Volume 45 Number 3 Article 1
Paul Swire (Beardy), Mark Madden and David Magdalena
2-9 May 2009
After a long week at the office, I finally managed a 6.30pm Friday getaway straight from work. Driving non-stop via Hemel Hempstead to pick Mark up, and sailing from Dover to Calais, we finally arrived in Matienzo at 6pm on Saturday, spanish time. Having enjoyed a swift beer or two at Pablo’s we soon pitched camp and got ready for some excellent caving.
Sunday 4th May, Torca del Hombre – Cueva Rio Munio, Ason.
One of the easier through trips that we had left to attempt was in the Sistema del Rio Munio, a remote cave located about two and a half hours walk from the village of Ason in the Ason Gorge. We tried to make an early start but as ever our best laid plans were plagued with cups of tea and gear fettling. So it was nearly lunchtime when we set off up the long path to the cave in the heat of the midday sun. Several sweaty hours later we had reached the high alpine pasture of El Elgueron where our fun began. Being unable to read the description we spent the next two to three hours looking for the cave. Even when we finally found the entrance, one last cruel trick was played, the number painted on the entrance was different to that given in the guidebook. (for future reference the correct number is 453).
Having made a brief reconnaissance to make sure that we had the right cave we packed our gear up and made a start, as time was now getting on. The entrance was rigged from a tree but would have been free climbable, the second pitch was an awesome 57m free hang in an impressive shaft. Below this a short section of cave took us to the head of an 8m pitch with a narrow pitch head followed immediately by a 14m pitch. Another short section of caving led to a 34m pitch and the end of the entrance series. Here we joined a streamway and headed downstream. Partway along at an obvious junction we decided to take a detour via the Galeria Transversal and the Pozo Balcon (15m) to enter the Galeria Principal a massive tunnel, over 10m wide and 20m high. We had a quick trip upstream, to the Sala de la Confusion where we climbed up into an enormous room and investigated a couple of inlet passages. Finally we had a blast, caving quickly out of the cave along the main gallery for over half a kilometre to reach an impressive entrance of Cueva Rio Munio, which was somehow cunningly concealed from view from the path. All that remained now was the long walk down. An extremely enjoyable through trip.
GPS co-ordinates found on the internet
Torca Del Hombre: x: 0447643 y: 4787148 z: 1031
Munio: x: 0448078 y: 4787305 z: 823
Monday 5th May, Cuevamur, Ramales
Having tired legs from Sunday’s trip we looked for something interesting close to the road. Cuevamur seemed to fit the bill. Located a short drive south out of Ramales, in one of the cliffs used by climbers was the huge entrance of Cuevamur. Here we met some Dutch cavers that kindly lent us a laminated survey rather than letting us use my hand drawn attempt. It turned out that one of these cavers was on the 1998 PSM expedition that Pete Hall, Johnny Baker, Carmel & I had participated in. The cave was an enjoyable trip, the entrance was a series of galleries with fixed hand-lines after a short crawl and a short pitch a final long traverse led to the head of a pitch down a huge ramp that we rigged with a 60m rope. From the base of this pitch a complex route led around a long circuit to arrive back at the top of the pitch. Along the way several fun climbs and crawls led past fantastic arrays of helictites and other impressive formations.
Tuesday 6th May (am), Giant Panda - Cueva de la Hoyuca (Cueva Uzueka)
Having enjoyed quite a few beers in Bar German, we had been getting a comprehensive update on new discoveries from Pete Smith an ex-pat British caver living in Matienzo. We enticed him along to show us a new through trip.
Taking two cars made the trip far more enjoyable. Pete took us directly to the new Giant Panda entrance where a few pitches on trashed fixed rope took us to a series of narrow crawls and climbs. Finally these dropped into the Gorilla Walk about 100m from it’s downstream end. The new entrance makes access to the further reaches of Uzueka much easier and with this in mind Pete suggested a trip to the Astradome a very spectacular 100m high aven some distance further into the system. Mark and I jumped at the opportunity of a guided tour. The caving to the Astradome was varied and extremely enjoyable. Knowing that our friend from Barcelona was going to arrive that afternoon we made a quick exit out of the original Uzueka entrance enjoying the full length of the Gorilla Walk and only getting temporarily lost within 20m of the entrance.
Tuesday 6th May (pm), Cueva del Molino (Cueva del Agua) Matienzo.
David Magdelena (SIE), arrived from Barcelona at about 4pm after a seven hour drive. We had a couple of beers and then he was really keen to get caving as he’d not been underground since last autumn. I chose Cueva del Agua as a fun evening trip. I was last there in August 1996 so it was about time I visited the cave again. Donning wetsuits, we spent a fantastic hour or two in this pleasant river cave. It didn’t need any tackle abut some of the cascades were quite sporting and the swims in the far reaches were very long. At the final sump we explored some nicely decorated chambers before heading back out for a sumptuous evening meal.
Wednesday 7th May, Torca del Coterón to Cueva de la Reñada (via Ramal Codisera), Matienzo.
With our spanish friend here we were ready to try something bigger and more difficult. But some of my suggestions were frowned upon as Mark was caving with a broken rib and David hadn’t been caving for nine months. Any mention of tight and serious was not taken seriously. So we plumped for Coterón to Reñada via the Codisera arm of the system. This was a longer alternative trip to the traverse that we’d made about five years ago with the added bonus of avoiding the P69(Edge of the Universe). As ever we spent some considerable time trying to locate the Coterón entrance. However we did find it and quickly got changed. I quickly got unchanged as I had sat down upon an ants nest and was being bitten by hundreds of ants that were now lurking inside my furry suit. Sometime later I had dispatched all of the ants and mark had rigged the entrance pitch (P54). David & I soon joined him and we enjoyed a pleasant trip through the Codisera Arm of the system. We were surprised at what a none-event the Ghost Lake was, as the Spanish Guidebook recommended an inflatable boat! - soon we were back on old ground heading towards the muddy entrance – the whole of the route was reasonably well marked.
Thursday 8th May, Cueva Coventosa, Ason.
David had to drive back to Barcelona on Thursday afternoon, but he was keen to snatch one last trip. We decided that a trip to the lakes in Coventosa would be a suitable finale. Mark and I had not been to the lakes since 1996 when we had made the big through trip from Sima del Cueto. The short walk to the entrance was a pleasure and as soon as we were inside the impressive nature of the huge galleries were a joy to behold. The two pitches down did have some tackle on, but we added our rope to the first pitch. With the pitches behind us we headed off upstream with plenty of other climbs up and down, long traverses to avoid deep pools of water and the odd pitch up and down. All to soon we arrived at the first lake stretching off into the distance with a thin rope in-situ for pulling inflatable boats along. The trip out was just as enjoyable, David and I made a short detour to the Sala de Fantasmas to admire it’s size and it’s formations. David was suitably impressed with the trip. And as an introduction to continental caving, a trip to the lakes in Coventosa has to rank among one of the best in Europe it is absolutely stunning.
After this it started raining and never stopped, so we headed off home looking forward to our next visit to Matienzo and Cantabria.
Hierro ,José Glonzález, Aventura te por la comarca del Ason (2001)
García , Jose León, Cantabria subterránea: catálogo de las grandes cavidades (1997)
Revuelta, Isidoro Ortiz, Grandes Travesias, 40 Integrales Espanolas (1995)