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MATIENZO 2015 - The DCC contribution to the expedition

(Provisional reports)

Easter 2015

As usual, a small DCC team headed out for the Matienzo Easter 2015 Expedition – And to what a great success!  Just short of 500 m was surveyed of brand new cave passage above Torca la Vaca (2889).  The DCC team (Andy, Anton and Joel) were joined by Alex Ritchie (BRCC) and Darren Jarvis (MUSC) leaving no space in the car for Tom, so he did his own thing until the excitement worn off a tad.  Reports came back each night to Bar German which kept everybody well informed and the ‘new discovery’ was the single project for many this time round.  (See description below).  Apart from the new cave find, various other trips were held to some of the more explored caves in the area you could say.  For more details, refer to the Matienzo website (www.matienzocaves.org.uk).

Other project trips:

Cueva Vallina (0733) – Dye testing.

Tom joined Ali Niell, Pete Eagan, Pete Smith, Steve Sharp, Jim Davies and some French guy for a trip down to the streamway to place some dye.

"Four litres of Leucophor were placed in the river just upstream of the confluence of the waters from Vallina I and II. Detectors were placed in Cueva del Comellantes (40), Cueva del Molino (resurgence) (791), Fuente de Barcena Morel (3278) and the Bustablado river just down stream of the main resurgences on the south side opposite Molino. Detectors were also placed in Cueva-Cubío de la Reñada (48) at Sump 1, Squirrel's Passage and the stream below Castle Hall. After 8 days of negative detectors, the detector in Cueva del Comellantes went strongly positive. Subsequent checks on the other detectors showed them all to be negative apart from Sump 1 in Reñada which was also strongly positive. This test confirms that Vallina and Reñada are part of the same system, and that Squirrel's Passage water is an inlet and not part of the main river that flows out of Reñada II and into Reñada I via sump I."

Cueva Vallina (0733) – Top entrance to Pot Entrance Sport trip.

Not forgetting his place, Tom carried bags for a sporting trip from the top entrance of Vallina to the Pot entrance with Jude Latimer and Jenny Corrin.

Cueva de los Campizos (3812) – Pushing.

Tom, Alex and Andy visited this site to see whether the current end could be pushed. It was, and we managed to push a tight rift into a large chamber with a 33m aven.  Tom then climbed to the current ‘end’ and due to lack of rigging and support turned back leaving it wide open for summer!  The Easter extension will need resurveying when we return and surveying into the final rifts.  Note: Gloves melt when used on Petzl Stops after abseiling 90m on 11mm dry rope! 

Link: http://www.matienzocaves.org.uk/descrip/3812.htm

Torca la Vaca (2889) – Pushing.

Tom, Paul Dold, Steve Sharp, Bill Sherington, Dan Hibberts and Imogen Dold revisited the pitch that Tom, Paul and Ed had left in 2013 due to lack of rigging gear. We rigged to -37m to a definitive end (all tackle removed afterward). We then rigged a traverse along the rift and entered a passage on the opposite side with a howling draft. Size 2m x 2m. Wide open ready for summer.

Child Minders Cave (4046) – New area.  Pushing.

An afternoon spare saw Tom, Johnny Latimer, James Carlisle and Bill Sherrington explore a new cave over in Solórzano (new permit area).  We managed to survey 114m to a current conclusion leaving a dry sandy and drafting dig along with diving potential in clear blue flowing waters.

Some of the team

Members involved:

Andy Farrow

Anton Petho

Joel Colk

Tom Howard

Steve Martin

Susie Martin

Cueva del Ciervo (4117)

A complex maze site that lies about 35 m above Ed's Birthday Passage close to the Wasdale Screes in Torca la Vaca.  The cave is located about 50 m north east of the cow barn on the left-hand side of the first wooded shake-hole. Note in summer it may need heavy bushwhacking.

Anton has provided this more detailed report:

Tom, Andy and I set off from Tom’s house on Saturday morning.  We had decided that it would be good to stop off in the Mendips on the way down to break up the journey, so after picking up Joel from Bristol Bus Station we headed to the Belfry Caving Club Hut.  We then spent the evening in the local pub known as the Hunters and then with Exeter Caving Club back at the hut before the next morning driving down to Plymouth to board the ferry.  Due to a combination of a very rough crossing and to a certain degree the effects of the night before we all went to bed early.  Waking up the next morning just of the Spanish coast where once disembarking we headed to the campsite to set up camp.

BigMat Calf Hole Dig At the top of the BigMat Calf Hole entrance discussing the best way to pass the collapse. Photo Joel Colk 2014.

