Lago Ercina

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Site list (GPS fixes)

Walks (GPS tracks) 

Coordinates used

LED projects:

 Lamp tests
 ISP isolators
 SMT boards

Expedition logs:

 1973, 1974, 1975,
 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
 El Mazuco

Expedition log, Summer 1979

A summary and index of the Speleogroup logbook.

Los Lagos in the wet, Cueva Toyu, Garma Ciega surface measurements, etc.
First appearance of barometric altitude data in logs.

15.07 Heathrow to Bilbao for Mike, 1 hour 20 minutes: customs more thorough than usual on arrival.

Bill & Elsa arrived soon; then on to Castro Urdiales to camp outside Sangazo. Down the cave and explored the side passage noted in 1977. “Went” to a dry muddy chamber at the end after a fair sized duck.

Into Castro U. for a good dinner: soup, hake in a green (pea) sauce, veal steak, flan, + 2 bottles wine; all for 425pts each (less than 3.00). Staggered down v. steep path to tents.

16.07 Up tents (somewhat hungover) then drove west. Lunch at Posada – shrimps, lomo de cerdo, etc., according to taste. Then to Rales to deliver presents, also to El Mazuco for the same purpose. Then to Los Lagos – misty, but cleared. Chicken curry for dinner then met OUCC and to the bar for ponche/cognacs. [Went also to the upper bar; now open to the public.]
Bill in Trumbio

Bill in Trumbio

Up reasonably early; sorted gear. All 3 down Trumbio, with Mike? of OUCC. A slow trip in this fine cave. Didn’t seem quite as big as last time (1976). Three small climbs plus the one 10m pitch. Used SRT – Elsa’s first time in a cave: quite successful! Out after 4½ hours; then sunbathed, ate bread and Manchego cheese... Down to Cangas at 6pm.

A couple of beers and a few hands of 3-handed Bridge; then to ‘Río Grande’ for paella, trout, ice cream, etc. Now 350pts (2.50). Free coffee, then back to Los Lagos, quite late.

Notes on Trumbio altitudes:
 Altitude of entrance: 587m
 Altitude of Final Sump: 482m
 Depth (barometric) 105m
 Depth (surveyed) 106m

18.07 Bill off to Cueva del Viento with an OUCC member (Pete). Mike walked S.E. along track, found a hanging valley, very karstic, and a definite pot – very blocked, unfortunately. Thought much.

Bill and Pete reached Cueva del Viento at 12:30 after driving along the Vega de la Cueva track (beyond Enol) then walking up the valley. Entrance is at 1359m, the resurgence of a small stream. Entrance itself is quite dry but one is soon forced to crawl through a windy cold pool. The passage from here on is very maze-like with many changes in level and small side passages. The passages are also quite small generally – 1m wide – and the sharp projections on the rock (like Forcau) impede rapid progress. After the 5m climb (marked on the 1961 grade 2 survey) the main continuation descends to a pool which was 10m long and would require getting wet up to the neck. As we were wearing dry kit and what with the freezing water + draught + absence of any obvious bypass we decided to explore some of the earlier side passages.

An unpromising flat-out crawl at the same level as the top of the 5m climb led to a small chamber. We had apparently found a high level which was not only unexplored – complete absence of any footprints/mud on the formations – but better, the passage was much bigger! Usually one could walk! The high level was rift-like and as complicated as the low level. The only way which “went” was up through numerous scrambles and easy climbs. We probably climbed 20–30m altogether.

A junction with a small pool led us to what appeared to be an abandoned high level phreatic passage. “Down stream” the passage silted up with gravel after 20m. Up stream the 3m wide passage continued nearly horizontally for 50m via a mud crawl to a pitch. This had obviously been explored before as a thin carbide arrow was seen on the wall (must be Oxford ’61). The survey showed no bypass to the deep pool, but we had, nevertheless, found one. The pitch was easily free climbable (probably) but lacking time we decided to retreat. It is not at all clear from the inaccurate grade 2 survey where we had been. An accurate resurvey is definitely required. It is unlikely we had discovered a passage unknown to Oxford, i.e., that the carbide arrow was that of another group. As already mentioned, the arrow was too thin to have come from anything but a British Premier carbide lamp. Secondly there were no telltale piles of carbide indicative of a continental party.

