Site list (GPS fixes)
Walks (GPS tracks)
Making SMT boards
1976, 1977, 1979,
1982, 1983, 1985,
1986, 1987, 1988,
1989, 2000, 2001,
2002, 2003, 2004,
2005, 2006, 2007,
2008, 2009, 2010,
2011, 2012, 2013,
2014, 2015, 2016,
2017, 2018, 2019
Mexico, New England
The Battle of
Expedition log, Summer 2001
A summary and index of the Speleogroup logbook.
Cubilla, El Mazuco, Orandi, Viango, Pozo del Infierno, etc.
||Bill & Mike meet at the (brand new) Bilbao airport as planned, about
15:00. To Castro Urdiales to check in (Hostal Vista Alegre), then
off to the caves to measure and verify altitudes (see below). We soon confirm that the cave previously known in the OUCC
logs as Penilla is in fact called Cubilla, so all previous write-ups
have it wrong! Further, on exploration, the ‘survey’ turned out
to be rather misleading: we instantly found a major inlet series
on the right after entering the cave (close to the entrance, and
with Spanish(?) survey mark F7) – at least 150m of passage with +48m
vertical range. There was also no hint that the main passage is
steeply descending – a range of 55–70m! So the first day’s caving
turned out to be a bit more strenuous than planned – and ordinary
clothes were not a good idea (although we got surprisingly far down
the cave: −70m).
We also noted that the water in the main passage could all be accounted
for by the flow from inlets, so it is unlikely to be the main stream
rejoining as shown on the survey (which is completely unaccounted
for). This is confirmed by the deposit of “tufa” in the streamway,
which shows that the water is derived from inlets, not the surface
stream. Our limit of exploration was down a white tufa boss to a
deep pool; excellent grip made the climb easy.
Back to the hotel to clean up, then into Castro for a hearty meal
(setas con jamón, chuletillas de cordero, bonito, etc.).
||The journey to Llanes on the toll-free autopista is about 2 hours, not including a brief stop at San Vicente de la Barquera for a plate of Tortilla & Anchovies.
Checked into Hotel Las Rocas and then off towards El Mazuco via Pareda.
Stops to investigate depressions near K6 and to admire the view at
Alto de la Tornería. Drink in the El Mazuco bar, where the owner
remembers OUCC visits (1969–71) as a boy and confirms that the Cueva
de Viango is small.
A long route takes us down to Cueva del Bolugo, a splendid sink in
a cliff face complete with rickety bridge and the remains of the
old generator hut (which generator was famously repaired by OUCC
in the old days). The foaming streamway looks very exciting. A
direct, even hotter, but not very obvious, route takes us back to
the bar and refreshment.
Cueva del Bolugo river
Into the car and on down to Caldueñín for a quick photographic
trip to the entrance, where the underground river is met almost immediately.
Next to Cortinas where a friendly local shows us the gated entrance
to Nacimiento de Río (key held by Asturagua in Llanes).
Back to Llanes via Posada/Acuario. Dinner (menú del día)
at Uría circa 9:30pm (fabada, lomo, truchas).
Drove to Orandi noticing the poster advertising a fiesta at Rales
tonight. We parked in the shade on the busy road up to the lakes
We were surprised at our fast progress up to the saddle which the
altimeter confirmed to be 615m and therefore close to the Orandi
sink (we were at El Arniu). Down through the beech woods with exotic
funghi (and cowsh) to the delightful blind valley of Orandi (see
picture). A diversion “upstream” failed to find the higher spring
marked on the map. Pretty easy walking at the valley floor level.
Vega de Orandi
Down to Orandi entrance (500m) to confront a wary bull, warily skirted.
Clambered into the cave, took photos. In flood there are further
sinks downstream – all clogged up with mud. The whole valley bottom
is a delightful meadow, with a ‘lost valley’ effect as the water
sinks at the end.
