Site list (GPS fixes)
Walks (GPS tracks)
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,
The Battle of
Expedition log, Summer 2012
Potes, Nansa & Saja valleys, Gulpiyuri, Andara mines.
||Tuesday; Bill’s plane was an hour late from Pisa, but he still arrived in
Santander well before Mike. First stop Puente Arce – but La Puentecilla
was closed. On to Potes, with stops at San Vicente for tortilla
and La Hermida for Peña Prieta. Explored the town and river walk
before dinner at El Che (including the biggest chuletilla known
Good weather so the High Picos beckoned. Tried a new track up from
Mogrovejo which was ‘adventurous’ – steep, gravelly, and wet in
places – and at the limit of what the car could do. Eventually
made it to a more level stretch alongside a vega which led to a muddy
stretch and a narrow gate before joining the main Espinama–Sotres
High Picos near Áliva
From there we drove to Refugio de Áliva, parked the car, and had
a pleasant walk to a small peak overlooking the blenda (zinc) mines.
Back to the car and down to Espinama for lunch at Rte. Maximo. Back
to Potes and to Rte. Majada for dinner (paella & merluza a
Headed SE from Potes along a road new to Speleogroup, to Puerto de
Piedrasluengas (1,355 m). Found a nice little limestone gorge just
south of the pass, but not much else. Very windy, but a good view
of the Picos from the Mirador at the pass. Then north to join the
headwaters of the Nansa and past the quite spectacular Embalse de
Cohilla dam – unfortunately no limestone to be seen. Continued
following the Nansa to Puentenansa then East to La Fuente and the
Deva gorge to complete a round trip to Potes. Explored more of
the town and river walk in the afternoon. Dinner at El Cenador del
Capitán, overlooking the river and town. Excellent chuletillas,
this time; mushroom omelette and Cabrales for Bill.
Near Puerto de Piedrasluengas
Checked out of the hotel and headed south to the vauclusian rising
south of Estragüeña and changed into plastic sandals to ford
the river. Mike wimped out due to the cold and depth of the water
and retreated to make a GPS fix (Δ),
but Bill persevered with moral support from the road above.
Vauclusian rising – diving line
It took 15 minutes or more to cross to the west bank of the Deva
due to the deep water, strong current and slippery rocks! The cave
entrance is a short vadose passage leading immediately to a deep
sump pool (visited by Bill and Mike Weeks during the BUSS 1973 expedition).
Since then, someone has set up a diving line into the deep sump pool
(several metres deep). Having failed to get out of sight of daylight,
some photos were taken. It took less than 5 minutes to wade back
and reach the road by a climb.
One cave successfully explored; on to La Borbolla. Unable to find
the cave there we consoled ourselves with a light lunch at Casa Poli.
Checked into hotel in Llanes then decided that Bolado cave would
be an excellent place to test new 3W LED lights and surveying reflectors.
All worked well (new white reflector tape better than red). Back
to Llanes via Playa de Andrín and Cue.
||After three days of perfect weather came a very wet day; so much so
we were wishing we were back south in Potes in the rain shadow.
Making the most of a bad day we drove south to La Robellada and then
to Mestas de Con (for quick refreshment in Casa Maria) and on. Recce’d
possible road to Cueva Huelga (towards Torío) but it was still
wet. So back north again via Cangas and Arriondas to Ribadesella
for lunch (half menu – € 7) at El Mesón. Good food but awful
wine which we mostly left. Then a glass of decent Rioja in El Escondito
(under new management). Dinner in Llanes at El Almecen sidrería
with pimiento rellenos de boletus for Bill and costillinas
(ribs) for Mike.
||Rained overnight but a dry day with grey clouds over the Sierra de
Cuera. Destination above Alto de la Tornería, where we parked
the car, and a difficult walk (gpx)
to the two big depressions 2km to the east (the first being La Raíz).
The paths were muddy from the previous day’s rain and gorse and barbed
wire seemed sharper than usual. But the low cloud and mist (and
wet vegetation) actually made the walk pleasantly cooler than it
might have been. But there were worries (unfounded) that the mist
would come down further and make navigation difficult.
In the first depression Mike found the small stream sinking in an
impenetrable crack. In contact by radio Bill proceeded above and
north to a saddle where there was a real pothole with vertical sides,
perhaps 12m deep. Impossible to tell whether it “goes”. We reunited,
after climbing very rough terrain, even higher on the ridge guarding
the next big depression (east) which seemed to have no surface water
and multiple sink points (so not interesting).
Tornería upper depression
The return was predictably strenuous, with a very steep ascent out
of the main depression, spiced with more barbed wire and edgy moving
handholds. Some last-minute contouring saved a useful descent and
ascent and resulted in a perfectly timed 3.4 hours walk that brought
us to El Mazuco at 14:00 for lunch of criollo, filete de ternera,
and patatas ali-oli at El Roxin. Back via Posada to Llanes.
