Matienzo Caves Project 2019
News and cave exploration around Matienzo during 2019.
A map with area names can be found here.
Section links: • Easter • Pre-summer • Summer • Autumn • Christmas / New Year
The University of Lancaster continues its link with the Matienzo Caves Project. Over a long weekend in January, Poppy Ambler, a master's degree student, accompanied by Dr Peter Wynn and Andy Quin collected samples in Cueva-Cubío del Llanío (site 3234 at Riaño) for a study of nitrogen levels in water, mud and stal, hoping to gain some insights into land use over the last few hundred years..
A walk in heavy showers on the hillside to the south of La Vega provided a couple of new sites above Volcano Cave (site 1391): "probably new" site 4853 - a slot dropping down a few metres and requiring digging gear and site 4854, another dig. Both sites had water running away down the holes in the wet weather.
Enough rain fell after the weekend to flood the fields in Matienzo, although well below the 2 - 3m higher levels at the end of January four years previously.
Near the end of January, a water trace from site 1265 to the Carrales resurgence (site 4855) was thwarted when the detector disappeared and a second attempt gave a "negative" result, possibly due to too little OBA or not enough time being given for the OBA to come through.
(Note: Some earlier January 2019 activities are documented in the 2018 Christmas / New Year account.)
The list below shows links to those 8 sites which were extended or newly discovered over January, or which have had surveys, references or descriptions updated, photos or movie clips added, or entrances repositioned using a GPS.
Barrio de Carrales 1265 cave;
El Naso 4856 cave;
Riaño 3234 Llanío, Cueva-Cubío del;
S Vega 1186 dig; 1627 dig; 4853 dig; 4854 dig;
JSC 29/1/2019; 5/3/2019
About 35 cavers visited Matienzo spread over nearly six weeks during and after the Easter period. It was much drier than last Easter and this helped with pushing Fuente Aguanaz. However, the expedition started with some wet weather that curtailed Rupert's work to push towards the South Vega system at sump 6 downstream in Cueva Vallina, so this project will resume later in the year.
The permit for 2019 has changed by adding the area of Hazas de Cesto as far as the main road but, in agreement with the Federation, we have given up the hill of Vizmaya which will be allocated to a Spanish group. Much work was carried out in this new area in order to understand it and identify sites and caves. Prospecting was made difficult in some places by dense "jungle" with "killer vines" making access very difficult. Despite this, 74 sites and caves were found and recorded, the majority not being recorded previously. A number have been pushed but work (pushing, digging etc) for a large number is still needed. In addition, a further 38 new sites were recorded bringing the number of new records to 112.
A variety of caves were pushed and surveyed and, in total, well over 200 visits to caves and digs were made over the expedition. Including work done earlier in the year, well over 2.5km of new cave were surveyed (see table) and about 400m of resurvey work carried out.
The main finds this Easter were in Fuente Aguanaz (0713), where nearly 1km of new passage was found and surveyed; in Now’t but Obstacles (4474) where some 350m was added after many trips and complicated digging and surveying; Cueva-Cubío del Llanío (3234), where over 300m of new passage was found and surveyed - but still the link to Cueva de Riaño (0105) is to be made just some 5m away (assuming surveys are correct!); Torca del Mostajo (0071), where over 300m of new and previously poorly surveyed cave (centre line only) was carried out below the Golden Void pitch, (but still an easy link to the "Manchester Series" is to be found); in La Gatuna, Torca del Cortiguero (4911) was found and pushed for nearly 200m and, in our new area, a resurgence cave, Cueva de Tesugo (4878), was found and looked at by several members of the expedition - but a crawl was missed that was later pushed for just under 100m to a sump that may be worth diving.
A number of finds are still to be surveyed including Drone Pot (4669) and 3% Pot (4877) in the new area. Bolting work at the Zeppelin Hangers in Cueva-Cubío de la Reñada (0048) and above the Double Dutch pitch in Cueva Vallina (0733) show good possibilities of finds with more work needed.
