Lago Ercina

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 The Battle of
 El Mazuco

Expedition log, Summer 2009

Tayada, Peruyal, Cofría, Valmayor, Negra, etc.
Speleogroup’s 40th Anniversary trip.
23.06 Tuesday. Both arrived Madrid on time; this time Mike (via Amsterdam) sans bag.  After the necessary paperwork, onward to Llanes.  5 hours airport to hotel (4.5 hours driving, shared).  Criollo and a huge plate of chuletinas [sic] for two at Rte. Terraza; unable to finish.
Minas de Alda

Minas de Alda

Wednesday.  Prompt start and off to Ortiguero to investigate large depression to the west.  Started from the car on the road between Canales and La Molina (see gpx track) at 10:00 and up good track to high point overlooking the Hoyos de Alda depression, close to Minas de Alda.  Many Guardia Civil and other vans there, carrying out some kind of exercise down the mine.  Descended into the depression looking for Cueva Tayada/Alda 📌 and found a very promising small entrance (3m 80° slope/climb) about 50m from where marked on the map – confirmed on 28.06.
Cueva Tayada entrance

Cueva Tayada entrance

Continued on down to the very bottom of the depression, which had several smaller depressions and a water channel but no caves.  Humid. Back up to the track at the lip of the depression, and continued on via La Salce to the main road (and a much-needed refreshment at the bar there).  Finally completed the long circle (at least 7 km) back to the car.

Lunch (monkfish & hake) in Arenas, then checked on the Alles depression (gpx; unpromising) and the village of Áliva, which had a stunning view of Suarías.  Dinner in El Almacén sidrería. Boletus mushrooms in cheese sauce for Bill and escalopinas con patatas for Mike.

25.06 Thursday.  First to Cueva Peruyal.  Despite having a GPS location for it, from last year, we mistakenly went up the road to Demués instead of the narrow road over the stone bridge at the easterly end of Benia (gpx).  Very steep track leads to a large agricultural building above the cave.

Peruyal, ‘the step’

Peruyal, ‘the step’

We descended the meadow and followed the stream down and into the large entrance (gpx), getting a good GPS fix right at the entrance 📌.  The passage doglegs to the right after 50m, then 50m in still very large passage to ‘the step’ (a small steeply descending hole).  Investigation with good lights showed that it was not safely descendable without the ladder still on the way from the UK, so we were forced to retreat after taking some photos.  On the way out Bill investigated a side passage near the entrance that led into the roof of the lower cavern with a 15m drop.

On exiting we found a much better path up through the woods to the road (gpx).  Back down to Benia after driving to the end of the road, then up the Avín road towards the Ortiguero depression.  Found interesting routes, and could see the Minas de Alda, but the track did not connect.  Back down to Benia again, and on to Ribadesella for lunch.

26.06 Friday.  First to Potes to search for the Microlight airfield shown on the Spanish CAA chart.  Nothing remotely likely at the marked spot, and neither was there anything where the description we had described it (close to Potes on the way to Argüébanes).  It was completely unknown to the Tourist Office, too, so we concluded that it was on the flat area west of Potes and now long gone and built-over.

Back down the Deva Gorge and finally identified Cueva de Fair Share (📌 between K155 and K156, old K417 & K418, further south than we had been looking) from BUSS 1973. La Hermida for excellent menú, then over to the Nansa valley to look at depressions west of Otero.  Obvious water channel pointed us down fields and through a short stretch of woods (gpx) to a fine entrance (Cueva Las Brujas 📌) with an open drop.  Again, lack of equipment turned us back.

View from Mirador de Cofría

View from Mirador de Cofría

Next headed north to look for Cueva del Rejo.  Parked at the Mirador de Cofría 📌, and found no cave at the marked spot, so followed steeply descending path to the river – about 200m drop.  A short distance (~150m) south along the fisherman’s track brought us to a large resurgence entrance 📌.  30m inside a small climb over gours and up a dark gour ramp led to a steeply descending sand bank back down to stream level.  Another 50m or so brought us to the bottom of a pitch with a dubious handline – time to exit, and slog back up the path.

