Lago Ercina

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Coordinates used

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  Spain 1973, 1974,
  1975, 1976, 1977,
  1979, 1982, 1983,
  1985, 1986, 1987,
  1988, 1989, 2000,
  2001, 2002, 2003,
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 The Battle of
 El Mazuco

Expedition log, September 2021

Bolado, Cobijeru, arches, drone + 360°, Matienzo.

Click on (or tap) any image thumbnail for a full-size version, or on a video clip to play at a larger size.
09.09 Travel was tedious, with Vaccination Passports and Health Control QR codes and forms having to be shown and/or scanned repeatedly.  Mike’s 2-hour transfer time in Madrid was barely enough, but both arrived in Bilbao on schedule.  After a brief stop in Castro Urdiales we arrived in Llanes in good time for dinner at Uría and a walk around the town.
10.09 Breakfast at 9 in the “Mexican” bar followed by a another café con leche in Sidrería Jovino in Posada on the way to El Mazuco. In the mountains we parked the car at El Roxin and walked to Pozo del Fresno (explored by OUCC in 1969).  Our objective was not the cave, but merely a secluded spot 📌 to test fly the drone using dual controls – Mike to check out photography, Bill to actually fly the aircraft.

Fresno ascent (34)

One lesson learnt was that the take off was worth filming! After the successful test, we returned to the bar and enjoyed a glass of Ribera del Duero outside in the sunshine before lunch at 13:30. We ordered chorizo (cold) and criollo and patatas oli-ali (both hot).  It was too much and we left half the chorizo! 

Bolado flowstone, <i>etc.</i>

Bolado flowstone, etc.

On the return to Llanes we stopped by the Tienda (shop) in Puente Nuevo for another Ribera but we hardly touched the salami offered with the wine.  Back to Llanes and then a quick trip to Cueva Bolado to test lights.  Bill was a bit disappointed with his ultra bright and heavy torch but his lighter lamp was more than adequate.  Mike also took photos of the modern rock art (see Bolado page).

Dinner at 9 pm in El Salero; arroz negro (rice with squid in its own ink) for Bill and pixin (white fish) for Mike.

11.09 Coffee in a ‘new’ bar in Llanes, then west on the autovía to the Sierra del Sueve (South East of Colunga); the objective here was the Cuevas del Agua and Sumidero shown on the map at 📌.  A very pleasant walk was had along the track above the main depression, where we also met the owner of the property who assured us (in both Spanish and English) that the entrance to the cave was deep within the tangled trees and gorse and could only be reached with a lot of machete-work.  The cliff above the cave was clearly well-used by climbers.

East of Sierra del Sueve

East of Sierra del Sueve

After the walk, we carried on over the (very crowded at the top) Collado de la Crux Llames pass (629m) to Arriondas then WSW to the Restaurante Roca (between Soto and Sevares) for some Ribera and Manchego cheese.  Next to a different Llames (near Garaña and Bufones de Pría) for a drink at Bar Pumarada 📌 then on to Nueva for excellent criollo at the Sidrería Muros. Back via ‘Los Angeles’ in Posada to Llanes and in due course to write up this log.
12.09 Breakfast in Bitacora, then off to East of Posada to use the drone to explore the mountain path up to Green sink.  The minor roads were narrow and quite complex and we managed to find a cave (cavelet) on the way (near a bridge 📌)! 
Green Sink path & saddle

Green Sink path & saddle

After parking the car at a suitable turning point, we proceeded east along a sandy track for 1.5 km or so until we had an acceptable view of the saddle and the zig-zag path that we had walked up in 2004. We set up the drone for dual control and, taking care to avoid pylons and other obstacles, we sent the drone aloft to a suitable height for filming.  Bill caught the returning aircraft by hand to avoid possible landing in the vegetation.

Back to Posada and a drink in ‘Los Angeles’ then on to Nueva to check out restaurants for lunch.  There we met Antonio – the owner of several local hotels and apartments, who we’ve known for years – and chatted for 20 minutes.  For the midday meal we settled on La Pesa in Pría 📌 where we shared a small plate of cheese in the shade of an orchard.  Back via Barro beach to Llanes.