The excellent Matienzo Karst Entomology Project continued its work during the Easter period, recovering the many traps placed last year. New specimens taken from some 15 sites including Jivero II, Cueva del Coverón, Cueva-Cubío del Llanío, Sima-Cueva del Risco, Lenny's Cave, La Cuvía, Torca la Vaca, Cueva del Molino (Agua) and La Bodega. The traps and specimens will be examined in the coming months and a separate report on the work produced. However, with the very large number of finds, work to identify all and make a final report will take a long time.
At Cueva Vallina (0733), Rupert was not able to continue his diving work due to wet weather early in April but spent time bolting above Double Dutch Pitch where a bolted traverse is now needed to reach a possible upper passage. In the Zona Blanca area near Swirl Chamber work was done surveying and sorting out the survey and the link to passages which the Tortosa Group had found and surveyed. The top entrance to the cave was used to coach the diving team and trial the SubPhones prior to a planned location beyond sump 4 in Fuente Aguanaz (0713). These worked very well but, due to problems with contracting an infection, possibly from polluted water in Aguanaz, this location work had to be delayed until the summer.
Three new sites were found near Cruz Usaño but not pushed: two caves (4943 & 4945) and a shaft (4944), of which only 4943 was on our side of the ridge.
In the South Vega System, surveying work and bolting at the Zeppelin Hangers in Cueva-Cubío de la Reñada (0048) was carried out and this has helped to complete this part of the re-survey. The climbing has identified possible higher passages, but more work is needed to get to possible leads. After studying the survey, it is clear that a small passage in Torca de Azpilicueta (0333) past the Pipe Cleaner does drop into one of the Zeppelin hangers through a small hole, but this connection has not been surveyed and is not likely to be the lead seen from below.
Towards the top of the ridge two sites were found in February (4853 and 4854) both taking water in very heavy rain. At Easter, site 4854 was found to be a long term dig with no draught, and at first 4853 looked similar, but a small hole was noted on the south side that draughted. This was opened up on a later trip with caps to where you can see down a few metres to a possible standing size passage / small chamber. A very thin person may now be able to get down but, in any event, only another session of capping will gain access. Site 0822 was descended some 15m but found to be choked with no good prospect – there had been confusion with another site (Spanish Flea) on the Riva side of the hill also listed as 0822 but this has been corrected and renumbered as 4951.
The cave 4668 just to the west of Torca del Dron (4669) was checked out to see if it would give access to Torca del Dron. A connection was dug and made but it is awkward and restricted going via several bends to take a route some three times longer than the distance between the entrances. While this was being done it was found that it was easy to get under the concrete beams the farmer had put on Torca del Dron so giving easy access. Later a small metal grid was placed over this gap that can be removed via 2 nuts on our normal 8mm bolts – i.e. a normal bolting spanner. In Torca del Dron a traverse round a drop below the entrance pitch reached a further 25m pitch which on a following trip was descended to find a further very large pitch not yet dropped. This find is still to be surveyed.
The Active Route in Torca de Corcada (0780) at Seldesuto was pushed together with our French colleagues from Spéléo Club Dijon to gain access to further drops where more work is needed. This Active Route deviates away from the Fossil Route so making the dig in the latter also very worthwhile.
At Alisas, the shaft 4763 was pushed down a 4m ladder to a 2m climb. On the opposite side of a small chamber is a 3m climb to a choke with no way on. Shaft 4772 was worked on in order to enlarge access to a shaft in the corner of the open hole, but more work is needed. Site 2269 was noted to have much more vegetation covering it and a depression to the south (site 4955) had a small stream sinking and could be a good location for a water trace. (These sites are just to the west of our area and were looked at in liaison with G.E. Pistruellos club to whom details have been passed.)
In the Cubija valley, possible leads below the Golden Void in Torca del Mostajo (0071) were pushed and over 300m of passage surveyed of which some 157m were new. Previously a section of the survey only had a centre line and was dotted in on the old paper survey. With this work, this defect has been corrected. The possiblE easier link to the Manchester Series is proving elusive. Some radio location work may be needed to fix key points on the survey in relation to each other.
