Site list (GPS fixes)
Walks (GPS tracks)
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
Expedition log, Summer 2005
Rales System, Peña Blanca, Espinosa, Ramales, Durango, etc.
Mike is within a minute of missing connection in Paris but makes
it (with gear) to Bilbao at 14:30. Bill’s direct flight from Milan
is less successful, and he ends up arriving (via Brussels and sans
gear) at 21:38, which gives Mike plenty of time to collect the car
and explore the nearby coast. Eventually get to hotel in Castro Urdiales
around 23:00 then out to hunt for dinner at 23:20. All the restaurants
around the port were packed and still serving; Chuletillas went
down very well.
Hung around Castro for minor shopping, etc., until news noonish that
Bill’s bag would be on the 13:43 from Brussels, then drove to BIO
(Bilbao Sondika airport) to collect. Huge traffic jams outgoing from
and around Bilbao, so at 15:00 cut off the motorways and into the
city centre for the first menú del día of the trip. Back
on the road at 16:30, and (with a short stop in heavy rain at Ruente)
arrived Llanes at 19:30; new hotel (Don Paco »).
First objective a cave, of course: Cueva Bolado (near Llanes)
for exploration and photos of the modern cave paintings. | Then on up to Alto
de la Tornería (on the way to El Mazuco) for the first walk of
the day: an unsuccessful search for Rafa’s Cabaña. Then (after
photos of the village for Mike’s translation of the Battle of El Mazuco) we walk up to Ojo del Río Belugas to reconnoitre
a route towards Peña Blanca. March to the sound of the pipes and
we find a lad practising his Asturian bagpipes deep in the forest
(where nobody can hear him except every caver within 1km).
Bolado - modern art
Quick visit to Cueva de Caldueñín to take advantage of the exceptionally
low water levels this July; in fact there was no running water at
all – the main streambed was dry. Usual sump downstream, upstream
were only some deep pools easily passable in wetsuits. At 14:15 lunch
was served in El Roxin bar at El Mazuco. Chorizo criollo, chuletillas
(Mike), lomo (Bill), and Cabrales cheese. Back to the hotel and
a walk around town, and dinner at Rte. Covadonga.
Purón first; up to El Cuevón de la Pruneda where we instantly
discovered 20m of new inlet passage which was now obvious as the
main stream was dry. Down to the wetter bit where Bill splashed on
almost to the first pitch, needing some wading, while Mike took advantage
of the total darkness to carry out perception experiments. After
the good caving, then walked up to the saddles above Las Conchas
cabañas (750m SE of the cave), finding a series of interesting
but immature speleological features. We turned back after exploring
a depression with a fine old tree, many Hollies, and a good ‘Mendip
dig’ at N43°22'11" W4°42'48".
Back down the hill, and then visited Pedro at La Verde Purón to show him our latest LED lights and exchange news.
Next on to Casa Poli, perfectly timing our arrival just before the
Sunday lunchtime hordes, for a tapas lunch. More walking around
town and an unsuccessful Internet search, followed by dinner at the
restaurant on the street above above Las Rocas.
Unlocking the door caused our Citreon CS to partially lose its mind:
‘Christmas tree’ instrument panel. A Power On Reset (disconnecting
the battery) fixed the problem. | Then in wet grey misty
weather off to look for routes approaching Turbina or Peña Blanca
from the SW or S. The most promising looked like the route via Asiego
and Tebrandi, above Carreña deCabrales. Stopped at Hotel Torrecerredo » (a little hard to find, on the western edge of
Arenas de Cabrales, but the owner, Jim Thomson, wasn’t in. Tried
some more route explorations around Llenín, then (via new Cangas
bypass) to Ribadesella for lunch at Mesón Miño. Stopped at Rales
for social calls on the way back to Llanes and a photo of Llabres
Llabres from the West
Nicer weather, so off to Samoreli and Pozo del Molino (above Rales),
both nice caves; the duck/crawl at the bottom of the latter showed
signs of being dug out, but did not look clear. In contrast the
streamway entrance to Samoreli which had been comletely blocked by
a tree-trunk in the 1980s was open again. LED lamps (1W headlamps,
3W torches) perfectly adequate even in the large boulder-strewn passage.