Leopoldo and Mari Carmen

Leopoldo and Mari Carmen

Bill texted Mari Carmen (known from the early 70s!) on Facebook who suggested meeting but failed to suggest a time and place.  But all was sorted using FB’s voice communication and we met her and husband Leopoldo at the “a mi bola...” bar (their favorite watering hole). It was a pleasure to see them again after years and catch up on news. Mike’s improved Spanish conversation skills were noted! 
13.09 Plan A for the day was to meet Phil Walker and other cavers at Tresviso, but due to illness in his group (and rain forecast for the evening) we decided to postpone.  It being a Monday, Plan B was a visit to Bulnes (a village very popular at weekends but usually quiet on weekdays).  Bulnes has no access by road – only by funicular. To our surprise, the funicular carpark was full and cars were parked along the road for a kilometre in each direction.  As there are only 3 or 4 bars/restaurants in the village, we decided we needed a Plan C.

Fortunately we had on our to-do list a cave/arch first spotted in March 2019 just beyond Sotres on the same road as the funicular and ripe for investigation.  So, on to Sotres, with another to-do to check off: ‘Bar Ana’, a quaint traditional bar quite famous in caving circles but which we’d never visited.  We ordered two Riojas and were surprised with a large plate of Cabrales-like cheese (almost certainly made in the village) and maize + wheat bread.  Thus fortified, we headed for the cave.

Arch near Sotres

Arch near Sotres

We knew where the cave was and that it was some distance from the road, but feared the gorse that’s common in the area.  Fortunately the terrain wasn’t too bad, with more bracken than gorse, and many mountain flowers.  The limestone had a few ankle traps, which required care.

After an energetic walk we reached the cave/arch 📌 which was within a few metres of where we had calculated it to be by triangulation.  Sadly it was just a (rather nice) limestone arch with no real cave.

We retraced our steps to the car and then descended to Tielve (mid-way between Sotres and the funicular) for lunch and then returned to Llanes via Posada.

14.09 Bad weather expected coming up from the south but we decided to head for the Deva gorge south of Panes. Up the mountain road with multiple hairpins towards Cuñaba hoping to see the huge rock arch visible from the main Deva gorge.
Cuñaba Arch from the Deva gorge

Cuñaba Arch from the Deva gorge

However, we arrived at the village without seeing it.  The village now has a bar so we asked about the arch.  To our surprise we were told we could see from the bar itself, and indeed there it was – a few hundred metres away! But it is not visible from the road.

Next plan was to retrace our steps to the gorge and continue south to La Hermida.  Unfortunately, on arriving there, the Posada La Cuadrona bar, where we had so often eaten blue Picón cheese (from Bejes), was closed but Paquin nearby was able to offer us a generous plate for €5.  We considered going further south to Potes but decided against it and eventually had an early lunch in Paquin at 13:20.  The menu del día was chicken soup followed by ternera (veal) and chips €14. Not very good food as the oil tasted “old”.

Suarias ‘barn’ ascent

Suarias ‘barn’ ascent

By mid afternoon the sun was reappearing so back north to Panes and then up the road beyond Suarías to use the drone to photograph around Cueva El Arco.  This required a walk down into the depression and up the other side to “the barn” 📌 where we set up the drone with dual controls.  We could not actually see our objective (identifiable by another rock arch), probably because of extensive autumn undergrowth.  But we sent the drone up to capture the area ‘on film’ as a [360°] panorama.  The sun was out, so it was a hot climb out of the depression; 110m of ascent although it felt like more.  (This is the track shown in the photo, extracted from drone spherical panorama – the barn is just off the image, at bottom left.) Back to Llanes and dinner (half menus) at Picos De Europa.  Excellent value for money; fabada for Mike and secreto ibérico (tasty pork) for Bill, €8 each, spoilt by the aggressive waiter who insisted on showing off his language ‘skills’.
15.09 Poor weather forecast (which turned out better than expected, with just a couple of showers).  First east to Andrín for a coffee then decided that the walk to and from Cobijeru cave would not be fun if the rain arrived as expected .. so a quick U-turn was effected to head west to explore around Puente Nuevo and Naves.  On the way we located for future reference a restaurant (Parrera in Niembro) recommended to us by Mari Carmen and Leopoldo.