Dinner at Casa Canene; fish soup, entremeses, merluza.
||Light rain, so headed South (inland) to La Molina (near Ortiguero)
to view the lie of the land for locating the resurgence of Cueva
Dobros. After finding a promising track for a drier day, backtracked
though the village and walked up to Puente Pompedro which crosses
the river (Río Casaño) above a fine white-water canyon. Next
to Poncebos and up many hairpins to Camarmeña for a view of the
Lunch in Arenas at Sidrería Calluenga: pimientos rellenos con
carnes a la Cabrales and very good chuletillas. Cards in the
afternoon (first time since the 80s!). Dinner at Sidrería El Pescador:
lacon con pimientos and gambas al ajillo (the latter excellent
gambas but the sauce not as good as last year – now a copy of
||More rain; spent the morning in the hotel updating the log, etc.
Sprinted across the road to La Terraza for a tabla de queso for
lunch (Peñamuellera and Vidiago best of the ‘white’ cheeses).
Soon after, the rain more-or-less stopped and we headed west to Naves
to find Playa de Gulpiyuri – an inland beach (Δ) connected to the sea by caves. Fascinating.
Back to Llanes via Ribadesella and Posada; dinner at Sidrería Salero.
Gulpiyuri inland beach
||Light rain, and forecast for the rest for the day, too, so time to
head south. Decided on the route South from Cabezón de la Sal
(along the river Saja) which we had not traversed before and which
crosses at least a few bands of (Jurassic) limestone.
First stop Ruente to admire the water in the river from the Fuentona.
Then onwards south to the Interpretation Centre for the Parque Natural
Saya-Besaja at Puente de Cueva Pollo. An expensive building with
nice photographs and a few artifacts (including an unusual Roman
oil lamp) but very few hard facts, and no Cueva Pollo exists either
– so we pressed on South through the Park.
Saja valley – Pozo del Amo
Pleasing scenery and finally sight of limestone on the way up to
Puerto de Palombera; an obvious sink by the road (Δ), just North of the pass (at Venta de Tajahierro) was
investigated but was choked with sand and gravel. Next stop was
the Source of the River Ebro; a mucky park but an impressive resurgence
Lunch in Reinosa (remarkably restaurant-free) at Mesón las Fuentes;
good and abundant jamon (which Bill ate with his fingers) and
adequate lomo, but Mike foolishly chose chuletillas de cordero
(instead of de lechazo) which were the worst in memory – more
gristle than meat, and tasteless.
Back North on the new Autovía, then stopped to investigate two
large depressions NE of Cabezón. The first, at Bustablado, had
a very promising stream and cliff face (Δ)
but no cave. The second, a little NW, was huge and had a track down
it but no obvious sinks; we beat a hasty retreat when a herd of cattle
started up the path and threatened to trap the car for hours. Returning
up the track was ‘interesting’ but fine driving by Bill got us up
around the steep and gravelly crux corner. Back to Llanes via Comillas
and San Vicente; dinner in the Sidrería in the main square.
||A windy night had not swept away the grey clouds, but at least it wasn’t raining. Off to locate Cueva Huelga surveyed by the British Speleological Expedition of 1965 (and resurveyed by OUCC in 1976). The location of the two entrances was not very clear and the old Lambert grid references were wrong by some 350m. Worse still, the location of cave has been deliberately mispositioned on at least one website.
The approach road is the first on the right, 100m south from the
roundabout on the Cangas to Mestas de Con road at the junction with
the road to Covadonga. Proceed along a winding road without entering
the hamlet of Cabielles and turn left up a track leading South past
a chapel (Ermíta de San Cosme); the cave is 600m SSE of the chapel.
The Arroyo de la Huelga enters the cave at the foot of a wooded 15m
cliff face about 40m east of the track (Δ).
When we visited, the stream was dry. A through trip is possible.
We proceeded back via the village of Torío passing some minor depressions
and then south up the Lakes road to Cueva Trumbio. Here
the countryside was much more overgrown than in previous years.
In particular the thick gorse and steep valley sides prevented us
from actually getting into the cave itself! Disappointing. :-(
The mountains were cloudy and a thick mist was coming down fast.
Lunch at the Bar Maria Rosa: truchas stuffed with bacon (the
best since the 1980s) & chips. No sign of the old Refugio. Then
back down through the mist to Llanes. Asturian paella, and lomo,
at Rte. Uría.
||Promising weather, so first to La Molina (Ortiguero) to look for the
resurgence of Cueva Dobros. The steep track spotted on the 18th
soon became ruts in a meadow then petered out. After a small stream
and another meadow and woods we were forced down to the river by
a precipitous limestone outcrop; the ‘jungle’ there proved inpenetrable.