Sidrería Cabañón in Naves for lunch (fine chuletillas),
after which Bill went to Rales to organize a caving trip for Thursday.
Even nicer weather, so back to the Purón area and up to Pruneda
to investigate the line of depressions due West of the cave (El Brañizu)
shown on the map. These were interesting, but nothing big enough
for an enterable cave. Lunch at the Sidrería on the road to Purón.
Excellent merluza dinner at Terraza in Llanes.
10:30 appointment for caving in Rales. After waiting for Jorge and
family we ascended the track to the Fuentica entrance.
Isabel & Leopoldo remained outside, while the remaining party of
11 entered at about 11:15. Maria-Carmen and the youngest child soon
exited, as planned, leaving 9 to continue. The sump area (before
the climb) seemed to have been opened up by floods but yielded no
new passage. Enterprising cavers have put a couple of handlines at
key points in the treacherous dry passage leading to the streamway.
Juanjo finds a very tame blind eel, about 20cm long, which Bill photographs
in the stream. Nobody seemed keen on wading in the water to the pitch
so we made a steady return to the entrance without incident for a
total trip length of 2 hours. The younger members of the party were
remarkably competent underground and want to return with us again
We washed in the river and drove to a Sidrería in Mestas for a
variety of Fabada based on local green beans, stuffed onions, Cabrales
cheese, tortos. After a drink in another bar we returned to Leopoldo
and Carmen’s house where we exchanged digital photographs onto CD,
including Leopoldo’s from the 1985 trip into Fuentica.
Another good dinner at Terraza: escalopines, bonito, Rioja.
A prompt start in perfect weather soon brought us to Carreña de
Cabrales and then up to Asiego, where enquiry at the bar ascertained
that the road beyond the village was passable, though steep and with
many precipices – which proved to be no exaggeration. Bill’s careful
driving got us safely to the end of the road, at Tebrandi Δ, ~780m, where we started the ascent towards
Peña Blanca. A very steep but clear track took up rapidly up to
Collado Virzu (979m) and then due N towards Peña Blanca into an
area of mixed rocks and depressions. Crossing these, and then bearing
slightly west of north, took us up into clean limestone and then
to another pass at Los Virzos, with a truly breathtaking view west
and north to the sea: |
Sea view from Los Virzos
From here on there was no real path, and the deep sharp limestone
clints and torcas made the going difficult and hazardous. However,
we did get to 1130m – within 50m of Peña Blanca – with more stunning
views, before being forced to turn back by cliffs. We managed to
vary our route in places and explore various speleological possibilities
on the way back, making for an excellent walk (500+m of ascent, 3.5
A late lunch in Arenas at the ‘triangular restaurant’ [Restaurante
Café Cares] was much appreciated (lomo, chuletillas, huevos,
etc.). Later, our dinner plans for Ribadesella were thwarted by it
being the evening before the Descent of the Sella » (Fiesta de las Piraguas) – every tiny patch
of grass was occupied by a tent, and the town was impenetrable.
We escaped along the coast road towards Llanes and soon came across
a good fish restaurant, but both found that more meat was called
for, after the long walk.
Sorted out our caving gear then east to Suarias and Cabañuca
cave. Usual descent through gorse to fine entrance. Good caving,
but we were again halted by the free climb (as we remembered, but
on 15.08.1988 we used a rope) at the bottom of the
20m pitch – the top of the climb is poor rock and loose boulders
with no good place to belay a handline, which we both felt would
Being in the Deva gorge, we had a fine excuse to visit La Hermida
(Rte. Paquin) for the traditional Paella etc. Then up to Bejes:
where we drove as far towards towards the National Park as we were
allowed to, and as far up the side valley as the car allowed us to
(being unable to handle the slope, even in 1st). Not very far in
either case; Bill gets extra reversing practice.
Back to Llanes in time to get what was probably the last free table
at Sidrería Cabañón in Naves.
