Lago Ercina

Speleogroup  title


Site list (GPS fixes) Walks (GPS tracks)  Video clips Panoramas

Coordinates used

Electronic projects:

 Bat detector
 Lamp tests
 µ-controlled lamp
 SEPIC-based lamp
 ISP isolators
 Making SMT boards

Expedition logs:

  Spain 1973, 1974,
  1975, 1976, 1977,
  1979, 1982, 1983,
  1985, 1986, 1987,
  1988, 1989, 2000,
  2001, 2002, 2003,
  2004, 2005, 2006,
  2007, 2008, 2009,
  2010, 2011, 2012,
  2013, 2014, 2015,
  2016, 2017, 2018,
  2019, 2020, 2021,
  New England


 The Battle of
 El Mazuco

Mexico expedition log

Click on any logbook scan (monochrome) for full size.
The photographs are thumbnails; contact me » for larger versions.


27.12 Wednesday. Left Romsey 07:40; → Southampton Station.  Train to Waterloo, 08:15; arrived 09:15.  Then waited in taxi queue; should have taken the Red Arrow bus to Victoria! Arrived Victoria 10:00; just missed a train to Gatwick so caught next at 10:20.  Bags silly-heavy (85lb++). Arrived Gatwick and just got on the plane.  Reasonable lunch:  terrible film “I wanna hold your hand”.  Clouds.

Arrived Houston 15:55 (local time 6 hours difference).  Checked in baggage, had some beers + “hot mexican cheese dip with chips” – processed ‘cheese’ and tasteless chips.

Just before leaving Houston, [Mike] left glasses in restroom, 10 minutes later they were gone – not handed in anywhere, either. Pete had fun getting through metal detector – belt buckle the culprit.

Eventually left for Mexico @ 20:00, via Monterey; arrived 22:45, met by Pete’s friends.  Got lost in Mexican streets; Hotel Greco at 23:50 – a 23-hour day(!).  Good room (2 single beds and private bathroom for 215 pesos = 5).

{27.12: Our bags were 49kg and 50kg respectively. The check-in lady at Houston got us to load the conveyor ourselves (“I’ve just had surgery”) and, I’m sure deliberately, misread kilos for pounds . . . (I’d had assurances that the “no weight limit” then in force across the Atlantic would apply to onward flights, but that was unreliable).}

28.12 Up at 09:00; picked up by Asunción at 10:15, → flat for breakfast (scrambled eggs, etc.).

Then off on short tour of city (buying VW tyre, etc.).  Very smoggy. Back for lunch about 15:30.  After lunch to Museum of Anthropology for an hour or so – worries over whether camera(s) were giving correct exposure.  Back for traditional Mexican meal (tortillas, chiles, beans) and eventually to hotel Greco (San Antonio Street) by 11 pm).

Field House, Cuetzalan

Field House, Cuetzalan

Up at 8; shower.  Breakfast (bacon & eggs) at A’s flat; then rest of morning etc. shopping at ‘Gigante’ and organizing hire car [a Volkswagen Beetle, with air-cooled rear engine].

Lunch (beef and baked potatoes); then eventually set off for Cuetzalan at about 18:00 – arrived at the Cuetzalan Field House at midnight.

Lots of people (mainly USA).  {There were eventually 47 people at the field house (compared with four on my previous trip, plus pigs and turkeys).} McMaster party down a cave with Mike Boon.

Petrol 2.8 pesos/litre (≈35p/gallon)! 

Field house & car

Field house & car

Up at 8; met everybody (Jim Eyre, Will Howie, Jo Liebnitz, etc.). Eventually set off for cave at 12ish (Jonotla).  To get to the cave; go a long way down road to Vallarta and it’s on the left ... about 10 minutes walk from the road: a huge entrance near a waterfall. Cave fairly straightforward.  Large stream passage, with a tricky climb up to traverse on left after ≈ 500m.  Around the corner, then a chute leading down (needs 30m rope + self-belay gear for return). We then surveyed from top of chute, down, and then along some very aqueous canals for several hundred metres [Survey notes and sketches].

Three others had gone ahead (Jim Eyre, Wil Howie, and Bill Liebman?) but we only met Wil who had been abandoned by the other two! After waiting around for about an hour to see if they would show up, exited. About a 7 hour trip.  Then an hour and a half walk back to the car as we went too far right and ended up climbing up through a wood. Went back to hut (arrived 22:45) then meal of steak, mushrooms, & spuds.  Pete Lord had arrived at 21:00 from Villahermosa.

