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The Battle of
Expedition log, Summer 1982
A transcription of the Speleogroup logbook.
La Franca base. Caving around Suarias, and the exploration and survey
of Toyu and the Latarma valley etc.
Sunday. Left Winchester in Pete’s car at 15:00, with Liz, Pete,
and William; the day the SS Canberra arrived home at Southampton » from the Falklands.
Stopped for cream teas in Honiton, and were overtaken by the beginnings
of the convoy taking the Royal Marines home to Plymouth. From there
on, every bridge, every lay-by, every possible parking place was
full of people waving flags and cheering the soldiers home. The
entrance to Plymouth was just a mass of people – the three-lane
road and roundabout reduced to a single lane by the press of people,
cheering and waving flags. Just behind us was the main convoy of
a hundred coaches. What an occasion! And quite unexpected.
Fortunately the campsite was nearby: set up tents in the beginings
of rain. Explored Plymouth and Plympton once the crowds has dispersed.
15 minutes from campsite → dock, arrived at 7; on boat by 07:25.
Blowy and foggy to start, but breeze and fine weather by Cape Finisterre.
Boat a little smaller than expected. Whiled away the day in the
Up at 05:50 (06:30 Spanish time). Breakfast; off boat by 07:30 local
time [presumably Brittany ferries to Santander]. Reached
Altimara at 09:40, museum opened at 10:00 – but the cave proper
is no longer open to visitors, so visited the Cueva de Stalactitas
– surprisingly well worth the visit.
On to Santillana del Mar to meet Bill & Elsa. Not at the arranged
meeting place at 12:00, nor at 13:00, so sat in a bar and then had
lunch (not bad, 500pta.) in Hotel off main square. B & E met at
14:00 – they had just missed us at 13:06.
Off west, visited various campsites and hopeful beaches, eventually
decided on La Franca. Put tents and mansion up just before it started
to rain again. Supper Spag. Bol., courtesy of Elsa. Early night.
Slow start. Unquera for shopping, then through Panes and up the
Deva gorge to La Hermida – stop for drinks. Lunch at the hot spring
(and small exploration of the spa). Up the Linares Road.
Investigated “bloody awful” muddy depressions
and sink at top of saddle above Navedo(?). No go. Interesting as
hill is above some kind of sh*tstone. Down to La Fuente, then down
the Lamasón valley to Venta Fresnedo. Horse flies.
All six walked up Latarma (Tama) valley; little William not too keen,
even when carried. First stop was resurgence of second system –
draughting very very strongly: a wet and very interesting possibility.
On up the path, took a direct line instead of staying on the track,
and thus spent the next hour thrashing about in the bush and generally
going in circles. Eventually back to track. B&M went on up to third
system, explored rather uninteresting young cave (sharp, spikey,
boulder ruckles), about 80–100m of passage. Back down the hills
to Venta Fresnedo, following the proper track this time! To La Franca
via various routes, beach, etc. Paella for supper for all at the
campsite restaurant (~500pts each for meal).
Altitudes taken ±5m:
Road at Venta Fresnedo (track start): 188m
Cororigo (2nd system) resurgence: 270m
Comeria (3rd system) resurgence: 370m
English sausages for breakfast. Pete off on expedition to Santander
(successful) to get car exhaust fixed. M, B, & E join Liz and William
on the beach for a couple of hours (bright but overcast); then up
via Columbres to Panes then Suarias. Track up the hill much improved:
drove to top for photos of the major depressions. Then back down
hill a little to junction of track and then down to Cabañuca
entrance. Explored easy dry series and also start of (dry) streamway.
On the way back to the car investigated obvious entrance to cave
on end of spur: an old phreatic cave, much re-dissolved, about 60–100m
of passage, mostly explored by locals according to foorprints. ¡No
horse flies! Back to campsite.
Highest point where track passes over saddle between the two big
Cabañuca upper (main) entrance: [not recorded]
Overcast (again), drizzle later. B, E, M, P drove up to Suarias
via boltless [for carbide lamp brackets] Unquera, where a
doomed fiesta was starting. Took track from Suarias to smelly sink
which resurges to sink again near the bottom of the large depression
below the village – cave called La Redonda. M, B, P entered, clutching
noses. Natural arch at entrance, water-avoidance possible until
small fall and pool about 30m in. Too noisome to continue.
Thence via Golf-GLD-testing hill to track on ridge above Cabañuca
resurgence – Bill set off to altimeter the resurgence while Mike
& Pete explored next closed valley W (after all had investigated
rock shelter on R at top of latter).
