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caves of spain

World class caves.

Spain's caves are fairly well known around the world of cavers. Of the ~100 caves on earth deeper than 1000 meters, 22 are in Spain - more than any other country. Caves here come in all varieties - vertical, horizontal, river, completely dry, decorated, or vast voids.

Best of all, along with nearby France, Spain's caving culture and community is the most open and accessible on earth. Most caves are not gated, locations are public, permission is rarely, if ever, needed, landowners are ambivalent about cavers on their property, and there are thousands of active cavers here. It's basically the opposite of the American West.

We spent several months in Spain from August to November 2021, also canyoneering and traveling this great country. While we didn't know what to expect about caving here, it all came together pretty nicely. The caving clubs are pretty open to foreigners like us, and locations and maps are freely available on various websites. Many caves are pre-rigged, with clubs are tasked with inspecting and replacing ropes and bolts several times each year.

We quickly befriended local cavers, who got us up to speed on Spanish caving techniques. In no time, Suhei and myself were doing all-day trips, including thru-trips (travesias) by ourselves.

We found that what American cavers may consider difficult is really just routine for Spanish cavers. Spanish cavers don't think twice about passing a siphon, or pull-down trips, or 100-meter rappels, or going 700 meters deep for the day. I had at least a few scary moments in caves here, not due to danger, but just questioning if I was physically capable of fitting through passages.

But it made us better cavers. We finished our time here somewhat critical of American caving techniques: Why don't we pre-rig our caves? We don't we have courses on skills like bolting? Why are grottos so closed off to each other and outsiders? Why do we always use 11mm rope, and run it over edges? Why do we have so many varieties of ascending setups, some of which just aren't that efficient? There are some valid answers to these questions, but many are not justifiable in my opinion. But that's a longer discussion.

If you go, you need to rent a car, befriend locals for recommendations and callouts, bring all your vertical gear, including maybe one 30 meter rope, and come prepared to learn and become a better caver. Some of the greatest caves on earth are in Spain, and this country deserve every bit its reputation as one of the caving meccas of the world.

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