Leave Llanes for the return to the East. We decided on an indirect
route passing through Burgos province to see the karst and cave of
Ojo Guareña ». A fine streamway sinks in the Sumidero at the foot of a
cliff face. Above in the cliff are numerous caves including Cueva
del Ermita, a show cave (closed for much of the day). Footpaths led
us to the ‘Cueva de las Moscas’, so named by us due to the large
number of winged insects clinging to the walls. It’s only about 15m
long but we did get out of daylight. Above the cliff is a large shallow
Karst depression – plateau might be a better description – with
unusually fractured surface limestone with almost desert-like flora.
One (or more) large shafts penetrate this providing access to the
Ojo Guareña; they are securely fenced off to prevent anyone falling
Continuing to Cornejo we saw an interesting area with caves near
the road north of the village, but were too hungry and late to stop
– so on to Espinosa de los Monteros » for a fine lunch. Esparragos and “historic”
cordero lechal asado (roast suckling lamb) for Mike, paella
and solomillo de cerdo for Bill.
Then headed north over the Portillo de la Sía (1200m) for a magnificent
panoramic view of the Cordillera Cantábrica and beyond to the sea.
Continued north to the head of the Asón valley:
On the left, in the shadow,
is the source of the river – a famous cascade coming out of the
limestone cliff face (at this time of year reduced to a trickle).
A 15-minute walk up the hillside verified that indeed there is an
enterable cave at the Nascimiento del Río Asón.
To the surprise of waiting Spaniards, Bill wades in through the entrance
pool. A straight stooping passage with sandstone floor opens out
inside but soon leads to a yet deeper pool (1.2m deep). Not wearing
appropriate kit, a retreat is made. Never out of sight of daylight
but 25m of nice clean streamway explored.
Ason source, Bill wading
A slow drive east and then up to San Pedro reveals how little we
recall of the Speleogroup camp there in 1977. We explore
a possible big resurgence lower down but the mirage turns out to
be a substantial rock shelter carved out by a river (now dry). After
a beer in Ramales we arrive at Vista Alegre in Castro Urdiales at
20:45 in time to change for a last dinner in the town. However,
we only eat a plate of bread and sheep cheese, washed down with Cava.
| Drive to BIO (Bilbao Sondika airport) via Otañes (bar closed!)
for Mike’s flight at 13:15 (uneventful return to UK via CDG, though
with uncomfortably tight connection again).
Bilbao airport apron
After dropping Mike at the airport, Bill drove south to the Parque
Natural de Urkiola, south of Durango, which is 30km SE of Bilbao.
4km south of Dima he came across the hamlet of Baltzola and a limestone
cliff face containing an easy cave of the same name. A ten minute
walk up a track under a natural rock arch leads to the cliff face
containing several entrances. The southern part of the valley is
sandstone; there is a small stream.
The main entrance, some 4m in diameter, presented 3 ways on. Below
was the streamway via a free-climbable 2m pitch which presumably
exited immediately. To the left was a fossil inlet with easy climbs
but requiring access from the streamway. To the right, avoiding the
pitch, was a high level passage parallel to the streamway and obviously
the main continuation some 4m above the stream. Wearing only a hat
and normal clothes the 2m pitch seemed excessive! Taking the path
of least resistance the right hand passage was followed and the streamway
was soon rejoined in sight of further abandoned sink entrances. These
entrances are of such a scale that one remains in sight of daylight
throughout the 120m of passage. However the side passages on the
left take one out of daylight and it may be that they lead to interesting
Some 100m upstream of the top entrances is another short tunnel of
50m leading to a large catchment area in sandstone. In short, fine
tourist cave containing at least 250m of walking passage. (A Google
search suggests that another tourist cave in the area is Cueva del
Jentilkoca de Mugara.)
Bill returns to Milan.
Personnel: Bill Collis & Mike Cowlishaw.
Exchange rate: 1.44; 69.4p = 1 Euro = 166 pesetas (239 pts/GBP).
Weather: Hot and sunny (27°C–34°C) after 01.08.2005.
GPS (Garmin Geko 201) positions in °,′,″ using European
1950 datum (matching maps in Spanish blue series).
This log was edited in the field on an NEC 780 HPC, using the MemoWiki » extended Wiki notation which is then processed by a Rexx » script to generate the HTML for this web page.