2019 Summary

A distinct lack of enthusiasm from people for writing up the expedition….. A post trip summary follows:

The Tresviso expedition returned back to the UK last week and the following is a brief summary:

Cueva del Nacimiento – Parting Friends

In the entrance series of Nacimiento is an area called the Road to Wigan Pier and at the end if a waterfall climb to the Parting Friends sump.  This was originally discovered in the late 80’s and later dived by Gavin Newman / Phil Short, during the filming of ‘Extreme Lives – Road to Certain Death’.  Unfortunately, no survey exists, but the sump was described as around 150m, still continuing and, unlike a lot of the other sumps in Nacimiento, was not at depth.

It took nearly 4 days to rig the stream ready for the dive.  The grade 2 survey of the approaching passage proved to be misleading… 9m up pitches, were actually preceded by 60m of steep ramps, aid traverses and bolt climbs, all while stood next to (or under) a raging torrent of water. 

Cueva del Nacimiento – Cascade Inlet, Joe Daniels (2019)

Eventually, all was set up and the divers, Rob Middleton and Joe Daniels, could attack the sump.

Dive 1 – passed after 25m (at -6m depth) to 30m of streamway and climbs.  Second sump, 4m diameter passage, 115m line laid

Dive 2 – sump 2 to -165m

Dive 3 – way on found, passing believed previous limit to large airbell.  Sump continues in typical Nacimiento ramp style passage to another large airbell.  Fourth sump found and way on in open sump passage.

Total length of passage 439m.

Cueva del Nacimiento, Parting Friends Sump 1, Arwel Roberts (2019)

The day after the final dive, the rain came in and flooded us out of the cave for 3 days.  A lot of equipment lost and the crucial dinghy to get across the entrance lake washed away, probably now wrapped round a turbine at the hydro-electric plant.

Cueva del Nacimiento entrance (post flood), Derek Cousins (2019)

Cueva de la Marniosa – Free Willy

In the upper series of Marniosa, before the streamway is encountered, is a section of cave called Extra Caverns.  Discovered in the late 70’s a number of leads and unclimbed avens exist.  Phil and Howard attacked the avens over a number of trips.  At the very far end, two small 5m avens lead to the same connection at the top (subsequently bypassed without the need for any climbing) leading to a tight rift and a draughting immature streamway.  2 further avens  (approx.. 10m) were found at the end but not attempted. 

Further back in the main passage, an obvious wet aven was scaled for 10m to where it split into 3 further ‘avens’.  The left hand route led up for a further 20m to a narrowing rift, with limited potential.  The first right hand route led, after another 5m, to a tight upwards squeeze, passed by Leo to around 5m of passage and another 15m aven.  The final route from the junction leads back out of the main aven, but was only scaled for another 2-3m in poor rock, before time ran out.  This remains the most promising lead, with an obvious lip a further 5m up.

Cueva del la Marniosa – new discoveries

On a final surveying trip, Phil and Alastair ‘stumbled’ upon two exciting new discoveries in the upstream Marniosa streamway.  Although not shown in the 70’s survey an obvious bend in the streamway has a dark space above.  A 3m climb up lead to a huge new chamber, 50m x 20m x 20m, with a large 35m aven at one end and a high level route at the other. 

Just at the bottom of the same climb up to the chamber, was a large boulder hiding a second streamway / inlet, entering the main stream.  This was pushed for around 50m and still continues.  The high level route in the chamber was revisited and extended for another 50m in large passage to a ramp down, probably into the same new streamway.

Silvestre Pot – Marniosa – First through trip

The first through trip from Silvestre Pot to Marniosa was complete by 2 teams during the expedition, before the Silvestre section was derigged – see early post for a write up.

Silvestre Pot – Sumps

Two sumps in the upper levels of Silvestre were dived.  Bob’s Crusade sump was dived for 32m (-6m depth) to an airbell, tight continuation possible but not appealing.  The Wet Willy sump was passed after 3m to a second sump aftetr 40m of passage.  Sump 2 is largely ‘organic’ and was abandoned after 2m.