{“My memories of the 30th December include me in an inner tube and you astride a li-lo, resulting in a carbide-flame deflation; and wandering around lost in the dark on leaving the cave until we spotted a cow with a bit of green string on its horn, which we’d seen that morning and gave the clue as to where we were”}

31.12 New Year’s Eve.  Breakfast (steak & chips) then down to the market.  V. good market with lots of stalls, handicrafts, etc.  Took lots of photos and bought some bread.



Back to the hut, and then went for a walk starting off heading North from the hut.  Found two shafts within half a mile or so, then nothing. Eventually (after tromping through 12′ (4m) high grass, being bitten by ants, and being stung by Malhombre (a plant covered in large ‘hairs’ – to be avoided!)) we met a fellow who said there was a cave near.  After following him for ½ an hour, it transpired he was talking about Resistol (already known) which was near, i.e., beneath us! Arrived at a football ground in a Jou, and had a look at the sink.  Explored about 20m of muddy passage.  Weather hot & humid.

Got back to the hut to find 14 more people! From the Association for Mexican Cave Studies (Austin, Texas).  Cooked meal (smoked pork chops etc.) then went down to Cuetzalan.

Sat in bar drinking beer until 12.  (Mainly Canadians and Brits: USA people had gone back at 10:30.) Then outside for a quick chorus of “Auld Lang Syne”.  Then down to the square for 20 minutes climbing the pole (a sort of telegraph pole with rungs nailed on).  Had a misunderstanding with a Mexican at the top, i.e., 50′ (17m) up, approx.

{I think we drank all the beer in Cuetzalan.  It was a bit tense when you and the Mexican representative arrived simultaneously at the top of the pole: much relieved to hear “Viva Mexico!” and “Viva Inglaterra!”.}

Moon shape ...

Moon shape ...

Eventually back to the hut, saw off the Canadians who were heading South (at 01:30!).  Short walk to look at the stars.  (The moon, incidentally, is a different shape in Mexico.)


01.01 Monday. Up at 09:00(!).  Breakfast of pork chops.  Saw off Wil Howie, Gareth, Jim Eyre, etc. who were heading to do Golondrinas.  We were invited to go with them but decided not to.
Pete in Coffee Pot

Pete in Coffee Pot

Went down to Cuetzalan to have a look at “Coffee Pot” a cave in the effluent from a ¿coffee? factory.  Pete had a good potter in the beans; I [MFC] fell in.

Then looking at pits nearby along the road to San Andrés.  Found one, 10m deep: didn’t go.  Now foggy and raining.  Wild Coffee, Bananas, Oranges everywhere.  Looked at other pits until it got dark; then to Torta shop in Cuetzalan.  Tortas (rolls) with ham/chorizo/meat, etc., for 6–7 pesos.

Back to hut: still raining.  Spent the evening reading, chatting, eating popcorn.

{I claim to be the first (only?) person to dive in coffee (beans), having dug my way through a short sump into a small passage.  My memory of Gareth is different: we were worrying about where he’d gone, until he finally emerged, white and shaking, from a pile of ropes in the corner after a New Year’s Eve on the Canna. Possibly on January 2nd.}

Route to Resistol

Route to Resistol

Frankfurter breakfast, then preparations to do Resistol.  Very cold overnight, now snowing! First snow for 16 years, and worst for 45 or more.  Locals extremely depressed as probably the coffee crop will be ruined; bananas certainly.  Would be four years before coffee recovers.

Pete, Mike, and Steve Robertson off to Resistol at about 12:00, through the snow.  About 30 minutes walk, complicated route [see diagram]. Very English weather! 

Resistol formations

Resistol formations

Down entrance pitch 27.5 m (needs 35+ m rope, belayed to tree some distance back).  Fine pitch except abrasion problems near the top. Air and water in the cave at the bottom of the pitch beautifully warm.  Entrance series fairly complex, generally follow small stream. Eventually join two large inlets, and follow main stream down.  After several hundred metres, a waterfall with a “freeclimbable” ladder pitch to the right, landing in a pool which is very hard to swim around (at least it was hard when we were there).  Pitch needs one (8 m) ladder.  Soon, two more small climbs (slings useful), followed by 10 m pitch – very hard to find belay points due to conglomerate nature of rock.  Eventually we belayed back up the passage using four slings and a 5 m belay used single ...

