Updated 30th August 1998; 19th February 1999; 3rd June 2000; 23rd February, 4th March, 7th October, 26th October 2001; 20th, 28th January, 8th April , 8th June, 24th October 2002; 19th May, 13th October, 8th November 2003; 8th October 2005; 1st February, 30th September 2006; 6th May, 28th October, 17th November 2007; 29th September, 27th October, 15th November 2008; 3rd May 2009; 7th January, 18th February, 12th May, 21st June, 2nd October 2011; 18th February, 23rd April, 19th September, 28th November, 26th, 27th December 2012; 26th February, 20th April, 7th September 2013; 15th, 21st May, 12th September, 2nd December 2014; 14th, 21st May, 13th September, 17th October, 1st, 6th November 2015; 17th April, 30th November 2016; 5th February 2017; 19th May, 7th September 2017
The following account is not
complete and is in a state of flux as passages are resurveyed. Each batch of the resurvey has (or will have) its own description as part of an overall updated and improved cave description. This update will appear when more batch descriptions have been written. It may be best to have passage descriptions for various trips, eg part of the Azpilicueta through trip, the Coteron through trip, the trip to sump 1, etc.
Batch descriptions to hand (the extent of which can be seen in the Survex 3d file below)
The length of the South Vega System includes Cueva-Cubío de la Reñada (0048), Torca de Azpilicueta (0333), Torca de Papá Noel (1471), Torca de la Vera Negra (36), site 1338, Torca
de Coterón (0264), site 0675, Cueva Comellantes (0040). Site 0388 may also
be a future connection - through Cabaña. The water seen in these caves
is all presumed to flow to Cueva del Comellantes (0040).
A table of the depth within the South Vega System from each entrance can be seen here (before the ETRS89 maps were used in 2014). A resurvey of the cave was started in the autumn 2014 (batch 0048-14-02) and continued through Easter 2015 (batches 15-01 to 15-13), summer (up to batch 0048-15-27), autumn (batch 0048-15-28) then Easter 2016 (batches 16-01 to 16-04) when about 30m of new passage was surveyed. At Easter 2017, the main resurvey included batch 17-03 with extensions explored in batches 17-01 and 17-02.
Infrared photos were taken of the entrances and further into the cave in August 2017.
In very wet weather the Reñada passages sump at The Blowhole
and the wet crawl - The Duck. The latter low point was seen to flood in August 1996
after a few hours of moderate rain, requiring a large party to pass through
on their backs. The Blowhole was passable. At Easter 2009, the crawl was sumped trapping 4 people for 6 hours. The flooding is a local, rapid response feature where a small stream rises and falls quickly. During this incident, the lakes in the entrance were only thigh deep and the blow hole was open - ie "regional" water levels were "moderate". In October 2015, a planned trip was curtailed when the lakes in the entrance series were full after 24hrs rain.
At Easter 2013 a guideline was laid through the duck. This must not be used for free diving. The "plug hole" that drains the duck was also observed in wet weather: the change from draining freely to backing up was a rapid process that explains how the duck can sump quite quickly.
The lower of the two entrances is a strongly draughting hole in the trees,
5m above the track. A large, marble plaque
on the left of the entrance is dedicated to Giles Barker who died in Torca de Azpilicueta
in August 1992. In April 2014 it was noticed that the plaque had been vandalised with scratched graffiti. The upper entrance (site 4221) is located at the end of a faint path that climbs the hillside, starting where the stream is crossed.
Infrared photos were taken of the entrances and further into the cave in August 2017.
The bottom entrance, after an initial slide down, enters old, phreatic, walking-size passage, in wetter periods with knee-deep water. (Site 4506 passes over the top of the route, very close to the entrance.) A short clamber up to the left drops back to the main route and then a more bouldery area. Just back from here a squeeze up on the south side (stn 14-02.36) enters a tall calcited chamber. All routes at the top of the climb close in.