Orandi entrance (sink)
Back to the car in the heat (the uphill thankfully in the woods and
thus shaded). Then via Covadonga and Cangas to Ribadesella for an
excellent lunch in a new (to us) restaurant (soup, paella, merluza,
escallopines). Indulged in some Manchego and Cabrales.
Back to Llanes, stopping at Rales to determine details of the fiesta.
Eventually to El Retiro (via Parres, as Llanes through route closed
for fiesta) for a light supper of patatas bravas and Cabrales.
Then on to Rales.
Nobody recognisable at the village square so we move to María José’s
garden; we looked at the old photographs in the 1973+ album – four
of the young men from then are now dead! (Paco, Manolo..., all due
to accidents). María and daughter Patricia then took us to Tony
& Juanjo’s house where chops & sausages were offered and eaten.
||Sunday, Fiesta de la Magdalena, so the town (Llanes) is packed. Woken by (very) loud maroons. Festering day, the main challenge turns out to be trying to find a restaurant for lunch which is not fully booked. Watched parade of “large corn dollies” then tried some out-of-town restaurants. Eventually ended up at Ribadesella again. Slow return to Llanes via back roads through Rales, and Café Moderno in Posada.
Dinner at Uría (tuna omlette, lomo/sardinas), followed by a
walk to El Brau and back by the beach road. Centre of town all set
up with stalls, music stage, etc. Loud music until well past 4am.
||Breakfast at 8:30 and a drive up to Alto de la Tornería, 463m. Start walking up cemented track at 10:00. This bit was easy! Track suddenly becomes a path at the first saddle. We see the main W–E valley after 20 minutes.
As Bill’s gut was playing up rests were frequent!
We reached the big flat basin of the Yosa del Viango at 12:00 and
we found the Cueva amid trees and cows on the south west side. The
whole Yosa is one sand deposit. Surprisingly the cave, at 390m,
is open and progress from a large 3m+ entrance leads to the ways
on. Above a larger passage leads to a 2m climb (not descended).
Down leads to a crawl. Explored length 20m, vertical range 5m [see
2003 for full exploration].
Cueva de Viango
Mike then explored up the S. wall of the valley (as much to test
the PMR446 radios as anything). 3 or 4 sinks, all silted up. Opens
up into a wide water channel, long dry, with sand scarps. Radio
short range warning at about 400m, long range at ~1km (line of sight)
– a little disappointing. In the centre of the valley is a large
pool, with scattered animals around (mules, cows, horses). After
checking out several ‘cow shelter’ caves on the north side of the
valley, Bill made friends with a local horse, and we left the valley
at about 13:15.
Good progress back was made until we found ourselves on an ascending
path and decided to take the more direct route back to Tornería
shown on the map. Unfortunately all signs of the path petered out
near the first peak, the mist came down, and we were forced to retreat
down the side of the hill to rejoin the original path. Much rough
limestone and many grikes were crossed, in a ‘classic’ struggle...
Eventually get back at the car at 15:30; 5½ hours walking.
Bill feels stiff all evening. Early dinner at Siete Puertas; soup
for Bill, escalope for Mike. An early night.
||Shopping, bank. Then east to Suarias (near Panes) via the inland route. A 28-minute tinto (slow service) then up the mountains to
Cabañuca and also up the new track beyond. Back to the depression
adjacent to Cabañuca to see if the sink had opened up in the 25
years since Bill’s last visit in 1973. (It hadn’t.)
[Cabañuca location: Take the track/road east out of Suarias past
the cow trough on the right and up the mountain, then after ~500m
turn left (near small quarry) and down for 200+m. A closed valley
on the left (altitude ~315m) conceals the 5m high entrance to Cabañuca.
The main/big depression containing the inpenetrable sink is on the
right at this point.]
On to La Hermida for a light lunch, and then a thorough exploration
of the nearby derelict old hotel and spa, with its early 20th century
signal and lighting wiring. Bats in the attic! (By now c. 5pm.)
Then to LaFuente, where sadly the old bar no longer exists.