Bill & Elsa in the wet

Bill & Elsa in the wet

All gathered at the campsite for bread, Manchego, and wine, as the weather changed from perfect to imperfect. Exact timing found us in the lower Bar just as the first rain fell. Several hands of Bridge (and much rain) later, we walked up the hill in a convenient lull to the Refugio “Entre-Lagos”. Had an excellent meal, timed during a massive hailstorm (1cm and 2cm hailstones!): fabada, trout, cheese, bread, ½ bottle of wine each; all excellent. Very good value at 327pts (2.30). Elsa had consommé, tortilla, and cheese, 200pts. Back down to the bar for a few hands, then down to the campsite to find ground very wet, drifts of hailstones, etc. 1″ of rain and hail had fallen in 3 hours. An early night.
19.07 Up “late” (10:00) as it was raining until then. Breakfast of Cola-Cao, Alpen, etc. Then to upper bar for Bridge and drinks, and drinks and Bridge, and Bridge and drinks. Down to tents for lunch (soup, canelloni...) and back to the bar... More cards, then read books, then to the restaurant for evening meal; joined by OUCC. Soup, veal, and excellent Cabrales cheese. Fetched water before bed.

Wet and foggy all day – ground sodden, and lake had risen 3–4cm at least.

Ox cart in Villa

Ox cart in Villa

Late rise: packed up tents etc. – still wet and misty. Down to Cangas to write postcards, and a v. large meal at “Rio Grande” – paella and trout, very pleasant. Then via Villa to Ribadesella; Cueva de Tito Bustillo (discovered 1968). Fine formations; paintings a very long way in! Well worth the 50pts. On to Rales campsite via Posada, put everything up to dry on a long line. Café Moderno for Bridge and coffee all evening: no one felt like eating!
Rales campsite

Rales campsite

Fabada for breakfast, then to Rales cave upper entrance in preparation for through trip: had two ropes since we intended to leave both pitches rigged.

Entrance duck choked as last time, aquabatics required to remove blockstones and hence lower the water level by ½m. Next duck very wet. Mike and Elsa went down first pitch: Bill then noticed that the other rope was missing. Communication very difficult at the pitch – a lot of water coming down. It was thought Elsa had dropped the rope in the duck, so Bill searched this (several times) without finding it: he then threw the first rope down so M & E could continue the through trip, while he went round to the Bottom entrance to meet us. All met at the bottom of the second pitch, somewhat cold. Exited without further problems. (On discussing things later, we decided that the rope must be at the bottom of the very deep pool part way down the first pitch.)

General washing session at the river, then tortilla at Acuario in Posada (and more Bridge; Elsa won a rubber). Yet more Bridge in Rales bar after supper.

22.07 Fairly early start: headed East to do the Latarma river valley cave. Stopped on the way to investigate promising saddle a few km S-East of Venta Fresnedo – turned out to be the wrong kind of saddle, but lots of depressions, etc. Hard work getting up there!

Then the real caving began. Bill got slightly lost finding the Cueva del Toyu entrance (at 180m) and the undergrowth seemed worse than usual. Once found, Mike set off to bolt the pitch whilst Elsa and Bill surveyed the remainder of the cave. The latter two were not really dressed for caving – Elsa wearing a skirt – Bill his jeans and skiing jacket – hand torches for light! The surveying team were a little slow, not surprising when it was Elsa’s first survey and she had not been briefed as to what was required. The noise of the torrent also caused communication problems. Further, Bill found he was too hot and his sweat evaporated and condensed on the compass and clino lenses!!

Nevertheless they did finish [the survey] before Mike reascended. They also found another obvious steeply ascending passage which Bill had somehow missed in 1975.

Toyu wet pitch

Toyu wet pitch

Mike put in one bolt at the obvious ledge to the right of the pitch, and descended – very wet at the bottom, but fortunately not as much as Easter 1977! Sporting pitch, with potholes at the bottom, lots of spray (5m deep). Immediately followed by another pitch (circa 10m). Two ledges on the left were slippery but afforded a good view of the pitch (with abandoned “dry” passages opposite – possibly a way on), but the best (dryest) way on was to the right. Another slippery ledge, with an abandoned pot full of water (of course).

Another bolt: then descended the pitch. Dry at top, very wet at the bottom (carbide lamp didn’t have a chance!). Rope wasn’t quite long enough to bottom the pitch, however the way on (down a cascade through a low arch) seemed passable although a handline would be mandatory. [On a later trip discovered a non-reversible ten-foot drop into a pool lay below that arch.] Exited, taking various pix of white water, to meet mellow Bill and Elsa and to find it was raining outside.