BigMat Calf Hole is the name of a new entrance that was finally opened up in summer 2014 after two years of effort.  The purpose of the new entrance was to provide an easier entrance to the further reaches of the cave system called Torca la Vaca. This was done to aid further exploration of the further reaches of the nearly 20 km cave system.  Unfortunately the winter of 2013 had seen the wettest winter in Matienzo since records began and large parts of the valley were flooded.  This had caused the BigMat entrance to slump and a small section collapsed.  This meant that the first effort for many people on the expedition was to reopen this entrance, so my first day was spent helping to haul buckets of mud out from the dig face.  Fortunately we were successfully in reopening the entrance and access was made again.

Cueva del Ciervo (site number 4117) Anton removing a boulder from the entrance of Cueva del Ciervo. Photo Joel Colk 2014.

The previous day while digging, Paul Dold, a member of the Wessex Caving Club, had nipped off for a toilet break and had a look at a few holes while he was walking along the hillside.  After finding several holes, including one that was cooing at him, he found a promising looking hole with a good draft coming out of it.  That evening while in the bar he suggested that myself, Joel, Andy and Darren Jarvis (Manchester University Caving Club) and Alex Ritchie (Black Rose Caving Club) go and have a mooch.  He had mentioned the previous day that there was a boulder preventing him from entering, so with some gentle persuasion we were able to remove the boulder and make the hole big enough to get Alex to squeeze inside.  Once inside Alex had a quick look around and excitedly came back same he could see well decorated on-going passage.  After enlarging the entrance so we could all squeeze in, we made it past two squeezes and into a well decorated chamber.  This led via a sandy boulder choke to a second chamber, both these chambers had pits in the floor that the following day would be proved to choke up.  It was at this point that we decided it would be a good idea to start surveying back to the entrance to ensure the Andy and Darren Jarvis surveying in Cueva del Ciervo. Photo Joel Colk 2014.cave was recorded.  We were approaching the first of the squeezes after the first chamber, when we heard that a hole Alex and Darren had spotted in the second chamber had been pushed by Joel and after a flat out crawl it emerged in another well decorated walking height passage which included a 70 m pot.  That evening we excitedly recounted the exploration to Paul, we also enlisted his help as none of us were confident bolters and as he had found the hole it only seem right that we returned the favour and ask if he wanted to drop the new pot.

The following day we were joined by Paul but as well by Dan Hibberts who had more accurate surveying equipment and so while he updated the survey, Paul dropped the pot.  Only to find this one choked up as well after dropping about 70 m via a series of ledges to break up the pitches.  That evening with the new survey we discovered were Surface bashing on the hill above the Vaca system. Photo Joel Colk 2014.rapidly heading towards being over Vaca passage, albeit 35 m above it!  With this in mind after a day off we returned to traversed round the top of the 70 m pot and to push on along a rift we had spotted previously.  This led to over 200 m of new maze like cave and gave us the distance needed to move us over the top of Vaca passage.  During this new discovery we also found a complete bear skeleton in a rift.  Another discovery made was that a pot that was in the further reaches of the cave was actually known and had been discovered previously by another entrance known as the Langdales (site number 3034).  The pot had been found from below and had not been climbed and so on the day we left the connection between the two caves was successfully made taking the total passage length up to 491 m.

Other Activities At the bottom of the Via Ferrata, from left to right, back left Paul Dold, front left Dan Hibberts, middle Andy Farrow, back right Anton Petho, front right Steve Sharp, far right Imogen Dold. Photo Joel Colk 2014.

As well as the underground activities we visited the local town of Ramales which has one of three Via Ferratas in the area which came as a welcome break from pushing 4117.  Also on our final day as we were all feeling a little worse for wear so we decided to have a chilled out day of surface bashing.  Basically this involves walking along a hill side and trying to find any new holes that have not been found before and pushing them and recording them, most of the time they choke up after a few metres but as in the case of 4117, you can get lucky!  

Summer 2015

This is a report of some of the activities by DCC members in support of the Matienzo Caves Project. The expedition was joined by over a dozen members of the DCC, some for one week and some for two and of course Steve is out there for longer still. Accommodation ranged from tent to apartment and there was plenty of socialising with the rest of the expedition in the Baker’s, Pablo’s and Bar Tomás.  Anton adds that:

"After landing in Spain on the Sunday we met big Steve and Susie who had kindly agree to give us a lift from the airport to the campsite, via a bar for welcome drinks. This first day was mainly spent relaxing due to, firstly the glorious hot weather which meant none of us could face getting kitted up, and secondly we were all feeling rather tired after having set off from Tom's late on Saturday night and doing an all-nighter to catch our flight from Stanstead early on the Sunday morning.  So the day was spent at Pablo's before a swim in the Asón river to chill off from the sun followed by a meal at Bar Tomás in the evening."