Well pleased with two new caves in one day, we headed back to Llanes for dinner (gambas al ajillo, picadillo).

27.06 Saturday.  Breakfast as always at 8:30 but today at Bill’s request, tortilla is served.  Messages have been received letting us know that Mike’s bag has arrived at Oviedo and must be collected from customs there, so we locate Oviedo Airport on the Internet (actually west of Avilés) and arrive there after 1 hour 15 minutes (120km) motorway driving.  Mike’s missing bag is soon located in the customs area, but one corner is abraded off, the padlock and several small items are missing (including all but one waterproof pen), and the contents thoroughly rummaged.

Heading back east we stop at El Sumidoriu (📌, previously identified on the map), a sink in a big depression a few km NW of Villaviciosa.  Access is hindered by workmen closing the road to build a new bridge over the streambed (not to mention undergrowth and stinging nettles).  No obvious cave is visible, and it seems from the many stagnant pools that the water actually disappears in many inpenetrable sinks blocked by mud and debris.  Not promising.

Off to Ribadesella for a “half menu” lunch of merluza a la Romana (Mike) and bonito (Bill) followed by a glass of Rioja at El Escondite.

On the way to El Mazuco for supper, briefly greet Juanjo and María and their daughter Sandra at Rales.  As usual, we eat too much at El Roxin restaurant (chuletas, lomo, criollo) and afterwards walk down the track over Bolugo.  Find an interesting collapse, rather like Fresno, but no new cave.

Tayada formations

Tayada formations

Sunday. No excuse not to cave today as all Mike’s kit has arrived. Off to Ortiguero and the Minas de Alda (La Delfina) where we collect a few specimens of copper ore.  Then back to Cueva Tayada 📌 and rig the little entrance climb excessively with both rope+jammer and rope ladder.  This leads to a walking passage immediately and soon into a large very well decorated chamber gently descending in a 140° (mag) direction.  Dimensions of this chamber are quite impressive: 10m high, 25m wide, 100m long.  The floor is covered in rimstone pools (mainly dry) and dotted with fine bosses (and there’s also a rather nice round trip).  Lots of stal so many photos are taken.  After the walk up the hill to the car in the hot sun, a beer is called for and we stop in Carreña.  Then a snack in Sotres, at Peña Castil, of bread and Cabrales cheese. 
Tayada crystal pool (about 5 m wide)

Tayada crystal pool (about 5 m wide)

We then drove to Tresviso but there was no possibility of parking in or near the tiny village because of a fiesta so we returned along the spectacular mountain road and walked (gpx) to the Torca de la Riega Cericiega (17) [no longer marked on current maps] which turned out to be a sink with a 20m ramp to enter. Looks quite promising.  It is located at an obvious limestone outcrop at the bottom of a small valley.  Back to Llanes for a spectacular, if messy, paella at “El Marinero”.

29.06 Monday.  Brief shopping in Panes, then up through Suarías and past Cabañuca to attempt to drive up to the col to Hondo del Valmayor. Thwarted shortly after the paddock that had been reached in earlier years: turning around proved entertaining.  After extricating the car from the ditch, parked at about 555m and headed up the road on foot to the col at 777m. 
Hondo del Valmayor

Hondo del Valmayor

Then down various paths through woods and grass to the lower col (~650m) – very pretty with many cows, horses, and goats.  Bill explored further and lower and discovered a cave; joined by Mike the nettles were vanquished and it was entered and found to be a choked sink (with a painted number: 153).

A long hot slog back up to the top col followed; the descent to the car almost as bad.  Sidra at the car was a ‘life saver’! About 3.5 hours walking (gpx), with 500m of ascent. Down to Panes for a late ‘lunch’: a much-appreciated media tabla de queso.  Dinner in Llanes of very cost-effective chiperones and chuletillas at the ‘lottery restaurant’ (Salero, whose owners had recently won a major lottery prize), just up the road from Hotel Las Rocas.