Mike – the Guinness ceremony

Mike – the Guinness ceremony

On via bars in Lafuente (brandy-tasting wine from the cask) and La Hermida, also Suarias – only to find that the latter had been closed for two years! Back to Posada for filete (steak), gambas (shrimp), chips, wine, beer, television, and yet more Bridge. All came to less than 1000pts (for 3)!
23.07 An unpleasant night for Mike: overrun by ants and then attacked by the dreaded Lurg. Seemed to respond to Lomotil. Rained during the night.

Breakfast of Cola-Cao, etc. Played a few hands of Bridge, and the sun came out(!). Down to San Antolín (beach) and lazed and got sunburnt watching the tide roll remorselessly inwards (wet feet). Back to campsite for cider/champagne, then to Acuario for Cuba Libres. Rales for chicken supreme supper, followed by three hands of very sleepy Briiidgeeee...

24.07 Up late. Bread & Cabrales for brekkers. Then east to Ramales area for altitude measurements (all in m):

  674 Spot height 14:00
  211 Lower resurgence K2.7 14:30
  330 Upper resurgence K6.27 (no waterfall at head
      of Val de Ason) 15:30
  693 Pass de Ason (map showed 682m) 16:10
  730 Shrine at junction outside San Pedro 17:15
 1140 Garma Ciega 19:02
 1205 Spot height (1149m) 19:15
 1004 Sumidero de Cellagua 19:55
  760 Shrine (again for check) 21:00
  400 Cruz Verde (368m) 23:00

Descended from San Pedro to Ramales, arriving circa 22:00 – Bar Ochoa closed. To the usual restaurant (Vizcaya). Three very good menú del días (soup, lomo, chuleta or tortilla, Manchego cheese, plus the usual bread and 1/3 litre of rosado wine). Easily the cheapest to date (130pts (90p)!!!) and very nice, too.

On to the Matienzo bar: welcomed by El Señor (landlord); inspected by his wife, and had our drinks (coffees and brandy) bought by an English-speaking local. All very friendly. Long drive back to Rales, arrived about 02:00 (fiesta in Posada still going strong!).

Corrected (for time) altitudes for Garma Ciega System show:
 Garma Ciega (nominal 1109): 1084
 Sumidero de Cellagua (949):  948
           Upper resurgence:  335
           Lower resurgence:  211

Hence the probable depth of the system is 749m, maximum 873m.

25.07 A lazy day – wine, pan y queso, and Bridge in Llanes; wine, tortilla, and Bridge in Acuario. Then a quick swim at San Antolín – exciting surf, river warm. Good meal in Llanes, somewhat marred by altercations over price. Blackout effectively quashed the Posada Fiesta, so back to Rales after a Kas.
26.07 Up at 08:00; on the way east by 09:20. Stopped at the Rales bar, supermarket in Posada (for Manchego cheese), and at a bar just outside Santander. Tried to see García León at the museum but he was not there. Final tortilla and anchovies (and wine) in the centre: to the boat queue at 13:30. Bill collected his ticket. Boat (the M.V. Armorique) left at 15:20. Sat around during the afternoon; film (not very good) at 6pm. Excellent meal (smoked salmon, veal, cheese, Irish coffee ... [8.50]) in the Café Corsaire. Another film at 11:30 (very unsubtle) then bed. Wine was very good value in the restaurant at 1.30 a bottle for a Beaujolais.
27.07 Up at 09:00 after writing “note on Garma Ciega depth”, to find the Cafeteria clogged and the restaurant rather expensive (only wanted coffee and all they did was a full English breakfast for 2.00). Therefore skipped breakfast: waited for one of the cafés to open. Failed to cash a cheque.

Café opened at 09:30, started writing rope article. Lunch in restaurant 4.50 followed by coffee in the Corsaire. Off the boat at 14:02 – a long wait for customs. Then back to Bath (via Mendip – Hunter’s closed!).

Personnel: Bill Collis, Elsa Collis, Mike Cowlishaw.

Other log details:

  • Draft articles:
    • A Note on the depth of Garma Ciega/Cellagua
    • Experience with the (Bridon) Viking Speleo Rope (with Kevlar core).
  • Numerous Bridge score sheets.

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 2012-07-10 by mfc.