On El Naso, Cueva de Coberruyo (0138) was photographed and a small extension surveyed to complete the survey work on this site.
The North-East Sector including The Four Valleys System
In La Secada a number of digs were worked on in the area above the “Mushroom Field”. Progress was made at the strongly draughting site 4805 by the main track in the wood at the far end of the “Mushroom Field”. Shoring was installed to try to stabilise the loose infill. What was thought to be solid bedrock now looks like eroded and detached limestone and more shoring is needed. More materials were taken up to the site in Terry’s 4x4 ready for the summer. Two and a Half Fat Ladies (0880) was dug and several large boulders broken and removed. Digging is now awkward due to lack of space and, in the summer, work will be needed to open up the digging face where there is some open space in front. At site 0252 a little digging was carried out, but it was wet due to the floor being dug too low at the end of last year so pooling up water – again work may progress in the summer. Near the Bar Pot (site 0613) was checked out at the far end of the chamber where there is the strongest draught, but spoil may need to be taken out to the surface.
At the west side of La Secada, more progress and capping at Socks (1017) was carried out and the site surveyed. The site draughts well but less so at Easter, so it will be checked out on a hot day in summer to identify the best place to dig.
The area opposite Casa Germán had been burnt off just prior to Easter. Sitting in the bar with a telescope three possible holes were noted in the lower slopes. These were visited one evening and found to be small caves (4946, 4947, 4948) with little prospect but worth recording. No GPS unit was taken on the visit, but Juan located the three sites using his drone on a later day.
In Llueva, at the archaeology site Cueva Túnel (0658) two of the team observed the use of 3D scanning and photogrammetry by experts working for the Consejeria de Educación Cultura y Deporte to produce a detailed record.
At Fresnedo, in Cueva Fresnedo 2 (0841), a twelve hour trip to the far end pushed the leads in the extension found in 2018. None went any great distance apart from 30m in a nice streamway, but there are still some side passages to check out and survey in this area.
In Cueva-Cubío del Llanío (3234) at Riaño, over three pushing trips, more than 300m of new cave was found and surveyed. The extension started at a pitch near B Chamber and reached the same level as Cueva del Riaño (0105), apparently only 5m away. Other extensions seemed to take the cave further away from Cueva del Riaño. It seems quite likely there could be some small errors in the surveys of the two caves given the lengths of passages involved, so locating them with the SubPhones may prove helpful.
A side passage on the right past The Hub was dug but appeared too narrow ahead with no draught.
In addition to these trips, a visit was made to collect water samples as part of a Lancaster University project looking to see if paleo-nitrogen levels can be obtained in this cave that is currently below farmed meadow land.
Above Riaño, a new shaft (site 4889) was found with a choke where easy digging for 1m was carried out on a following trip. The site has easy access and a good draught so it's well worth some more work.
At Solórzano, to the east of the main road, a depression (site 4965) with a small rift feature at its base was found. This site is partially choked by vegetation and cut branches but has a slight draught. On the side of the same depression is a short, narrow, phreatic tube too narrow to enter.
In Cueva de Collada (0394) at La Gatuna, a lead at the west side of White Russian was pushed and surveyed for nearly 50m, but the dig here and near the entrance did not go and have few prospects.
A draughting shaft (Torca el Cortiguero, 4911) above and to the southeast of Cueva de Collada was found to drop into a passage, not to go to the cave below but to go up an inlet to the southeast. It was pushed and surveyed to a rift for almost 200m, ending right under a house on the Riaño – Cobadal road.
A “cold store” cave (4905) was located and found to go for 6m to a low dig with a calcited rift to the right. Also of interest are two caves, (4912 and 4913),which still need GPS locations (so they will not be on the map at present) that go for 5m to continuing passage but with no draught, and a series of rifts that could be easily opened up where stones fall for a few metres and run away. In addition, in this area, there are six choked shafts all about 3m deep (4898, 4900, 4901, 4902 4903 and 4906), a 6m free climbable choked shaft (4918) and two caves (4876 & 4904) that have not been pushed or dug.
