Lago Ercina

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 The Battle of
 El Mazuco

Expedition log, Summer 2015

San Vicente, Potes, Llanes, Cabañuca, Fuentica.

New: click on any thumbnail image for a full-size version.
01.08 A staggered start this year; Mike to Oviedo (delayed three hours), Bill to Santander a few days later.  Once in Oviedo was soon on the road to San Vicente and (partly due to the motorway between Llanes and Unquera now being complete) arrived in time for a late dinner. Llanes parking, for a break, was almost impossible! 
View of Arenas from walk

View of Arenas from walk

High temperature forecast (it turned out to be a high of 29.8°C) so went inland to Arenas for a mostly shady walk NE from the town to La Cabreriza and circling back SE.  Not much limestone; just a few outcrops.  Hot.  Lunch – trout with bacon, etc. – at Sidreria La Jueya (east end of main street) then to Ortiguero for a short walk in search of breeze.  Then via Meré and El Mazuco (to visit Pozo de Fresno) to Llanes to visit a cheese festival and a stroll around the town.  Dinner in San Vicente, Bar Colón; excellent fritos de merluza.
View from Puenta del Fraile

View from Puenta del Fraile

Another very hot day (27°C), tried a coast walk this time, starting at Punta del Fraile (just west of San Vicente) circling east and back (with a stop at the very welcome Posada El Balcón) just north of Santillán and via the beach below the Point.  Lunch in Comillas next door to last year’s restaurant (which is closed on Mondays) up the Calle de Aldea – not recommended, then did some sightseeing, notably El Capricho de Gaudí – a highly decorated mini-mansion.
Bárcena Mayor

Bárcena Mayor

Cloudy and wet on the coast.  A good day to head south.  First stop Bárcena Mayor – a remarkable village like a larger version of Bulnes, but unfortunately accessible to cars.  Then south towards Reinosa, noting various limestone outcrops seen from Balcón de la Cardosa (not very promising), and over the Puerto de Palombera pass (1260m).
Julióbriga Roman town

Julióbriga Roman town

Next, to the Roman town of Julióbriga, which is close to Bolmir, just south of Reinosa.  Museum closed, but the remains were interesting.

Usual problems finding a restaurant for lunch in Reinosa, but stumbled over the same restaurant as in 2012 (Mesón las Fuentes); this time chose the chuletillas de lechazo – very acceptable.  Back to the coast in better weather and a walk around Santillana.  Dinner of cogote de Merluza (nape of Hake) at Rte. Las Redes in SV, washed down with Marqués de Riscal, was excellent.  Enjoyed the (nearly) Full Moon.

05.08 Decided to investigate the ridge of limestone to the west of Puente Viesgo (re-spotted from the Motorway on the way to Torrelavega on 04.08).
Depression and saddle near Barrio Santa María

Depression and saddle near Barrio Santa María

First approached from the north, a little west of Vargas; a nice little road led to Barrio Santa María del Monte, from there a shortish hike to a medium-sized depression.  Descended ... just a muddy sink. Very little other limestone on the north side, so around (via Puente Viesgo) to the southern side and La Bárcena.  Impressive-looking but nothing obviously speleological.

Retired to the coast, Suances, for lunch; a huge beach but an otherwise unattractive town, apart from some pleasant coast walks.  A dinner (menú) of two halves at Bar Colón; certainly the worst-ever paella – rice swimming in 5mm of oil – as the starter, followed by superb fritos de Merluza.

06.08 To Santander Airport to meet Bill.  Then to Casa Gloria in Camijanes for an average menú.  Decided to cross over to Panes via Merodio and look for a cave Bill remembers from 1973.
Mike in Cueva de Casamaria

Mike in Cueva de Casamaria

Didn’t find that, but instead noticed on our new electronic ‘offline’ maps a small valley ending in a saddle (which a road crossed), at Casamaría.  A quick diversion and walk down a track led to a stream which, in turn, led to a cave! We went in 10m (stopped because not in caving clothes); the cave continues at least 8m more (📌).  We then looked below the saddle and found a possible resurgence.

