January 23, 2015

Adam Haydock and Tom Miller in Cueva Juan Neives Puerto Rico
The final day of caving here in Puerto Rico has come, and what a great way to finish this trip with a visit to Juan Nieves!  This cave is apart of the Rio Encantada system near Florida Puerto Rico and has a beautiful pit entrance that leads to a tall canyon passage that eventually leads cavers to some impressive waterfalls while wading in crystal clear warm water.  The last few waterfalls are around 15ft in height and all of the water rages through some natural arches and cascades down into the lower levels, this made for some great cave climbing!  One of the most impressive karst features in this cave were the karst shower faucets, one in particular had triangular crystals growing towards the middle and the bulk of this feature were small calcite tubes that looked like twisted soda straws that acted as a piping system for the water to flow out like a rain shower faucet!  Absolutely amazing!   There was also some upper passages that had some walking trunk passage with interesting formations that led right back to the bottom of the pit entrance. The down stream section ends in a sump that has already been pushed by multiple cave dive operations.  The results of these dives were that there is passage beyond the sump and the hydrological connection to the remaining encantada system is through this sump.  The Rio Encantado system has multiple caves connected this underground river including, Escalara, Encantada, Zumbo, yuyu, and other locally known caves. The upstream resurgence sump is connected to Cueva Aguas Frias and multiple dives have been performed in here from multiple expeditions and local cave divers that connected Juan Neives to Aguas Frias. There is also a side passage that might connect to Vientos which has been hydrologically connected but cave divers have not been able to make a connection to date.  
Cueva Juan Nieves
The Rio Encantado system is around 17km of river cave passage that has some of the most amazing sections of cave that I have ever seen!!  Last Year I went to visit  Cueva Zumbo which was like walking through an alien canyon passage of 3D talons that we had to climb and walk over in order to continue down the passage.  The circular scalloping and the way the rock was cut by the water is something that I have never seen anywhere in the world. 
Karst Faucet in Juan Nieves Puerto Rico

There have been previous expedition connections where cavers have connected some of the caves described in other publishing's and videos but this trip was to enjoy the beauty of this fascinating place and snap a few photos along the way. 
Carlos Artiguez in Juan Nieves Puerto Rico
 Some of these previous expeditions are more publicized than others but, not doubt, the Rio Encantado system has been an area of interest for the worlds cave explorers including Wes Skiles.  Wes pushed Aguas Frias and came up into Juan Nieves and descibed the cave to some locals as a beautiful system with impressive waterfalls and beautiful formations.  He continued to describe the river passage of Juan Nieves as having a opening in the ceiling about two hours down the passage from where he came up into air passage, this is the pit entrance to Juan Nieves Where we entered the cave on this day.
Bottom of the pit looking up into the Skylight in Juan Neives Puerto Rico

We got to the parking spot and hiked into the forest not to far from where we parked and the entrance pit to the cave was right there. 
Entrance to Juan Neives Puerto Rico
 It is a small crack in the hillside that drops 20-30ft to a ledge.  The drop continued to a steep sloping ledge that leads to the main drop which is around 100-120ft to the bottom. 
Pit fissure crack room Juan Nieves Puerto Rico
We rigged a tensionless to a tree and set up a re-direct into the entrance pit.  I set up another re-direct and a re-belay to make it easier for everyone else to get on and off rope.  I padded the main drop and we were good to go.  One at a time, we rapped down to the ledge and continued to rappel to the bottom of this fissure crack in the mogote.  It was quite impressive from the bottom looking up as we could see the skylight entrance and where Wes mentioned he saw a entrance from the ceiling that we were entering.
one of the first things I noticed was how warm the crystal clear the water was!! So awesome to be in crystal clear warm water inside of a hot cave system to cool off in.  We started down the stream a bit to see what was down there and quickly turned back to wait for everyone else to get down so we could start our journey upstream. 
We start off by wading through the heavly fluted canyon passage upstream while noticing how deep the water got in parts where the watercourse ripped into the limestone.  As we took our time walking upstream, we passed some side passages and noticed how the ceiling was starting to drop down a bit.  There would be times when we were swimming and at other times, we were in places where we could stand and walk.  Eventually we came up onto some interesting formation rooms and that is when we started to hear turbulant water echoing down the passage just ahead of us.  We were hoping this was not a flash flood as we swam closer to the source but as we continued upstream, we could hear a more distinct sound of a waterfall, this was the first of many waterfall passages...hells yea! 

The water was moving like a waterpark and ropes were rigged into the wall for a traverse line in case there was water pressure to strong to travel in.  We gripped the walls and cross the passage with little use of the ropes in case they broke under our weight.  We took a break here as Tom tested the CO2 level which he found to be a consistant .7 percent,... that a bit high for a cave passage and pondered if the water was bringing in this CO2 from another cave.
Carlos and Tom in Juan Nieves Puerto Rico
I snapped up a couple pictures while we hung out here admiring the formations on the walls and the water flowing off of the flowstones above us. 
Adam Haydock in Juan Neives Puerto Rico
There was also a upper passage where rope was rigged to but we did not pursue that lead. We continued to travel up stream and the water passage got a bit deeper while the ceiling stated to lowered down. This gave us about 8-10ft of clearance instead of the 30-50ft of clearance we had before the first waterfall.  
Cueva Juan Neives Puerto Rico
 The scenery also changed and the walls were covered with flowstone and stalactite formations while the ceiling had a series of karst shower faucets that we had to pass under.(.oh darn!!)... along with actively flowing slowstone falls trickling down on us!! 

Karst faucets in Juan Nieves Puerto Rico
What a beautiful place this has become.  At one point we were surrounded by multiple karst showers and one in particular was un like anything I have ever seen before.
Amazing Karst Faucets in Cueva Juan Nieves Puerto Rico
We continued past these beautiful formations and came up to the next waterfall.  This one was a bit bigger which also had ropes rigged into the walls to assist directional rappels and traverse lines away from the falls. We just climbed the walls and scaled this raging waterfall and came up upon another waterfall that was about 15-20 ft in height and pushing all of the cave water under a natual arch and down to where we were holding on to the walls. AWESOME!!!!
  It was an awesome site to see and we all scaled this waterfall with very little challenge.  Once at the top, we regrouped shortly after.  We were surrounded by faucets and flowstones flowing water and this raging deep watercourse.
We keep going up stream and the ceiling got closer to the water line. we passed a few more waterfalls and the group stops to check the time and take a break.  I swam over another waterfall and continued upstream to see what was ahead of us only to turn around again and come back to the group to decide if we should continue or turn around due to time.  We made the decision to turn around so we could get time to get out of the cave and get dinner before it was too late.

Waterfall traverse Cueva Juan Nieves

We started our way out and down climbed the falls and I set up a secondary handline as a back up to help a few others climb down. The ropes looked pretty good so some utilized those but overall we worked together to pass these challenges as quick as possible.

 upper passage of Cueva Juan Nieves Puerto Rico
We got down the falls and continued past the faucets and down into the main trunk passage of the cave. There were a side passage that we hiked up to and followed which turned out to be pretty interesting and beautiful!  We finally made it out of the upper passage and back to the entrance pit where I snapped a few shots and ascended out of the cave in pretty good time.
 I want to thank Diana and Tom Miller, Jeff Kruse, Pipo, Carlos Artiguez, Julie Dutil, Rolf Vieten, Jorge Acevedo, the landowners and everyone who was involved to make this trip a success and safe experience.  After 5 years of visiting Puerto Rico I can feel the tug to come back yet again in the future as the caves and the typography are simply amazing!!!

Karst Faucet in Cueva Juan Nieves Puerto Rico

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