Beyond the walk over boulders, a large, well decorated chamber is entered (stn 14-02.55). Straight on ends very close to Cueva del Comellantes (0040). A low crawl at the end has been partially excavated and there is a vocal connection with Comellantes. To the south at stn 55, a large passage slopes up with a calcite floor past formations on the left wall to a small lake. A clamber over boulders at far side reaches the base of a steep boulder slope, at the top of which is the upper of the Reñada entrances. Down to the left of the boulder slope, at the base of slithery calcite, is a periodic lake and just beyond, the Blowhole. A complex series of muddy calcite climbs then lead to a pitch of 5m and almost immediately the second pitch of 8m and a sloping third pitch of 15m. These can all be bypassed by a single rope climb and a short, low crawl over rocks. A low, wet and strongly draughting crawl then enlarges as it reaches a boulder and calcite slope. By climbing up to the right Stuffed Monk Gallery is entered.
Stuffed Monk Gallery is the route to Azpilicueta and hence to Cueva-Cubio de la Reñada 2. Its 300m length is large and mainly easy walking. Numerous side passages have been pushed and some surveying in this area remains to be done. Descriptions of SMP bits. 1982,1983 etc.
In 1995, one of the avens in the roof of Stuffed Monk Gallery, 30m before it enters Sanatogen Passage, was bolted and climbed over a number of trips for about 100m to link with Torca de Vera Negra (Torca de la Cabaña) (036). This is described in the Cabaña section.
Sanatogen Passage heads south from Stuffed Monk Passage and entry is made into it under the eastern wall of the smaller passage leading to the most westerly avens. Sanatogen Passage description.
The western end of Stuffed Monk Passage was excavated at Easter 2017. After the clay squeeze and passing the Pit of Tredidation (by climbing down then up rather than a crumbly traverse), Bended Knee Passage (batch 0048-17-01) continues in sizeable passage, ending in calcite. A side passage, which continues low, has not been surveyed.
In 1992 a more complete resurvey of Sanatogen was started and a full description of the route needs writing up, including the 1993 extensions down pitches into a streamway with pools and the passage which almost links with At the Opera via a chamber with a slippery climb up a rift. A passage on the right hand side of Sanatogen Passage goes to a loose breakdown area of about 50m which does not seem to have been pushed.
In 1994, a 14m pitch in Sanatogen Passage descended into The Grovel where 75m of "tight and horrible" thrutch were surveyed. This goes off from station 259.
Just beyond where Blood Alley peters out, Anastomoses Hall comes
in from the right. A walk to the right, under the fine anastomoses, reaches
a short climb to the base of a tall rift, now called Astronomoses
Aven. This was tackled in the summer of 2006 after Hanging Death Chamber
was discovered in Torca de Papá Noel, some 40m above and to the
west. (Photographs here). At the end
of the second trip the top of the draughting rift was reached at a height
of 70m and altitude 270m, with various alcoves investigated, e.g. at +30m
in the southern end a sand-filled passage goes up to a small passage with
no draught. A network of draughting tubes was investigated at the top and
a better pitch to the base of the aven rigged.
At the top, a sloping tube can be followed to a small chamber with a 3m laddered pitch to a short, bouldery, descending passage leading to a junction. Following the left hand branch leads to the base of a large, dripping aven between 40 - 60m high. At the far end, at the base of the aven, some small passage can be entered but this degenerates into spongework. The right hand passage leads to 2 holes in the floor, the first of which terminates 10m down; the second - with a good echo and dripping - was pushed to a sizeable chamber leading to a complicated tube system and a boulder choke with a strong draught. This area was connected with Papá Noel, not near to Hanging Death Chamber, but in the roof near to Floorless Chamber at an altitude of about 240m. The latter passages - Out of This World - are very well decorated with good helictites. The total length of new passage surveyed from the base of Astronomoses Aven to the Papá Noel link was 358m.
Near the start of Stuffed Monk Gallery, on the left, a large passage runs into the top of Blood Alley.
To the left is a veritable maze of sand and calcite-floored passages. To the right, above Blood Alley, is the main way on. (The whole of Blood Alley is endowed with fine orange and red pool formations. The fewer visits to this section, the better, as mud on boots is being washed into the pools and covering the crystals. In October 2008, photographs were taken showing the possible obliteration of the formations. It may be possible to clean both the floor and the pools.)
