Online Logbook 2009


New member
Dani said:
Great trip, thanks to Andy for organising and facing his demons and others for encouragement to get through that disgusting sump and warming me up afterwards. 

He's tried to do that to me too Dani but I didn't fancy how he wanted to do it.  :yucky:


New member
Thrupe Lane Swallet
Wednesday 15th April 2009

Andy, Rachel, Neil, Steve, Danny, Mark, Martin, Dani, Alun

After last week?s rather chilly trip, we were hoping for something a bit warmer and possibly a bit less physical, so when Andy suggested Thrupe Lane I wasn?t entirely convinced, especially after reading the description and looking out of the window to observe rain trickling down the panes.  However, the day cheered up and we arrived at the cave entrance to a lovely sunny spring evening, not even a trickle of water down the entrance.  Kitted up and ready to go, Andy, Rachel, Neil, Danny and Mark were going to SRT to the bottom of Atlas Pot whilst the rest of us were using ladders to get to the top of the pot.

The SRTers set off first, rigging as they went and we ?inferior? cavers followed behind.  This was the first trip to Thrupe for several of us and we made steady progress down through the cave to Perseverance pot to the chamber and then along Marble Passage to the top of Atlas Pot.  As the SRT team headed down into the waterfall, we watched their lights disappearing from the top, keeping nice and warm out of the trickling streamway.  Here we turned round and headed back out, following the streamway and back up the ladders.  The SRTers had fun shivering under the waterfall as they made their way back out, but soon caught us up at the ladder pitch on Perseverance Pot.  Time was now pressing, as we were all keen to head to the pub for a pint, so whilst Steve and I coiled ladders, the final three using SRT ascended the rope.

All finally back on the surface, we quickly de-rigged the rest of the gear, speedily changed and raced back to the Hunters, with time to spare to order a pint or two.  Not a bad evening at all, five of the team down to the bottom of Atlas Pot and nine in total down the cave and back in time for last orders.

Thanks to Neil and Andy for rigging and life-lining and all for excellent company, as ever.

Chris Lank

New member
Swildon?s Hole ? Sump 1
Sunday 19th April 2009
Martin, Alun, Chris L

This was a quick bimble down to Sump 1 to stretch our legs.  We took the quickest route (Short Dry Way) and streamed straight down without stopping for much.  A few bugs were found swimming in the low sump pool (see photo).  Martin felt compelled to take a quick dunk but Alun and I elected to stay dry and comfortable.  On the way back we took Alun up to Tratman?s Temple for a quick reconnoitre before heading back up the way we came.

Bug in Sump 1:



New member
Shatter Cave
Tuesday 21st April

Martin, Tricia, Andy P, Chris H, Dani with Phil Hendy leading

A pleasant evening spent ooh-ing and ahh-ing at all the prolific pretties in this fantastic cave, with a great deal of time spent behaving like snap-happy tourists.  Well worth a visit if you haven't been before and those of you that have will appreciate it's loveliness.  A quick stop at the pub afterwards for a spot of refreshment and to marvel in the mysteries of cave digging engineering.

Thanks to Phil for showing us the sights


New member
Manor Farm Swallet
Wednesday 22nd April 2009

Neil, Steve P, Judy, Mark, Andy S, Rachel S and Chris L back from his travels

Parked up in the lay-by, I thought I was on for an early night in front of the TV when only Mark appeared at the agreed time, just as we were about to head off we heard a clanking of SRT kit coming down the lane.  Chris, Steve, Neil and Judy appeared, kitted up and raring to go.  Fees agreed with the farmer, we set off to rig the entrance pitch.  Steve and I had opted for the ladder, whilst the others were SRT'ing, and as a 'willing' volunteer, I headed on down first under the floodlit scrutiny of Chris' new Scurion.

Once down the entrance pitch, we headed down September Rift, with the assistance of a ladder and lifeline, then on to Curtain Chamber.  Opting for the bypass, we carried on down the cave and with the water level fairly low, through Albert's Eye and on down the streamway.  A slight detour at Stream Junction to The Aven (amply lit by the mobile lighthouse) and then on to the rift, where the shrimps were big enough to take your finger off.  Deterred by the worms and the cow sh** we decided to head back on out.  The brisk pace and steep incline caused a slight 'glow' on the way back up, although the huffing and puffing was definitely due to bad air and nothing at all to do with me being unfit :-[

A slight breather before climbing September Rift and then back to the ladder pitch for the energetic climb out.  A slight SRT refresher might be needed for a certain someone who started climbing the rope before it was free, which might have hindered the previous caver from getting off the pitch  ;)

Thanks once again to all for the company, Neil for rigging and lifelining and Andy for caving up my .....! ;)

Chris Lank

New member
Ogof Draenen
Sunday 26th April 2009
Rachel S, Andy S, David M (guest), Chris L

After a power breakfast in Shipham we made our way over to South Wales and into the cave.  Having negotiated relatively dry Entrance Series, we arrived at Cairn Junction.  The gentle Carpet Crawl took us into White Arch Passage from where we yomped up to Lamb and Fox Chamber, Indiana Highway and Megadrive.