At Hornedo, a trip into Torca la Vaca (2889) via BigMat Calf Hole (3916) was made in order to push possible leads in the Nearly Dan Chamber area, but they were found to either not go or had been previously looked at and surveyed.
In Fuente Aguanaz (0713) at San Antonio, Mark Smith and Jim Lister carried out a major diving project to push and survey leads in Sarah Jean Passage, climb a high aven and, if possible, locate the aven using the SubPhones. With dry weather and low water conditions, very good progress was made with nearly 1km added to the cave in this area. The aven was climbed to a ledge some 15m up from where the top could not be seen due to it curving out of sight. Work to complete this climb and at another aven in the area will be attempted in the summer. The location work was not carried out partly due to missing one or two pushing days: one of the divers developed a bad infection requiring medical treatment, possibly caused by polluted water in part of the cave. Leads in the main upstream passage were not looked at and will be addressed in the summer.
The area above the end of Sarah Jean Passage was checked out for possible digs / sites that may link into the system. Two digs (4458, & 4956) were overgrown and looked to be poor prospects but should be checked out in the summer for draughts. Site 4954 did have a small draught and again needs checking out to see if it is worth digging. Tyre Hole (4957) is a rift filled with a small number of tyres. In order to make progress some rock needs removing to get access down a drop of a few metres but, again, no draught was detected at Easter. The one site that was draughting well is the sink at site 2831 that had been dug previously but was thought to need a lot more work. Given its location above the newly found passages, this site needs checking out again to see if digging is worthwhile.
Further over towards the north, a new hole (4973) was noted adjacent to site 3213 and is still to be investigated.
Cueva Laberinto (3268) was pushed and dug in the sand choked passage near the big rift but no major extension was found and no significant open leads or good digs are left to be looked at in the cave. In Bamboozle Hole (3333) the draught was found coming from a 8m deep, tight rift that would need capping all the way down - so this dig was abandoned after surveying the bottom area. A dig near the entrance gave access to a blocked rift but no real prospect. The site was surveyed as was nearby 3422. At site 4698 the floor below the entrance 5m pitch was dug and capped but the way on requires a massive amount of work and the dig was abandoned. Two draughting digs in a large shakehole (3630) were dug but more work is needed. The floor below the entrance pitch in cave 3239 was excavated to gain 5m down the slope followed by 3m to a choke and a lot of bones embedded in calcite on the floor. There is no real prospect or easy dig left here.
In Cobadal the cave 4137 was worked on by capping out a rift to gain access to a cross rift, heading back to parallel to main passage. Other possible leads did not go and no significant leads are left to pursue in this cave.
Two sites were visited at Camposdelante. The cave 4550 was climbed down a 2m rift to a choked floor. The rift above the floor was seen to continue for at least 6m but is partly blocked by rocks and needs work to get access. The shaft / dig 4574 was worked on to remove a slab of rock preventing progress and a 7m shaft was dropped to where a further rift is about 6m deep. This needs “pinch points” removing, some 3m down, to allow access.
At Navajeda three new caves were found: site 4967, in a small outcrop, is a 3m sloping descent into a small chamber; 4968 is a 2m crawl to a cross rift where the left branch chokes and the right branch extends 2m to bend, continuing very low, and 4969 - an undercut with small passage going off. Cueva del Rotizo (4460) was visited, and it was noted the entrance is now accumulating rubbish.