One hundred metres after Blood Alley, the passage splits - the right hand branch enters Anastomosis Hall with its deep phreatic pocketing and fine helictites and the left branches unite in False Floor Chamber where a thin layer of calcite can give way under foot. Passages in Anastomosis area ....
Breakdown Chamber also has some new surveyed sections (1995) which need tying in. In 1996 the choke area was revisited, but one explorer slipped with a boulder, requiring an 11 hour rescue. The choke was again visited in 1997 and a bolt route started below the East Wanders area in Torca de la Cabaña. The Australia Series in site 1332 appears to be very close above Breakdown Chamber.
A short distance beyond this chamber, a crawl on the left is the start of Squirrel's Passage which joins the main stream after a 6m climb down. A visit in 2005 noted a strong flow downstream from the Moat of Doom although water levels were low. A visit to deposit diving bottles (Easter 2011) used a ladder at the end of the higher level passage to drop down to the water. Water volume was much less than that in the Rub-a-Dub Dubs, seen the same day. Upstream a sump is met after 20m while downstream the passage continues as a series of swims and cascades to a sump after about 500m?? In 2005 the same visit to this area described blue pools (one of which is at least 20m deep and requires diving) and the need for wet suits.
Both upstream and downstream routes were dived by Rupert Skorupka over a number of trips in the summer of 2011. Downstream – to the north - he reached 11m depth in a very complex area and then rose into a canal with no belay points. Upstream, Rupert dived
45m to chambers which are not those discovered by Dave Ryall (Easter 2009). Below and above water passages continue. The survey of the area can be seen here and a later one, here. At Easter 2014, he surveyed the upstream sump and passages, shown on the centre line as batch 0048-14-01 and, drawn up. The sump has a large cross section but ends breaking down into a number of rifts and airbells that appears to be a collecting area for
streams coming from the big passages above in the main cave route.
At Easter 2012, Rupert continued work downstream, passing his previous limit, a rock "curtain", to a parallel passage and a rock spike which was the "perfect belay". Just beyond, a return was made, surveying back to a known point. The survey data is currently on the slate left underground. The canal up to the sump has been surveyed and tied into the end of the 1982 survey. Diving from Comellantes, Chris Jewell reached Rupert's Squirrel's Passage line reel in 2012, proving the Reñada-Comellantes link. As the amount of water in Squirrel's Passage is much less than the volume flowing from the resurgence, it would appear that a major "inlet" carrying the Reñada stream has been missed. Further points about this flow are raised in the Comellantes description. This was confirmed by the Easter 2015 water tracing from Vallina, when sump 1 and Comellantes gave a positive result but not Squirrel's Passage.
Just beyond Breakdown Chamber a sump is met at the bottom of a slope. This was dived to open passage at Easter 2009 and the data needs tying in with the main line, although the surveyed dive length has been included in the SVS traverse length. At the far point, faint contact was made with the sherpas. The dive log is found here and the survey (summer 2010) tying in the dive to the start of Squirrel's Passage (a large cairn marked "Station 11") here. "New" passage was surveyed on this surveying trip - an inlet series off the south side of Breakdown Chamber, ending at a large aven.
At Easter 2012, a short dig entered "good-sized" passage with "lots of leads". This is at the start of Crowbar Passage, perhaps linking in some way with the survey carried out when Dave Ryall dived. Like that survey, the length of batch 0048-12-01 (220m) has been included in the SVS length. This survey is now the "definitive" one of that area.
The main route continues up into Crowbar Passage. This is a series of roped climbs and traverses over holes in the floor to Castle Hall.
(The Castle Hall "?" is a 9m climb which appears to slope up with a
rift going off). A delicate climb down over boulders leads (after meeting
the small stream presumed to come from Torca de Coterón) to a huge
sloping rift and a climb up into the continuation. The streamway in Castle Hall is the Moat of Doom, surveyed
during the summer 2002. Down to the left Gallery of the Dead contains
a hole in the wall which leads after 30m to the base of the 70m pitch in
from Torca de Coterón. The Gallery loops
round to join the ramp just before Ghost Lake. On the ramp, a short
side passage needs surveying.