Andara, Lisa Boore (2019)


Cueva de la Marniosa

In the early 1970’s a group of students from Lancaster University Speleological Society (LUSS) touring Northern Spain heard about some caves near Tresviso, Eastern Picos de Europa.  In 1975, their first year visiting caves of Tresviso, they explored upstream, into the Sobra valley and found a crack in the side of a cliff that is Cueva de Marniosa.  They explored this cave down a few pitches and along some well decorated fossil passage to a high rifty passage with a small streamway in the bottom. Over a kilometre upstream, the streamway ends at the impressive Hall of the Mountain King chamber- a 50 m x 20 m chamber with a height of over 50 m.  The whole cave has a length of 5 km and a depth of 290 m.  Over the next 40 years a few extra bits were added, but other caves in the area were more interesting.

During the summer expedition of 2018 a small group were tasked with surface prospecting in the brambles, bracken and beech at the head of the Sobra valley and found a number of surface shafts. One of the surface shafts, Cueva del la Silvestre, descended a series of pitches to an impressive large 45 m deep, 20 m diameter shaft.  From the bottom of this shaft several ways on were found.  A few days later, on the final day of the expedition, more pitches and climbs were descended and a message from the past was found: LUSS.  A short walk upstream and the explorers entered Hall of the Mountain King.  Much to the chagrin of those involved the 500 m deep traverse of Silvestre to Marniosa would have to wait until next year…

Cueva de la Silvestre to Cueva de la Marniosa through trip (Lydia Leather)

We got to the Silvestre layby at about 11am, kitted up and started walking down the track. This time round it was a lot easier to find having been well travelled. Stu’s white tape on silver birch trees was not so great in the day light as it had been the night before. Whilst we were doing the through trip, Joe and Rob where diving the sumps in Wet Willy and had stolen Alastair for the day to carry for them. As Stu and I weren’t carrying much we took two of their bags down for them (on the basis that Rob would later repay us with a create of beer, but failing that, dancing bear coffee liquor).

The Silvestre entrance had been rigged the day before down to waterfall chamber, where Bob needed to re-bolt before we continued on with the through trip, so Bob and Arwel headed in whilst the rest of us followed behind. The day before Stu had found the jaw of what we think is horse, to match the skull he’d found the year before. Now Bingo (see photo for scale) lives happily in the entrance chamber.

Following through the rest of the cave, Rob who hadn’t been in the cave before grew increasingly more impressed at the fact that it was indeed a cave. We took our time marvelling at the finest bolder I’ve ever seen that sat in the middle of the stream way and is a conglomerate, at first I assumed it was originally the floor of the streamway and had been eroded away, but not all that convinced, think it might just be a boulder.

When we reached Bob an Arwel, there was a short wait for the bolting to be finished before we could reach the bottom of waterfall pitch 
When everyone was down waterfall pitch we left the diving team and their bags and continued on. From waterfall chamber we continued up the aided climb and through into old stream way rift passage. This continued on (picture below), getting slightly small in places (for Bob and Stu) and down climbs and eventully leads to a junction, left being the way on and right being Hall of the MountainKing.

As Stu and I hadn’t been before we went to Hall of the Mountain King which is an aven roughly 50m in height and 20m width, with a mud slope to the left of the chamber and 2 water inlets coming in through the aven above to the right. Here was where we stopped to take a group photo.

From Hall of the Mountain King back to the Silvestre junction we followed the stream and continued down the active passage way. The passage follows onward with multiple down climbs, some more exposed than others. Eventually the passage follows a fault and here the bolder choke began. Alastair Gott had been in Marniosa the day before and placed reflectors along the bolder choke which were extremely helpful and saved a lot of time as there are multiple ways along the choke in which you can go wrong. When the choke ends, the passage re-joins into stream way and this follows straight towards the bottom pitch of Marniosa

We headed up the muddy pitch out of the streamway, where Bob showed us “the boulder” which must not be touched or moved in anyway as it was wedged right between the wall and multiple boulders which became the false floor of the next slope.
Following this onwards the passage is very well decorated series of chambers (see photos), with various calcite flow slopes and formations, including this flying pizza like disc thing… Eventually reaching the bottom of a 22 m pitch. From here there’s 3 more small pitches until eventually you get into the old cheese chamber and we were at the Marniosa entrance. The trip in total took 6 hours and we got out with plenty of time to spend in the bar drinking celebratory beers and eating local cheese. Rob and Joe eventually turned up and kept the promise of buying Stu and I a dancing bear coffee liquor.

T20A Silvestre Pot exploration log

Extract from various sources on exploration of Silvestre Pot (Alistair Gott)

Part 1

Sobra valley is part of the stream catchment for cueva del marniosa, very little was known about the stream sinks until 5 days ago. Cueva del marniosa is one of the two well known stream caves in the Tresviso region.

