Cave Exploration


Tony Akers was introduced to the area in the early 1990's, and met Don Waldo Garcia Romero in 1993 at Cafetal Carlota with Joe Oliphant and Tina Shirk.  From then, the rest is history, and a rich story to tell.  Following are charts showing the caves and pits that were explored in the region.  They are separated by municipality. Below that are slide shows and summaries of our exploration, from most current to the past.  Below that are links to the completed cave maps.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN OUR PROJECT.  ENJOY THE PHOTOS.  La Sierra Mazateca and La Sierra Mixteca....a wondrous and magical place nestled within the cloud forests.....



Our expedition in January of 2018 began from a relatively new area within the Sierra Mazateca, introduced to us last year. This municipality, San Juan Coatzospam, within the Mazatecan highlands of Oaxaca, Mexico, is inhabited by Mixtec people, who speak a different indigenous language than the Mazatecs. We struck a bargain, and found a friendly and welcoming president and his cabinet. We had been given grant money from our local grotto, and along with other contributions, were able to get school supplies and donations to give to the local schools. We were successful in making this exchange for camping and caving permission, and had a wonderful base camp at 2000 meters. With ten people, we established our base camp next to a 90 meter pit that we explored and surveyed in 2017. In a two week period, we began systematically chopping trails, and exploring the surrounding sinkholes for pits in a relatively unexplored area, and also a pristine cloud forest. Our friends and police from San Juan spent time with us at our base camp, much around our fire, trying to stay warm, as we dealt with a majority of rainy and cloudy days.  We explored and found 7 pits, ranging from 15-157 meters in depth, and shared a great base camp and jungle caving adventure experience with our friends, the expedition members and our new local friends from San Juan. 


PSM Expedition 2017:  Summary

This year’s expedition in the Sierra Mazateca, in Oaxaca, Mexico, was more of a cultural adventure than what we bargained for, having to change our two week camp and caving plans after only six days! Not only that, but a 5 second pit was left indefinitely, because our presence in that particular area threatened a small faction in one of the neighboring towns of that municipality that were carrying on illegal logging operations. Although we were defeated there, we left without getting arrested, and promptly changed gears and gained access to a neighboring municipality, San Juan Coatzospam, in a higher altitude area where a different indigenous people live, the Mixtecas. We found a cave, a jungle pit, and future potential for exploration and friendship in a brand new area.

Expedition Members:

Tony Akers, Simon Akers, Marion Akers, Ron Adams, Thomas Hawkins, Aida Ferreira, Rand Heazlitt, Greg McNamara, Rolland Moore, Rusty Riley, Adam Sherer, Peter Zabrok

Cave Survey Summary:

8 pits from 7 meters to 117 meters in depth

1 cave at 120 meters horizontal length, and 12 meters depth

Total Surveyed Depth:  285 meters

Total Surveyed Length:  443 meters

PSM EXPEDICION 2017: Resumen

La expedición en la Sierra Mazateca, Oaxaca, resultó ser este año una aventura cultural, más allá de lo que se convino, teniendo que cambiar nuestro plan inicial, que consistía en acampar  dos semanas, a tan solo seis días! También hubo que aplazar indefinidamente la exploración de un sótano de 5 segundos de caída libre (se avienta una piedra al vacío, dependiendo del tiempo que tarda en caer, es la profundidad estimada), ya que nuestra presencia en esa área en particular, creaba una amenaza a una pequeña fracción de una población vecina perteneciente a la municipalidad, los cuales llevan a cabo explotación forestal ilegal. A pesar de ser vencidos ahí, pudimos salir sin ser arrestados. Tan pronto como se pudo, cambiamos equipo y conseguimos permiso para explorar el municipio vecino de San Juan Coatzospam, situado en una elevación mayor, donde se localiza la única población Mixteca dentro de la Sierra Mazateca. Ahí encontramos una cueva, un sótano y el potencial futuro de explorar y crear nuevas amistades en una zona que nunca ha sido explorada por nadie excepto los locales.   