Bill wandered around, echoed, and waited in car with Elsa while M
& P first tried several possible spots for caves until finding one
just before the very bottom (2×1m entrance on R, length 6m
to flat-out crawl). Then into real cave at bottom of depression:
followed for about 20m of high passage to choked sink which M pushed
for a further 5m before it got too grotty. Upstream found 2 resurgences
from boulders – Mike gave himself a mud shower near one. Then further
W found a collapse amongst bushes 1×1×1m, but indications
of a passage below.
spotted large opening high on S side of valley, visible from a small
area only. Slogged up path to find that it was a large bridge (through
trip) 10m diameter phreatic tube, 10m long, looking out over valley.
Behind tree further uphill, small entrance led via (large) wriggle
to a superb chamber: 100×12×12+m – stals and flows and
crystals abounded. Avens and wide section increased size to c.
15×15m. Side passages and a choked sink section went a few
metres only. Hesitant ascent of flow at end of main passage – too
nice to muddy with footprints. Magic. Returned in drizzle to car,
damp but chuffed. (N.B. One set of previous footprints:
shepherd?) Later dubbed ‘Cueva el Arco’.
Ojo Cenal saddle top: 173m
La Redonda sink: 146m
Main sink in big depression: 282m
Circumnavigation of the Picos in search of sun. Panes → Potes → Riaño
→ Cangas → Arriondas → Llanes.
Cloudy and overcast up through the Deva gorge, and in cloud at the
top of Puerto de San Glorio. Magically the sky cleared on the descent
from the pass – blue skies, little white clouds, blazing sun. Diverted
north at Portilla de la Reina – again cloudy north of Puerto de
Pandetrave, hot and sunny to the south.
On to Riaño. Pico Yordas (to the west of Riaño) looks an interesting
limestone area. There is a campsite at Riaño, although the town
was dull and much smaller than expected.
North to Puerto del Pontón and cloud. Down through the Desfiladero
de Los Bejos – very impressive. Then Cangas, and Arriondas
(Bar/Resturante San Remo) for 350pts menú del día. Back
to campsite via main road.
As a nearly-sunny day, Bill, Peter, and Mike decided to do a wet
cave – namely Cororigo, the second Tama valley cave system, whose
resurgence had been strongly drafting when investigated on Wednesday.
Bill was ready in his brand new wetsuit first, so in he went to check
that there wasn’t a sump just round the corner. He did not reappear
so presumably the cave continued beyond the entrance pool. (This
pool must be navigated by swimming; Mike, who did not have a wetsuit,
was not amused.)
When Mike and Pete appeared, Bill was returning from the depths of
50m of streamway complaining that the cave seemed to have come to
an end althought there might be a bypass. Indeed there was, as Mike
found on the left of the rift. A few squeezes soon found us again
in big, drier, walking flood streamway. Down, the stream was again
reached but a crawl up at stream level closed down rapidly. Underneath
the flood streamway the stream cascaded down for 30m but was not
followed further (too slippery!). Above and via a pool a few dry
passages (draughting boulder choke, etc.) were followed without success.
We surveyed out. Overall time underground 4½ hours.
Way back via Lafuente for 2 vinos each and chat to landlady who informed
us of Madrid speleos. Drove back by Puente Nansa.
(Surveying notes, Cororigo: Tape–PJR, Compass/Clino–WJMFC, Notes–MFC.
BCRA Grade 5 for most; some lower therefore Grade 4. Bill’s compass
readings may have been distorted by his magnetic lamp reflector.)
All to the beach (after shopping) to watch Bill snorkel: a fine,
hot day. All remained on the beach except Bill, who went off to
Suarias alone and walked up from the Cabañuca area towards the
Honda del Valmayor. The climb from about 300m to the saddle @ 770m
took about 90 minutes. There were depressions of various sizes everywhere,
but only the bottom of the Honda was investigated. The Honda itself
is a steeply-sided depression with a small stream which sinks in
a cliff face. There is tufa deposited in the stream suggesting that
the water comes from springs, and that the cave if any at the sink
will be poorly developed. At the other side of the sink I [Bill]
expected a resurgence. On no. There was yet another sink in the
cliff face taking a small stream @ 592m. The valley is very flat
at this point at about 595–600m until a shallow depression near
buildings marks the beginning of a gentle slope (at first) down to
the Deva Gorge.
There are lots of horses, foals, cows, and calves. Near the buildings
(really half-abandoned barns) there is an obvious cave entrance,
3m wide, wide cows like to shelter from the sun. It only goes for
10m unfortunately, and is full of cowsh!
Mike, meanwhile, investigated local La Franca scientific interest.
Hole in side of quarry mear turn down to the campsite strongly draughts
in, but unfortunately is grilled 5m in. River valley upstream from
campsite has two small resurgences, and various possible entrances.
|Car near bend
|Pass saddle top
|Next saddle top
|Cow cave on return
Robertson mega-curry (chicken) for supper.