Next stop Toyu (now signposted Sumidero de Toyo) to photograph
the entrances. The upper entrances quite easy to find near barn;
the route to the main sink much harder, with several precarious stream
crossings. After photos took the (very much) quicker route back
to the road through a smallholding.
Toyu river entrance (24.07)
Back to Llanes via Unquera to clean up and a late supper (escalope
||This year being the 25th anniversary of Forcau ’76,
it was time to head for the mountains.
Up to the Lakes (Los Lagos) via autovía to Llovio, stopping
only to buy two small bottles of water at the exorbitant price of
300pts. We couldn’t recognise the path to Trumbio on the way up,
so without stopping we proceeded to lake Ercina and the María Rosa
bar for a tinto and a Kas at 11:00. Some GB vehicles turned out
to be cavers’, guarded by John Wilcock of 1961 OUCC fame.
After a chat, we started off for Forcau at 12:15 as the mist came
down. Careful map- and compass-work by Mike ensured good route finding.
Frequent stops to rest, photograph, and gulp water delayed our arrival
at Forcau til ~14:30. We took the route via Vega Ceñal and El
Forcau (east) as although this required extra climbing it arrived
very close to the pot.
Pozu de Vega El Forcau, it turned out, is exactly where it is shown
on the latest maps: down-slope and a little further away from El
Forcau (the walking path pass) than the stone walls/pens.
After inspecting the aged bolts and sleeves, took photographs and
returned down-valley. The mist which had conveniently cleared at
Forcau (+1500m) soon came down again, so we used bearings to rejoin
the main route and then descend to El Tolleyu – a small cluster
of cabañas by a dry trough. From there an easy descent to the
large Vega El Paré and then the usual (only) route down to the
lake. Total time about 4 hours, including stops. 400m ascent.
The car park and bar now very busy, but we had little difficulty
consuming a plate of salty queso with tinto/Kas.
Eventually returned to Llanes after a short chat with John Wilcock.
Dinner at restaurant near the hotel ~9:30pm, after surviving 25
minutes of continuous air-raid sirens at 7pm as a statue was paraded
to the church.
||First stop after breakfast is the Purón valley to investigate hydrology, and a resurgence cave which Bill had visited in ~1985. We parked in the “usual” spot between the two halves of the village and betwen two rivers, close to a bridge. Walked 100m up middle path to mill and rejoined track. A local took us to a cave, El Cuelebre – which was the one we were looking for; apparently it was used as shelter during the Civil War, presumably during the battle of El Mazuco. Explored for 5m – meandering stream in a muddy environment. The cave continues.
To Purón bar, then a walk around on La Franca beach. Lunch at
recommended Casa Pancho in Puertas de Vidiango (cecina, chorizo,
patatas, good tinto! 900pts each). [Just in time,
it turned out; it was partly demolished by a lorry a few months later
and not rebuilt until 2009.]
Whiled away the rest of the day with walks near Llanes and dinner
near the hotel. Then off to the Naves fiesta Multiple stages and
loud music but somehow disappointing. Returned around midnight.
||Now ‘warmed up’ – it’s time for some serious caving.
Objective Pozo del Infierno. After a quick shop, a prompt start
for the Deva Gorge, via Bustio and Panes, and we are soon at the
Coto de El Infierno.
Decided to change at the bottom of the hill. Although this meant
very sticky climbing it proved to be the right thing to do, because
the ‘path’ was badly overgrown with bracken, brambles, gorse, hawthorn,
Climbing was hard work – +200m in a very short disatnce through
hostile brush, using trees as landmarks. Eventually crossed the
ridge a little high, but almost level with the entrance to cave,
which was then easy to find at 264m. The actual entrance is in a
kind of irregular conglemerate. Just inside is a false floor sloping
down into a big chamber decorated with large stalagmites and stalactites.
The first muddy ramp, immediately inside the conglomerate
entrance, was rigged with an 18m rope, with just 3m to spare. The
rope could be used just as a handline but using a descender seemed
safer, given everything rather slippery. Some steps on the right.
