1471: Papá Noel, Torca de
S Vega 30T 450781 4794812 (Datum: ETRS89. Accuracy code: P) Altitude 448m
Length included in the South Vega System. See Azpilicueta Depth 304m
Area position

Updated 17th September 2000; 22nd February 2001; 29th April 2001; 25th May, 19th October, 4th December 2003; 7th January 2004; 3rd May, 13th June, 14th October 2004; 20th December 2005; 1st February, 20th May, 5th October 2006; 7th May, 28th October 2007; 7th January, 23rd June 2011; 26th December 2012; 30th September 2015; 30th June 2018

   At the end of July 2015, when the site was being checked for a new grid reference from Google Earth, the entrance was found to be filled in.
"It could probably be easily reopened and requires a proper lid fitting. This deserves to be as popular a through route to Reñada as Coterón or Azpilicueta!" (AN)

   The length includes Cueva-Cubío de la Reñada (48), Torca de Azpilicueta (333), Torca de Papá Noel (1471), Torca de la Vera Negra (36), site 1338, Torca de Coterón (264), site 675 and Cueva Comellantes (40). A table of the depth within the South Vega System from each entrance can be seen here.


The cave, which was joined into the South Vega System in 2 places (Coterón and Reñada) in August 2003, can be divided into a complex upper level and a lower level containing large passages and chokes. A hydrology diagram for the South Vega System can be seen here.

Upper Levels

The entrance is in a very small depression that contains an excavated squeeze under the rocks that cover the top of the first pitch. Care must be taken as the top of the shaft is loose and is encountered immediately after wriggling under the entrance slabs. The 20m pitch initially past two ledges and then lands on a sloping, rubble strewn floor containing several animal skeletons. (There is one thread for rigging next to the entrance and one bolt opposite, with a second on the underside of the largest rock covering the shaft, with a rebelay bolt about 6m down). Descending the entrance pitch, an obvious upper level is seen which may be reached by climbing either end of the slope that the entrance shaft lands in - down the slope is easiest.

The "upper chamber" at the foot of the entrance pitch contains much calcite with no apparent way on.

At the down slope end, the second pitch descends down through a small channel cut into a hading rift which is awkward in places and is difficult to rig cleanly. Above, evidence of larger passages breaking down are seen but have not yet been climbed into. Care must be taken at the end of the rift after about 40m as the water disappears down a large drop. The way on is to crawl around to the left and carefully descend a slippery slope to part way up a 30m long calcite ramp - care should once again be taken up and down and a rope is recommended.

At the top of the ramp there is a broken pitch of about 15m which is the way on to the Lower Levels. A loose climb up the left wall above the pitch gains the 20m wide Incredible Chamber. The chamber appears to be formed on the hading rift seen below the entrance. At the top, a boulder choke is reached which, after a climb, is at the same level as the base of the entrance pitch. Although several chambers have been entered no obvious way on can be found.

A small hole in the right hand wall part way up leads to a 10m drop into another large chamber containing a passage on the far wall to the right hand side that connects to Disco Max. Down the slope, an awkward squeeze leads to a climb down and short traverse that needs protection, e.g. a long sling, followed by a 23m pitch down. The pitch bottom has a fallen slab and a 5m drop (belay to slab) that leads to a narrow meandering passage that needs pushing.

Descending the long calcite slope, a sandstone bed is observed in the roof and a squeeze over a fallen sandstone block enters a small phreatic passage. This soon leads to a 6m easy pitch into a clean washed chamber - this level may also be reached further back via a small crawl and an awkward climb down. The chamber leads to a number of pits. On the left a route down has been rigged, Teamwork Pot (p17). Just before this pitch a climb up to a window is followed by a traverse over a shaft into a passage that ends at a pit that needs descending.

At the foot of Teamwork Pot, climbs down enter a chamber at the foot of the pits in the clean washed chamber. From here a narrow, meandering stream passage is followed downstream with climbs up to higher levels giving the best route. Just before a narrow section dropping back to the stream, a climb up on the left enters a dry canyon passage. To the left, the passage contains false floors and leads to a 6m pitch. Beyond, explored at Easter 2003, a 2m climb up leads to a passage and a climb up through "soup plate" beds to a blind 17m pitch, Long Straw Pot. To the right, the canyon ends at a 30m pitch, followed by a 6m rope climb dropping into Plaza de Concorde. A passage at the top of the pitch runs 26m to enter a large chamber, presumed to be Plaza de Concorde.

Lower Levels

The easiest way down is by the 15m broken pitch. This leads into a narrow passage that soon enters a larger one. On the left is a handline climb up stal covered slopes that connect to Disco Max in the Upper Levels. To the right, a roomy fossil canyon descends with a number of obstacles. These include a block best negotiated as a 5m ladder pitch and a steep chute and traverse, where a 30m line is recommended. Just beyond, the canyon opens into the impressive Plaza de Concorde, entered by a 32m pitch (45m rope required). This lands on the top of a huge fallen block, from which a boulder / choke has been followed steeply down for 100m to enter large, ongoing passages.