Expedition Members:

Tony Akers, Simon Akers, Marion Akers, Ron Adams, Thomas Hawkins, Aida Ferreira, Rand Heazlitt, Greg McNamara, Rolland Moore, Rusty Riley, Adam Sherer, Peter Zabrok

Resumen del registro de las cuevas:

8 sótanos desde los 7 metros hasta 117 metros de profundidad

1 cueva con 120 metros de longitud y 12 metros de profundidad

Profundidad total registrada: 285 metros

Longitud total registrada: 443 metros

The above slide show was presented by Ron Adams at the 2017 NSS Convention, held in Rio Rancho, New Mexico in June of 2017. It highlights our exploration period in January of 2017 in the municipalities of San Jose Tenango and San Juan Coatzospam.

Las diapositivas mostradas en la parte superior fueron presentadas por Ron Adams en la Convención de Espeleología de la Sociedad Nacional de Espeleología, en Río Rancho, Nuevo México, en Junio del 2017.  En ella se mostró lo más sobresaliente dentro del periodo de enero 2017 en las municipalidades de San José Tenango y San Juan Coatzospam.

Diapositivas por: Aida Ferreira

Fotos por: miembros de la expedición

Slide Show by:  Aida Ferreira
photos by: expedition members

The show above was presented at the NSS Convention 2016, in Nevada.  Prepared by Tony Akers & Ron Adams, it describes the expedition that took place in January.   View our trip that took place in the Sierra Mazateca, in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Enjoy!

The journey has begun. The President of the PSM, Tony Akers,  has already left the United States and entered Mexico for his combined business/cave exploration trip.  His wife, Marion, is coming later to Mexico, with her son, Simon, in time for the cavingn expedition.   We will have a group of 13-17 people, not all at once, arriving in the beginning to the middle of January.  Our goals this year involve going to back to Rainbow Ranch and establishing a base camp.  We have leads to check and document within the valley, as well as going higher south into uncharted territory as far as cave and karst features.  We also will work with the local children on conservation educational outreach and donate school supplies.

The following folks are slated to join us this coming trip:

Ron Adams
Andy Armstrong
Jorge Barrera
Donna Renee-Frazier
Ernie Garza
Rogelio Hernandez
Thomas Hawkins
Rolland Moore
Rusty Riley
Rogelio Rodriguez
Adam Scherer 
Rob Spangler
Teresa Williams

We are fortunate to have several GENEROUS donors this year that make it feasible for us to explore and document the karst ecosystem in the Sierra Mazateca.  

Some the necessary expedition gear is already there in the Sierra, and Tony was able to take the extra rope donated by Highline Ropes, as well as the Mountain House Meals and vertical extra bolting equipment- funded by the NSS International Exploration Grant, and other vertical gear equipment. Marion will be bringing a new survey instrumen, a Disto X2, to advance the surveys completed by the team, also funded by the NSS International Exploration Grant.   We will purchase much needed school supplies there in Oaxaca for our donations to the local schools.  This is largely funded by the Central Indiana Grotto.


National Speleological Society International Exploration Grant Central Indiana Grotto
Highline Rope

The grant money allows us to purchase necessary gear and supplies for the current expedition, and also pays for donations of school supplies to children locally here in the Sierra Mazateca.  These funds do not pay for any personal caving gear or any participant's travel and transportation costs to get into southern Mexico and into the mountains.  Any participants who stay at Cafetal Carlota during the trip donate money and help to fund the restoration of the historic coffee plantation in La Carlota.y So actually, everyone who joins us are donors, and the minor part being financial.  Every participant brings their energy and love into the Sierra, and we work as a team to document and explore this incredible wilderness!

Click on our facebook group page to see current happenings south of the border.

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We actively explore parts of the Sierra Mazateca, and have yearly trips there to document and explore the karst environment.  Summaries are shown below for our trips, dating back to the mid-90's.

Tony Akers gave a slide show presentation at this year's National Speleological Society Convention, held in Waynesville, Missouri, July 13-17.  View show and summary  below.