Lennie's Cave Anton firing the snappers

Lennie’s Cave was our first call for Pete O’N to carry on work at a rift on the western end (marked “gap may open up” on the survey). After a bit of drilling and snappering by Pete O’N, Pete C, Billy, Tom and Anton, the rift was enlarged slightly but did not lead on any further. While this was going on Dave, Lauren and Nigel were taking photos elsewhere. After only a few caps access had been made and Lauren was able to squeeze her way in, only to report back that she had enter a small pocket in the choke with no Lauren in the main passagevisible way obvious way on. Pete O'Neil not being happy he had been out-skinnyed as he put it decided he would have one more go with the snappers to get passed the constriction.  Eventually, Pete O’N gave up on the rift and Tom used the drill to attack a vertical rift in the stal’d boulder choke just to the east of Pete’s rift. No success. Then Pete O’N pushed Lauren into a rift off the main passage (between the fork to the second entrance and the streamlet) where she managed to gain another 2 m before risking getting stuck. Tom and Anton had another look in the muddy grovel in the eastern boulder choke (the Frenzy) but could not get further. It looks like it would be useful to enlarge the Frenzy so that more people could get in and dig.  As Anton put it, "Tom emerged rather clean, however in recurring theme of the week I would emerge rather muddier!".  That was about it for the day so we retreated to a bar in Badames.

To see the survey, go to http://matienzocaves.org.uk/surveys/3721-current.pdf.

Cueva del Espino (0489), Cueva Chica (0083) and Cueva de las Bardalones (0094)

Having planned a trip to 489, to pay our respects to Roy Hayes, we decided to try our luck at descending the Risco waterfall path and also taking a look at a couple of caves on Cueto which needed photographing and surveying (0083, 0094). We had also spotted what looked like a cave entrance from the apartments and wanted to check it out. The team was Pete C, Billy, Nigel and Dave. We reached 489 by a different route – again – and had a quick look around and then crossed the valley below it to attack Cueto from the Matienzo valley side. It turned out that recent fires had tamed a lot of the gorse so the walk was not too bad. Round at Cueto, we contoured down until we reached first 0083 and then 0094. After scaring a few horses out of 0094, we went in and up to the end where we found that it was possible to go a bit further through an easy squeeze between stal. Inside the extension, there were some bear scratches on the wall. Bear scratches in the clayReturning out and photographing as we went, Dave looked up a side passage to a second entrance. We found that 0094 was the cave we had seen from the apartment and its alternative name: Cueva del Triangulo is a pretty fair description of how it looked from below.

Turning to 0083, again we went in to the end but this time Nigel and Dave surveyed out as there was no decent survey in the expedition records. In an alcove off the first branch of the cave, we found bear paw marks again, this time on soft clay on the wall. A number of photos were taken and we left the cave.

Dave had a look at a black hole on the hillside above 0083 and 0094 but the climb too it was too challenging without aids. On the way back down, which again proved to be fairly straightforward, we spotted a shaft right by the track which had not been descended. This is covered in the next section.

Above Risco (Shaft 4215, Cave 4216)

We went back up the footpath from Sedo to the top of the Risco waterfall. Leaving for the moment the shaft we had found previously, we looked in the field above for a shaft (0185) which was supposed to be near the barn and had not been descended. After a good look around, we could not find anything and thought that maybe the farmer had filled it in or covered it. Meanwhile, we found a small cave, about 4 m diameter chamber with a faint draught, which was later numbered 4216. Giving up 0185 as lost, we went back to the shaft found previously – now numbered 4215 – and after clearing a load of gorse, Nigel got into the top of the shaft on a pile of horse bones, plastic bags and barbed wire fence. A few bashes with a spade cleared enough space to drop a ladder and a descent was made of the 8 m shaft landing on more bones and plastic bags. The site turned out to be a rift with some formations but no way on wide enough to follow. At each end and in the floor, there were narrow ways on – but too tight for any normal human – even for Lauren. After taking more photos and some measurements, Nigel came out and the shaft was left.

