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Aguas Buenas Cave

Dave and Ashlee had made multiple independent trips to Cueva Aguas Buenas and knew it well. They wanted to explore a segment of the river passage of the cave they had not yet visited. Both were familiar with an upper part and a lower part of the underground river, but had never traversed the river segment between these two parts. When they invited us to try, we packed our vertical gear and met in Caguas in the morning.

It was a short hike to the cave entrance, and an hour traverse through large dry passages in the cave with multiple skylights. There was a fair amount of graffiti, but minimal trash.

In a distant corner of the main passage, we slid down a slippery mud slot and arrived at a sudden waterfall, roaring out of the ceiling, forming a small pool, and disappearing into the sump below. This was not our stream, but flows into the one we wanted.

We passed a bolted rappel, navigated a few intersections, and came to a somewhat tight downclimb. The cave ceiling had been over 100 feet high in many parts, and now we did a vertical downclimb small enough that only one person at a time fit.

This downclimb deposited us in a fast-flowing knee-deep stream with a low ceiling. Dave rigged a rappel off a natural arch, and we all rappelled 15 feet down a waterfall, getting soaked by the warm water! We pulled the rope under Dave’s assurance of other exits, and even the potential to climb back up the waterfall we’d just rappelled. Then it was another 20 foot rappel, followed by another. On both of these, we pulled the rope.

The stream was thigh-deep. We saw several palm-sized cockroaches. When we arrived at a 25-foot waterfall, Dave and Ashlee said this was the farthest they’d come before. Dave rigged another rappel, and the decision was made for them to carry on for several minutes to scout downstream. We did not want to all rappel and pull the rope without knowing what was ahead.

Ten minutes later, they came back, reporting a larger waterfall and several filthy pools that would have to be swum across. The stream, they said, did not appear to be heading where they expected. We decided to return instead of continue. Dave and Ashlee ascended back up the rappel, and we started going back. At this point, we had been underground for close to four hours. My mother-in-law said she’d like to see daylight again.

With Aguas Buenas being a river cave with multiple rappels, I was happy she had made it this far in her first caving experience!

We found a different route back, traversing a large passage away from the stream back to the main passage. We noticed several bolts positioned above a super easy 10-foot downclimb. It seems unlikely that any caver that had made it this far would need to rappel such a small and easy feature - could they have been from a rescue scenario?

After nearly five hours underground, as the afternoon clouds were building, we emerged from the cave and rinsed our muddy gear below the spectacular exit of the cave. Dave and Ashlee estimated that from where we turned back inside the cave, it could take anywhere from 2-5 hours to follow the stream down to the exit, a straight-line distance of maybe 2,000 feet. What lies in the river in that segment? Aguas Buenas, to me, is one of the more fascinating cave systems on the island.

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