Imo furlong, Stu coxon, Derek Cousins and Alastair Gott started the ball rolling by doing some gorse, bracken, karst and bramble wading. Finding various areas of interest. Aided greatly by stu’s verbal sonar “boop” and imo’s “cooweep”. Both of these sounds really carry in the woods.

A return was on the cards for the next day, without a drill, we descended a cave named cueva donga. Down various sections to a constriction. Kelda Jones, stu coxon, bob the juggler, Adam Spillane and Alastair Gott were present on this day.

The third day we returned with a drill, 5 ropes of various sizes, a keen biologist called Will Burn and breaking gear. With 2 objectives descend IM2 “practice pot” and cueva Donga. AG descended practice pot and placed 2 bolts in plain clothes and SRT gear, realising his rope did not reach the bottom, he returned to the surface and kitted up.

Whilst AG and SC descended practice pot, the “other two” KJ and WB had a dig to connect donga via the stream sink and collect biological samples, putting many bugs into alcohol for further analysis.
After getting bored with that they went for a wander and found another hole which needed investigating. Rigging a rope from a tree Kelda fearlessly descended…

Practice pot was going well, bolts being placed and the Derbyshire digger (AG) doing what he does best and digging at 30m depth, (after surveying) finding approx 6m more passage to a mixed mud and rock constriction. AG and SC got bored with this, surveyed it and returned to the surface.

KJ1 “silvestre” had reached a leafy ledge and needed some bolts, AG and SC joined Kelda (KJ) and Will (WB).

Part 2

About 4.30pm AG and SC were teaching KJ how to place a bolt. KJ was desperate to descend.

AG found himself at the base of the shaft, I would say the shaft is approximately a tenth of the size of eldon hole, similar width to length proportions. At the base approx 10m down, AG then put a bolt in to rebelay the rope to help rigging the y-hang. The rock here was quite hard to place a bolt, but in two places it was possible to place. despite the cherty conglomerate. Below this, AG rigged a rebelay and told KJ and SC that it was ok to descend. Three leads were immediately obvious. A wet lead “upstream”, a dry lead and the downstream lead. The chamber leading to these leads was approximately 10m by 10m.

All upstream leads have been left to further expeditions.

KJ was still keen, despite AG’s protesting. Rigging a handline down a 3m climb, her first bolt placement, the drill ran out of battery for further bolts.

KJ climbed down even though AG said if she descended he would leave her, AG soon excitedly followed, keen not to miss out. “Fear of missing out”

KJ, SC and AG then found themselves in a bit of stompy stream cave approximately 30m long. Ending in a gaping hole to the unknown. With no battery they returned to the surface.

All four of us returned to the hut, including Will Burn our callout. AG had a celebratory shower, 1st shave of the Expedition (Gott to look good for the photos!) and wolfed food down, lovingly cooked by the other members of the expedition. Potentially Helping with the washing up (can’t remember) AG was feeling pleased with himself. But tired.

Part 3

We returned again on Monday. The trio were together again Kelda Jones, Stuart Coxon and Alastair Gott, this time as surveying team.

Sir Phillip of Thirsk had said we needed some “adult supervision” so we were joined by Bob the Juggler and Jason Gotel, who immediately became the rigging team. Storming through the cave they excellently rigged 7 pitches, of varying length. At the start of the day, sir Phillip said we could only take the Crap rope. So we left 200m of brand new rope at the “hut” and cracked on. As it happens, JG and BTJ (Bob Cockeram) did a very good job, all the ropes were actually the right length.

The surveying team only followed the way on and did not survey the numerous sinks joining the flow on the way. They caught up with the rigging team at the head of the seventh pitch, “electronica pitch” the PDA ran out of battery at this point and the rigging team had swapped batteries in the drill to ensure they could reach the bottom. Rigging style by Jason Gotel was classic “by the book” rebelays to keep the cavers out of water. Top work.

The 58m rope landed on a ledge with space for 5 or more people, the pitch remaining was estimated at 17m by Bob the Juggler. At this point drill battery was low, it was suspected that the drill batteries were cold, and could get the remaining half a hole needed to rig the pitch. Therefore JG and AG each had a drill battery under their armpits to warm up. It worked, and a bolt was placed to complete the 70m ( ish) “electronica pitch”.