BigMat Calf Hole (3916)

The plan was to help Phil and Juan install some support into the horizontal section of the dig at BigMat Calf Hole. Phil set up a generator and power drill which he used to break off rock at the bottom of the dig in order to fit segments of a plastic tube. The work was slow and he resorted to using caps instead of the drill. Meanwhile, Anton, Tom, Lauren, Dave and Pete O’N went in via BigMat Calf Hole to explore and survey in Vaca, particularly aiming for Deep Rifts Passage.  This is reported below by Anton.

After some time on the dig, we were surprised to find Anton returning over the surface with a big grin on his face saying that he and Lauren had just emerged from another entrance to Vaca, not previously known. They had had to push a couple of boulders out of the way but otherwise it was quite an easy route in to Deep Rifts Passage.

Phil, Juan, Anton and Nigel immediately set off to look at the entrance which was found after some time in woods – fortunately, Lauren stayed there to give us some help finding it. Anton and Nigel went back down to take some pictures while Lauren and Juan looked at the obvious pot in the same depression (3470). Obviously, this was an important find but it did leave Phil a bit peeved to find that his work at BigMat Calf Hole might have become unnecessary. In the end, though, it was agreed that BigMat Calf Hole still provides an important entrance to the system and still needs to be reinforced. The new entrance was named Cuba Libre in honour of what had become the staple drink for certain members of the expedition.

Torca la Vaca (2889) and Cuba Libre Entrance (4182)

Tom had been pushing a lead in Vaca for over two years and was keen to finish it off, so we decided that before the day’s work to stabilize the Big Matt entrance we would head off into the system and follow Tom’s lead.  Tom had said that there was a visible walking height way on across a 30 metre high solution pot but it required a traverse to get across to it safely, he also mentioned that to get to it was via a 20 metre sandy crawl, as it transpired it was more like a 100 metre crawl in liquid mud! Once through this we arrived at the days focus. Anton and Lauren after successfully getting out of Cuba Libre entrance

Shortly after rigging the traverse, the passage split and Pete O'Neil spotted that the draught at this corner split into two.  He suggested Lauren and I go up the sloping passage to the left while, he, Dave and Tom follow the passage round to the right. After only a short climb we reached the top of passage with tree roots hanging down from the ceiling; a small constriction blocked the passage but was just big enough for Lauren to squeeze through. Meanwhile I commence in digging out the constriction to make it big enough for me too squeeze through.  Lauren meanwhile was exploring leads in the boulder choke: the ones in the bottom of the choke went blind but after climbing up one lead she spotted daylight.  This was met with much jubilation from the pair of us as it meant we didn't have to go back through the crawl!  The only issue was that we had no idea how safe the choke was; it was only after trips in and out that we felt confident to start enlarging the hole to break to surface.  I commenced the digging and after enlarging the hole enough for Lauren to squeeze out, she then set about digging the entrance out to enable me to squeeze. 

Once both out I set off into the undergrowth to find the diggers at BigMat Calf Hole. Having found them there was much disgruntlement among the diggers, as Phil Pappard put it later "we had buggered up two and half years of effort", and a mass exodus of the dig.  After having lost my bearings slightly in the undergrowth Nigel, Juan, Phil and I manage to relocate Lauren and remove the large boulder blocking the entrance.  We then headed to Arkwright's and had a cuba libre to celebrate and as this had become main beverage Lauren and I drank while we were out there, we decided to name the entrance after it.

Digging at 1438 Work on 1438

Pete O’N dragged us off on a misty evening to have a look at an area near but not over 415. Some work had been done at the site about 3 years ago but Pete felt it warranted another look. So the next day when the mist had turned to rain, we set off armed with digging tools. The team was Pete O’N, Pete C, Billy, Lauren, Dave, Anton, Tom and Nigel. Initially, Nigel, Anton and Pete O’N concentrated on 1438 but Tom got excited about a dig a few metres away which was blocked by a large boulder. Some capping work eventually got rid of the boulder and Tom, Dave, Billy and Pete O’N went down into a new cave/shaft that was given the number 4189. The bottom of the new cave draughts slightly and will warrant a return trip some time.  In Anton's words:

"Tom in the new digWhile the dig was going on, Tom, Bill and Dave had found another drafting hole, about 20 metres from the dig. After going back down the hill to get capping gear and then capping a good few large boulders the hold went and they got into a new section of cave.

