Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico
Syndey harbor on a cloudless night.

Dive 367: Cenote Ponderosa (Eden) – SISTEMA X’TABAY

Eastern Sunday brought some very hot weather and little wind. Clearly this was a sign to flee the urban center and head down to the Cenote for a dive. Katie, Patrick’s girlfriend, Allie and myself headed to Ponderosa for a cave dive. Truth be known, Allie read while the two of us went for a dive. Allie starts her full cave class tomorrow and doesn’t want to over load this week. I am very happy to report if all goes as planned, she will be full cave certified at the end of the week. That means the end of the intro restrictions and many more possibilities!

I am sure she is going to do great. She is an excellent cave diver already and a natural athlete! She is amazing, she sees someone do something or has it explained to her and she can do it. No weeks of practice, she just does it. I have to earn everything through lots of practice and asking repeatedly how to do it. As luck would have it, she is in class alone. So, I will be shadowing the class and playing buddy. I am very grateful to have this opportunity to hone our team skills.

Now back to the dive report, Patrick gave Katie and I a little briefing on his white board and he suggested we head up to Cenote Sask Leem Ha. He said there is a consistent halocline and lots of percolation. He said he hadn’t seen anyone up in that area of the system all the times he has been there. He was right, the system looked very nice and wasn’t that trashed. Katie and I headed out, she wa in back mount and I was in side mount again. So, I had the long hose with me.

The dive started by heading to the cavern line over to Cenote Corral. We followed the line to the double arrows. We jumped on a gold kermantle line and followed the line up to an unmarked jump Patrick described. We took the jump to the right up and over a big piece of break down. The line ran up into passage that was getting smaller and T’ed into another line. We were not expecting the T, we were expecting a jump, and so a little confused we turned. A post dive examination of the map revealed the likely destination of the T to the right was Cenote Uchil Ha (acient waters) the left was our original planned path. The fact is, the lines here in Mexico are changing all the time. You really need to be a thinking diver here. From day to day, the line might be in a totally different place or a different material. T’s turn into jumps, jumps turn into T’s. The end of lines move. You never really know, until you are in the water looking at it. No trust me dives here, you must pay attention or you will perish.

Luckily, we had planned an alternate route to continue our dive. We picked up our gear and headed further into the cave on the gold line to the next marked jump and took it. This line runs to a depth of about 50 feet and then goes up vertically about 15-20 feet. I thought it was very cool. We swam past some marked jumps and the line to Cenote Sask Leem Ha. We continued a couple of minutes and I had to turn on thirds. Katie had about 10bar left.

As soon we turned, we entered into a storm of percolation and halocline. The silt is very dark in this section of the cave and the light gets eaten up right away. Almost immediately, a knot developed in my left calf. Damn, another cramp. I stopped Katie, and went to work on my leg, all the while more percolation fell on me. After a couple of seconds, this started to clear and we continued. I have this on going cramping problem. I had attributed it to dehydration and an electrolytic imbalance. I am starting to believe it might be my breathing pattern. I had an intuitive thought that cramping can be the result of CO2 build up, so I decided to take a couple of very deep breaths and clear out my lungs. Guess what? The cramp cleared. All the massaging and pulling did little compared to a couple of deep breaths.

I am going to talk to Steve about breathing tomorrow. Maybe this is the root of my relentless cramping issues?

The end of the dive I spent practicing swimming in all the orientations and backwards. I am getting better!

This dive was fantastic. The cave is really beautiful. Lots of big break down and shelves of huge stone. The cave doesn’t run straight all that often here, so there is always something to tune into. Plus you get to do the cavern. I think the return trip through the cavern with the lights off is absolutely breath taking! Some people might complain about all the time on the cavern line. I think it is worth it.

Katie and I agreed to go back and finish what we started at the T. This would be a great dive to take a 40 stage on and leave it at the start of the gold line. Just enough gas to deal with the cavern section.

One closing thought about Ponderosa, if you are not registered with them. Don’t bother coming to dive without a guide! They will not let you in. We were there with Protec and they still gave us a hassle. We got it, but it took a little haggling by Katie.

Max Depth: 50ffw
Run Time: 85 minutes