Part 4

Electronica pitch is a fantastic pitch, with white lines running through the rock, and approx 14m wide and 30m long chamber, straight down not unlike some of the Yorkshire style places, i would say the equivalent in Derbyshire would be the NCC shafts in terms of vertical walls, except electronica is bigger.

Without surveying, the team continued downstream, the dimensions of the chamber close down to a rift type development with cherty conglomerate ( approximately 1 and a half body widths wide) much like the entrance pitch. The team found an ethical problem with a bridge of rock glued together by mud and calcite, the team decided it was quite dodgy, so two sandstone boulders were chucked at it to see if it would collapse. It didn’t, but there’s a video made by Stuart Coxan, which may get posted up later.

The team, then continued downstream to a point where the stream drops down a pitch. The remaining 50m rope was left for futher exploration the next day.

Part 5

A return was in order for Tuesday, objectives were to continue exploration and survey electronica pitch.

AG did a sterling job of forgetting the drillbit and also forgetting the waterproof protection for the surveying tablet he had borrowed from “sir Phillip”. Eeeeep!

AG ran back up the hill via the muddy track when he realised he’d forgotten the drill bit and called “sir Phillip”, who dispatched Adam Spillane in a car to deliver the drill
Bit. The team then descended to the head of electronica pitch, where AG realised his error with the tablet and tried to “make do” with a zip-lock sandwich bag.

Having no experience with surveying pitches AG then tried to survey on the way down, but soon realised that he wouldn’t be able to download the shots till the base of the pitch. The team today consisted of Alastair Gott on tablet and Stuart Coxon on disto shooter. Bob and Jason continued the rigging.

At the base of electronica, AG tried to download the shots from the disto with a damp tablet. Every time he tried to select the download button the sandwich bag decided to touch the first shot collected at the top of the pitch to start the survey. Needless to say this method was dispatched rapidly. Mars bars were extracted from what looked like a dry bag, and the tablet was turned off and enclosed within, it turns out this was a “damp bag”. So the tablet was not much better in here. Rice to the rescue for the second time on “the holiday”.
Surveying continued with disto and book, noting the legs of the mostly north trending rift. Any bad LRUDs (left right up down) or forward legs were noted for deletion later.
AG picked a permanent marker which it turns out is not as good as pencil! Another lesson learnt!

We had done so well the day before of hiding all the old rope in the cave, so “sir Phillip” deemed that we could take 100m of New rope. Mmm, we hid this in the cave as well!

At the base of the “water fall junction” pitch we found at the continuation of electronica, we found three ways on.

Straight on, 23deg is the direction of hall of the mountain king in cueva de la marniosa. Some 300m distant from the head of electronica, we were closing the gap…

Behind left (dry but descending) and behind right (wet pitches) were also leads.

We progressed two leads, picking the dry options, straight on and back left. Leaving the wet option for the end of the day. JG and AG went for straight on and BTJ and SC picked back left.

BTJ rigged with SC as support, and used up the rest of the 50m old rope, phew! The pitches ended in a sump.
JG progressed the straight on lead, with AG stopping at a climb he didn’t like, JG reckoned 180m of passage, paced. The lead took a slight trickle of water, but nothing more, it was exceptional fossil passage with popcorn formations.

The team made a decision to exit the cave, it being after 7pm.

It has been reported that hall of the mountain king only takes a slight trickle of water…

Part 6

Today was a day off for Alastair Gott, Stuart Coxon, Kelda Jones and Jason Gotel. AG getting up at midday + 30mins. Coffee and tea straight off then a spot of brunch in the bar before decamping computer, tablet and disto to the bar for investigation. Some data sorting required. A lovely leisurely day starting in the sun, turning to mist/cloud.

Bob the juggler, Dave “mate” Collins and “Gay” Dave powsland were dispatched today to investigate the wet lead and the dry 23 deg lead (to marniosa).

The wet lead was pushed by bob the juggler to land in water. It is assumed this is a sump.

Dave Powsland entered the 23 degree passage, and investigated for some way before retuning to some hot food cooked by Dave mate. The three returned in time for dinner, rather than the 10pm time that we’ve been returning on other days.

Tomorrow Jason Gotel plans a return for the through trip, a team will probably be assembled. Otherwise we will savor the treat for next year…

Part 7

Silvestre through trip to marinosa, did the lead killers make the through trip? Find out at hidden earth 2018 in one week.