Well pleased with finding a new cave on the day of Bill’s arrival, we continued on to El Mazo to visit La Loja show cave (closed, 📌) and then to La Hermida for a snack of Picón (cheese).  Then to Potes to check-in, followed by an evening of grazing tapas, etc.

07.08 A grey day, with clouds touching the mountains.  First to Fuente Dé to find the source of the River Deva (indeterminate/dry) and to gauge the cloudbase.  Definitely below the upper cablecar station, so cancelled plans to drive up to Áliva.
Riega Cicera; pothole in the wall

Riega Cicera; pothole in the wall

Instead looked for a road to the limestone East of Cueva de Fair Share (unsuccessfully), followed by a pleasant lunch at Rte. Paquin in La Hermida.  Then up to Bejes for some aggressive cheese and chat to the locals, followed by a walk up the Riega Cicera to view the ‘pothole in the wall’ (📌).  Somewhat damp, so back to Potes to write up the log, followed by criollo and large “chuletillas” at Asador Llorente.
Latarma valley

Latarma valley

Grey at first, but the sun came out as we started to walk up the Latarma valley, past Cueva del Toyu (track).  Walked up beyond the saddle above Cororigo resurgence (📌), but turned back before Cueva La Huerta so as not to miss lunch at Casa Gloria in Camijanes.  Lunch was very noisy, with a local pipe, drum, and tambourine band, etc., as it was a fiesta day.

After lunch, again decided to cross over to Panes via Merodio and look for the cave Bill remembers from 1973.  Found the right track this time (at 📌) but the meadow on the left, with the cave, is now a gorse jungle.  Thrashed around in that for some time before admitting defeat and retiring to Posada La Cuadrona in La Hermida for some creamy blue Picón cheese. Light supper in Casa Angel.

09.08 After a large breakfast (ham & cheese tortilla) in Casa Cayo we decided to drive south west, knowing that limestone might be in short supply! The alternative would have been into the Picos where Sunday traffic (walkers) would be excessive.  But there was little traffic on the N621 which is just as well for a mountain road with many hairpins! The views were spectacular, particularly from the Puerto de San Glorio pass at 1599m (somewhat reminiscent of the Rockies in Colorado).  Some of the sandstone peaks were covered by lichen which gave the rock a beautiful green appearance – discernible even over kilometres.

Pandetrave pass panorama

Pandetrave pass panorama

Descending into the province of León we turned north again at Portilla de la Reina towards Posada de Valdeón.  From the high point (Puerto de Pandetrave, 1566m) we could see the Picos and in particular the valley up from Espinama towards Áliva.  The road traversed carboniferous limestone (Caliza de Montaña) but other than a spring or two, little of speleological note.

Cablecar upper station, from Mirador de Llesba

Cablecar upper station, from Mirador de Llesba

Retracing our route back to Portilla we continued on better road to Riaño where we visited the museum commemorating the old (now flooded) Riaño and ate well at Hotel Presa: roast cabrito (goat) for Bill, chuletillas for Mike, and a 2011 bottle of Vallebueno Ribera del Duero. Excellent food, wine, and service.

On the return we took a detour from Puerto de San Glorio to see Mirador de Llesba at the Collado de Llesba; more magnificent views of the Picos.  Menú de la noche at Bodegon Aguilar (just next to Casa Cayo).

Áliva walk; Bill and snow

Áliva walk; Bill and snow

After breakfast we drove again to Espinama and took the mountain track up to the Refugio Áliva (1666m).  The Toyota managed quite well but Bill complained he would have preferred a higher-torque diesel.  Although a Monday, there were plenty of walkers coming down from the cable car.  We walked up the “usual” track (past the Chalet Real to the Horcadina de Covarrobres pass, 1933m, and along the ‘flat bit’) for 3.7 km in 1:20 and back down again by a slightly steeper but more direct route (just north of Cuetos de Juan Toribio) in 55 minutes.  Didn’t see any Chamois.

It was much easier to drive down the track and we lunched at Restaurante Maximo in Espinama: tabla for Bill and lomo for Mike, washed down with 2012 Izadi (Rioja).  A hot day (31°C in Espinama).