Truncated columns

Truncated columns

Fairly soon after we reached the [target] inlet on the left (just a trickle in a channel over flowstone).  Some very fine formations, including truncated columns which obviously used to reach fill in the past.  Explored an exquisite little grotto in the roof.  We decided that as Steve was having severe lamp problems we should go back, even though this obviously was not the inlet we were looking for.

In the snow

In the snow

Very sporting trip out; lamps failing one by one.  Eventually exited into the snow at 22:30–23:00; a 9½ hour trip, very fine.

Miserable walk back to the hut (almost got lost).  Then dry clothes (furry wonder suit) and a large mainly vegetarian meal.  Bed at 2 a.m. Pete tried a hammock, which was fine.

03.01 Up 10ish.  Breakfast of Tea and Bread from itinerant bread sellers (e.g., 2 rock cakes for 1 peso).  Spent the morning chatting to Steve and Geoff Robertson about gear, prices, etc., and cleaning up the hut.  Everyone else now gone.

Bought a gallon of carbide fro Steve & Geoff, and also were given some Petroleum Ether (“Skelly-B is better”) for stove fuel.  Using 0.2 l → 0.25 l of petrol fuel/day (two stoves).

Dashed into Cuetzalan to buy oil for popcorn & to make phone call to book hotel.  It gets dark around 18:30; sat around cooking, reading, then early bed 22:00.

04.01 Spent the morning cleaning the hut and drying gear – lovely weather again, sunny and quite warm.  Started to cloud over by 14:00, when we left for Mexico [City].  Long drive; centre part almost Desert-like, hot but cool in the shade. Pico de Orizaba seen and photo’d about 55 km away; then later Popo & Iccy. in the sunset.

Arrived at Descartes-48 at about 19:40 having got a bit lost in the city.  Asunción out, so we had dinner and left for Hotel Greco at 23:00.  Room 308 this time, put car in garage.

05.01 Breakfast in “Jeans”, opposite the hotel (Mexican hamburger).  Then into centre to extend car hire (1st week came to 80!).  Then bank (exchange rate 22.61 pesos/dollar or about 45/).  Wandered around some more: beers in “Arthur’s Steak Pub” 20 pesos each, then lunch in Burger Boy as we didn’t feel up to a typical restaurant.

Went to the Zoo in the afternoon; rather small cages although Giant Pandas were fun to see.  Back to hotel after dropping into Descartes-48 and doing shopping in nearby supermarket.

At 21:00 out in search of food; eventually ended up at the nearest: “Las Guajolotas” on the SW corner of the junction of San Antonio & Insurgentes [still there in 2014 street view].  [I] had Sopa Azteca and ½ Roast Chicken (+ side dishes, coffee, Gin Tonic). Pete had Sopa de Cebollo con Queso + filete, etc. – total came to 386 pesos (≈8.50).  Very Good.

06.01 Omelette in Jeans; then left Mexico [City] about 10ish.  Past University City (with mosaic-covered library) then on the free route to Cuernavaca.  Pretty route; hardly any traffic.  Then Southeast via Cuatla to Oaxaca(“Wah-hah-ka”).  400 km of bends over lava mountains. Spectacular countryside but hard driving! Hot.

Arrived Oaxaca 19:30-ish, had a look round huge (i.e., vast) market, fair, and bus station.  Went to centre of town to post cards, then drove out 30 km or so to find somewhere to sleep; about 550 km total. It was “Three Kings Day” with special Three-Kings cakes everywhere. {Camped out.}

San Cristobal sketchmap (← N)

San Cristobal sketchmap (← N)

Left campsite before 9:00.  Headed for Salina Cruz about 250 km away. Arrived there at 12ish (sleeping policemen all over the place). Had a good splash in the Pacific surf – very hot and sandy, also quite humid.

Then to Tehuantepec – almost entirely indian population, with an indoor market.  Bought some 20 cm-diameter wheat[?] biscuity things (six for five pesos).  Watched shadows move.

Long straight roads to Tuxla, capital of the Chiapas.  Seemed uninteresting and relatively modern, so onto San Cristobal, the “caving capital” altitude 2113 m.  Had a good meal at the cafetería/restaurante Palenque – charbroiled steak, etc., 50 pesos.  On out of town a couple of kms to camp.

Total about 600 km driving today.

