Lago Ercina

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 The Battle of
 El Mazuco

Expedition log, Summer 1989

A summary and index of the Speleogroup logbook.

Llanes area, Mestas, Socueva, La Borbolla, etc.
Speleogroup’s 20th Anniversary

30.06 (Friday) Mike, 24 hours after return from Seattle, finds himself on a BA flight to Bilbao (an hour earlier than the usual “Iberia” flight).  Met by Bill and Elsa at about 16:15, then onwards in traffic jams (hmmm...  maybe Friday not such a good idea) to Llanes (with sustenance stops at Ôtanes and Santillana). Arrive Barcenas campsite 9:45.  10:15 to Covadonga restaurant, where chuletillas mysteriously become escallope...  The Marques de Riscal was good! Town and campsite very quiet.

Bill arranges campsite fee reduction (1350 ptas per day).  Diesel fuel costs 55 ptas/litre – going up tomorrow to 59 ptas.  Sun & blue sky.

01.07 Up at 8:30, Elsa has a shower while Bill & Mike take coffee on the bar terrace.  After more coffee with Elsa, we drive to Lubiesco track.  Walk starts at 10:00 up the valley we explored briefly in 1988. Up the track there is an ‘abandoned’ limestone mountainette [sic].  This did contain a nicely draughting cave-passage (old?) leading off into the hill.  Passage big. but entrance blocked by a rock.  7″ squeeze will require dedication to pass.  We looked at several possible stream-level resurgences but the only promising one was under lock & key! We did find the source of Río Dovedad [Ed: Doredal? W. of Borbolla] – multiple (many!) small resurgences.

At 12:30, Elsa returns to car and Bill and Mike march up the hill south of path to junction and shepherd in ruin.  We are informed of torcas and a cueva in the westward-leading valley (as opposed to the eastward valley leading to La Borbolla).  So admiring (but not descending) the magnificent depression to the south we proceeded up and west.

Up we climbed on a fairly good path past many smaller depressions and saddles.  Unfortunately there was no stream and no obviously visible cave entrances.  (However we never descended any of the depressions.) The agreement was to return to Elsa after two hours.  We reached 550m to the highest (but not last) saddle at 13:30. On the way back we mistakenly took a higher path past a couple of torcas (not descended) and correcting ourselves we rediscovered an old mine passage full of cow shit and mud.  Drizzle was partially welcome to cool off.

We returned to the junction at 14:20 and it was agreed that Mike should walk to La Borbolla bar and Bill should return to Elsa and car then drive round.  Bill found Elsa at 14:40 and the eastern bar was reached at 15:05.  Cheese and beer were ordered and Mike duly turned up at 15:20.  The track down to La B. was imaginative (the map-maker’s imagination) but after 30 minutes jungle-bashing a reasonable cowpath was reached.  A small sink didn’t go, but soon a larger depression with dry (it was a drought) waterfall with hanging valleys above is worth a return visit.  Could be hard to find from La B.

Back to the campsite to write up log.  To El Retiro for chiperones, Campo Viejo (×2), cheese, chorizo, etc., then back into town (via fiesta in Pancar for fireworks and marksmanship by M (globes!)) to El Taleru, etc.  Town seemed to be full of Valencian students.


02.07 A slow start.  Acuario for tortilla, then a look a look at Cueva Geoffo (Cosagra), then lunch at Ortiguero. Weak fabada but excellent chips.  Back down-valley towards Rales – curiosity leads us left up to Malatería village and onwards to Socueva – accessible by a very new road.  Didn’t linger there even though hamlet overlooked by caves – locals said they didn’t go.  Elsa tried raw walnut: reaction sufficient to stop Bill & Mike from repeating the experience.

Back towards Malatería – but first up a side-valley (S [at Mestas?] and then W) which was idyllic.  Find a cave resurgence with a strongly draughting entrance which leads to a cross-rift rather small, with water, but promising.  M grovels in the cave.  To the bar at Malatería – here told of a large cave nearby used for shelter during the War.  Definitely worth a prospecting trip.

Back to campsite for a couple of hours sleep – and on to Bill’s Birthday dinner at El Hornu.  Green beans, peppers, avocado, anchovies; merluza con quisquillas, merluza romano, chuletillas – washed down with Viña Soledad.  Back to campsite for an early night.

03.07 Up at 9:30 on a fine sunny day, the night’s sleep having been disturbed by fiesta music until 3 a.m...  Tortilla in Acuario, film purchase, then on to Cueva Cosagra.  Mike & Bill enter with rope and descend the the pitch/ramp explored the previous day.  A rift passage leads to water, wading under an arch to noisy streamway.  The rift continues to final sump via a pair of deep pools. Bill slipped into the first pool and was out of his depth! The final sump looks infinitely promising, blue clear water under an arch, but the presence of divers’ handline suggests it has already been dived with bottles.  Washed in river after finding pitch bypass via stream course to resurgence entrance.