Bill in Pozo del Infierno
Bearing right at the bottom of the ramp takes one to the first chamber
of stal. On through this large chamber to the far end, where an
easy ascent of a couple of metres between two rounded stalagmite
bosses leads eventually to the top of the second, near-vertical,
ramp. This is effectively a 10m pitch and we treated it as such;
we used a 20m rope belayed from a higher stal boss at the ledge overlooking
Leaving most of our gear at the bottom (see pictures), the way on
is a climb which regains the height just lost, with good grip and
handholds on the right.
Soon in a huge muddy chamber, over 30m high (ceiling height), with
mudslides. A tiny inlet has cleaned some of the rock. Vast stalagmites
evocative of statues and fists.
Mike in Pozo del Infierno
The water trickle leads to the Tubo del Viento, which draughted
(weakly); a wettish thrutch. At the bottom a slightly exposed climb
(handline reassuring) leads up and on to the Sala del Riu (River
Chamber), with a beautiful clear deep blue inlet sump and clean,
almost black, rocks. The water sinks in a boulder ruckle.
A rope hanging some 10m up the water chamber confirmed the way on
(which we had ascended in 1975). Lacking jammers (left
at the bottom of the 2nd ramp) we decided not to risk the ascent
(we never expected a rigged pitch!). The rope was marked G.E.S.
Nevertheless satisfied with the progress achieved, we proceeded out
with even greater speed than the descent. Jammers with footloops
used on the ramps with success. About 3 hours in the cave; 45 minutes
down the hill compared to 90 minutes up.
||Quiet day to recover; washed ropes. Bill visits Rales to arrange appointment with dentist, etc., while Mike explores the outer streets of Llanes. Lunch in Llanes then off to El Mazuco to re-check the altitudes of the water course; discovered that in low water conditions Cueva del Caldueñín can be explored for “some distance”.
See table below for logged altitudes.
Bill had discovered in Rales that Antonio – 1973 caver from Rales
– now runs a Mexican restaurant in Llanes, which we hadn’t tried.
So, pizza and tacos for supper.
Thus inspired, after supper we went to the old Talleru (now called
Abezu) for a Piña Collada; nice, but slow in arriving as they
had to go next door to get it...!
Inland to Arenas where we inspected cheeses and successfully tracked
down a cow bell with just the right sound.
Llanes – Paseo de San Pedro
Back via Posada in very humid weather, then general packing up, etc.
Mike does a photo tour of Llanes for the digital record.
Dinner at Casa Poli in Vidiago. Raciones of revuelta de setas,
calamares, croquetas. Good tinto ‘Protos’.
||Posada at 09:30 for a dental checkup for Bill, then straight east to Castro (via Vargas). Lunch in Hostal Vista Alegre.
Our last reconnaissance ... Cueva de Sangazo ≡ La Lastrilla.
Drove past La Cubilla to 4km track to explore on foot a
depression (near Linares) taking a stream. No open cave, but a secondary
sink had a good draught (good dig). Tadpoles! Hill fort?
Expedition dinner at end of Castro promenade/square.
||Tuesday. 8am breakfast before leaving for Bilbao airport. Fiesta day so almost no traffic, though humid, still, and massive pollution trapped in the industrial areas. A 40 minute drive from Castro to the new Bilbao airport.
Mike’s flights uneventful – but yet again his bag of caving gear
goes AWOL on the way back to BHX, arriving the following day. Bill
returned to check for more caves near Castro, unsuccessfully – so
retired to the Gugenheim museum for the afternoon!.
Personnel: Bill Collis & Mike Cowlishaw.
Other log details:
Altitude readings 19 July 2001, adjusted
for sea level at 19:30:
||(by track to cave)
||(lowest point reached)
||(highest point reached)
|Top of Penilla track
Altitude readings 28 July 2001, adjusted
for sea level at 19:47:
|Alto de Tornería
|Bar El Mazuco
|El Sucón bar
|Sea at Playa Toró