San Cristobal sketchmap 2 (N →)

San Cristobal sketchmap 2 (N →)

Up 8ish, cold and miserable.  Coffee and sausages for breakfast, then went to see Grutas San Cristobal – big & dry (10 pesos).  Down into town, wandered around and bought machete and sheath for 60 pesos each.

Met Canadians – apparently Mike Boon was in jail after a fracas over some rope.  Also met Joseph Lieberz, etc.; stood around, chatted, etc., for some hours.  Warm in the sun but cool wind.

Resurgence near Huixtan map

Resurgence near Huixtan map

Eventually off to Huixtan (left off the Comitan road, a few km from San C.).  Canadians went to free Mike Boon from the jail; we went to look at the resurgence described by Chas Yonge.  We didn’t find it as we expected it to be a river level (it is actually several hundred meters above!) but beautiful countryside.  Rained.

Back to San C., met Mike Shawcross & had a coffee, then moved car into the courtyard of his house – using reed mats to get up the pavement! 

Canadians returned, having bottomed a 30+ m hole on the road to Chanal; we all then went for a meal which was good at Normita restaurant – guitar-playing host, etc.  [Comedor F... Normita is still there in Street View 2012.]

A typical pit

A typical pit

Up 8ish, down to Mike’s restaurant for breakfast.  Said goodbye to Canadians, then off to Chilil–Chanal road to bottom some pits.
  1. @ km 13.250 – 11 m deep, choked with boulders and mud.

  2. @ 21.025 – 17 m pitch + 5 m slope down to mud.

  3. @ 21.165 on left – 2×5 m+ 30 m slope to boulder choke.

  4. @ 21.165 on right – 20  m pitch; 2 m climb; 13 m pitch, squeeze at bottom to 10 m passage (crawl) ending in black mud choke.

Meal with Mike S., then back to his house and browsed through maps, aerial photos, etc.

10.01 Earthquake @ 7:00 am approx. {The door started rattling; I thought it must be Mike ...  but there was no-one there ... it was the earthquake.} Up early, breakfast at Café Central.  Went to Post Office to post Mike’s pottery animals, then to Luis(?) the woodcarver to enquire the whereabouts of a Sima (pot) he knew of by an old oak tree, some kms out of town.  Eventually got there (left turning at km 105) – see later in this journal – and immediately found a sink with a pit.

While changing to descend, two locals came by and took us to another 300 m further down the valley; this had water at the bottom.  Pete descended the 30 m pit, but decided T-shirt and jeans not adequate for the duck.  I went back to the car, changed into wetsuit and descended: 30 m v. muddy passage, ending in mud sump.  Good sized stream.

Got cleaned up; then had a look around up the hill (after Pete tried the original pit and had a bit of a fall).  Nothing.  Had a quick look in the forest across the road (again nothing).  Then back to cook meal at Mike’s.  Gets dark around 18:10.

At 9ish p.m., off to La Cabana (closes on 15th Jan 79!) for a beer and a snack with Mike and Marg.  Met Antonio Toruk (photographer and director of culture in San C.) and bought some postcards off him.

11.01 Up latish.  Breakfast at “Mike’s” restaurant. Off up road to Correlito after buying new head lamp and machete sharpener. Very steep stony road, but not too bad.
Depression S. of San Cristobal map

Depression S. of San Cristobal map

Stopped by pillar (large) on R.  of road; investigated solution pockets – no go.

Drove on round corner (after short up/down) to maize(?) field on the left.  Walked up slope heading for the Col, and almost immediately found pit with stones rattling on for many seconds.  Noted this and continued on up to depression over the Col which was our main objective. The depression was about 1 km diameter, very deep, many small solution pockets, but the only speleological site was main sink at lowest point.  This went a bit in boulders but needs a crowbar to go on.

Whole depression very beautiful and tranquil; weather fine.  Eventually climbed out of NE corner, down into another beautiful area (a valley) with more solution caves.  One 8 × 8 × 8 m.

Back to the car (about 30 minutes walk) then a bite to eat and off to descend the pit (“Snail Pit”) first noted. Spectators (3 women and a boy) said nobody has descended it ...

Pete won the toss & went down, several drops separated by ledges: 10 m, 20 m, 12 m, ? m.  Fine cave with animal bones [see the descent diary and sketch elevation]; but unfortunately it turned out when we got back it had already been explored by Canadian cavers.

Dinner of Cheese Fondue in one restaurant and Pozole (veg. soup) in another.

