Matienzo Caves Project 2020

News and cave exploration around Matienzo during 2020
A map with area names can be found here

Section links   • Easter / Pre-summer  Autumn

January / February

   A part-survey of Cueva Vecina (0096), just above Cueva Emboscados (0087) was carried out. Low on the side of El Naso, site 5011 was explored into a 7m diameter chamber with a couple of crawls leading off.
   In Las Calzadillas area, Lorry Pot (1776) was pinned down with a grid reference and further photo. This hole has yet to be explored. Close to this shaft, another small one has been documented (5003). Phil Goodwin completed the survey for La Sima Grande de Las Calzadillas (4772) and provided more photos.
   To the south of the depression, sites 0823 and 4661 have been updated with entrance photos and at San Miguel, Cueva del Llanío (0435) has been better positioned.
   The 200m diameter, circular depression just below the summit of Monte Llusa (west of El Rincón) was approached by walking in along an old track through a depression to the southwest. The Monte Llusa depression, apparently full of jungle according to aerial photos (and standing at the rim), has a number of black holes on 1956/57 black and white aerial photos. In late January, it was easy to drop down through minimal jungle to relatively jungle-free areas under the trees to the base of the depression. Three of the 'black holes' were inspected, turning out to be shallow depressions with no sign of shafts. But it is well worth a more detailed search.
   Jessica Eades has started the Matienzo Bats in Caves Project. Details are found on the dedicated Bats Project page.

   In the hope that an extension to the permit may be granted in the near future, sites around the Cierrolinos area, south of Monte Llusa, have been investigated. These have been given X codes at the moment and some of these have been previously investigated by Spanish groups.
   It's been reported that the Tejuelo group have been in site 4246 (Hoyón 2) but no further details have been given.
   The cavers in the Colectivo Piezo, based in Madrid, have been continuing work to the south - exploring in Cueva del Coverón (0002) and Torca CEZ (3603), trying to link the two systems. Better GPS coordinates for the entrances have been taken but the key would be a more accurate survey of, at least, CEZ to pinpoint possible underground areas for pushing. The group have also explored the nearby Cueva del Tronco (0632) a small passage, entered between blocks, dropping to -20m. They also documented 2808 in the same area near the road, a site first seen by the MCP in 2008 but out of the permit area. Torcón was explored down to -35m in a roomy, "very pretty torca" with routes off but no hope of extension.
   A small group spent a long weekend in Matienzo with the underground activity centred on the dig in site 4732, north of the Mushroom Field. Boulders were removed and a rift entered into 15m of "easy passage". A draughting route down in the rift requires enlarging then laddering to explore. The team had a long walk on the south side of Llueva, visiting the Muela summit then descending to Ogarrio. Most of the holes seen were "out-of-area" so have been documented as X027 to X033. Sites 0170, 1774, 0129 and 0316 were seen and alternative GPS readings taken.

   Due to worries about the spreading coronavirus, specifically that two of the potential participants had recently returned from northern Italy, the Matienzo pre-Easter meeting on March 7th has been cancelled. Some of Phil's Agenda items have been (partially) addressed and those and the Agenda can be seen by following these links:
Meeting Agenda
• Items 3, 4 and 10 - MCP Project report, 60th event and book (Juan). See also Gran Fiesta web page
• Item 6 - Equipment (download - Steve);
• Item 7 - Finances (Sue);
• Item 8 - Bat project (Jessica Eades);
• Item 9 (Easter and summer - please fill these in as appropriate or let Phil / Juan know of dates).

Questions about expedition objectives (items 11, 12, 13) can be raised with Phil through the Facebook page or Google Group.

The list below shows links to those 18 sites which were extended or newly discovered over January and February, or which have had surveys, references or descriptions updated, photos or movie clips added, or entrances repositioned using a GPS.

Alisas 4246 Hoyón 2, Torca del;
La Secada 96 Vecina, Cueva; 4732 hole; 5011 cave;
Las Calzadillas 1776 Lorry Pot; 4772 Sima Grande de Las Calzadillas, La; 5003 shaft;
Muela 129 Muela, Torca de la; 170 cave; 316 shaft; 1774 M-8, Sima;
Riva 2 Coverón, Cueva del; 632 Tronco, Cueva del; 2808 Torcón; 3603 CEZ, Torca; 4661 shaft;
S Vega 823 shaft;
San Miguel 435 Llanío, Cueva del;

Easter / Pre-summer / summer

   Date 21/3/2020:
• The Easter expedition has been cancelled due to lock-down in Spain, virtually no transport and social distancing / isolation.
• The summer 2020 events to celebrate 60 Years of speleology around Matienzo have been postponed - to reappear as a 61-year celebration in 2021 - if COVID-19 and the governments allow.
• The summer caving expedition is most unlikely to occur. Some people may be able to visit Matienzo, but there is no guarantee than the current Spanish lock-down will have eased to allow hill walking / caving. A permit has not been issued.
• A small amount of new cave information will be processed and published after Easter, along with maps, etc.