Ghost Lake has 60m of swimming or lined walking / wading on the right hand wall that leads to Mega Hall - a large, boulder-floored chamber and then, straightforwardly to the main, large river passage which ends at the downstream end of Sump 1 after 120m. Up on the north side of the passage, just before the sump, a dig was started at Easter 2017 to possibly bypass the sump. This is Broken Knee Dig (batch 0048-17-02) and progress is difficult having to excavate clarty clay.
The sump descends to 8m and is 30m long, emerging in Cueva-Cubio de la Reñada 2 (described next and on the Torca de Azpilicueta page).
This point is downstream of the pitch into Giga Hall which leads to the impressive 20m diameter sump 1 pool and chamber. Upstream 200m of large vadose canyon (The Rub-a-Dub Dubs) can be followed. The stream emerges from a passage on the left which sumps after 60m. This was dived in August 2002 in a large, continuing, unsurveyed passage heading west for about 100m. This sump was dived at Easter 2011 by Rupert Skorupka who passed Mark's limit to reach 150m and 17m depth in a gently descending, 4 - 5m wide tunnel. At the end, the roof was not visible. (Survey) There appears to be much less water in Squirrel's Passage in Reñada than in the Rub-a-Dub Dubs.
A high level series can be entered on the same line as the vadose trench, by climbing up a boulder slope. A 10m wide breakdown passage ends in boulders while a 1.5m diameter tube in the left hand wall gives access to an unsurveyed phreatic maze in which an unexplored 20m aven is seen with passages leading off at various levels.
Back at the boulder slope, a 3m climb to the south enters another maze of phreatic passages which have been surveyed for 125m to a 20m undescended pit. This is thought to be the aven seen in the first maze.
There are two possible upstream sumps. One in the lake itself and a second at the start of the active streamway. (NEIL'S BIT above).
The Ghost Lake to sump 1 section was resurveyed in 2001 and about 135m of "new" passage was added this requires a description. At Christmas 2001, passage found in November on the true left just before Bootlace Passage was surveyed to give another 113m. This was described as a "pitch / aven inlet some 30m+ high and may be worth bolting. In the large chamber beyond there may be a route over boulders to glory (could require scaffolding)". This Itchy Crutch area was subsequently dropped into down a 138m pitch from Torca de Papá Noel in the summer of 2003.
Bootlace Passage is entered via a 5m pitch and starts as a high rift passage on the left of the main route between Ghost Lake and Mega Hall. A climb through boulders enters a large chamber with boulder climbs of 60m vertical which could still be pushed??? The rift passage ends at a 17m pitch into Two Sumps Chamber with water rising and sinking in sumps.
In 1997 Fred Winstanley dived the sump at the end of the flood overflow passage. The passage slopes down over rubble and, at 7m depth enters a rift passage which continues for some 60m to a junction. Left here leads to 70m of rising passage which surfaces. After 60m the passage enters the main route near Ghost Lake. The passage to the right at the junction seems to be the main way on. It would be easier to kit up from the main chamber rather than at the bottom of Two Sumps Chamber. The total length of sump passage is about 180m and is called Busman's Holiday.
Opposite the Two Sumps Chamber pitch head is a black hole which is the route through to Torca de Coterón. A tricky traverse on the right ends at a bolt where a ladder can be dropped down onto boulders. The route is then straightforward in typical breakdown style with the odd side passage. Two hundred and fifty metres from the traverse a dangerous dig enters a more complex area. To the right, chossy passages and chambers close in under 300m of limestone; to the left, dusty passage heads north to a junction, then east to a narrow passage rising up to join the Candy Floss Series in Torca de Coterón.
By continuing north at the junction, an incompletely explored maze and more dry passages lead to a chamber with a pitch and a one bolt climb to : Rest of account from 1984-1985 needed here.