30.06 Tuesday.  Headed west via Colunga to find Cueva del Sumidero and Cueva del Agua on the eastern slopes of Monte Sueve.  Cueva del Agua must be a small resurgence, in an impenetrable thicket.  El Sumidero also well protected by thickets, but Speleogroup perserverance eventually found a reasonably unbrambly path, and the cave was reached 📌 – just a choked sink.  On to the Mirador de Fito, then Arriondas.  Next to Cueva Buxu show cave, but closed on Mondays & Tuesdays and by appointment in any case.

Light lunch of queso Gamonéu in a popular restaurant in Mestas de Con with good-looking food (it filled up almost instantly at 13:00), and another (criollo) near Puente Nuevo.  Hot (27°C – but cooler than London!).  Research and walk along the Paseo San Pedro in the afternoon.

01.07 Wednesday.  Off east to San Vicente de la Barquera to checkout Hotel Noray as a possible base for a future trip (low season all of June, and WiFi available).  Then south via minor roads and tracks to Bielva and so to Camijanes in an attempt to find a high level entrance or sink to the “Rejo” cave we found at river level on 26.06.

Although a good track circling the depression to the east of the Mirador de Cofría was found and followed (gpx), we needed to make detours around mud and cowsh wallows and down hopeful-looking cow paths to the undergrowth that hides the streamways.  No sign of a cave entrance at first until we had circled almost 270°, where yet another water course was followed through woodland and brambles to the sink area.  Apparently the water can sink in a number of sandy channels 📌.  It was a surprise to find an open cave 3 metres up one sandy bank leading to clean rock. 

Cofría entrance from inside

Cofría entrance from inside

On the left a 5m ramp descended to large walking passage but without tackle we did not descend.  On the right, a passage ascended to an impassable higher-level entrance.  Straight ahead the way on was pursued, crossing a number of criss-cross rifts with crystal gours.  (Bill managed to gouge out some flesh on his left arm on scrambling through one of these but he hardly noticed at the time!) Out of sight of daylight we turned back and took photographs of the new find. 
Cofría passage

Cofría passage

The cave appeared never to have been visited before but of course any evidence of previous exploration could have been washed away by floods.  But regular flooding also suggests that it is unlikely to be the habitat of the 500 bats as described on the web, so this is probably not Cueva Rejo.

Note: one website (now lost) put Cueva del Rejo as being north of Luey (and north of the motorway) (altitude 200m) whereas the entrances we found, and the cave marked on the map, are both to the south of the motorway and below 62m.  Nobody at the Camijanes bar knew of a local Cueva Rejo.  So there may be some original exploration to do, with the potential of a through trip to the Nansa river level exit on the fisherman’s path about 250m away.  Things look good for 2010! (GPS indicates 380m between entrances as the crow flies and 30m of vertical range.)

Exploration, followed by a simpler and shorter walk up to the road (gpx), was followed by some first-aid and a beer in one bar at Camijanes and menú del dia (Cantabrian fabada and lomo) in the other.  Then back to Llanes.  Bill bought himself some plasters for his wound and disinfected it at the Llanes pharmacy. We thought of checking the rustic bar at Purón, but it was closed (permanently?) so we reversed direction and went to Acuario in Posada, which had just reopened.  Recognized by Mariucha (sp?) (Ruperto’s wife), we were offered and enjoyed tortilla with tomato sauce.

Dinner in “El Galeón”.  Lubina for Bill, gambas al ajillo for Mike.

