The 1977 expedition

The 1977 expedition logically aimed to push on in Uzueka. As the furthest point reached was estimated at about 200m from the straight line joining Carcavuezo and Cueva Llueva, it was hoped that the three caves would soon be connected. But the first great obstacle found on arrival was the appallingly wet weather, resulting in flood conditions in the valley and caves. For instance, attempts at photography in the downstream part of Cueva Llueva were twice halted by low airspace in the canals, on the 18th and 23rd July. The camp-site became churned into mud, but the expedition was offered the use of a house, into which about half the members moved. Some of the first caving done was in Cueva de la Canal, at Fuente las Varas, overlooking the Riaño valley; about 100m was surveyed. While helping the plumber at Cueva Elegante again, they were shown other caves in Secadura. One of these was 125, where they amazed the plumber and his deaf and dumb companion by going into one entrance and re-appearing from another. The second cave they were shown was Solviejo, which had already been visited by young cavers from Laredo. Despite its obvious potential, the cave wasn't explored very far that year. Once more, KCC members didn't form part of the expedition. Instead they had permission for their own area near Seña and Limpias, and for diving various sumps in different parts of Cantabria. But they sometimes took part in the caving in Matienzo. One of these occasions was the trip into Uzueka. A visit on the 1st August had been stopped by high-water blocking the way out of Duckhams Sump. About one week later Geoff Yeadon was able to pass this, but the survey tape had to be used as a guide line for the rest of the party. By keeping up high in the boulders of Rocky Horror, they were able to find large passage, and when that choked they dropped back to the stream, reaching a sump. About half a kilometre had been added, yet it couldn't be surveyed without the tape. And the hoped-for connection remained elusive. Despite the wet weather, the divers stuck to their objectives in the 4-valleys system. Geoff dived the upstream Llueva sump, Phil Pappard the downstream sump, and both Phil and Bob Emmot dived in Carcavuezo. But in none of these cases could dry passage be found. Equally, the bouldery cave of Los Boyones, above the resurgence at Secadura, was explored for just 100m. As the number of SRT exponents grew, several big shafts could be descended. These included Alpine Chough Pot (-70m), 129 on the very summit of Muela (-58m), and Sima del Cueto. On 12th August Cueva de Seis Pozos was explored on the slopes of La Secada. Its name came from the six separate shafts dropping from its one short passage. All these shafts were choked, but the cave has never since been re-located. A later find was Cueva de Dofrades (Black Crow Cave) in La Vega. Approximately 320m were surveyed, including the discovery of a bottom entrance. Towards the end of the expedition, the KCC divers returned to Matienzo, and were shown two sumps in Secadura. The first, Surgencia de las Crecidas (presumed to be a flood overflow exit for the 4-valleys system) was explored for about 200m, through one sump and open passage to a second sump, said to be too tight. The second was Cueva del Sifón Claro, where Stuart Davey returned with a spectacular story: "the diver howled along the dead straight passage, in visibility too good to be true." Unfortunately, visits in later years by other divers have shown that description to be a work of fiction. The 1977 expedition suffered many disappointments, especially the weather. But the next big cave had been located - Solviejo, even if they weren't particularly aware of it at the time. Extensive passages would be found in Alpine Chough Pot too, many years later. But no expedition report was produced at all; in fact the only "Spain '77" report was made by KCC. On the other hand, the caver and geomorphologist, Tony Waltham had visited Matienzo, and he produced scientific papers describing its Karst development.

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