All to Llanes for shopping and lunch. Busy in the town, so both parties
successfully managed to avoid each other in town for 2 hours. Market
B, E, & M then drove up to the lakes – Los Lagos – via Acuario
in Posada. Talked to Graham Naylor (leader of the OUCC 1982 expedition)
over a couple of large tintos at the Bar on The Hill. Misty up there.
Bill and goat
Down to Cangas (via stop at basket shop), then to Arriondas to complete
piggery for the day with fabada, merluza (hake), and flan.
P investigated hole overlooking campsite: an epic ascent of vertical
gorse bushes led to 4m of unmemorable passage.
A late start (14:00) then B, M, P back to Suarias depressions to
survey Cueva el Arco (found on 16.07).
Mike directed east up the hill to circle up above the cave through
an area of limestone and tree outcrops stretching up the hill –
not productive. Fine views, though rather hazy. Chased down the
hill by descending mist (which fortunately retreated later) and joined
the others in the cave – they were just finishing the survey. B&P
entered the cave at 15:00.
A quick dash around the cave with new carbide lamp (Petzl piezo-eletric
lighter worked well), and all retreated back down the hill, checking
some depressions on the way. Some promising digs, especially on
the line of weakness which may well be a continuation of the features
which formed C. el Arco. The rough walk down the hill left all feeling
Arrived back at 19:00 for noodles & cider supper, followed by a cards
session in the Bar. Campsite ↔ Suarias in ≈30 minutes.
Altitudes: Underneath the arch 463m; cave entrance 465m; bottom of
cave (in trench) 449m → approximate vertical range 16m.
Later note: this cave possibly explored by geologists
attached to ICCC expedition in Easter 1976 (‘Clog’, Jonathon, Mark),
based in Suarias. Also this sounds exactly like the cave described
by Bill in the 1975/6 OUCC report ».
Extended breakfast. P, E, W drove west: La Franca → Puertes, then
back and down Cueva Pindal (show cave) “worth a visit”. B & E beached,
dug dams, etc.
M also beached (dams) then east along railway line to near station.
Up hill (gorse) to top of hill and open fields and view of the sea.
Along hill/cliffs towards campsite: unfortunately fields and track
did not go the whole way ..... next two hours spent thrashing through
gorse/bramble jungle, including a 30′ vertical descent and
50′ vertical ascent through gorse to cross a ravine. Eventually
attained fields at back of La Hacienda, and so back to campsite. [Gorse thorns still popping out of skin 2 months later!]
| To Unquera to buy money (189pts/£); hot and sunny.
Then B, P, and M in wetsuits to Toyu (the lowest sink in Arroyo
Latarma), found by Bill in 1975 and investigated in 1976; and descended
(M) to ¾ way down the second pitch in 1979).
Into wetsuits for Toyu
Rather less water than in previous visits. Laddered pitch one from
natural belay (5m), across pool (*¡warning: slippery rocks!*) to
top of second pitch. Used 1979 bolt for belay (spreader). Ladder
(12+ m) down past awkward slot through heavy spray to final 3m of
free hang into waist-deep pool with tree trunks. Unusual rock lips
at bottom of the shaft.
Around pool, to left (where water sinks into sump pool) sandy area
is devoid of passage. Ahead and to the right small inlets provide
pleasant winding passages but no real prospects. Further to the
left (across deepest part of the pool, which can be skirted) two
routes lead into a complicated area of spiky rock. Two parallel
ascending rifts may be followed up for some tens of metres to a draughting
area probably very close to the surface. Various aural connections
between the rifts can provide amusement.
At the bottom of the two rifts, scrambling through the rocks eventually
leads to the downsream side of the first sump pool. Sumps again
from pool. Small tunnel up on left leads to rift traverse, past
further sump-sump pool to yet another pool in small chamber. From
there large short passage to another (deep) pool! Stream sinks soon
Ascending slope at far (downstream) side leads to a large boulder
slope in very large chamber. Mike looked around lower down, finding
likely way on on the left. Pete looked for way over the top. Several
possible-but-unlikelies, then a 3m climb led to attractive banded
grey rock and a 3m × 10m wide flat-floored passage.
Boulder slope at end led to bones, warmer air, and a 1m × 2m
entrance into bushes! I [Pete] went out to check location
(see sketch) then back, with difficulty
in finding right hole to top of boulder chanber. Exit somewhat laborious
with 1½ lights. Pitches wet, and awkward at top. Visited
entrance series of new entrance on way back to the car (sketch).
Various bones, and generally potentially archaeological, but no paintings
etc. seen. Not a bad trip: worth a Guinness anyway. (Grade 1 sketch
survey later in the log superseded by later surveys.)