Caving from Another Angle in the Sierra Mazateca
Expedition January 2015

The Sierra Mazateca, a cloud forest tropical region in Oaxaca, Mexico, is filled with amazing karst limestone plateaus and sinkholes. We continued another year of cave exploration and conservation efforts, based out of Cafetal Carlota, in the municipality of San Bartolome Ayaulta, during the month of January.  The major part of our expedition was spent in the wilderness at Rancho Arco Iris, south of Rio Santiago, in the municipality of Huautla de Jimenez.  Daily we worked on pit leads in the elevated valley, at elevations of over 1400 meters up to 1770 meters.  We explored 11 pits around the valley and above it onto the plateau, with depths ranging from 15 to 80 meters deep, and five more pits in other areas.  The total vertical depth of pits explored and surveyed equaled 603 meters, with over 357 meters of horizontal passage.  We accomplished the expedition, with the help of various donors and our Mazatec friends.  We also gave school supplies to the elementary school in Rio Santiago and in Cafetal Carlota.  Permission was obtained from two different municipal regions, with some challenges faced along the way, and we were soaked in the complex political and social environment of the Mazatec people.  Cave and cultural exploration are combined in the Sierra Mazateca, where the experience of food, traditions, and people, is as much of an adventure as the caves themselves.



Summary Sheets of Caves and (or) Pits explored from 2015 - 1994 


Selected Photos from Tony & Marion Akers from the Sierra Mazateca, Oaxaca, Mexico, in December-2014 and January 2015:  Rancho Arco Iris, La Mirador, Rio Uluapan, and other pits nearby


The slide show shown below was given at 2014 NSS - National Speleological Society - Convention, held in Huntsville, Alabama, at the new NSS headquarters. The photos were organized by Tony Akers and Ron Adams, and is a compilation of the best photos from all group members. After a successful trip during  last winter, with exploration taking place in January of 2014, we have more leads and areas to explore than last year. 

Proyecto Sierra Mazateca:  December 2013 - January 2014

WOW!  Another Mexican journey that went by too fast.  We visited a variety of places in the Sierra Mazateca, and leave many leads waiting for us to return.  We had a lot of help throughout our time, from local friends and officials, and a group of great cavers.  Thank you - Ron Adams, Andy Armstrong, Mike Frazier, Donna Frazier, Paul Mozal, Rolland Moore, and Coeli Velki - for participating and helping us find and map caves - per Tony, Marion, & Simon Akers.  

One of our project goals was a reforestation project in the Rio Santiago area - per a promotion held by Carlota Gardens in March of 2013.  The area has noticed its natural spring's water flow decreased over the years, and a small collective in the town is helping by planting trees up and along the spring's boundaries.  This project is ongoing and in process.

Several donations were made for education outreach for the region of Huautla de Jimenez.  The Central Indiana Grotto had donated $500 for the elementary school in Rio Santiago.  A digital projector was purchased and presented to the director of the school.  We were able to see a program the whole school was working on, the natural plant medicines in the Sierra.  The Southern Colorado Grotto also donated $600 to the elementary school of Agua de la Rosa, and those funds will help build a proper school for its 100 elementary children.   Go to 


to see photos and more..


Cave exploration continues in the Sierra Mazateca, with more caves found than we had time to explore.  With funds received by the National Speleological Society, we were able to acquire extra caving gear and freeze-dried food.  Eleven people participated in total, and we found more than 19 caves/pits, and have more than 20 leads to return to, mostly pit leads.  The main area of exploration occurred in an area called “Rainbow  Ranch”, a valley south of Rio Santiago.   The most significant find in the area was three open air pits that connected together, which we called Spirit of McLain Pit, totaling 100 meters deep with 217 meters of horizontal passage.   Our goal in this region was to understand the karst and determine the potential for a deeper or larger cave.  We found many pits, and some small caves, and although we still want to complete documentation and survey of all the karst features in the valley, we have not found the deeper system that we had hoped we would find. 

In another municipal region, we were able to explore some pits that previously were very hard to get to.  The road goes further now than it did 10 years ago, and we were able to re-establish contact with some landowners that we had known previously.  The pit of significance there is called “Sotano Archimedes”, and so far is 55 meters deep, and is not yet complete.   There are also several caves in the area, where locals retrieve water from, which we plan to document fully on the next trip.

We also began exploration in a new area, north of Rio Santiago,in a town called Agua de la Rosa,  and we began our efforts by giving funds (acquired by the Southern Colorado Mountain Grotto) to the municipal there, to help build a elementary school for the 100 or so children.  We were welcomed and were able to explore a pit and a cave, until our time was cut short.  We plan to return to this area in the future.

