Lago Ercina

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Coordinates used

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 Bat detector
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 ISP isolators
 Making SMT boards

Expedition logs:

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  New England


 The Battle of
 El Mazuco

Expedition log, Summer 2013

Potes, Cangas, Pruneda, etc. (the 40th anniversary of first caving in Spain).
03.07 Arrive Santander on time, 4 hours apart.  Rte. Puenticilla for bread and cheese then on to Potes, arriving midnight; tapas on arrival at Casa Cayo most welcome.
04.07 First a visit to Lebeña to check BUSS reports of a cave – very unlikely as no limestone seen.  Next to San Esteban (road off the Deva Gorge at Rumenes, north of Urdón).
San Esteban (Lopez house at right)

San Esteban (Lopez house at right)

Easily identified David Lopez’s house where we enjoyed cheese & wine 40 years ago.  Hiked to the Mirador (a fine vantage point) to see if we could work out where Cueva Los Jarres would be, but it became obvious that there were too many possibilities to explore, in very steep terrain.

On over the pass to Cuñaba where we were surprised (and pleased) to find a bar.  Back to the Deva gorge, and as a little early for lunch went a little further north to check the road through Robriguero to Bores; rather boring.  Back to La Hermida and a stroll around where, across the recent footbridge and south, we discovered a stream with all the signs (tufa, etc.) of being resurgence water.  No obvious way to cross private land to confirm this.

Tapas of Picón (blue) cheese from Bejes in Posada La Cuadrona, then to Rte. Paquin for a pleasant lunch (sopa, lomo, chuleta de cerdo, queso de Tresviso) after which we gave the landlady a picture of the BUSS expedition in the village in 1973 – much appreciated.

Bejes memorial

Bejes memorial

Next up to Bejes to take pictures of the guerillas’ memorial at the La Quintana/Bejes junction.  Then, after waiting for a tanker to clear the village, decided to try the road towards Sotres again (last time, in 2006, we were stopped by poor weather). A spectacular track – but very definitely single carriageway (fortunately no vehice was met).  The road contoured left around the mountains with huge unprotected drops on the right which gave the passenger ‘interesting’ views and a touch of vertigo.  A few stops allowed us to explore some small speleological possibilities and take photos across the valley to Tresviso, etc.

Bejes-Sotres track

Bejes-Sotres track

The track eventually arrived joined the Sotres–Tresviso road at Majada del Hoyo del Tejo.  A much faster descent to Sotres for a welcome beer and a discussion on how best to return to Potes.  Back the way we came was unthinkable, so the options were the huge loop via Arenas and Panes or over the massif via Áliva.  Choosing the latter, we made good progress and much dust and quite soon arrived in Espinama and so back to Potes.  A mediocre meal at one of the central open-air restaurants.
05.07 Up at 8:30 for breakfast.  North to La Hermida, then east to Venta Fresnedo with the intention of descending one of the upper entrances to the Sistema del Toyu which we surveyed 31 years ago, in 1982!  There appears to have been a collapse near the barn entrance revealing a 5 m pitch into a chamber.  The old entrance is a steep descent through undergrowth (as in 1982).  Bill, dressed in shorts didn’t appreciate the stinging nettles.

Cueva de Roza entrance

Cueva de Roza entrance

The alternative entrance, Cueva de Roza, was screened by more nettles and seemed very small for us so we chicken out, and after a hike up the path alongside the river decided to go to lunch at Casa Gloria, in Camijanes, where we devoured a large lechazo washed down with a bottle of Ribera del Duero.  The coast was close so we had a walk around San Vicente de la Barquera.

Dinner back in Potes – still replete from the lechazo, so just a shared plate of chips in Picón (blue cheese) sauce.  Two large, fighting, dogs cannon into Mike and he is knocked off balance, badly twisting a knee.

06.07 Mike woke up to find his leg bruised and very painful, so a driving day to Fuente De and then Espinama for lunch (truchas).  Bill goes to the Picos visitors centre in Tama and watches a film.
07.07 Mike feels slightly better but we still concentrate on driving.
Cueva de Fair Share

Cueva de Fair Share

First a quick look at Cueva de Fair Share, then on to look for the road beyond Mier (on the Cares river) leading to an area noted on 4 July; this was not found.  We then drove up to Para, and then Áliva but the track from the latter over the Sierra del Cuera is not legally accessible to cars.  There was a magnificent view of Suarías and we notice a valley, track, and possible potential area for resurgence(s) draining the depressions above – in particular the Oyo Ceñal.  We soon located the track above Suarías and Bill continued on foot in radio contact with Mike.  Below the saddle Bill glimsed a grey limestone cliff face but failed to reach it or locate any resurgence.

Over lunch in Rte. Covadonga, in Panes, we agreed to try again from above and after 10 minutes down an easy track on the left of the Suarías road we located an wooded depression where water was heard.