This new area for the expedition extends both sides of the main road between Solórzano and the main N-634 road at Beranga. The area has three main types of land: very dense deciduous forest heavily colonised with “killer vines” and other thorny vegetation making access extremely difficult; eucalyptus plantations that allow better access, but can still be difficult, and fairly open farm and fell land, so with easy access. (Photos of the west side)
The area to the west on the hill of Monte Llusa is mainly covered by very dense forest and, apart from some tracks (used by hunters), access is a problem. There are some old aerial photographs from 1956/57 prior to eucalyptus planning and before this dense forest developed. From this resource, Juan has identified a number of depressions that may have caves in them. These have been identified and marked with "D" codes on the QGIS map for investigating, so limiting the need for random jungle bashing. A few were investigated at Easter, but most remain to be reached. (Maps and photos)
There are open fell areas on the south side of Monte Llusa that are easily reached from the Garzón side where a number of sites and caves have been found. This area extends into the Anero district which is not in our permission area. A number of sites have been located here (but not examined) and have been allocated a code starting with an "X".
To the east of the main road, the area extends north from Riolastras and is an area of low limestone hills and valleys and, apart from some patches of dense undergrowth and eucalyptus, has better access.
A considerable amount of time was spent prospecting in this new area where 75 sites in our permit area not previously recorded were found, located and photographed. In addition, a number of previously known sites were located and some surveyed and photographed. This report does not go into detail on all the finds, only the most interesting or surveyed ones are described below. Thirty two locations were identified in the Monte Llusa area, most of which were new. The majority of finds have not been dug or pushed and are not listed here. Some of the finds are listed below where they have been pushed or appear to have more potential.
In the Monte Llusa area, a big open shaft (4870) situated next to a small flooded shakehole was descended about 10m to a sloping floor. A more restricted drop at the base was descended 7m on a subsequent trip to a further 5m drop to a dig. The site has still to be surveyed and dug. Nearby 4871 is a smaller, open shaft, 4m deep with a 2m choked crawl under and a further rift that drops down 3m to a blind cross rift. Shaft 4864 was dropped for 12m to where it continues too tight to descend for about 5m to a muddy floor. Shaft 4863 is 8m deep to where there is a small 3m diameter chamber. The floor is loose fill and could be dug, but there was no draught at Easter. A wide hole (4891) next to a logging and walking track up from El Rincón to the open hilltop south of Monte Llusa (marked by red posts) was only a few metres deep but had a small draughting dig that would be a lot of work. A small cave (4874) ends in a short drop, this was confirmed to choke with poor digging prospects. Site 4895 is 3m to a blind chamber with mud floor.
At Garzón, cave 4960 was entered in walking sized passage, 8m long by 3m wide, to an 11m by 7m chamber, 3m high, with a very low passage on the right, but with no draught at Easter. Cueva de los Moros (4857) opened out down a climb into a 20m by 11m blind chamber.
At El Rincón, an overflow resurgence (4894) was found to have no flow in dry weather so it was possible to lower the water to gain entry. An attempt was made with a small pump, but a more concerted effort is needed. Another flood resurgence is site 4892, 3m of stooping height passage with a very narrow rift continuing. Site 4942 is a hole to water and a possible dive site behind the main, built-over resurgence (4893, marked with an obelisk). A resurgence (4867) on the valley floor on the north side of El Rincón appears to have a significant flow in wet weather. There is an open small cave just above, but this was not pushed due to having only surface gear and a dead animal in the passage.
A known cave is Cueva del Rincón (4868) where three places in this rock shelter were dug. The first opened up into a crawl to a small space but with no obvious way on. The second was a promising dig with a low passage sloping away but with no draught. Digging had to stop as possible human remains were noted (tibia and a skull fragment) and left in situ. The third dig is a very low crawl that continues with no draught on the left of a rock-shelter – this would need a lot of work.
In the Hazas de Cesto and Beranga areas, to the west of the main road just south of the motorway, 15 sites (4928-4942) were located. Again, most were new, although site 4937 had, in fact, been found and a sketch survey drawn by the expedition in 1977. This cave still needs pushing and surveying, but at the time of the visit this Easter there seemed to be some pollution of the small stream. Of the other sites, none had any significant extent of cave except 4933 which is a roomy entrance in a steep, fenced shakehole down to a roomy crawl and a small dig; 4934 which is a 4m climb to a dig with a small draught, which may be worth checking out in hot weather, and 4941, a small complex of rifts and tubes where one smaller entrance has a grill and a rift to the left may dig beyond a couple of blocks.