12.01 V. cheap breakfast in ‘Federal Zone’ beyond market – “Beefsteak”, tortillas, beans, 2 coffees, and orange juice for less than 40 pesos.
Sorting gear

Sorting gear

Back to house via Post Office, & cleaned gear.  Measured the Edelrid rope – 35 m (Marlow is 34 m).  Spent all afternoon sorting gear; at 16:00 went out for lunch (tacos) and some shopping.  Hectic 10 minutes trying to buy Permabond.

Went to guitar concert in honour of Walt Whitman at 19:30.  Pretty terrible, kids using concert hall as playground.  Left concert early, and went for a meal of Chile con carne (“Chile con Carne Guisado estilo Chicano, Picocito Sabroso”; 42 pesos; definitely not a Chiapas / Mexican dish!​!) at ‘Olla Podrida’ (Mike’s restaurant).  Back to Mike’s for a glass of tequila before bed.

13.01 Up early, intend to visit Grutas de San C.  Breakfast at Olla Podrida – “Pot Pourri” (or ‘putrid pot’ in literal translation). Wasted hours trying to retrieve Marg’s gear from an indian house whose owner was away.  Went to indian crafts centre.

Eventually got down to the cave at 14:00.  Long dry entrance passage (first 300 m or so wooden walkway) – about 1 km to Salla Inclinada, a big inclined rift with several routes.  Very fine decorations. Then through a very short crawl (1 m) and on down to the siphon, now “dry” and very muddy.  Carrying 70 m of rope and SRT bag didn’t work out when wearing furry wonder suit, so had to take the latter off quite early.

Not long after the siphon, the first pitch about 7 m.  Interesting belay over stal kept coming off.  Then several waist-deep pools to second pitch, 8 m, immediately followed down a ramp by the 3rd pitch, about 20–25 m.  This pitch very fine, mainly free, descending into a huge chamber.  Left fur suit at top of 3rd pitch.

On down an easily-free-climbable deep pit, then came across a 6 m pitch which Mike S. had forgotten about.  Managed to free-climb it (Pete leading).  Soon reached bottom of cave after crossing another waist-deep pool (cold, now).  Spent an hour or two checking out possible leads, grovelling in boulder chokes, etc. – no success.  Felt very ill.

Set off back, took a few photos.  A real grind above the pitches: now with two 35 m wet ropes + SRT bag.  Pete did well with photo gear etc.  Out at 03:30 (13½ hour trip); fine weather.  Back in San C. at 04:15, bed after soup about ½ an hour later.

Note: Grutas de San Cristobal = Cueva de Rancho Nuevo.  {I’ve an idea that Grutas dSC was the deepest we went (1100 feet but I wouldn’t swear to it).}

14.01 Up at 14:30(!).  Shower, then lunch (breakfast?) at 16:00. Read Mike’s “Canadian Caver”s until 19:00, then out for a pizza. Got the wrong one, but not too bad.  Back and wrote up diary.  Pocketful of pesos – very heavy! 
15.01 Monday. Rockets all night! Up at 07:40 – Antonio had arrived.  Cloudy and slight drizzle.  English lady from Portsmouth arrived wanting Spanish lessons; gave her a lift to house.

Grutas de San Cristobal

Grutas de San Cristobal

Grutas de San Cristobal

Grutas de San Cristobal

Decided on a photo trip down Grutas de San C. – in the cave by 11:00, with Pete and Antonio.  Straightforward down to junction; then up to right past ‘hairy’ column.  Looked for straw grotto nearby, probably didn’t find.  On (photographing) through big room with dome formation and ‘artichokes’; didn’t photo the latter.  Reached pitch down into Salon Kramsky [probably named after Vicente Kramsky », photographer and explorer of the caves]; waited for Pete for 50 minutes.  Rope first not long enough, then would not pull round new belay stal; so aborted the round trip.  Exited, taking photos on the way, soon after 18:00.  A seven-hour trip.

Evening meal at Moctezuma [sometimes spelled Montezuma] Restaurant: steak, wine, flan (twice) etc.; 310 pesos.  On way back met Mike about to celebrate his 1st anniversary in San C. with new jeans etc.  Then got back into house using Amex. card ...

16.01 Woken by wind rustling in the Palm Tree, etc., at 08:00. Beautiful fine day.  Olla Podrida for hamburger breakfast, much of which was spent helping Monica pick postcards off the floor.  Bank to change cash – still 22.61/dollar.