Lunch @ 14:00 in El Viveru overlooking the sea.  Patatas bravas (again) and Bonito a la plancha.  Next off to find the fabled “resurgence near Bar La Roxia” (OUCC Trans CRG April 71: “At the nearby village of La Pereda, near the Bar La Roxia, is another resurgence cave, carrying a small stream which is used locally as a water source. This was entered by the 1969 expedition, but has not been explored.”) Follow the dry streamway up the hill – it becomes wet with a small stream – but eventually in the heat and humidity we retire to the bar for a cerveza.  Back to the campsite, then at 9 to the restaurant opposite La Viveru – beans with clams for Mike (doing his bit for the Greenhouse Effect – regretted later!) excellent fish soup for Elsa, etc.  La Viveru afterwards for sweet frothy coffees among lightning, powercuts, and (later) rain.

04.07 It’s Tuesday, so off to Tito Bustillo (free on Tuesdays) – not a bad cave (though paintings a little disappointing). Definitely worth the visit.

The exploring SW of Ribadesella for caves – end up driving through(!) a cave on the way to Cuevas (3km SW of Riba. 📌).  Back, via Riba., to Arriondas and San Remo Bar/Restaurant for traditional menúfabada (excellent), truchas con jamon (average), flan (above average), coffee (good), and pan y vino (average).  600pts (3) each – far to much (to eat) for a lunch!

Next stop the Lakes.  OUCC just arrived really, nothing to report, all bar one up the hill.  Low cloud, cool, but not raining.  Brisk stroll about the lake, appreciating the view.

Back down (via craft shop) and along the Cangas↔Mestas de Con road towards Rales and Posada.  Up the track (now a road) through Bobiás and Demués (stopping at Cueva del Agua on the way) and finally back down to Con and the “main” road.  No other speleo interest.

Back to campsite for a light pollo al ajillo, etc. at El Retiro, before retiring.

05.07 Up late as usual and had our tortillas (also available in chorizo flavour) at around 11:00.  Then changed cheques in bank before arriving at Malatería to look for caves. We chatted to the same old man for a minute then a chap called Angel said he knew of a bigger cave near Mestas and agreed to accompany us there.  The cave, Cañada, is about 300m above the Socueva junction through intense undergrowth.  Elsa (accompanied by Mike) turned back after 35 minutes (13:00) leaving Bill and Angel to thrash their way through the brambles, arriving, at 13:30, at the entrance in the outcrop cliff face (grid ref: 4966 9765 📌?).

The entrance itself is in a rock shelter 10m wide and a nice easy walking horizontal passage with dry rimstone pools meanders into the mountainside (apparently a fossil resurgence, no draught).  About 40m in is a chamber 5m×5m with an aven going up 10+m.  From here the passage proceeds on a smaller scale 1–2m wide with some stal but not very pretty.  After a couple of minor pools the main passage terminates (completely stalled over), but a scramble up on the left continues parallel through ever smaller passages.  Total length estimated to be 140m.  Worth the walk.  Exited cave at 13:30(?) and proceeded straight down through undergrowth to Mestas road, arriving at car at 13:55.  Picked up Elsa and Mike who had only just arrived! Dropped Angel at Malatería and on to Meré for lunch of beer, wine, bread, and cheese.

Driving along the Mestas to Riensena road we saw a possible resurgence on the other side of the valley at grid ref ~4946 9777 📌 near Socueva.  To be investigated later [the next day].  Then we drove on tarmaced road to Priedramo and walked down to cliff face at bottom of depression – a classic sandstone/limestone boundary sink.  The sink obviously takes water but there is no cave.  Could well be a feeder of above-noted resurgence. Drove back via Llamigo to campsite and well-needed shower.  Mike wins 1000pts on campsite slot machine.  Log writing.  Paella at Restaurante Covadonga then cards at El Brao bar before retiring.

06.07 Bill’s boots, having collapsed during the tramp down the hillside yesterday, required replacement, and running shoes, discounted to 100 ptas, fitted the Bill.  We also bought bread and bonito pastry.  We stopped at Acuario for chorizo tortilla, then at the Meré bar to buy cheese (750g @ 1200 ptas per kilo).  It took two people behind the bar 5 minutes and two calculators to work out the total.