In the northern section of Riolastras in the Hazas de Cesto municipality, five new sites were found of which four had not been explored: Bedstead Hole (4916), a shaft that looks to be 4m deep; 4917, a shaft covered with a log where stones fall down "some way”; a dig 4924, and site 4949 a small cave under a thin limestone bed. A deep, large hole (Cueva Colapso, 4927), some 15m across with old cave sections extending all around the bottom, is home to a few bats and seems to be a collapsed chamber. This was surveyed to 68m. Nearby is the known Cueva de las Palomas (4004) that could not at first be found in the forest, the GPS being a little out, now corrected. This 146m long site was surveyed and photographed. The cave seems to be home to goats as a lot of the floor of most passages is covered in their droppings. There is a climb to a possible extension in a chamber where there is a large bat colony. This would be a good site to place a bat detector as access is via a roomy crawl. Cave 4095 was explored 10m to a dig in a small streamway.
Twenty two new sites were found and recorded in the Hazas de Cesto north (east of main road) area. Of these, 15 are digs or small sites with no significant open cave. The other seven are of more immediate interest. Site 4877 (3% Pot) was found in a small cliff next to a tree. Although it was thought to have low prospects (3%), it was found to drop some 8m to about 30m of passage leading to a second pitch and dig needing work to extend further. This site has a reasonable draught and should be surveyed.
A resurgence, Cueva de Tesugo (4878) is a walking cave to a dam, a tiny stream entry and a small, choked chamber to the west. On a subsequent visit, a low crawl on the east just inside the entrance entered 35m of passage to where the water in the main cave emerged from a sump and into a sink which appears to flow to the dam. A further passage runs parallel to the low crawl to a choke. In total, the cave was surveyed to 105m and the sump may be a possible dive site.
Site 4910 is a 20m long sloping cave to an upward dig at the end and is a bat roost. Cave 4919 was a dig that, after removal of a blockage, is now a 30m long cave with a climb down into a phreatic chamber with two ways on to digs, one of which was dug to a choke. It needs checking out in hot weather when there should be a better draught.
Site 4883 is a collapse hole in a flat area of in-fill in a small valley. A hole in the bottom drops through boulders to an easily diggable choke where you can see along for some 5m. This is likely to meet a stream that sinks not far up the valley.
A large depression (4923) has a 4m by 5m hole 7m deep to a choked floor. Shaft 4925 is a hole with a large rock over the top and drops 3m to a possible way on if dug.
The following work was carried out in agreement with the Spanish club G.E. Pistruellos.
At Moncobe, the shaft 4474 now called Now't but Obstacles was very difficult to push with multiple digs and restrictions to be overcome. However, a lot of cave was found and surveyed over seven trips with 314m added, bringing the length to over half a kilometre. Cave 3029 was worked on to enlarge the drop at the end to reveal small passage, however there is too much work needed to continue. At Barrio de Arriba a draughting shaft (4966) was dug but, to continue, the banking needs stabilising and the site made stock-proof. More work is needed to clear the blockage down the shaft.
Easter expedition article by Phil Papard.
Pete Smith has recently shown bones from various caves to Pedro Castaños. Those from site 3239 were identified as juvenile red deer or calf; from Two and a Half Fat Ladies (0880)as red deer and, of most interest, the decayed skeleton above Professional Advice Chamber in Cueva Hoyuca (0107) was positively identified as that of a leopard, Panthera pardus.
|0048||Reñada (additions)||in hand (PP/JC)|
|0071||Mostajo (additions)||in hand (PP)|
|0736||cave (sketch)||complete (PS)|
|1017||Socks||sketch on centre line|
|3234||Llanío||in hand (JC)|
|4474||cave||in hand (AL)|
|4892||resurgence cave||complete (JC)|
|4911||Cortiguero / Litigation||complete (JC)|
|4951||Spanish Flea||complete (Madrid)|