At 11:30, to Amatenango del Valle to collect china animals for Mike – not done, so we spent an hour watching some being made and being besieged by kids demanding one peso to be photographed.  {I still have some animalitos on my window sill.}

Then back, had a look along track to Campo Santiago (≈km 108): pits everywhere, descended one on the right after 500 m: 15 m deep, followed by a climb and ending in a clean boulder choke.  Very nice pit.

Back to San C.  Wandered around and bought some film (3 rolls special offer – 424 pesos, normally 205 each) from Kramsky.  “Normita” for meal – Cochinita Yucateca – very like a Tandoori! Then a long chat with Mike while wrapping Animalitos, arranging gear sales, Mike’s trip to the UK, etc., etc.

17.01 Breakfast at O.P. then eventually headed north for Villahermosa. Gave Mike a new hot-plate as a ‘leaving present’.  Fine scenery on the way, especially a limestone gorge about ½ way.  Low point of the trip was a 180° skid on a wet corner. 



Arrived at Villahermosa only to find that Pete Lord had left his hotel a few days previously, and had not left his new address at the hotel! Had steak and chips in town; then headed west to find a place to pitch tent.  A few miles out, an oil-well road in the middle of the swamps...
Very hot and extremely humid.
18.01 Terrible night: too hot and mozzies everywhere. Breakfast in town, then off to Palenque.  Via Teapa as it turned out because we almost ran out of petrol – even used our camping stove fuel.  Fast road with occasional bad surface.



Palenque archaeological remains were absolutely superb.  Many temples, esp. the very fine ‘temple of the inscriptions’ with steps down to tomb.  The site is “surrounded” (mainly to south) by jungle; tufa dams in the river.

Headed back to Villahermosa at 18:00; Pete dramatically ill while driving; possibly a reaction to so many insect bites.  {I remember counting the bites: 72 ... on my left foot alone! And a nasty-looking snake by the driver’s door when we swapped driver.} Stayed at Auto-Hotel west of Villahermosa for the night; odd sort of place but air-conditioner most welcome! Miniature (tree?) frogs running up and down the tiles in the bathroom.  The insects around here attack the knees (ouch!).

19.01 Shower, then Villahermosa for breakfast and insect-bite cream. Filete Tampiqueña – steak + tacos + tortilla + fried bananas + chile + frijoles etc. etc. for 90 pesos, very good value.

Drove west and north; flat, straight, and fast.  Hundreds of banana stalls; cows wading in swamps, etc.  Lunch of mango, bananas, and beer.

On NW up the coast (managed to stop by a snake at one point) to Veracruz which is a relatively european resort.  Evening meal in the town, then on a bit further north to camp.  Pete having trouble with lots of insect bites got in Villahermosa.  {Camped out.}

20.01 Up at 07:15, on the road by 8! Breakfast after 50km in Jalapa (Xalapa).  Lunch again of mango + banana.  Arrived Cuetzalen field house at 14:10.

The afternoon’s sport consisted of checking the hole across the valley from the house: this consisted of an 8 m pitch, 2 m earth slope, 3–4 m of boulder choke/climb, down to an Aven chamber about 10+ m high and 3–5 m diameter – floored with very solid mud.

Cuetzalen weather within minutes of arrival: mist, fog, then rain. Sat and discussed descenders for a while.

21.01 Chips and butties for breakfast, then into Cuetzalen (market day) to buy vegetables, eggs, etc.

Then started search for Geoff Robertson’s cave – spent an hour driving around before deciding his map didn’t match the roads.  Gave up and set off walking down past the coffee factory.  At the bottom of the track, a very impressive Sima (80+ m) and Cueva – probably Zoquiapan? [1994 survey indeed shows a 75 m entrance pitch.] Several entrances up on the valley sides.

Atepolihuit – MFC in rift

Atepolihuit – MFC in rift

Circled up towards San Andrés, and eventually decided to look at the depression noticed earlier while driving around.  It contained Geoff’s cave! Atepolihuit (Ah-tep-o-lui-wee) 2.  I had dumped my gear some way back, so Pete went in to check it went.  As it did go, I went back and collected car and gear, just as it started to rain.  Dropped and broke glasses down hole.  Back into the cave and explored over 1 km of passage: down the stream; including waist deep wading, some interesting climbs, and some tight rift work; to a 10 m drop into another, larger stream (used a ladder on this).  Then explored 250+ m upstream until we reached a pool that needed swimming (we were in dry gear), then downstream for 50 m or so until again a pool/canal was reached.  At this point marked survey station on the wall (dot contained in triangle, underlined) and started surveying out.  Did about 200+ m(!) through awkward rift passage etc. before calling it a day.  Marked spot (just before small waterfall climb into pot) with a similar small triangle + top-right line.