   Date 26/4/2020:
• With Spain and the UK in lock-down, the only update to the speleo info has come from Pete Smith and Neil Rumney.
• Although exploration zones for Cantabria are shown on the FCE website, no permit has been received and all sporting activities throughout Cantabria are currently suspended.

   The small extra area to the northwest that Phil Papard requested when applying for the permit does appear on the FCE map. (The southeast corner of Ribamontán al Monte bounded by the motorway / road to the northwest and having Villanueva approximately in the centre.) The 'X-coded' sites we had previously seen in this area have now been given Matienzo database site numbers and are described on the web site and appear on the maps as sites 5012 - 5036. It is not clear if the northern boundary follows the motorway or main road, so any permit boundary change on the maps will wait until the permit is seen.
   On the northern side of La Vega, four sites were revisited and better positioned. At La Gatuna / Riaño, Pete was involved in the rescue of a calf which had fallen into site 3190. A slim vecino entered the hole, assisted the animal to the surface and said that the hole did not continue.
    Neil sent some pictures from last summer of the passages in Fuente de la Cuvía, Riaño.

   Date 5/6/2020:
• Although some caving is happening in Cantabria, there is no definite dates for allowing Brits into Spain (as we currently have the second worst death rate in Europe), or removal of the FCO's advice for only essential travel.

   Corrected grid references have been received for sites 4487 and 5023. Photos have been taken in Fuente de la Cuvía (0207) in Riaño by Carlos Lamoile. Shafts 0190 and 0193 have been recently visited (by Spanish residents!). In 0190, further progress has been made along the final, draughting rift passage and, in 0193, 14m down, there is a small, possibly draughting hole.

   Date 19/6/2020:
   Guy has produced photos of the exploration in site 0190 and surveys for two more of the holes at Alisas, 0191 and 0193. Pete Smith has been re-examining holes (1046 - 1051) on the hillside at Seldesuto, first documented in 1995 using cavers on the hillside equipped with radios and taking instructions / advice from a team with binoculars on the road. This time, Pete took photos and, needless to say, all of the holes needed some position adjustment. A small new cave with some digging potential was documented (5037).

   Date 24/6/2020: Statement re. summer 2020 visits:
The Matienzo Caves Project and Covid-19
   We believe that a, possibly limited, exploratory caving permit may possibly be issued by mid-July.*
   Due to Covid-19 we strongly advise that there be no long caving / pushing trips and that any caving activity is limited to surface prospecting and near-surface digs in small teams. There will be no expedition gatherings - e.g. no office and no expedition meal. The expedition will not run as normal.
   Of course, it is down to individuals / small groups whether they visit or not. If they do, as members of the Matienzo Caves Project, particular notice should be taken of the attached document giving notes and guidance regarding risk and responsibilities. Regional and local regulations may also be in place and, if more rigorous, must be adhered to.
   After using these guidelines as a base and, if the risk of catching and spreading the virus becomes less, caving visitors should use mutually agreed procedures, having regard to local regulations, risks and sensibilities.
   The online spreadsheet for the summer has been cleared of names and times as a number of cavers have already cancelled. Starting afresh, please show on the spreadsheet, or by advising Phil or Juan, your intention to visit, with dates. This includes everyone, please. (

* Permit information: We received a letter yesterday from the Cultura Ministry in Santander (took 11 days to get to us) asking for information of our plans for possible caving and that if we did not reply our permit request (from October 2019) would be withdrawn. This followed a request/order to cancel any planned caving sent to us in March. We assume this new request is because of Covid19 and they are wanting to know numbers and where expedition members will be. Following their request, and five questions to answer. we have replied saying we will be doing only limited activity such prospecting, digging at near surface sites and only very limited caving, i.e. where access is straight forward with minimum gear, etc. We have given a comprehensive reply (had to be by post) today. We do not know if a permit will be issued and what restrictions will be imposed. Due to the delay in getting the letter we do not expect any permit to be issued to at least mid-July.
Juan Corrin, Phil Papard, Steve Martin, Peter Smith 24/6/2020

Date 23/8/2020:
   A few people managed to reach Matienzo before the government's "no non-essential travel" advice. A small amount of caving is happening and a report will appear in due course. "Old" sites at near Seldesuto have been revisited and new ones founds and digging has been occurring around La Secada.
   The Practical Wireless magazine (Vol 96 No 9 September 2020) contained a lead article about underground communications written by Mike Bedford G4AEE. Bob Machin's molefone and Ron Taylor's sub-phone were mentioned among other devices, and Juan contributed a small piece about the Llanío-Four Valleys System connection where Ron's sub-phone had been successfully used.
   The QGIS map system has been updated to use version 3. Unfortunately, this means that users will need to start from scratch again, but it will be worth it! As an alternative to downloading the programme and all the Matienzo data, the application + data is available from Juan on a memory stick.