Bill at Cuevas del Mar

Bill at Cuevas del Mar

A quiet morning, compared to the exertions of the day before.  Then on to Nueva for lunch at Sidrería Muros.  Despite Google’s protestations to the contrary it was closed – so yet another plan change; we decided to try Restaurante El Nido De Robin (Robin’s Nest), 500m North of Nueva and recommended to us a couple of days earlier by Antonio.

Two ‘small’ plates (potatoes with three sauces – all of which were good – and criollo) turned out to be more than sufficient. Since we were now close to Cuevas del Mar we reminded ourselves of the terrain and the seascape there, including a ‘photo op’ in one of the many caves.

Eventually back to Llanes and a token ‘through trip’ of Cueva El Talleru before a long stroll along Paseo El Pedro and then writing up the log.

16.09 Pleasant weather, with quite high clouds, so we decided on a trip up to the Lakes (Lagos Enol and Ercina) as we had a couple of to-dos up there.  The plan was thwarted, however, because at Covadonga the road was closed to private traffic as though in full summer season (which normally runs only until early September).  Later research found no date for it being re-opened.

We decided to head NE on the long and very windy road from Corao via Labra, Ixena, and Llamigo to Nueva.  Now having geological maps we were fully aware of the patches of limestone that we crossed, but nothing speleological was noted.  The high point of the drive was the Collado del Torno (555m) where a stop was made for a [360°] image; and other photos of the fine views.

Collado del Torno, above Llamigo

Collado del Torno, above Llamigo

The descent from there to Nueva was relatively quick, and after an exploration of the village we had a pleasant lunch at Sidrería Muros.

Eventually back to Llanes, where the rest of the afternoon was spent repartitioning Mike’s laptop (a rather fraught operation ‘in the field’ involving creating a bootable USB, etc., with no guarantee that it would work). 

Salty <i>gambas</i>

Salty gambas

The operation was successful, however, and we were then able to stitch the drone sphericals from the day before.  Sadly, no arch to be seen – probably obscured by trees – so a plan is hatched to return via a different route in low-foliage March.

After a photo-viewing session at the hotel, we decided to try the new Restaurante El Bálamu (recommended by Leopoldo).  This is a modern building near the far end of the port, very well appointed. Fish was called for; Bill had excellent merluza, Mike had gambas al ajillo in which the fresh and crunchy gambas were so heavily salted that even with help from Bill the dish could not be finished.

MFC in Cobijeru

MFC in Cobijeru

Set off in bright sunshine to Cobijeru inland beach in Buelna and warmed up for the caving by walking along the cliffs.  The Cobijeru cave is easy walking for the most part (with some minor stooping) and leads directly to the sea which, as usual, was quite rough so the sound of the waves echoed throughout the cavern.  Mike took photos, although Bill came up with the best image.  After a drink in nearby Pendueles (Sidrería El Chispero – also a restaurant) we returned to Buelna, and El Horno de Buelna.  This too was a bar/restaurant but not up to the standards of El Horno in Buelna which closed in the late 80s.  But it was very pleasant to sit in the shade of the courtyard.

Cavelet with Bill

Cavelet with Bill

Then to Casa Poli restaurant in Puertas de Vidiago »; Bill had magret de pato (duck) and Mike chose merluza a la romana, both washed down with ‘La Planta’ Ribera de Duero (chosen over a Rioja by the toss of a coin).

Back to Montemar after lunch for a break, and then to Quintana (near Posada) to investigate two cave entrances shown on the map.  Not found.  But Bill managed to scale the wall into a garden to go into a real cave (the cavelet we spotted on the 12th 📌), even though it was less than 5m long! 

18.09 Weather is promising so back to Suarías towards Cabañuca to take panoramic photos using the drone.  Compared to 45 years ago, the cave entrance today is largely obscured by trees and no clear photo was possible.  Access on foot would now be through dense brambles and gorse; last century there were more cows keeping the vegetation under control.  However, a nice panorama [360°] of the big depression nearby was taken.