Got out at 23:30 (6½ hour trip) to a clear night.  Egg and chips then bed at 02:20.

22.01 Up at 10:15.  Sunny, so dried gear, etc.  Set off for cave (Atepolihuit 2) at 15:00 after lunch of sardines and rice.  Spent some time involuntarily watching road building in progress.  Made detailed road log to cave, and went down cave at about 16:30.

Surveyed 20 stations, down to first wade, then went down to where we finished on 21 January, taking photo on the way.  Finally surveyed back up to first wade pool (about 35 legs) and exited at 21:30 (5 hours).  Soup and bread for supper, bed at 24:00.

23.01 Up at 10:00; prepared for wetsuit exploration trip.  Baker came round just in time for breakfast; lunch of omelette and chips.  Fine weather again, glorious in fact.

Atepolihuit – MFC & waterfall

Atepolihuit – MFC & waterfall

Arrived at Atepolihuit de San Andrés at 14:15 after having to tip some road workers 10 pesos.  Down the cave (with wetsuits) at 14:45; the pools most enjoyable.  Reached the junction with the main stream in about 1¼ hours, having stopped for photos at the lace holes.

Downstream first, pitch (8 m) over boulders (about 100 m downstream of survey point) then 300 m more of very fine streamway (pots etc.) to another pitch about 10 m and very wet – about ¼ cumec of water estimated flow.  No tackle, so we sat, ate sardines, took photos, and drank Guinness.

Then back upstream.  Again fine streamway but unfortunately rather polluted (San Andrés sewage).  Followed stream for about 650 m upstream of ‘our’ inlet to a large 10 × 15 m chamber × 15 m high with the water entering from an overhanging passage about 8 m up. Air noticeably fresh, and numerous drip inlets, so probably fairly close to the surface.

Back, and out, checking a couple of small inlets on the way.  Exit at 21:45 (7 hour trip).  Back to the house for fabada and beer.
Here’s our survey of Atepolihuit, drawn up when back in the UK.

24.01 Up at 10; packed gear and cleaned house.  Raining and misty.  Tried to phone Asunción in Mexico, but couldn’t get through: “much busy”. Left Cuetzalan 13:40, arrived Mexico (Sue Lord’s) about 20:00, just as Sue and Martin Cannon arrived.  Fabulous welcome.  Shower, then Duck à l’Orange.
25.01 Sue & Martin up early & left.  Eventually went for breakfast (juice, coffee, steak, bread, toast & jam, another coffee, and fried bananas – all for 50 pesos!).

Mexico City

Mexico City

Then to Pan Am to confirm reservation; they weren’t sure if the plane would be flying because of the Pope’s visit (26th → 31st)...

Beefsteak Tacos & Cerveza Negra (both very good) at Café Padrino (near junction of Insugentes and Chapultepec Avenue – a few 10s of metres N along Insurgentes).



Back to flat – Sue & Martin had left for Acapulco – and off to Popocatépetl.  Arrived at the top of the road at 18:30, restaurant closed.  Found large mountain hut, with a Swiss couple in residence; 10 pesos/night.  Soup & avocado for supper.  Now at circa 3500 m. [The Paso de Cortés is 3400 m; the ‘hut’ was almost certainly the Albergue de Tlamacas.]
26.01 Up at 03:00, started up the mountain at 03:50.  Pitch dark.  Took a wrong turning after about an hour, and wasted an hour boulder-hopping in gullies – very knackering.  Were intending to do Tres Cruces route (see sketch).
Route up Popocatépetl

Route up Popocatépetl

Pete and I separated and met above hut on route.  Very cold and miserable until we got to snow and the sun came up at about 07:00.  Cramponning on snow very much easier than plodding up boulders or black sand!