Bootlace links with Frank's Passage 1987
Notenboom in Research on the Groundwater Fauna of Spain: List of Stations and First Results (Notenboom J and Meijers I, 1985) gives a list of fauna, collected from the river and from a pool at the start of Crowbar Passage: Pseudoniphargus, Haploginglymus, Echinogammarus/Gammarus, Cantabroniscus, Cyclopoidea, Prosobranchia/Hydrobioidea, Pulmonata / Basommatophora, Insecta, Oligochaeta, Asellidae and Turbellaria.
Biological sampling was undertaken as part of a research project at Easter 2014.
References: Fernández Gutiérrez et al, 1966
(survey); anon., 1974b (logbook);
Cope J, 1974; anon., 1974a (survey and photo); Cox G, 1973; Fernández
Gutiérrez J C, 1975; anon., 1975b (logbook); Kendal Caving Club and
Manchester University Speleological Society, 1975 (survey and photo); anon.,
1977b (logbook); Manchester University Speleological Society, 1982 (survey);
anon., 1980a (logbook); Corrin J et al, 1981b; Corrin J, 1980; Mills L D
J, 1981; Mills L D J and Waltham A C, 1981 (survey and photo); Corrin J S
and Smith P, 1981; anon., 1981 (logbook); Corrin J et al, 1981a (survey);
Corrin J, 1981 (survey); anon., 1982 (logbook); Addis F, 1982 (survey); Corrin
J, 1983c (photo); anon., 1983b (logbook); Corrin J, 1983b (survey); anon.,
1984 (logbook); Cawthorne Bob, 1985b; Cawthorne B, 1985a; Barrington P and
Hanson D, 1984; Corrin J, 1983a (survey); anon., 1985b (logbook); Corrin
J, 1986 (survey); anon., 1986 (logbook); Corrin J, 1987; material in file;
anon., 1987 (logbook); anon., 1988 (logbook); Notenboom J and Meijers I,
1985; Corrin J and Knights S, 1988; anon., 1989 (logbook); Corrin J, 1992a
(survey); Cawthorne B, 1992; Corrin J, 1992b (survey); anon., 1993b (logbook);
Neill Alasdair and Jackson Keith, 1993; Cawthorne R, 1993; Corrin J, 1994a;
Corrin Juan, 1995b; anon., 1994b (logbook); Neill A, 1994; Corrin J, 1994b
(survey and photo); Fernández Acebo Virgilio, 1995; anon., 1995a (Easter
logbook); anon., 1995c (logbook); Corrin Juan, 1995a; anon., 1996b (logbook);
Corrin Juan, 1997a (survey); Corrin Juan, 1997b; anon., 1997b (logbook);
Corrin Juan, 1998; Fernández Ortega F, Valls Uriol and Maria del Carmen,
1998 (photo); anon., 1998d (logbook); García José León,
1997 (survey); Corrin Juan, 1997c; anon., 1999c (logbook); anon., 2001c (Summer
logbook)anon., 2001c (Summer logbook); Corrin Juan, 2001a; anon., 2002a (Easter
logbook); anon., 2002b (summer logbook); anon., 2003b (Easter logbook); Corrin
Juan, 2003a; Corrin Juan, 2003b (photo); anon., 2003c (summer logbook); Corrin
Juan, 2003c; Corrin Juan, 2005; anon., 2005b (Easter & summer logbook);
Corrin Juan, 2006a; anon., 2006d (summer logbook); Corrin Juan, 2007; Corrin
Juan and Smith Peter, 2007 (photo); anon., 2008f (autumn logbook); anon., 2009a (Easter logbook); anon., 2010c (summer logbook); Corrin Juan, 2010; León García José, 2010 (line survey section and photos); Corrin Juan, 2011; anon., 2011b (Easter logbook); anon., 2011c (Whit logbook); anon., 2011d (summer logbook); anon., 2012b (Easter logbook); anon., 2012d (summer logbook); anon., 2012e (autumn logbook); Corrin Juan, 2013a; anon., 2013b (Easter logbook); anon., 2013d (summer logbook); anon., 2014b (Easter logbook); anon., 2014c (summer logbook); anon., 2014d (autumn logbook); Papard Philip, Corrin Juan and Smith Peter, 2014; anon., 2015b (Easter logbook); anon., 2015c (summer logbook); anon., 2015d (autumn logbook); anon., 2016b (Easter logbook); anon., 2016c (summer logbook); Thomson Tom, 2016; anon., 2017a (January, February logbook); anon., 2017b (Easter logbook); anon., 2017c (aummer logbook)
Many references in Azpilicueta also refer to 0048.