At the top of the block, at the southern corner of the chamber, is a wet pitch (Tumbling Dice). This was connected down a 138m pitch to Itchy Crutch Passage in Cubio de la Reñada in August 2003.
At the north east corner of the Plaza de Concorde, a short pitch leads down to a slope of blocks to the head of an undescended 30m+ pitch that appears to be broken by ledges. Water can be heard. Traversing over the pitch, a small amount of water is met. The passage soon divides at a gour pool - the left branch is over 100m long and is still going small; the right branch requires a rope and is unentered.
At Easter 2001, Gour Inlet was entered for 28m and pitches below the traverse were completed: Write up required.

The route down the boulders in the Plaza de Concorde starts in a gully just behind the large cairn at the foot of the 32m pitch. The route is marked by cairns. About 50m down, a route off to the right leads to pitches into a choked passage (Paper Plane Passage). A route down and through the boulders to the right in Paper Plane link to a boulder choke in Torca de Coterón just before the 6m pitch at the western end of the Reñada Arm. Back at the cairns, to the left leads to Belcher's Slab, a 30m pitch that finishes at a 5m drop rebelayed off a huge chockstone.

In Plaza de Concorde, between Belcher's Slab and where the top pitch comes in, near to the wall and not marked on the survey, is a crawl near falling water. This has been pushed to pitches of 3m and 12m were the water reappears. A 3m climb over moonmilk leads to an 8m hole to a chamber where the water flows. This area is called the CIC Series.

Belcher's Slab Area
To the left at the foot is a chamber with an inlet and climbs up not yet pushed. This may have been looked at during Easter 2004 when a number of explorations were undertaken in this area.
At Easter 2004, a climb on the right hand side below Belcher's Slab was pushed into the Cheesecake Series. A very loose 22m climb up gains a sloping, sandy ledge and 300m of passage that end up about 45m above BBQ at Saucepan Street.

To the right, a complex route between boulders (marked with cairns) ends at a steep slope down into the level of large passages. These are followed with a good draught to a sand slope down onto an undescended pitch, and back up to a chamber, The Rodeo. On the left in the chamber are possible climbs and, before The Rodeo, is a 20m pot that was descended (17/8/03) to a "10m pitch" at the base. This was explored (25/8/03) into an 8m long rift, about 1m wide. To the south, this drops through a window with a 3m climb down to the top of a 10m slope in a boulder choke. A strong draught is present (going up the pitch). The boulder choke has been explored for about 20m into a chamber where the way on is not obvious.
To the northwest, pitches of 12 and 8m lead to an undescended, draughting up pitch of 15m on the left (constricted, needs a lumphammer) where it is possible to see into a chamber, and a passage with climbs that chokes.

The through-route continues to a large chamber, Alimony Hall. Beyond is Brown Sugar, where the roof drops down to a sand choke. Brown Sugar Extension (31m) was entered in Easter 2001.

In Alimony Hall, a slope up to the right leads to a corner where choked passages lead off to the right. Just beyond, a series of small passages lead on the right to Snow Bat Passage. The main passage continues with gypsum formations and "snow drifts" to an area of chokes and small tubes.
In 2006, between Snowbat and Poppadom passages, Shafted Oyster was dug into through a stal grill. There is a possible dig to a larger passage on the left.

Snow Bat Passage is a crawl over gypsum snow that can be bypassed by a high level route. These join at a complex, well decorated area that is apparently very close to the Coffin Levels in Torca de Azpilicueta (333). The main route on passes over much snow and through a short crawl to a larger phreatic tube, BBQ at Saucepan Street. This passes various undescended pitches to end at a choke.
At Easter 2001, a crawl at the end was pushed to a rift (Polyp Passage) and beyond, a 10m undescended draughting pitch with a high level visible across. This was pushed up a muddy slope at Easter 2004 where one tight tube goes down and three very tight tubes go up. No progress was made.

The most northerly section was surveyed in 2003 and appeared to looked promising over a p20. This route was pushed at Easter 2004 when 17 bolts were used on a 23m traverse, Scandinavian Airways. Beyond is a 2.5 x 2m passage with sediment and a small trench in the floor. 15m on from the traverse is a T-junction with Sing-a-Long Pitch to the right which drops about 80m in steps of 23, 9, 20 and 20m. To the left at the T-junction is a wide crawl which turns right and goes to a decorated junction. To the right a fragile passage has a dead end and a low crawl with a good draught which ends up too low. This could be dug in calcite and mud. To the left is a visible passage beyond a 5m pitch which are blind. The traverse was derigged after Easter.

A dig in Snow Bat Passage was attempted but it appears to be a long term effort.

