Translated Jeff Matthews
With yesterday's outing we placed another little piece of jig-saw research into the mosaic we're trying to assemble of the mountains of the Matese Massif. We reached the large surface opening, the inghiottitoio,* we had noticed from a distance on the trail from Lake Matese to the summit of Mt. Miletto.
[trans. note: the Italian word means “a swallower”. It is not a sinkhole, but rather a natural surface portal where a surface stream or lake flows either partially or completely underground into a karst groundwater system. The geological term in English is “ponor”.]
We took precise GPS coordinates for the entrance and had a quick look around inside. We had not brought heavy ropes and had only a few meters of cord with us. The entrance consisted of two drops, one right after the other. The second one was a bit less than 10 meters; we had to break off our inspection at the top of that one. That didn't stop us, however, from looking around to see what secrets we could uncover...indeed, the grotto continued!
There was a second entrance about 10 meters to the west. It was a single shaft and was enough to let light into the first large hall of the cavern so we could see it. At the back, higher up near the top, there was a lovely natural arch facing out over a deep canyon that led downward. Curious item: beneath the arch on the two side sections someone had written some names and perhaps a date in charcoal; they were almost totally erased by time, a fleeting record of some bit of personal history (maybe--"Liotti Angelo” or “Cioffi Angelo" with an illegible date, and on the opposite side “Pietro...).
It had by no means been easy to get to this valley. From where we had parked our car, it had taken us three hours of tough uphill hiking to get this far. Now we knew, however, that there really was a grotto here; also, we had not seen any signs of earlier cavers at work. Time to organize a new trip with proper ropes and gear.
In any event, at first sight the grotto does not appear too spread out. Behind the crest of rock at the back of the entrance, there is a deep erosion canyon at the bottom of which, in the winter, a river flows down to the Lake Matese valley. It's plausible that surface waters running down off the slopes of Mt. Mileto are channeled into this valley, which is closed on all sides, forming an enormous basin. Water from that basin then runs into the ponor and a short distance later comes out again along one of the walls of the canyon. Obviously that hypothesis has to be verified by some serious caving inside. I tend to think that no one has yet done this.
To underscore again what I've already said, there is a second ponor. The entrance is much smaller but nonetheless promising, and there is a new entrance on the slopes of Colle del Monaco that we saw from a distance, and that will have to checked out. All of this makes the entire area ever more interesting. We keep asking ourselves what we might find as we press deeper into the less explored inner regions of the Matese.
As you wait for more details and updates from us, enjoy these photos and the short video we shot to document our activities. We may or may not join with other groups to carry on with this exploration, but we hope it will be in the immediate future and we'll keep you informed.
Happy Caving to All!
The videos: Back to Miletto in search of new grottoes