La Redonda entrance

La Redonda entrance

Within 5 minutes walk from the road a major sink was found with two big entrances (📌).  Bill followed the straight streamway down a gentle gradient of 10 degrees to the head of a 2 m pitch with clean water cascading into a pool maybe 80 cm deep.  This pitch was not descended, but the passage clearly continues – possibly towards the resurgence and the cliff face. A through trip looks possible at least.

Shortly after we met a local farmer who identified the cave as La Redonda (Reonda).  Back via Bejes.

08.07 Inspired by yesterday’s discovery of the sink, a more thorough investigation of the valley with cliff face was warranted.  The volume of water seemed more of a trickle than the stream going into the cave, but this was followed up to above the level of the stream at the sink (~167m).  We both thought we spotted the ‘cliff face’ in the distance, but it turned out to be a slope with grey dried vegetation. Radios were useful for coordination of the search.

La Redonda pitch

La Redonda pitch

La Redonda dragonfly

La Redonda dragonfly

Now at the top of the hill, Mike decided to contour back to the Suarías sink area to favour his knee while Bill returned back down the hill and brought the car up to Suarías and then (with Mike on the track above 📌 with radio) returned to the cave.

The objective of the return to the cave was to reassess the pitch which is probably 2.5 m with no free climb possible.  Belay points exist as natural holes in the rocks of the stream bed (4m from the pitch).  A couple of beautiful yellow dragonflies were hatching from nymphs in the darkness near the entrance.

It now being over 29°C we decided lunch was next in plan; executed with another pleasant menú at Paquin in La Hermida (asparagus, merluza en salsa).  Back to Potes with a short walk up the side valley opposite the Deva Gorge ‘bus shelter’.  Bill spots a ‘torca’ beside the path; deemed worth a return at a future date.

09.07 After breakfast at 8:30 (4 cafe con leches, 2 raciones de tortilla) we drive north again to revisit the footpath up the valley and stream (riega) towards Cicera.
Riega Cicera ‘torca’

Riega Cicera ‘torca’

Bill in particular wanted to descend to river level to see if there was and entrance below the ‘torca’ (📌) at the footpath. This took some time as the valley banks are steep and slippery.  It was hot so it was a real pleasure to wade through the river (and a bit safer too).  There was indeed a rock shelter there with a crawl leading off into the mountainside (not explored). After ascending 150 m along the path we returned to La Hermida for refreshment (more good Picón cheese!).

Thus fortified, we tried the Navedo foot path (gpx). Within 20 m there we found a rock shelter into which a house had been built.  We suspect this was once a show cave project, now rather abandoned.

Cave on walk to Navedo

Cave on walk to Navedo

Pressing on we passed canyoners in the pretty potholed limestone streamway, but then the geology turned to sandstone as the footpath passed through wooded country.  The shade was welcome in the summer heat but we were frustrated not to see the panorama.  Mike checked the GPS and found we were only 200 m from Navedo village so we continued on, only to find there was no bar! Retracing our steps we returned to La Hermida for lunch at La Cuadrona (truchas for Bill and lomo for Mike).  And more Picón cheese from Bejes.

After lunch we drove to Cicera and Navedo to see the valleys from above; both villages are some distance from limestone.

Dinner at El Cenador del Capitán: chuletillas and Duck Magret, with Picos Joven wine.

<i>Queso Picón de Bejes</i>

Queso Picón de Bejes

Potes archway

Potes archway

An efficient departure from Potes; Bill perfectly times his arrival at the shop opposite the hotel as it opens and procures a queso Picón de Bejes.  Head north to Panes and a brief stop at Casa Ramón in Carreña near Arenas, and then via Rales and Posada to Llanes.  Bar Uria for refreshment then El Almacén for lunch of mushrooms, costillas, etc.

Next to Ruente to view the intermittent fountain, then to Altamira for the museum and Neocueva reconstruction of the real cave and its paintings.  €3 seemed good value, even though they only allowed one leaflet per ‘group’.

With perfect timing, we arrived at Puenticilla at 18:45 with an hour to spare only to find that they wouldn’t serve cheese plates until 20:00, so Bill was delivered hungry to the airport at 19:15.  Mike finds a hotel in San Vicente; dinner at a popular restaurant near the west bridge, north of the main road (El Mozucu).

11.07 Still troubled by a sore knee, Mike reverts to semi-sightseeing mode.  First a once-around the Castillo del Rey at San Vicente, then
View from El Soplao Mirador

View from El Soplao Mirador

south to revisit El Soplao show cave (last vist was in 2007).  Curious to compare it with Carlsbad Cavern visited 3 months before.  Conclusion:  Carlsbad is easily the larger/bigger cave, but the formations (especially helictites ») in El Soplao are far better – breathtaking.  Views from the showcave’s Mirador (missed, last time) were good, even though hazy in the 30° heat.