Then we drove off to the possible resurgence seen yesterday, in the cliff face (at river level) below Socueva.  We managed to park 200m away and an easy path led to the waterfall.  Thence a steep trek through the undergrowth gave access to the cliff and three interconnecting entrances were found.  The main continuation is through a narrow meandering rift passage terminating after only 20m at a 7m pitch. Prospects for continuation below the pitch through similar passage look fair [See 8 July].  On exit it was raining and despite of a circuit of the cliff face no further speleological features were found.  In particular, the big entrance in the cliff was not accessible (except by rope from above).

Picnic lunch with Barbaresco in Cueva Geoffo.  Return to campsite, shower, potter about Llanes, bocartes [large whitebait, sprats, anchovies, or sardines] in Sablon’s Club, and supper in Buelna opposite El Horno.  Thunder – lightning – rain – powercuts.

07.07 Left Elsa heading for the beach.  The remainder of the expedition headed East (via Purón campsite bar for excellent lomo/cheese pinchos and Buelna bar for beer in cans).  To La Borbolla; up the valley just west of village, then left (East) up-valley to line of depressions. “Bottomed” those that looked promising, but really only two successes:  (a) the highest (possibly biggest) depression had a strongly-draughting hole (too-small, but class-A dig) with clean sink choked with tree-trunks, and (b) a fine plum tree, on the edge of the same depression; its fruit was eaten with relish!  Followed the line of depressions to the end then North down-valley (very steep, no real path) via strange tracks and paths at bottom to road and back to La Barbolla, so completing a strenuous 4-hour walk.

Cards in bars; then to El Jornu (Pancar) for gambas, bocartes, merluza, salmonettes (Red Mullet), etc.  Monopole to wash it down.  Back to Llanes to try and check train schedules – then to El Taleru (Antonio of Rales/Posada at the helm).  No telephones.

08.07 Originally, that is during the appreciation of the bottle of Monopole the previous night, we had thought to do a real sporting cave today like Purón or Pozo del Infierno. Feeling somewhat stiff after yesterday’s ramble and after taking due account of Speleogroup’s duty to complete its exploration thoroughly it was decided to return to Mestas and descend the pitch in cave explored on 6th July.  Acuario for Tortillas.

Bill descended the pitch using a descender (prudence) which actually proved a handicap.  The pitch itself is merely a drop from a high level into continuing meandering vadose rift passage 0.5–1m wide and 10m high.  Ridges and ledges provide reasonable footholds but being unfit and unused to caving, Bill managed to descend in 10 minutes plus. Sweat was streaming down his glasses at the bottom.  The rift continues for a further 20m with the same dimension until an abrupt halt. Above, there appears to be a passage possibly connecting to the big cliff entrance but this remains inaccessible; Bill climbed up 3m only.

It took Bill only 5 minutes to ascend using a single Petzl hand jammer as a useful handhold.  Back to Elsa waiting in the car.  Lunch in Ortiguero (Sopa de Pescado and Trucha for Elsa, Sopa de Cocido, Carnes con Patatas (lamb stew), and Trucha con jamon for Mike and Bill).

We drove slowly back via (eventually) Colombres and Alles finding very little of interest except an entrance (not investigated) on the fisherman’s path just 200m before the Llonín fork.  (See the sketch map/page from the log for the full route.) The road up to Puertas has a stream sinking on the right, apparently impenetrable.  Berodia/Inguanzo road mostly uninteresting.

Bought a new map in Arenas – the top plateau of Sierra de Cuera looks increasingly interesting.  But a big wall! 600m or more of steep ascent, then 6–8km of possibly interesting country to cover. Definitely not a day trip!

Rte.  Covadonga in Llanes for expedition dinner (Stuffed peppers (Elsa), Bonito (Bill), Lechazo (Mike)) with excellent Marques de Murrietta 1983.

09.07 07:30 start(!) and leave campsite ahead of schedule at 08:53.  Gloriously empty roads – at Solares in 1 hr 15 mins.  Arrive Castro Urdiales way too early for lunch, so sample tapas in Rest. Purón, etc.  Leave for airport – arrive in Delio (just beyond airport, 4km) 1-ish.  Hard to find anywhere to eat – seems the Delionnaise don’t eat out on Sundays.  Manage to persuade a bar/rest. to serve us salad, lomo, etc. (not bad). 1700pts. Elsa has a true veg. meal! At last!

Arrive airport 2.5 hours before flight.  Bill and Elsa leave for France.

Personnel: Bill & Elsa Collis, & Mike Cowlishaw.

Other log details: Exchange rate 189 pesetas/GBP. Diesel 55–59pts/litre.
Lambert grid references in this log are suspect.

Expeditions to the Picos de Europa and elsewhere since 1973.
Please e-mail Mike Cowlishaw ( or Bill Collis (
if you have any corrections, suggestions, etc.   See also the SpeleoTrove speleology section ».
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This page was last edited on 2022-09-08 by mfc.