The Matienzo explorers enjoyed summer weather for most of the time at Easter and in the summer. About 5.4km of passage were surveyed, split more or less
equally between both periods, including nearly a kilometer of resurveying
in the Catalans site VT62 (1176) and 2250m
in the new site Torca de Papá Noel
(1471). Various groups augmented the usual
expedition members including Adolfo, Jordi and friends from the Espeleo Club
Tortosa and AA. EE. T de Valls, Santi Urrutia from ADES (Gernika) and members
of Liverpool University Potholing Club and
Sheffield University Speleological
Society. The number of sites on the list of speleological interest increased
by 133, giving a total of 1593 with over 223km of cave passage. With the
recent removal of the GPS inaccuracy, we were able to start repositioning
some sites in their correct places on the maps.
In summary, and described within the various cave areas, the highlights of
exploration were as follows.
Four Valleys System
At Easter, a substantial length of stream passage (264m) was entered up a
15m aven at the end of Shrimpbone Inlet in Cueva Hoyuca
(0107). The two long trips at the far end
of Hoyuca found the passage dividing and ending at a number of avens. Some
unexplored passage remains to be pushed. During the summer, work was concentrated
around the entrance passages where the unexpected, low level Wildlife
Series was entered down a pitch, 10m from the squeeze into the start
of Quadraphenia on the main route. About 300m was surveyed here, bringing
the total length of surveyed passage in the Four Valleys System to 42853m.
Site 1496, in an interesting position over
Hoyuca, is a draughting low crawl and this was partially excavated in a wide
The main road improvements through the depression have cut back into the
limestone in a number of places, exposing a number of interesting holes.
The road-side dig, site 1452, was excavated
at Easter to the head of a 70m pitch which dropped into
Cueva Bollón (0098). Upstream exploration was attempted during both Easter and summer, but the
water levels appeared too high. A prolonged period of dry weather is required
to make progress through the aqueous boulder choke. This top entrance will
be preferable for attempting to extend the cave rather than the old, bottom
entrance route that needs diving gear to pass three small sumps.
Just 100m up the road from 1452, "The Road Show"
(site1506) was entered at the end of the
Easter expedition. This 50m segment has good formations and a possible dig.
Cave of the Six Shafts (site 0543) was
finally relocated and partially re-explored after being "lost" for 23 years.
North Vega and El Naso
Cofresnedo (site 0065), a prominent entrance
and large passage on the northwest side of El Naso, has been known and probably
used since humans first encountered the enclosed depression. Various artifacts
and human remains have been found in the cave and Spanish archaeologists
now have permission to excavate in the cave. The cave was inspected in the
summer so that digging could start in the autumn.
A fair amount of prospecting work was carried out on El Naso and various
new and old holes were descended. There are some areas where complete
re-exploration and re-positioning will be needed as the GPS is showing up
Site 1572 was first spotted while sitting
outside the Vega bar looking at the southern side of El Naso. High up in
cliffs above Cueva Rascavieja, the prominent
entrance seemed to be rather difficult to get to. As it turned out access
was via an easy climb down a stepped limestone pinnacle. The cave turned
out to have a 5m high and 3m wide entrance, with phreatic passage rising
to a crawl and choke after 30m. To the east, a number of small animal shelters
Some digging was carried out in sites 0813
and 0815 where good draughts promise a
link with the North Vega System below.
South Vega and Seldesuto
Extensions in Arenal (site 0035) were surveyed
and pushed beyond the Foam Dome over Easter, Whit and the summer, working
with the cavers from the Catalan caving groups.
A number of sites were explored on the South Vega hillside during Easter
and a couple held exciting prospects for the summer
(1338 and Torca de Papá Noel
1471). As it happened, site 1338 was tackled
up but not pushed and efforts were concentrated in Papá Noel. Over
2.2km was surveyed in this 225m deep system. The entrance series lies over
the hub of the South Vega System where Torca
de Coteron links with Reñada and
it was thought at one stage that a giant boulder choke could provide a link
down into Coteron. However, the cave has headed west and is apparently very
close to the Coffin Levels in Torca
de Azpilicueta. The cave has some very large and impressive sections
and may eventually provide a number of routes to different sections of the
South Vega System. There are a number of leads to push.