02.07 Bill’s Birthday.  Plan A was to walk up to Cueva Negra, but cloudbase at sea level (i.e., fog and drizzle) scotched that.  Bill researched Cueva Rejo all morning.  Lunch at Salero.  Later drove to Mestas de Con and then El Mazuco for short damp walks.  Roadworks in the Cortines valley had exposed large cave-like openings, new to us, which upon investigation were just solution shelters with a few stals.  Late dinner at “Amistad” bar.
03.07 Friday. Clouds were covering the Sierra del Cuera this morning but it looked as if they were thinning out and lifting, making for a cooler but dry day.  Parked at 22m near the Santianes waterworks on the track up to the southern Tinganon col and plodded up the hill at 10:25 (gpx).  Part of the lower track has now been overlaid with concrete, but it was as steep as ever and quite unsuitable for 2-wheel-drive vehicles.  Over the first col and the sun came out and there was a good view of the Tinganón saddle and the upper depression.
Negra entrance

Negra entrance

We proceeded east along a variable path along sandstone up to the top col, at 522m in the Sierra de Cueva Negra – exactly 500m higher than our starting point.  Cueva Negra itself is at the bottom of this main depression (two gullies to cross) and can be easily located by its imposing large entrance(s) now somewhat obscured by trees.  It took us and two hours and 20 minutes to reach the entrance, including some brief stops.

As in previous years (1973, 1975, 1986, 2003) the popularity of the cave with the local ruminants was noted. 

Negra passage

Negra passage

These animals were not at home when we called by, but they had left, as always, an all too permanent mark of their appreciation of the shade and shelter provided by the massive cave entrance.  Therefore the initial section of cave was particularly slippery and evil-smelling.  To avoid the possibility that the previous residents might return and eat our kit or find our biscuits, we stashed these away well inside the cave.  We reached the 3m pitch after 50m of walking rift passage and Mike rigged the rope ladder and wire belay.  Although the ladder reached the bottom the take off and overhang felt particularly awkward without protection and we decided to make a strategic retreat from an obstacle which 25 years earlier we had free-climbed with ease.
Negra pitch

Negra pitch

Out of the cave at 13:45 and it took a further 95 minutes to get back down to the car.  Even travelling downhill seemed slow and awkward and the sun was at its height.  Fortunately a welcome bottle of “El Gaitero” cider was waiting for us.  We drove back on the coastal road and stopped at Villahormes for a snack of mixed cheeses and Rioja on the way back to Llanes.

Disappointing dinner at Cabañón.  Poor croquetas and pixin, and the good criollo arrived very late.  Prices seem to have gone up but service down.

04.07 Saturday.  Fog, drizzle, and reading all morning.  Lunch (chorizo en sidra and costillanes al ajillo) at El Almacén, near the tower.  A walk to Playa de Toró afterwards in a lull, rather wet on the way back.  To Ribadesella in the evening for better weather – turned out a fiesta was planned: our early arrival secured perhaps the final parking spot in the town.  Snack dinner at the ‘cuban’ bar, (El Escondite) and more back in Llanes:  an early night before an early start.
05.07 Sunday.  Departed 09:00 prompt after tortilla and tostada. With very light traffic, brief changeovers, and a short stop at Puerto de Somosierra it still took a little over 5 hours to reach the Madrid airport As expected, low cloud at start, full sun by Madrid.  Some spectacular views .. Madrid skyscrapers visible from > 55km distance. Uneventful journeys home, although a very tight connection at CDG for Mike (last on the bus, after huge queues).  Bill’s plane to Milan was an hour late.

Personnel: Bill Collis & Mike Cowlishaw.


  1. Exchange rate: 1.18; 85p = 1 Euro = 166 pesetas (196 pts/GBP).
  2. Weather: dry and warm or hot (up to 28°C), except for the last three days.
  3. Specific GPS (Garmin Geko 201/Garmin eTrex Vista HCx) positions are shown by a pushpin symbol (📌) 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 WGS84 datum and in UTM coordinates; see Coordinate systems.
  4. This log was mostly 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.

Expeditions to the Picos de Europa and elsewhere since 1973.
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This page was last edited on 2022-03-23 by mfc.