The 1978 Expedition

Peter Smith

   The 1978 expedition was the first to be led by Juan Corrin, and had fewer members than in previous years, with only half a dozen cavers present at any time.

   One of its first objectives was Torca de Solviejo in Secadura, as it was known that a club based at Laredo, Grupo Espeleológico "Torca", had been exploring it during the winter and they had connected it with Torca del Rayo de Sol, discovered by the expedition in 1976. In the typical style of caving at that time, 2700 metres of the main passages were surveyed and photographed in just 6 trips. The system was bottomed at a depth of 111 metres. It isn't surprising therefore that the survey produced clearly has some errors, seen for example in the way that the shafts in one passage do not line up with the avens in the passage that should be below them. Nevertheless, this system, totalling 3.5 km in length, provided some large passages and impressive formations. It became one of the main systems in the Matienzo area and was featured later in the popular book Grandes Travesías: 40 Integrales Españoles by Isidoro Ortiz (1995).

    Also in Secadura, a Yorkshire-type pot called Torca de Simón was explored to 69m in depth and a length of 330m. A "question mark" at the end of a second passage leading off the entrance shaft wasn't checked out until 1992, when the cave was extended to 823m in length.

    These on-going caves and some bad weather were given as the reasons for the little attention paid to Cueva Uzueka, the main cave being explored in those years. However, one interesting trip was made on 19th July, when a weather balloon and a bottle of helium were taken to the Astradome. The idea was to measure the height of this spectacular aven and, at the same time, let the balloon carry up a flashgun so that the aven could be photographed. The second of these aims was not totally successful, but the balloon succeeded in reaching a height of 101.6 metres.

    Other work carried out in the area of the Four Valleys System included maypoling in Cueva Carcavuezo and the exploration of a new shaft called Torca de Cellarón. In Carcavuezo, as diving the sump had been unsuccessful in 1977, a team tried to reach a passage in a rift above the sump. The maypole was erected from a bolt at the side of the sump lake, and on a second trip, the rift was reached. However the passage ended in a boulder choke after only 20 feet. Torca de Cellarón is located on the hill between Llueva and Secadura. A single trip descended the 155 foot entrance shaft, and explored and surveyed half a kilometre of large passage, including a massive chamber.

   Two trips were taken over another new find, called Torca del Mostajo. The entrance shaft was explored, through the first series of passages, down to the bottom of two chambers. The length surveyed was 325m. A possible continuation in the roof was noted, but this was only to be pursued in 1983.

    Among other activities, the entrance of Cueva Fresnedo I was located, and Cueva Cobrantes was surveyed and photographed. In Matienzo two shafts above South Vega were descended: Cueva del Abono and Torca del Serruco. Both these are further examples of rushed exploration, with extensions being made 20 and 25 years later respectively.
Another new site was Fuente las Varas Pot, explored 400 feet upstream and down a 90 ft pitch.

    The report of the expedition, which surveyed nearly three miles of new cave, was published in MUSS Journal 9. It includes the quote "great potential remains", although no one could really imagine what some of the leads that had been found were going to reveal.