More prospecting and shaft descending was carried out during the summer.
For example, site 1538 has a shaft and
cave entrance into a small chamber with a descending rift that chokes. In
another hole, 1542, 30m of stooping and
crawling ended in a low chamber with gour pools.
One of the draughting digs up the Azpilicueta track at Seldesuto was continued
and another couple of promising roaring holes were discovered only 60m
At Easter, Martin Holroyd carried out a couple of dives in upstream Vallina - breaking surface into a short
canal at the end but then meeting the next sump. 230m was surveyed.
In Cueva Coquisera (Cueva Codisera - site
0039), the top shaft entrances were finally surveyed though to the main cave,
but this exposed a glaring error in one of the original (British) surveys. Cueva Abono was linked to a top entrance,
Cueva Tizones (78) was "finished" at the
high level, adding 156m to the length.Jivero 1 was dived through and linked to
At Easter, Sima de la Garma de los Trillos
- site 1176 or VT62 was explored and resurveyed after an invitation from
the Catalans. The cave is draughting strongly and in a prime position to
link into Vallina or the South Vega System. In the summer, efforts were diverted
elsewhere and this site remains to be pushed.
In Torca de Reguilon (site 0046) a bolt
route was started part way down the 70m entrance pitch to a possible
In Cueva Copudia (site 0265), close to
Torca de Coteron, a descending rift was
explored along a joint at the back of this very large fragment. At one point,
a draughting, 30m deep but very narrow joint was seen. In site 311, a draughting dig was
pursued above a previously exposed 30m pitch eventually leading to the route
dividing at a flake. Above site 311, site
1512 involved a crawl to a pitch into a damp chamber where the water
disappears down a narrow meandering passage that needs enlarging.
Cueva de los Cantones (site 865) was explored
in 1991 with some going leads in its length of 1716m and 285m depth. This
year the site was "given" to the Catalan group to explore. After tackling
up the pitch down through the main, loose, bouldery chamber and returning
the following day, they found that the rope had been cut by a falling rock.
Enthusiasm dropped to zero and the Cantones "gift" has been returned!
Below the Cantones depression, Cueva Adillos
(site 0034) was rediscovered and explored but the new
site 1514 - an old phreatic fragment -
was explored through 3 entrances in 2 to 3m high and wide passages. In places
throughout the 112m length, the bouldery floor deposits had been stacked
on the side and fragments of old pottery were found.
Shaft 320 has had a chequered history since
1981, from being a 90m undescended pitch to a 4m climb to a draughtless choke.
Last year and this saw the site finally being pinned down, lumphammered and
explored. Despite enticing noises from falling rocks, the shaft turned out
to be only 27m deep.
Various small shafts were explored and site
169 resurveyed. In two "new" areas in or near the woods a kilometre down
to the east of Mullir, some interesting draughting digs were investigated.
Nearby at site 1570, 40m of walking-size
passage was entered, and Mistletoe Pot (1575)
was explored down an 18m pitch into a 16m pitch lined with soft calcite
with a low, well decorated crawl half way down.
Once more, there were more questions raised for next year than were answered
in this one.
The Asociación EcoCulturas
(http://ecoculturas.cjb.net - defunct) held
a series of meetings over a fortnight involving the villagers and trying
to understand and preserve cultural activities and the countryside around
Matienzo. As part of their fact finding, the group asked to be shown a variety
of caves. On one afternoon the group was introduced to the geomorphology
of the Matienzo depression, taken through Cueva
Jivero 2 with its population of crayfish and shown
Cueva Molino as an example of a old and
large cave sink also with a level of calcited bones. On a second afternoon
a large group visited La Cuvia as an example
of a cave currently being used by a farmer and as a typical Matienzo dry
"tunnel"; the second site visited was Las
Grajas, a site excavated by Spanish archaeologists, with pottery and
charcoal in hearths.
We were welcomed by Pablo at
Bar German and the expedition is
grateful for the camping facilities and the use of the restaurant for computing
and drawing up.
The list below shows links to those 232 sites which were extended or newly
discovered over Easter and the summer, or which have had surveys updated,
entrance photos added or entrances repositioned with a GPS.
A quick trip in October updated or discovered the following sites:
A trip in December updated or discovered the following sites:
Juan Corrin, September, November, December 2000