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Peru Caving Expedition 2004 Yauyos District of Central Peru

By Greg Brock

As we stepped out the hired/borrowed 4x4 trucks at 4378m above sea level the effects of the altitude and lack of acclimatization finally hit us.  Suddenly a young and fit international expedition could hardly move from the confines of the trucks.  It wasn’t long ago that we were all fighting our way through various international airports and then risking our lives in a cab journey from Lima airport to Nick Hawkes (BEC) house. Unfortunately our first bit of exercise was up at 4378m as we had sat in trucks up until this point.  We headed down Sima Pumacocha 2 (SP2) to rig the first pitches before heading back down the valley to recover.  It somehow took us 4 hours to rig 80m of cave.  The locals were very keen that we drunk coca(ine) tea, which is apparently their cure for altitude sickness.

Sima Pumacocha (The Cave of the Mountain Lake Lion) was one of our main objectives for the trip. Explored to a depth of 638m to a sump in 2001 & 2002.  It was hoped that an ascending muddy passage (Road to Certain Death) down near the sump would bypass this sump and previous limit of exploration.

The next day, 7th September, we headed back down SP2 to continue rigging the pitches.  Today I was feeling a lot better which was probably a combination of being better acclimatized, the coca tea and diamox tablets (prescribed altitude drugs).  While these activities were going on in SP2 others were rigging the huge entrance shaft of SP1 and also the higher entrance of Qaqa Mach'ay.

We had now rigged down to the x-files ledge and the trips were starting to get longer so we decided it was appropriate to have a day off and visit the San Valentino Mine.  All the bang fumes, lorry fumes and wine at high altitude on our tour round this mine meant that most of us went back feeling worse from our day off than if we had been caving.  The mine was protected by heavily armed guards and after a conversation in Spanish between Nick and the guard we were allowed in.  We were shown a very impressive selection of rock samples and geological maps from the mines and given samples to take with us. We were then provided food in the Café where we were treated like royalty.

After recovering from our rest day Pete Whitaker , Chris Densham & myself headed back underground to carry on with the rigging of SP2 (10th Sept 04).  Chris insisted on taking his newly acquired video camera on every trip and as it was kept in a yellow pelican case he soon got the nickname "Yellow Peril Productions".  With lots of rope, Drills, Batteries, Rigging Gear and more Hangers than we knew what to do with we headed very slowly into the cave with our train of gear.  Once at the X-Files ledge Yellow Peril Productions kicked into action and wanted to film us rigging across X-Files and down into Cascade de Don Jesus.  This was protested greatly my Pete and myself. However we soon made it to the bottom of the big pitch where we reached the "Horizontal bit".  This consisted of a steeply inclined passage full of house sized boulders.  From Here we rigged to the bottom of Rolling Thunder before a shortage of gear, battery power and enthusiasm prompted a return.

After a hard slog up all the ropes we reached the surface at 3am and was greeted by a freezing cold night. A great contrast in weather to the boiling hot day we left when we entered the cave.  By the time we reached top camp our gear was beginning to freeze so it was a case of getting changed quickly eating some food and going to bed.

After a few hours of shivering sleep we headed back down the mountain to try and regain some energy. 12th Sept 04, Snablet and I reached the previous limit of exploration and started bolting up an ascending muddy tube which was hoped to be a sump by-pass (Road to Certain Death). Unfortunately this was not the case and it dropped straight back into the sump pool.  After some looking round for other leads we headed out.

Further trips into SP2 were done for photography and then the de-rigging commenced.

Meanwhile SP1 was connected via a 282m pitch to “The Shining Path” in SP2 making a fantastic exchange trip.

Further details can be found from the expedition’s website that Ian McKenzie and the rest of the 2004 team set-up:

More Photos and surveys can also be found at

By Greg Brock