Lunch (menú) in Casa Gloria, Camijanes, was above average (notably la parrillada de verduras), then west to Cangas with a stop in Arenas for a perfectly timed visit to the cheese museum.  The Cangas main street was more subdued than remembered, but the parallel street is now a pedestrian area and packed with open-air dining restaurants, etc.  Hard to choose; then noticed one had wickerwork chairs rather than hard wooden seats or benches...

Lago Ercina panorama (click for full size)

Lago Ercina panorama (click for full size)

A cooler morning, and mostly cloudy over Cangas.  Decided to head for the Lakes anyway and soon broke through the clouds and was able to take nice pictures of them (from above) at Mirador La Reina.
MFC at Lago Ercina

MFC at Lago Ercina

Early enough (09:45) to be able to drive up to and park at Lago Ercina for photos in clear air then a slow hike clockwise around the lake in perfect weather and breeze; swapped cameras briefly with a visitor from Germany for portraits.  Then (after refreshment) a short walk to the NE for new views and photos.  Stopped again at Mirador La Reina to compare with earlier view – the drop back to the road was not good for the car.  Down to Casa María at Mestas de Con for an above-average menú in sweltering heat (beans, good merluza). A very light supper of tapas (olives).
Covadonga Basilica

Covadonga Basilica

Forecast wet in the mountains, so to Covadonga and viewed the cave, museum, and Basilica; the museum was quite odd, containing mostly objects donated to the shrine by the devoted.  Lunch (excellent menú, including best-ever escalopines con salsa Cabrales) at Rte. Covadonga in Ribadesella.  East to view the Bufones de Prķa (close to Llames, NW of Nueva); a bit quiet, but a sea breeze was most welcome.  Back to a hotter (29°C) Cangas via Arriondas.
14.07 Latish start and arrrived at the Funicular de Bulnes expecting long queues and a wait as it was Sunday.  No queue at all – perhaps partly because the return ticket is now €21.50 (€17.10 up and €4.40 down).
Pico Urriellu

Pico Urriellu

Up to Bulnes on the 12:00 run (📌), then a walk (gpx) up the easterly path with a diversion to the Mirador de Pico Urriellu (📌) for a spectacular view of the peak.  Carried on up to about 760 m before heading down to the village for something cool at La Casa del Puente.  Next to the upper village (where the bar was closed and For Sale) and then back down to the main village (finding a pet rock source on the way) for lunch at the Bar-Restaurante (and hotel) Bulnes, near the bridge.

On to Llanes via Arenas (map shopping), Cueva Geoffo (Cueva Cosagra), a stop at the El Mazuco junction to calibrate/check GPS, and a short walk to re-locate Rafa’s Cabaña.  Dinner at Casa Canene.

Pruneda ‘wet’ entrance

Pruneda ‘wet’ entrance

Time for some real caving .. still knee problems, so needed a cave near a road.  The objective was to take experimental photos and so the cave should also not be dripping wet; decided on Pruneda and was soon driving up the very steep track and wishing the car were narrower.  Fortunately there were no descending farm vehicles and the parking spot was reached without incident.

Water-worn limestone in Pruneda

Water-worn limestone in Pruneda

The stream into the cave was smaller than usual, but even so the cave offered a number of opportunities for photographic experiments (depth-of-field, stereoscopic pairs, etc.) The Led Lenser P7 hand torch and new SEO5 headlamp allowed successful flash-free photographs, too, if somewhat ‘vignetted’.

Back out to hot sunshine (later realized this was the 30th anniversary, almost to the day, of first visit), and quickly down the track.  Lunch at Casa Poli (with an especially pleasant wine: Coto de Imaz Reserva 2005) and back to Llanes via Playa de Ballota.  Very light supper of potatoes and pimientos de Padrón in the bar opposite Siete Puertas.

16.07 Lots of time to kill on the way to SDR so after arriving at Santander first drove around the coast to the east of Santander (not very exciting) to Argoños and Santona.  Then went back to the southerly entrance of the Parque de Cabárceno, at Cabárceno, for a bocadillo for lunch.  Successfully emptied the tank, arriving at the airport with 15 km range shown.  A few drops of rain were seen – the first in two weeks.  Flight and drive home uneventful.


  1. Exchange rate: 1.16; 86p = 1 Euro = 166 pesetas (192 pts/GBP).
  2. Fuel costs: 1610 km covered at cost of €126 (15 km range remaining) → 12.8 km/euro
  3. Weather: Hot and sunny, 28–31°C max every day except final day (23°C).
  4. Specific GPS 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.
  5. Two 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 Oregon 600.
  6. 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.

Expeditions to the Picos de Europa and elsewhere since 1973.
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This page was last edited on 2022-03-31 by mfc.