Picón at La Hermida

Picón at La Hermida

A travel-to-Llanes and caving day.  First, after a stop for some more Picón at La Cuadrona in La Hermida, was Cabañuca for a nice big ‘walk-in’ cave for some caving and photography experiments [main result: with image stabilization, hand-held shots at 1/5s were successful, but that’s too slow for a moving subject caver].

Cabañuca passageway

Cabañuca passageway

First, however, the ‘grassy slope’ down to the cave had to be negotiated; it is now a thicket of bracken, bramble, and hawthorn.  Somewhat bloodied (and grateful for the caving helmets we were wearing) a pleasant caving trip followed, scrambling down over boulders.  Next (after more fun in the thicket) was lunch, at Rte. Cares in Arenas: ham salad and stuffed peppers for Bill, fabes and filete for Mike, all good.

Soon it was late enough to visit the Gamonéu Cheese museum in Demués – open from 17:00 to 19:00 in July and August, according to its website.  We eventually found it: closed, deserted, and no visible evidence of cheese.  Re-checked Cueva del Agua then to Rales to visit María Carmen and her husband Leopoldo, friends from the 1970s. Also met up with them later, in Llanes.

12.08 After deciding that Cueva a Sul was too wet we settled on an ambitious photographic trip in La Fuentica (Rales System).
Fuentica; Bill near squalid pool

Fuentica; Bill near squalid pool

A 10 minute walk up the hill and over the saddle (📌) brought us to the well-known entrance, also now getting more overgrown (track). Mike’s floodlight (see Notes) provided extraordinary illumination. This time we noted considerable flood debris in various states of decomposition including a large tree trunk.  And, also, one of the infamous “squalid pools” of the 1970s has reappeared and obstructed progress.  Bill managed to crawl through some mud round the side of the pool and proceeded for 100m and then up the left hand ramp toward the downstream series. On return he accidentally measured the depth of the pool which reached his upper thigh! Meanwhile Mike was taking photos...

After a quick wash at the Fuente Pumares (on the old Rales road) we proceeded to Bar Roxin in El Mazuco only to be told that without a reservation we would have to wait an hour.  So we retraced our route back to El Sucón for ribs, chorizo, criollo and patatas oli.  Then back to Llanes via Posada.  A very light supper of cheeses at La Amistad.

13.08 A wet and windy day.  After abandoning Bill to his fate at Santander Airport – the airport forgot to load his rucksack onto the aeroplane and delivered it two days later – Mike headed west in the hope of finding some sunshine.  A brief glimmer while passing Unquera prompted him to turn south an re-visit the track off the Merodio road visited earlier (08.08).  We had since noticed a more open area further along the track, and indeed this proved to be relatively gorse-free.  Some serious bracken-bashing ensued, but no cave found – but a pleasant walk, overall.

Then a round trip via Cangas back to Llanes for lunch of solomillo con salsa de setas; constant, if light, rain.  The rain cleared later so walked out to Playa Toró and back into Llanes via the site of the old El Brao campsite.  A diversion into Barrio La Cava led to the discovery of two (very small) caves.

14.08 An uneventful drive (mostly in the dark) to Asturias Airport, and later a much less-pleasant 4-hour drive from Stansted to Coventry.


  1. Exchange rate: 1.425 (compared to 1.25 in 2014); 70p = 1 Euro = 166 pesetas (237 pts/GBP).
  2. Weather: after a very hot start, pleasant, 18–23°C max most days; a couple of damp days.
  3. The pictures in this log were mostly taken using a Panasonic DMC-LF1 camera; its stabilisation and F/2 lens allowed the cave photographs here to be taken hand-held and lit by the headlamps we were wearing.
    Also used were a DMC-GM5 µ4/3 camera, with various lenses, and (in La Fuentica) a Manfrotto Muse LED floodlight.
  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 (Lartarma and Rales) were recorded as GPS tracks; the .gpx files are linked above as ‘track’ and can also be found on the Speleogroup tracks page; where Google Earth links can also be found.
  6. Fixes and tracks were recorded using a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Android ’phone using the MyTrails app.
  7. This log was almost entirely edited in the field on an ASUS T-100 ‘Transformer’ 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.
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This page was last edited on 2020-04-03 by mfc.