Entrance pictures : marble plaque : 2006, 2014 : 2014
Underground picture(s): Stuffed Monk Gallery Entrance passage Near Stuffed Monk
Infrared pictures at the entrances and in the cave. (August 2017)
Pictures from the Cave Monitoring Conference "Sporting Trip" (Easter 2017)
Pictures of Crowbar Passage & misc. and Broken Knee Dig above sump 1 (Easter 2017)
Pictures of the wall climb in the entrance off station 36 (Easter 2017)
Pictures of family trips, bottom to top entrance (Easter 2017)
Pictures from the entrance passages (January 2017)
Pictures from activities over the summer 2015
Pictures from the top entrance, various entrance series climbs and misc pictures (Easter 2015)
Pictures from the OBA Leucophor water tracing from Cueva Vallina (Easter 2015)
Pictures from entrance series through to Sanatogen Passage (autumn 2014)
Pictures from entrance series (summer 2014)
Pictures from entrance series (Easter 2014)
Pictures from D3 series (summer 2013)
Pictures from entrance series (summer 2012)
Pictures from Squirrel's Passage upstream dive (summer 2011)
Pictures from the entrance passages to Stuffed Monk area (summer 2011)
Pictures from the sump 1 area (Easter 2011)
Pictures from entrance passages (2011 February)
Pictures from near Eagle Passage and the Blow Hole (autumn 2008)
Pictures showing the obliteration with mud of the Blood Alley formations and other issues (autumn 2008 and pictures from the 1970's)
Pictures from the summer, 2008 by Mandy Fu and Mike Topsom
Pictures from the 2006 explorations up Astronomoses Aven through to Floorless Chamber in Papá Noel
Pictures from the entrance passages of Reņada by Andy Morse
Pictures in Reñada up to Stuffed Monk by Jonas Binladen
Pictures in the Moat of Doom, below Castle Hall by Pete Smith
Pictures (scanned slides) from John Forder
Pictures (scanned slides) taken in 1977, 1980 and 1982 by Frank Addis
Videos: Listed on a separate page (latest - summer 2017)
Detailed Surveys :
|1965||known cave||low res||high res|
|1975||Reñada 2||low res||high res|
|1981||Bootlace Passage||low res||high res|
|1981||known cave (simplified)||low res||high res|
|1982||photo 1982 SVS 1:2000 survey||low res|
|from rescue site||simplified Azpilicueta, Reñada, Coteron||low res||high res|
|2010||Dave Ryall 2009 dive and inlet||pdf file|
|2011||Terry Whitaker SVS hydrology||pdf file|
|2012||Squirrel's Passage area survey||pdf file|
|2012||Squirrel's Passage area survey||jpg file|
|2012 after summer||Squirrel's Passage area survey||pdf file|
|2013 after summer||Squirrel's Passage area survey||pdf file|
|2014 Easter||Squirrel's Passage upstream survey||jpg file|
|2014 autumn||Entrance series resurvey||pdf file|
|2015 Easter||Entrance series resurvey batch 0048_15_05||pdf file|
|2015 Easter||Entrance series resurvey + Zepplin part||pdf file|
|2015 summer||More resurvey incl W & N Stuffed Monk||pdf file|
|2015 autumn||More resurvey + N heading ext in Comell.||pdf file|
|2016 Easter||More resurvey + Comellantes||pdf file|
|2017 Easter||New & more resurvey (17-01 - 17-03)||pdf file|