Toyu sink: 171m
Peter’s entrance: 195m
Lamason River level: 153m
Thus vertical range ≈42m (but note that the stream resurges downriver
from where the altitude was measured).
On way back to campsite investigated amazing hole close to road (able
to light with car headlamps!) just before bridge over Río Nansa.
Large hole with rubbish, but no way on. “Good dig.”
General laze. M festered. B & Elsa walk up Latarma river valley in
the afternoon to take altitudes etc. Pete & Eliz went to Ribadesella
and Tito Bustillo.
Some altitudes taken during Tama Valley walk:
It would appear that all six systems of the Tama valley have enterable
cave entrances, although the El Segedal (system 5) resurgence may
sump immediately at the entrance. The Rìu Praucu resurgence (system
6) is actually a small dry rift entrance and not a boulder ruckle
as previously thought.
|Top of Cororigo saddle
|Depression behind sink
|Cororigo main sink
|Flood bypass entrance
|La Huerta resurgence
|La Huerta saddle
|La Huerta sink
|El Segedal resurgence
|El Segedal saddle
|El Segedal sink
|Rìu Praucu resurgence cave
P & Eliz found area on back road between Ribadesella and Arriondas
had promise (road through La Vita).
Hot and sunny; all to beach in the morning. Then P, B, M attempt
to have the menú del día at the campsite restaurant.
One-and-a-half hours later, leave for the Tama river valley.
Down the new (Pete’s) entrance, surveying in. To small chamber near
the entrance, left some passages for later. Down to main chamber,
surveyed down right-hand side and up left. Then investigated M’s
possible way on, which just led back into the bottom of main chamber
(via flood debris – green squeezy botttle – wedged half way up
P & M then explored tubes close to the bottom sump – one possible
lead, needs wetsuit. Tight in places. Then surveyed across pools,
back to main chamber. Investigated the complex of passages (“Amazing
Place”) at the top of main chamber. Back up to entrance chamber;
checked out small tubes to S. of chamber. Rift didn’t really go,
other holes led to pretty tubes and stals. B & P then went up passage
to N., while M floundered around in the dark, which led via classic
keyhole passage to a new (third) entrance. All then surveyed out
of this entrance, since it opened out into green field instead of
gorse and bracken; near barn. Out at 9pm. An obvious hole in the
field, up-valley from barn entrance, is a crawl in phreatic tube
with tight leads leading off, not pushed.
5-hour trip (approx. 2 hours exploration). 42 legs, approx. 380m.
All agreed quite enough for one trip! Dinner at El Horno. More
expensive and better than average.
M, P, E, W to Fuente Dé. Fine and hot: good views, found a couple
of “good digs”. Elsa sunned and Bill pottered about in the Tama
river valley: found resurgence.
“Early start” (11:15). Hot sun. P, B, M to Toyu to continue survey.
First surface survey through the horseflies and bracken from
the barn entrance to the sink. Then in sink, abbed down pitches
(sporting again), and a tour of the pool at the bottom for an hour
or so. Then through a relatively direct route to connect with previous
survey station. All got conned down to Pete’s pool “the bottom of
the cave” followed by grotty route to ramp.
Toyu barn entrance
Grand Guinness Ceremony followed, sitting near the sump pools and
duly recorded on film. Exited via barn entrance (short re-survey
on the way), looking at sundry holes and side passages on the way.
Still various leads to be looked at.
6½ hour trip. 45 legs in about 3½–4 hours.
Dinner for all at the campsite.
Packing for P, E, W. B & M back to Toyu. Looked at small hole,
then surface survey from barn entrance → Pete’s entrance → resurgence.
Resurgence interesting with several holes among boulders, including
one with a definite cavey draught blowing out. Probably didn’t go.
Back by 8pm, then all to El Horno for the Expedition Dinner.
Bill, Mike, and Elsa say their goodbyes to the Robertsons at midday
and drove inland via Panes to have a good lunch in Arenas de Cabrales
(fabada, truchas, queso de Cabrales). Then on to the
Cares Gorge to walk to Caín. Measured altitude of canal at 428–433m
(very little slope). Walk up 3:30→6:40. Walk down 7:05→9:40 (3
hours + 2½ hours). Quite impressive.
Supper in Acuario, coffee in Café Moderno, in Posada. Torrential
rain and thunderstorms all night. Tents leak!
Fortunately dry in the morning, then later hot and sunny with a stiff
breeze – ideal drying weather. Off to Llanes for shopping and lunch
(paella). Lazed in the sun for the afternoon. (Last entry
Bill & Elsa Collis, Mike Cowlishaw, Pete, Liz, & baby William Robertson.
Parts of this log were written by Pete.
Other log details:
Exchange rate 189 pesetas/GBP. Sketch survey of Toyu dated 24/7/82. Exploration points system (and scores for 1982 caves).