Visit our education and home page to see our progress in conservation and reforestation within the Sierra Mazateca. 

More cave exploration is planned for the end of 2014 and January of 2015.  Come back to see more...



Photos from cave trips done in January of 2013 in the Sierra Mazateca.  Taken by:  Donna Renee Frazier, Rolland Moore, Amanda Simpson, Elliot Stahl.

Participants for January 2013:  Ron Adams, Tony Akers, Marion Akers, Simon Akers,  Ernie Garza, Cody Ann, Donna Renee Frazier, Mike Frazier, Amanda Simpson, Rob Spangler, Adam Scherer, Elliot Stahl

One of the great caves that we discovered in the Rio Santiago area, Cueva de la Sorda, was found and partially explored in 2012, then completed in 2013.  The upper level of the cave was well-known to the locals, and was enjoyed because of its beauty.  The name was first placed when a snake was seen at the entrance.  Our trail guide said it was a "Sorda".  Thus, the name stuck, and later we found out the snake was actually a relatively rare and little known non-venemous species - Halbergs Cloud Forest Snake.   Well, the name "Cueva de la Sorda" had already been said and just wouldn't be changed (despite my efforts!).  The cave's branches have almost all been pushed, so it may just yet go deeper, but we called it done, and the survey was completed in two expeditions.  We have the landowner's blessing to explore more of the ridge side, and on our next trip, we will bring photos and copies of the map for him.  Shown below the photo album is the map of "Cueva de la Sorda".

Click below on link to a pdf file to view the new map of "Cueva de la Sorda"!!

2.6 MB

Map is complete for this great horizontal cave.  Check out our MAP GALLERY below.

Click below to view the slide show prepared by Tony Akers and Ron Adams.

NSS SLIDE SHOW  - 2012 National Speleological Society Convention in West Virginia
Click to view a gallery of related images

Click each image to view a gallery of related images

Click to view a gallery of related images
Click to view a gallery of related images

 Cave Maps Gallery -

Sotano Rio Oculta de Carlota 

Petes Blowhole
Sotano Hoyo Ventoso de Pedro 

Fern Tree Pit
Sotano Helecho Arborescente

Sotano El Mero Hoyo - english
Sotano El Mero Hoyo - spanish

Log Jam Pit
Sotano Arboles Caidas

toxii cunuu sxquicu tenini - Mixtec Language 

Sotano de Mi Esperanza

Sotano de los Palmeras Undulantes

Sotano Marcelino
Sotano 45 

Campana de Eleazar
Silk Wormhole

Shakedown Canyon

Sotano Espiritu McLain

Sotano Motin Media Noche

Cueva de la Sorpresa Seccion Mariano

Cueva de la Sorpresa Seccion Mariano - ESPANOL

Sotano de las Ropas Sucias

Sotano de las Ropas Sucias-ESPANOL

Cueva de las Aranas

Cueva de las Aranas - ESPANOL

Sótano del Perro

Sotano del Perro - ESPANOL

Sótano de Lupita

Sotano de Lupita - ESPANOL

Cueva Cerro Frio

Cueva Cerro Frio - ESPANOL

Sotano de las Hormigas

Sotano de las Hormigas - ESPANOL

Sótano Cerro Abierto

Sótano del Panadero- ESPANOL

Cueva Santa Rosa

Cueva Santa Rosa - ESPANOL

Sótano Agua de Pluma - ESPANOL

Sotano del Queso

Sotano del Queso - ESPANOL

Cueva Agua Golondrinas 2

Sótano de la Milpa

Sotano de la Milpa - ESPANOL

Sótano Agua Pajaritos

Sotano Agua Pajaritos - ESPANOL

Sótano del Besito

Sotano del Besito - ESPANOL

 Cueva del Cafetal Carlota

Nita Nindo Chank

Cueva del Capsula de Tiempo

Nita He Manincee

Timbores de Oztotl

Cueva Ara

Nita Sabertooth

Sótano de Cerro Ocotal

Hoya Alta

Sótano del Vigilante

Sótano del Escondite

El Sótano del Puma

Cueva del Pasadizo con Falla

El Sótano de la Galeria de Tiro

Cueva de la Concha de Caracol

Cueva con Huesos y Viento

Cueva de la Grieta

Come back to see more updates!!

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