The past three years have seen Cueva Cheve more than double in length (to 55 kilometers) and increase in depth to 1,524m. Most of the additional length came from the Cueva de la Peña Negra, which was discovered in 2017 and connected to Cheve in 2018. In 2019 several more kilometers were added in the Peña Negra, but without major breakthroughs. Nonetheless, there remain many promising leads and new location data on Snake Pit, the highest known entrance in the Cheve karst, show that it is directly above the "60 m Pit" in Peña Negra. A connection with Snake Pit would place the current surveyed system at close to 1,600 meters deep, so there is some merit to scaling the waterfall shaft above the 60m Pit while efforts from the surface continue to push Snake Pit downwards. Significant leads in Peña Negra include continued exploration of Big Gas dome (accessible from Camp Butters); the Shadow Tower Borehole (from Camp Kyle); and a careful investigation of the east wall of the main tunnel between Camps Kyle and Cartman, among others.
The most important discovery of 2019, however, is the primary reason for the 2021 expedition. In early April 2019 the Mad Hatter breakdown beyond Camp 3 in Cueva Cheve was successfully explored through another 350 meters of additional breakdown (known as the "Mad Cows") to emerge in borehole 200 m above and 300 m east of Sump 1 in Cheve (see the maps in this chapter). The important part, besides the presence of borehole above the sumps, was that the tunnel was carrying strong wind. The trend of this new tunnel, its elevation above the sump, and the presence of the wind, all signify that the bypass to the Cheve sumps, sought for 30 years, is at hand. Camp 5 will be set in the Purgatory Borehole beyond the breakdown complex and logistics and resupply will be coordinated by phone with Camps 3, 2, 1, and basecamp.
One of the main impediments to deep resupply in Cheve is travel through the Salmon Ladders passage between Camps 1 and 2. This is a wet, cold, time consuming route with highly technical obstacles requiring complicated water avoidance rope techniques. The discovery of a bypass to the Salmon Ladders, and also the Looking Glass breakdown between the Black Borehole and Camp 3, would save several hours from the travel route to the most remote parts of the cave and would facilitate exploration along with making the route safer. A new route in the Peña Negra (the Sala de Tres Amigos), discovered in 2019, extends west from Camp Cartman and may potentially provide a dry link to Camp 1 in Cheve. Similarly, a recon in 2019 to the southern end of the Mud Floored Borehole above Camp 3 in Cheve suggests a possible continuation that may reach the Hall of Restless Giants. Such a connection would completely bypass the Black Borehole and the tedious entry and exit pit series associated with it. Both of these possibilities will be investigated in 2021 as time permits.
The 2021 expedition, "100 Days at Cheve", will begin on January 15, 2021 and will end in early May 2021. Seventy four of the world's elite deep cave explorers from eight countries will be participating in the expedition.
For further information on the work at Cueva Cheve, visit our Publication Downloads page. A link for the forthcoming book on the 2019 expedition will be posted in early December 2020.