Around the November 2003 fiestas time, the "crawl continues" off Luck of the Dogs was pushed through a sand dune into Floorless Chamber with two 50m pitches. During the same period, the "unexplored pit" ended 10m down and the "undesecended p10" was found to be too tight 10m down.

At Easter 2004, the pitches at Floorless Chamber were descended: the main one was dropped to -17m and the route was bottomed at Easter 2006 down further drops of p9, p22, c3, c2, c3 and p10 to a small streamway that became too narrow. This is at an altitude of 168m, the deepest point in Papá Noel and at a similar altitude to Anastomoses Hall in Reñada, about 110m away. (A passage off to the NW of Floorless Chamber was linked to Reñada by pushing up Astronomoses Aven beyond Anastomoses Hall).

To the southwest of Floorless Chamber, a side passage with the sound of water was found in 2004. This is coming from a big pitch that can be reached via a small body sized hole in the wall. This was subsequently dropped (Peek Hole Pitch, p14). It is very wet and enters a 1m wide rift with a good echo. Rope and spits are needed to push it.
The passage beyond Floorless Chamber pushed through Tailwind Passage to Torture Chamber Grotto and past two possible connection points with Torca de Azpilicueta - the Coffin Levels and At the Opera.

During Whit 2004, the end of Torture Chamber Grotto was pushed by 130m to reach a large chamber and during the summer the route was extended and linked with Azpilicueta at At the Opera. (A description of this area should be coming from Torben). The Hall of Tubes area was revisited in November 2005 and an 8m shaft noticed in the floor.

The one trip into Papá Noel in the summer of 2006 pushed on through the hole in the wall in Hole in the Wall Chamber. Four bolts were required to reach the way on and rope was left in situ for the fairly solid traverse over cauliflower formations. There is a draught into the hole and the passage continues as walking and crawling, heading NE for about 100m. There are a number of leads that have been left
- about 40m NE of Hole in the Wall Chamber there is a complex of tubes with draught
- 10m further N there is a chamber with small tubes in the roof
- 24m further NE there are shafts up to 30m deep to be checked and passage going west. The floor is boulders and sediment and not perfectly safe.
- about 70m NE of Hole in the Wall Chamber a small passage heads into Hanging Death Chamber, a breakdown area heading northwest for some 30m. There are many ways on including climbs and pitches, including the Diving Board where a large block precariously sticks out over a drop. This area is above and slightly to the west of Anastomoses Hall in Cubio de la Reñada and this precipitated a successful bolting exercise up an aven off that hall. The climbs didn't link to this point however, rather to a passage close to Floorless Chamber.

At Easter 2007, the descent out of Hanging Death Chamber was made but no way on was found at the base. However, a ramp from HDC rose up 65m to Swiss Cheese. This needs a proper description and drawn up survey. The survex file has this batch in (1471_12) but it is not shown on the pdf file.

References: anon., 2000b (Easter logbook); anon., 2000c (Summer logbook); Corrin Juan, 2001 (photos); Corrin Juan, 2003a; anon., 2003b (Easter logbook); anon., 2003c (summer logbook); Corrin Juan, 2003c (photo); anon., 2003d (autumn logbook); anon., 2004b (Easter logbook); anon., 2004c (Whit logbook); anon., 2004d (summer logbook); anon., 2005c (autumn logbook); Corrin Juan, 2005; Corrin Juan, 2006a; anon., 2006b (Easter logbook); Corrin, Juan 2006; anon., 2006d (summer 2006); Corrin Juan, 2007 (survey); anon., 2007b (Easter logbook); Corrin Juan and Smith Peter, 2007 (survey); Corrin Juan, 2007a; León García José, 2010 (line survey section and photos); Papard Philip, Corrin Juan and Smith Peter, 2014; anon., 2015c (summer logbook)
Entrance pictures: yes
Underground picture(s): November 2005, The Wormhole :
Summer 2004 - pictures from the Azpilicueta, At the Opera link
Whit 2004 : Easter 2004, Scandinavian Airways area : Easter 2004, Belcher's Slab and Floorless Chamber & "damp conditions":
Easter 2003, Plaza de Concorde : Easter 2003, Teamwork Pot area : Photos from 2000 : early photos
Detailed survey: 1:1000 from end of summer 2000 (200kb file) (original) 1:1000 (end of Easter 2004)  summer 2004 (pdf)  November 2005 (pdf)   Easter 2006 pdf   summer 2006 pdf
Line survey:
On area survey:
Survex file: download (Easter 2007) (Amended magnetic declination December 2013 to align with Eur79 grid and coordinates altered to fit ETRS89 datum, April 2014.)  
South Vega System including 1471 (Amended magnetic declination December 2013 to align with Eur79 grid and coordinates altered to fit ETRS89 datum, April 2014.)
Passage direction rose diagram: South Vega System (30/6/2018)

X