We had a second “breakfast” in La Cuadrona (now open, and where we were recognized and welcomed) in La Hermida consisting of a very generous plate of blue Picón cheese (with bread, toast, walnuts and membrillo).  So abundant was the food that we skipped lunch. But we continued south up the gorge to Potes for, after securing the last parking slot in the town, a brief glass of wine.  We then retraced our path to La Hermida again then drove up to Bejes where again we secured the last parking slot, and where we were welcomed back by the barman after the enforced two-year absence.  The mountain views, as usual, were absolutely stunning.

Bill had offered an “expedition dinner” in the Llanes restaurant ‘La Mezclada’ (once known as El Galeón).  So Bill had another magret de pato and Mike had secreto ibérico.  Both delicious and washed down with Ribera.

19.09 One objective for the day was chulletillas, but before lunch a productive morning was had in pleasant weather.  First, prospecting a minor area of limestone west of Posada that was noted some time ago but seemed uninteresting, speleologically.  It was, indeed, uninteresting – but it was good to have one more ‘to-do’ done.

El Mazuco – view from above Bolugo

El Mazuco – view from above Bolugo

Second, up to El Mazuco to book a table for lunch and then take the drone south of the village and fly it above the Bolugo sink for a couple of panoramas at differing heights; both came out well but the higher [360°] gave the better view of the village and the geology around it, including the always-impressive solid limestone heights of Llabres.

Third, a drive up to the Alto de la Tornería – a 3km journey comprised mostly of blind corners which was made especially interesting by dozens of motorcycles traversing the same route in the opposite direction – a club outing of some sort, complete with photographer.  Once at the top, we walked up the hill a short way to a likely civil-war mortar emplacement and there took some ground-based [360°] photos that came out well.  The picture here, taken from the 360°, shows Llanes and the sea in the distance.

Torneria to Llanes

Torneria to Llanes

By now it was time for the chulletillas (not quite as good as usual, but enjoyed) and Manchego cheese at El Roxin.

A slow trip back to Llanes and, in due course, to write up the log while the rain swept in in the evening.

Cueva Cuevona south exit

Cueva Cuevona south exit

Awful (wet, cold) weather forecast, but brighter than expected in the morning so west via Ribadesella and past Tito Bustillo to get to Cueva Cuevona.  Four through trips of the 250m cave were effected; one by car, two on foot, and a return by car.

A convoluted return to Ribadesella followed.  Unable to park in reasonable distance of the centre, with rain imminent, we drove on to Nueva to discuss lunch options.  Casi Poli came out the favourite and in due course we set off, intending to go via Rales and Puente Nuevo as it was early for lunch.  Shortly after turning onto the Rales road over the mountains, however, we heard a thumping sound from the wheels or brakes.

Puncture & air bubble

Puncture & air bubble

We returned to the bigger road and drove cautiously to the nearest garage – where we spotted the head of a bolt in a front tyre, clearly leaking air.  Using the internet we found the nearest tyre-repair shop (in the service station near Posada) and drove slowly there. The repair was straightforward, and cost €12; we added a tip as the friendly engineer helped us immediately.

Onward to Casa Poli, where we were seated – getting the last available table – just as the rain started in earnest.  As usual, excellent food.

The rain stopped just long enough for us to get in the car, and stopped again briefly on arrival at the hotel (handy because we were planning on leaving Llanes the next morning after Mike’s Covid test, so some rearrangement of baggage was needed).  A very light supper at Rte. Solero.

21.09 Mike is not allowed to eat anything before his obligatory Covid antigen test booked for 9:30, so Bill has breakfast alone in the Mexican bar and then accompanies Mike to the clinic just round the corner.  Then we both have a coffee together waiting for the results – which are of course negative, but without the all-important letter he would not be allowed on the plane home on the 23rd. After packing and loading the car we set off east at a leisurely pace to arrive eventually at Ramales.  On the way we took a detour to Ruente to record the GPS position of La Fuentona 📌 which was discharging an impressive volume of water due to the rain.  It was the first really wet morning which didn’t bother us on a travelling day.

