber goes down a big rock slope about 90m long and 15m wide. Very impressive. The only need for a rope is at a small section, but we put it all way down as we had some anyway. From bottom a squeeze through a dig leads into another huge sloping chamber. This was smaller but had massive amounts of big pure white stal’. It was fucking amazing: I have never seen anything like it. On the way down thought the chamber there were also some mud sculptures including one of a 4ft tall dick.

Then we went through an arch into another huge chamber, which was probably 60-70m high and about 150m long with a 30m pitch/slope into main part of chamber. There were loads of mud slopes, and masses of calcite. We also found a very beautiful crystal pool. La Coma cave really has to be done to be appreciated. It is very stunning. We got out about 1:00am and sat outside the cave listening to the sea and watching the stars. It was really warm. A couple of us heard rustling in the undergrowth and saw a flash of light, similar to cats eyes. We are convinced that is was a mountain cat that we’d frightened off. We didn’t actually see it because of the dark, but there are some in that area as very few people ever go there. We took the following day off, getting up late and driving to a quite beach. We were not going to stay the day in the total dump that was our “resort”.

The final day’s caving was intended to be an epic with a 145m surface shaft. It was a long walk to entrance and Goaty and I buggered off ahead to rig the cave. However we forgot the bolting kit and were disappointed to find all the bolts were fucked. Nevertheless we did get about 60m down with the use of several crazy deviations. We used everything it is possible to use to make deviations. From this point it is possible to throw stones to hit the bottom 90m below. Very, very pant filling and impressive. Majorca must be returned to. There is a lot of fantastic caving. It can be summed up as: big mad surface pitches, big mad stal’ and small mad crazy twisting roads.