The 1980 Expedition

Peter Smith

   The results of the 1979 expedition had not been brilliant, but a great deal of interest was generated in the 1980 trip, in which several different caving groups took part. Once again, the main objective was to join Uzueka and Cueva Llueva. The fault chamber in Cueva Llueva, which had been looked at in 1979 was climbed again, reaching a height of 60m above the stream, but with no sign of the hypothetical passage that would by-pass the upstream sump. On 12 August, this sump was dived by P. Papard and F. Winstanley, who succeeded in passing it. They found a phreatic tube, a crawl and then a large chamber ending in boulders. Two days later they returned with another two divers, while another team of four went in to the end of Uzueka, armed with whistles. However neither of the parties heard anything of the others, and in fact the caves were still 170m apart. The connection would not be made until 1986, after the discovery of new passages in Llueva.
   On the 9th August, T. Fifield and A. Sweetman made an important extension during a 15 hour overnight trip into Uzueka. They surveyed 800m in Third River Inlet, ending near the sump in Torcón.

    Other work in the area of the Four Valleys System included return visits to Torca de Cellarón (found in 1978). It was photographed, including the 50m wide main chamber, while a pit at the deepest point of the cave was descended, finding that it choked at a depth of 14m. Other small extensions were made in different parts of the cave. Also, several shafts were descended on the ridge near Fuente las Varas and at the head of the Secadura valley.

    The divers were active in Sifón Claro (Secadura), where they found that the account given by a certain diver in 1977 was basically a pack of lies, and in Reñada. On 20th August, they dived through to Reñada II, and had a quick look at the boulder choke ending the cave, noting three possible ways on. On the same trip, some of the sherpas looked round the final passages in Reñada I, and spotted the start of a new passage, explored the following year and named Bootlace Passage.

    The longest new cave of the expedition turned out to be Fuente de la Cuvía in Riaño. The small entrance led to stream passage and larger well-decorated tunnels, totalling 735 metres in length.

    In 1980, considerable work was done on Mullir, by different groups. Some time was spent locating new shafts, and several of these were descended, such as a 58m deep and blind shaft located right on the top of Muela. Later in the month, a group from Portsmouth Polytechnic joined the expedition and spent many days dropping shafts on Mullir. Their deepest find was number 212 (-150m). These finds and other minor exploration was recorded in MUSS Journal 10.

    However, before the summer 1981 expedition was to take place, there were several events of note. In the autumn and winter a group of young people from Matienzo became interested in caving, and while they were active, explored and surveyed caves such as La Cuevuca and Cubío de Cubija. Secondly, a small group of British cavers came out at Easter 1981, pioneering a new pattern to the expeditions. Last but not least, BCRA Transactions Vol. 8 no.2 was dedicated exclusively to Matienzo Caves, with a photo of Cellarón main chamber on the front cover.

Caves & Caving no 11: Matienzo 1980 article