Repast at La Bolera, Los Tojos

Repast at La Bolera, Los Tojos

Our next plan had been lunch in Comillas but we realized that we would be drenched walking from the car park to the town centre. Plan B was El Puentecillo, but it is closed on Tuesdays.  From Cabezón de la Sal, Bill called a friend in Turin who recommended a restaurant in the mountains some 30 minutes away – Restaurante La Bolera, in Los Tojos 📌.  The navigator took us there effortlessly and the restaurant was open! Bill had roast cabrito (goat) and Mike had chuletillas de lechazo (lamb chops) washed down with Arzuaga 2018 (Ribera del Duero) – which we later found won a Decanter World Wine Awards Platinum award (one of 169 of 18,000+ entries) with 97 points. The entire meal, including the excellent wine, was €61.

Continued further south to Reinosa where the sun was shining and then back north via autovía arriving at the Río Asón hotel in Ramales at 17:40.  A lot of tiring driving on pretty wooded mountain roads but not much limestone to be seen.

Next (for Mike) a tedious hour+ filling in the Passenger Locator Form (deemed unnecessary for arrivals in the UK after October 4) which was bug-ridden and required entering date of return six times (in two different formats).

22.09 A good weather forecast.  West from Ramales to Arredondo to check whether the restaurant Casanova that we had hoped to lunch at would indeed be closed.  Sadly that was the case.  We decided to check out a new (to us) one recommended by the Matienzo caving team:  Casa Tomás in Ogarrio (about 5km ENE of Arredondo).  It looked OK, and would be open for lunch, so was duly noted.

On to Matienzo after a stop at the Puerto de la Cruz de Usano for [360°] photo of the huge Matienzo depression and surrounding mountains.  3km west of Matienzo we walked down a track 📌 to try and find a cave entrance recommended to us, but the track petered out well before reaching the bottom of the hill as it was supposed to.

Casa Tomás Menu

Casa Tomás Menu

After some more reconnaissance both north and south of Matienzo we returned for lunch in Casa Tomás in Ogarrio de Ruesga 📌.  This restaurant looks very unpretentious from the outside but it had been recommended by our Matienzo caving acquaintances.  We were not disappointed! As well as the permanent menu (pictured) there was a menú del día and specials.  Bill had duck thigh and Mike had merluza a la plancha (“best seafood of the trip”), while sharing a bottle of Protos.

AsonSource Waterfall (9)

After lunch we proceeded back up the Asón valley parking at a hairpin bend beyond the waterfall.  From here Mike used his 360 degree camera to photograph the valley with too-dark results.  Then we launched the drone, with Mike photographing and Bill controlling.  First we tried to fly level with the cave entrance, recorded a video clip and a panorama, and then pulled out and lost height for a better view of the waterfall and two more panoramas, of which this [360°] was the better.  In view of the recent wet weather there was more water than usual making a spectacular view.  Back to the hotel in Ramales via the southern route (via Veguilla and Regules).

Light supper of a small plate of cheeses, one of which was green (albahaca – basil).

23.09 An early start (leaving hotel at 06:00) got us to the airport at 07:02.  Amazingly, Bill was able to check in, return the car, and get back to the airport within 30 minutes! A leisurely breakfast followed before Bill’s 08:55 flight and Mike’s 12:20.  Uneventful trips home.


  1. Expedition mantra: “I hate masks!”.
  2. Exchange rate: 1.17 EUR/GBP (compared to 1.43 in 2015, 1.10 in 2020); 85.0p = 1 Euro = 166 pesetas (194 pts/GBP).
  3. Petrol was €1.40/litre, in Unquera.
  4. Weather: mixed, but with a couple of really nice days.
  5. The drone flown was a DJI Mavic Pro »; 75 min in total.
    GPX tracks of the drone flights may be available if you contact us.
  6. The pictures in this log were taken using a Sony RX100M6 camera, a Panasonic LF1, various phones, a Ricoh Z1, and the drone.
  7. 360° panoramas are very large and so are not displayed in this log; instead, click on the [360°] marker to open and then save the panorama, or right click to save directly.
  8. 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.
  9. Fixes and tracks were recorded using a Samsung S10e Android ’phone using the MyTrails app (or by the drone, for drone flights and also by the Ricoh Z1).
  10. This log was almost entirely edited in the field on a Lenovo Yoga notebook, 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.
Please e-mail Mike Cowlishaw ( or Bill Collis (
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This page was last edited on 2022-11-03 by mfc.