Popocatépetl crater

Popocatépetl crater

Up the main snow field (about 750 m?) which was in perfect condition (hard and crisp) at about 40°–45°.  Quite a slog all the same, and altitude having an effect.  Reached the bottom (low part of the rim) of the crater – very impressive crater.  Absolutely knackered by the climbing and altitude, but we made it round the crater to the top.  Both felt dizzy, sick, and headachy, and very short of breath.  Max 10 steps at a time! 

Guinness ceremony and photos at the top [MFC was so befuddled that he took photos with the lens cap on – on an SLR camera!].  Perfect weather and good visibility.

Went back down by the correct route: glissading down sand slopes for 100s of meters especially enjoyable.  Statistics:

Start altitude: ≈3900 m  [may have been lower]

Top: 5452 m (17,888 feet)

Ascent: 1550+ m (5090+ feet)

Time up: 8 hours

Time down: 2½ hours

More pictures (click on these for slightly larger versions):
Popocatépetl snowfield

Popocatépetl snowfield

Popocatépetl ice

Popocatépetl ice

Mike at the summit

Mike at the summit

Pete & Guinness at the summit

Pete & Guinness at the summit

Back to Mexico City after tea in the National Park Restaurant; found we had missed four earthquakes.  Short nap, then long and pleasant evening with Asunción, Bicha, & Pablo at ‘La Fonda del Recuerdo’ restaurant – Veracruzian.  Toros (juice and Aguardiente), barbequed lamb, etc., etc.  Bed at 01:15, a long day! 

27.01 Up late; packed.  Into Reforma area to check car return point and to buy postcards, Tequila, and Cashew nuts...  Lunch (bean soup, etc.) at Descartes 48, then to Chapultepec Castle with Asunción and Pita (Lupita).  Bought bark paintings, etc.

In Chapultepec Castle

In Chapultepec Castle

Then to the Polyforum – seeing the Pope driving down ‘Revolución’ on the way – to see the incredible murals (a bit geometric in places, though).  Also had a quick look around the crafts exhibition/sale – needed longer, beautiful silver, copper, etc.

Next, to the Revolving Restaurant at the top of the ‘Hotel Mexico’ next door – superb view over the city, well worth the 50 pesos minimum charge.  Finally to the ‘Fleur de Lys’ for Tamales, Sopes, Congos, etc., etc.  Again a pleasant evening.  Pita did some fortune telling from hands: apparently I shall have achievements in my job, and enjoy my work for the rest of my life.  Also will have two sons (only) and be married within two years (at the most).

Back to Descartes for coffee, then I went back to Sue Lord’s.

Martin & Sue still in Acapulco.  Now 02:00.

28.01 Up at 07:30 to pack last few things.  Left for airport (via Descartes to return A’s car) at 08:30; arrived airport just after 9.  Returned car (575 dollars; i.e., $735 for the whole month, or 184 each total). Had done about 3000 km in the last three weeks.

Checked in luggage: 46 kg overweight for both of us (i.e., total weight 86 kg, + hand luggage)! {The over-weight (despite having left some stuff) resulted in a short debate, but as he offered $10 excess charge, it wasn’t too bad. (At 1% first class fare per kilo, it could have been worse.)}

Pleasant Pan Am 747 flight to Houston; good brunch of omelette, steak, etc.  Hamburger and hot fudge cake at the airport, followed by a short walk in the pines.  Temperature 5°C.  Left Houston on time; bad trip – felt ill.

29.01 Met by Liz at the airport (Gatwick); fell asleep on the drive back. Pub lunch on the way; back in Winchester about 14:00.


{Underground on 14 days:

20 trips down 17 caves, 12 new (11 didn’t go far).
“Active” on 3 other days.
Travelled on 10 days.
Sight-seeing on 4 days.
Festering on 3 days.

Not bad really.


  1. Exchange rate: 42.5 pesos/ (1 peso = 2.35p).
  2. Petrol 2.8 pesos/litre (≈35p/gallon) en route to Cuetzalan.
  3. Square brackets indicate MFC/editorial additions during transcription in 2013/14.
  4. Curly braces & italics indicate PJR quotes/additions/memories in 2014.
  5. Spellings for chille/chile/chili/chilli as as written in the log at the time.
  6. Atepolihuit de San Andrés, “our” new cave, was later reported in ‘Caving International’ and the Bulletin of the Mexican Spel. Assoc.
    Click here for our survey.

    Archaeological artefacts were subsequently found upstream in Atepolihuit.

Expeditions to the Picos de Europa and elsewhere since 1973.
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This page was last edited on 2015-10-12 by mfc.