There had been sun on the way down, but fortunately it clouded over
for the long sticky ascent back up the hillside. A beer at Carreña
de Cabrales was most welcome. On to a chilly Sotres to research
lunch possibilities; none appealed. Stopped in Tielve, but no food.
However, a 200m backtrack up the ‘main’ road from the Tielve turnoff
brought us to a Hotel-Restaurant spotted by Bill: El Duje. Here
the cheerful and pleasant landlady treated us to a fixed menú
del día of very good fabada and lomo along with an amuse-bouche
of excellent home-made Cabrales cheese. Along with the usual bread
& wine, all for €10, this was the best menú of the trip
and possibly for years. The landlady’s very young son shyly bade
us farewell in a few words of English, and we returned to Casa Ramón
in Careña for more cheese (azul de tres leches) before looking
for another approach to the Dubros resurgence (deemed infeasible).
A very light dinner (a shared plate of fritos de pixin) sufficed.
Sun to start the day, so off to Villa and Rotella to look for caves
last visited by Bill and OUCC in 1973. Six depressions on the map;
two known caves. The first depression visited (Δ) was a blank; the second, deepest, depression yielded
a cave with a 10m-high entrance that led to further passage (Δ). Hot and difficult walking (gpx),
so the remaining depressions were left for another year.
Bill in Caldueñín
Refreshed by a beer at El Sucón, next stop was the resurgence at
Caldueñín for GPS (Δ) and photographs;
water level was low. We then explored the upper series above the
entrance pathway and even managed to get out of sight of daylight.
Continuing up the hill, we explored a (very muddy) track that might
have led to a fossil resurgence above Caldueñín; none found,
and a ‘possible cheese cave’ turned out to be a tomb/shrine.
Ribs at El Roxin in El Mazuco
All this caving activity had nicely filled the morning and we arrived
at El Mazuco at lunchtime (14:00) – criollo, patatas ali oli,
and excellent (tasty & tender) costillas de cerdo (ribs) at Rte.
||A pure-blue-sky day with 21°C forecast; ideal for the higher
Picos. Off to Sotres with a couple of walks in mind: North(ish)
to the Majada de Tordín above Tielve or South(ish) to the mines
of Andara. The track to the former, shown on both maps we have,
simply does not exist, so South we went. A steady ascent of more
than 400m in 4km up the rocky track gained us some spectacular views
of the Picos and the Sierra de Cuera. At the mines, the Refugio
Casetón de Andara was manned and we were able to sip a welcome
cold beer while admiring the fabulous view.
Back down the way we came, investigating a mine and some small caves
on the way. 3 hours in all (gpx).
Tabla de quesos y embutidos in Sotres (overpriced as expected).
Back to Llanes via Arenas, Posada, and Andrín. Dinner at Casa
Canene (merluza a la plancha) – a reminder not to eat fish on
View from Andara mines
||Another sunny day. Casa Gloria at Camijanes was closed so no roast lamb for
lunch. Walked over the fields to depressions (Δ) near Canto Grande north west of Cabanzón but the multiple
sinks seemed unpromising and gorse prevented close inspection. Failed
to find Bill’s decorated cave (explored with John Forder in 1974)
west of Merodio. But we did find Cueva la Loja close to river level
(Δ) near El Mazu. Good lunch at Las
Brasas, San Vicente (pimientos rellenos de carne, lubina a
la plancha for Bill, sopa de pescado and chuletillas de lechazo
for Mike, all washed down with a bottle of Albariño). Back to
Llanes to pack, etc. Dinner at La Amistad, and a late night.
||To Santander airport via Comillas. Flights on time and uneventful journeys home.
Personnel: Bill Collis & Mike Cowlishaw.
- Exchange rate: 1.24; 81p = 1 Euro = 166 pesetas (205 pts/GBP).
- Weather: four wet days and some cloudy ones.
- Specific GPS positions are shown by a delta symbol (Δ)
in the log above – click on the symbol for a Google maps view of
the fix. These positions are also listed on the Speleogroup site list page with coordinates in °,′,″ degrees using
European 1950 datum and in UTM coordinates (both matching Spanish
maps and the digital TOPO Penínsular Norte); see Coordinate systems.
- Some walks were recorded as GPS tracks; the .gpx files are linked
above and can also be found on the Speleogroup tracks
page; tracks and fixes were recorded using a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx.
- This log was almost entirely edited in the field on an ASUS Eee
PC 900, using the MemoWiki » extended Wiki notation which is then processed by a Rexx » script to generate the HTML for this web page.