After hearing this news Nigel and I who were in the original dig discovered that there was lack of people to pull the buckets out.  So we quickly joined everyone else.  I dropped into the new hole to find Pete O’Neil and Dave digging away at a draughting hole down in the floor of the main chamber of the new dig.  I had a bit of a poke around in the dig with my feet and found a few spaces where there felt like there were void space and when rocks were thrown in them could be heard to rattling off down into them. Time was pressing on though and so we returned the next day to push the new dig and for Dave to have a go at surveying the new cave.  After digging a bit more at the dig we encountered a horizon full of deer bones and we also realised we had lost the draught.  It was at this point we decided to change to plan B for the day and scour the hillside for any other holes that previously been unrecorded.

After spending most of the afternoon wandering round the hillside, we decided to head for home, on the way back we decided to have a look at a very well-draughting hole just by the track.  After enlarging the hole large enough for me to slide in I discovered that my path was blocked by a boulder in the shaft.  When I rolled a rock down the shaft, I managed to hear it bounce a good six times on it’s way down and when we looked across the track we could see a big depression in the hill, well worth one on the list for next year!"

Valline - site 733

The plan for this trip was for the newer members to Matienzo to go and see one of the main systems as well as do some photographing and most importantly carrying some rope to replace the old rope for the first sump bypass to aid further exploration for the next few weeks.  After a bit of route finding we emerged at what is known as Windy Corner.  Past this point we entered into a maze of arrows pointing in every which way, which resulted in us going off the main route through to the sumps.  After Nigel resorted to the caver's instinct of follow the draught we returned to the main passage.  It was at this point we realised we had made a major of cock up and realise we had forgotten the rope which was the main reason for going in Valline in the first place.  We still decided to push onto the larger passage as it was something Bill had always wanted to see and it leant itself to some spectacular photographing.  After another bit of route finding the way on was spotted, although it was not the way on you would expect to lead to big stomping passage.  Once in the very large phreatic tube we headed on towards the sumps, passing a large chamber and spending a good while getting photos that justified the size of the place.  After carrying onto to the even larger Swirl Chamber we decided time was getting a bit thin and decided to abort a trip further into the system and return to the surface.

Big chambers nearing the sumps Big chambers nearing the sumps







Swirl ChamberSwirl Chamber









This trip was a mixture between tourist and working. Nigel, Lauren and Sheryl went in with Ali who wanted to do some surveying in the Stuffed Monk area. He was also keen for Lauren to take some pictures in a side passage that runs parallel to Stuffed Monk Gallery. We also had a group of three French cavers with us who wanted to see further in the cave. After the usual route-finding mistakes, we got into the main section of the cave relatively quickly and Lauren took a number of pictures. Sheryl was getting a bit cold so we exited with Ali after about 3 hours. After coming out, we walked along to Comelliante to wash of the mud and also for Ali and Nigel to have a look in some side passages. The same day, Bill, Dave, Anton, Pete O’N, Pete C and Tom went shaft-bashing.

Digging above the Mushroom Field (4131 and ????)

Led by Phil and with Juan, we went up to two sites above the Mushroom Field which draught a bit with the aim of opening up routes into the back end of Uzueka. Both digs took a hammering but clearly would need more concerted effort so we abandoned them after a few hours. 

Tourist trips

As well as the working days described above, we also did a couple of touristy trips to Jivero II, Coventosa, Arenal, Agua and Comelliante.  Anton describes the Coventosa trip:

In the Fantasmas, Coventosa"Now we have all heard of draughting caves; well Coventosa is the definition of a draughting cave, with one point strong enough to inflate a plastic bag!  The entrance is a very similar to Peak Cavern before a walking height passage emerges in a well decorated chamber.  While the rest of the team took photos Pete C and I went off to rig the 10m pitch that consists of descending down a calcite ramp and then a small vertical section into a passage that leads to the Fantasmas via a crawl. Paul, Donna, Sheryl and Liz decided they would not too fussed about going down the pitch and instead explore the upper series.  Meanwhile the rest of the team where exploring the Fantasmas with pillars the size of 200 year oak trees and beautiful stalagmites and stalactites.  View down the Asón gorge

This is by far the most impressive section of cave I have ever seen. After exploring the passage and members had taken photos of this spectacular place we return to surface and then onto the Bakers for a farewell drink."

Other activities

Apart from the caving, Nigel, Liz, Billy, Dave and Pete C had a day out at Castro Urdiales along the coast towards Bilbao. Lovely sunny day but it was windy and the beach was too crowded so we stayed on dry land.  On another day, Anton and Lauren went with Pete C to visit the head of the Asón gorge.  There were also the usual trips to Bar Tomás and a BBQ at the apartments as well as an expedition dinner of Russian salad followed by goat stew.

In conclusion, it was a very productive fortnight with caving and digging almost every day adding at least four more sites onto the Matienzo index.

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