Date 16/9/2020:
   The main activities have been centred around digging in known sites, e.g. 0262 / 4732 and 5045 in La Secada and 4892 at El Rincón. Links below provide the details. Further potential digs were found on a walk in the Cierrolinos area, sites 5042 - 5044.
   Our French friends have been digging in Torca de Rotura (0753) and have extended Torca de la Corcada (0780) down into a tunnel at 125m altitude. Further draughting possibilities exist.
   In 3234 Cueva-Cubío del Llanío, an analysis by Peter Wynn of the sticky mud over pristine calcite in The Hub has shown values very close in nitrogen content and isotope value to the soils sampled above High Hopes chamber. "The layered sediments in The Hub contain a high proportion of anthropogenic nitrogen and are relatively modern in depositional age."

Updated sites (up to 16/9/2020), including those transferred from the X codes list.

5013 shaft; 5014 shaft; 5015 shaft; 5016 shaft; 5017 shaft; 5018 shaft; 5019 shaft; 5020 shaft; 5021 shaft; 5022 shaft; 5024 shaft; 5025 shaft; 5027 Hoyo de la Ribera, Cueva del; 5028 shaft; 5031 shaft; 5032 cave; 5033 cave; 5034 Llusa, Cueva de; 5035 Llusa 3, Cueva de;
La Gatuna 3190 cave;
Monte Llusa 5029 cave; 5030 shaft;
N Vega 446 shaft; 701 shaft; 1002 shaft; 3341 dig;
Riaño 207 Cuvia, Fuente de la;
Villanueva 5012 dig; 5023 resurgence; 5026 rift; 5036 Covachera, Cueva de;

Alisas 190 Palo, Torca del; 191 Llave, Torca de la; 193 shaft;
Arredondo 753 Rotura, Torca de;
Arronte 4487 resurgence;
Barrio de Carrales 1265 cave;
Cierrolinos 5042 dig; 5043 dig; 5044 dig;
El Rincón 4892 resurgence; 4893 Real, Fuente de la;
La Secada 252 cave; 4732 hole; 5041 Confinamiento, Torca del; 5045 dig;
Riaño 207 Cuvia, Fuente de la; 3234 Llanío, Cueva-Cubío del;
Riolastras 4004 Palomas, Cueva de las;
S Vega 263 cave; 1035 cave; 1036 cave; 1037 cave; 1038 cave; 1039 cave; 1040 cave; 1041 cave; 1042 cave; 1043 cave; 1044 cave; 1045 cave; 1046 cave; 1047 cave; 1048 cave; 1054 cave; 1055 cave; 5037 cave; 5038 cave; 5039 cave; 5040 shaft;
Seldesuto 780 Corcada, Torca de; 1049 cave; 1050 cave; 1051 cave; 1052 cave;
Villanueva 5012 dig; 5023 Villanueva, Fuente de; 5036 Covachera, Cueva de;


   There was little speleological activity over the Autumn period due to the Covid-19 situation. The highlight was a team of four Catalan cavers pushing on beyond the choke at the extreme northern end of Cueva Vallina (0733). Over two trips they bolted up from the stream into fossil passage but technical issues meant they couldn't survey the finds. They intend to return.
   On the north side of the hill, French cavers dug through the western end of the summer extensions in Torca de la Corcada (0780) to gain a 30m extension and a rising, draughting dig. A number of shafts were dropped to the west of Cueva-Cubío de la Reñada (0048): 5040 - 11m deep; 5049 - 16m deep; 5050 - 14m deep - but all choked. More possible digs were also identiifed, 5051, 5052 and 5053.
   An attempt was made to fix the position of the Fuente de Villanueva (5023) but the flooding stream and inappropriate footwear forced a retreat.
   Nineteen aerial panoramas by drone were taken, mainly in the south of the permit area, and 25 video fly-overs on pre-programmed flight paths.
   The BCRA Science Symposium was held online (using Zoom) with a large international audience on November 12th. Tom Thomson gave a talk which was well-received. Further details can be found in the Presentations and Papers section of the Reports, Papers and Presentations page (2020).
   Phil Papard's Report to the permit authorities for 2020 can be found (in English and Spanish) on the same page in the Feedback reports section.
   On November 23rd, Spain introduced an entry requirement that evidence of a negative Covid-19 swab test must be presented. Details can be found on the FCDO travel advice page.

The list below shows links to those 35 sites which were extended or newly discovered over the Autumn period, or which have had surveys, references or descriptions updated, photos or movie clips added, or entrances repositioned using a GPS.

Arredondo 733 Vallina, Cueva;
Cubija 1456 cave;
El Naso 1407 cave;
La Secada 81 Carcavuezo, Cueva de;
Muela 746 shaft; 3143 cave;
Mullir 1583 shaft; 1737 shaft; 5047 dig; 5048 cave;
Riaño 3234 Llanío, Cueva-Cubío del;
Riva 5046 cave;
S Vega 459 Cumpleaños, Sima; 460 shaft; 461 shaft; 782 shaft; 853 shaft; 999 shaft; 1000 shaft; 1055 cave; 1692 shaft; 1849 cave; 4166 shaft; 4667 resurgence; 5040 shaft; 5049 shaft; 5050 shaft; 5051 dig; 5052 shaft; 5053 shaft; 5054 shaft; 5055 cave;
Seldesuto 780 Corcada, Torca de;
Villanueva 5023 Villanueva, Fuente de; 5036 Covachera, Cueva de;

Juan Corrin, 2020