From The Nunnery we selected Perseverance II, which eventually led into Perseverance I.  A quick drink was taken at the trough before continuing into Elliptic Passage.  After passing around the choke, we arrived at Big Beauty Junction and the pleasure of a sandy floor.

A quick shuffle up Gone with the Wind and we were in the Midwinter Chambers admiring the Gypsum Crystals, which were quite impressive and looked incredibly delicate.  Just before the end of Midwinter Chambers we took Going Somewhere before entering Snowball Passage.

We quickly found the Snowball (see photograph) and noticed that it had a small area of mud damage, which was a shame.  After an eagerly enjoyed lunch, we headed back the way we came.

Many thanks to Andy, Rachel and David for a hard but rewarding 8-hour trip.

Rachel in Indiana Highway:

Rachel looking at the roof in Perseverance II:

Gypsum Crystals in Midwinter Chambers:

More Gypsum Crystals in Midwinter Chambers:

The Snowball:


New member
Read's Cavern
Wednesday 29th April 2009

Andy, Rachel, Aggie, Alun, Dani, Robin, Barry, Steve

A trip to a new cave for some of the club, but for others a revisit, although previous experience didn't seem to help much with the route finding.  We entered via the stream, this being rather low, and into the main chamber.  Various routes off this were then investigated, although none seemed to lead to where we thought they ought.  Lots of crawling around through boulder ruckles was then endured before we decided to call it a day and head to the pub.  Not entirely sure where we made it to as none of the routes seemed to bear any relation to the survey and the rescued frog wasn't much help with directions either (must have been a girl  ;) )

Good to see Robin and Barry out caving again and nice to have Aggie joining us.


New member
Drunkards Hole
Wednesday 6th May 2009

Martin, Alun, Keith, Dani

I was aiming for a record-breaking fourth week of dry pants after a caving trip, but sadly it was not to be.  A trundle down Drunkards to the muddy squalor of the dig soon put paid to that.  The delights of the cave seen, we had a quick poke around some of the other offshoots on our way back out.  Much grunting and swearing ensued as we squeezed our way back up the rift and back out into daylight.  A gentle introductory trip to the cave for Alun and Keith and a reminder why I haven't been back there for a while.


Pierres Pot Thursday 7th May

Rach S & Karen P

Bit of a girlie bimble into Pierres - (well, beats a coffee morning dosn't it)! We had a good crawl round making sure we laughed heartily at the size of the squeeze down to lower series...I was a whole stone lighter when I did this (coincidently it is the I.D. picture).  We then headed up to look for "The Switchback" and failed to find it, as it turned out we failed to locate an entire chamber!

Then onto our traverse practice hindered somewhat by the prolific spider population.

Thanks Karen
Gough's Cave
Chris Castle, Andy P., Alun W., Martin L., Karen P.

A very successful training evening for ladders and lifelines. Dani could not attend, due to woman flu, or a cold as she called it.
We used a simple rig with one rope and a large natural belay in the Black Cat, practised going up and down a longer ladder I'd pre-rigged from the Gallery and had a knot-tying session.
Thanks to Andy P for helping, it kept everybody busy and a lot was covered in two hours.



New member
Fairy Cave to Hilliers Cave Through Trip
Wednesday 13th May

Tricia, Kaz, Dani, Alun, Keith, David, Matt, Cher

Once poor directions had been interpreted, we all met up in the rather crowded car park ready to set off.  This was the first trip to the quarry caves for some and some time since I last did this trip, so I hoped I could remember the way.  After an initial hiatus, we were soon on track, wriggling through the inital squeezes.  There were several things I had forgotten about this cave; I don't remember the duck/squeeze being quite so wet, quite how horribly unstable 'Suicide' looks, how nice the Red Room is and how huge the spiders were by the Hilliers entrance (I was very brave!). 

Great trip, thanks to all for coming and I apologise for the Sparrowisms ("I'd forgotten about this bit") I appear to have picked up


New member
Martin (leading), Brendan, Chris H, Guests: Helen Mc, Connor ,Dave M, Ruth

We met in the car park in Burrington Coombe, the one next to the cattle grid and the loos. Brendan arrived very early and ate a large fry-up at the caf?, then Connor arrived in his well-cred van, then Chris on his Yamaha. Perhaps you were thinking it is a bit strange for a caver to travel on a piano, but this Yamaha was a motorbike. He arrived like a one-man biker gang, but without the noise, violence, or filthy beards. Just a man on a motorbike, really. Martin and Helen arrived, and so did Dave and Ruth, but it wasn?t as exciting as when Chris had arrived.

It was a beautiful warm sunny morning, almost too good to spend underground. Almost. The familiar stroll took us through the woods in their spring-time lushness, and across West Twin Brook, which was flowing gently, then up the side of the coombe to the entrance. There was a photo session at the entrance, then we went inside.

The Entrance Series was dry and sure underfoot.

We made a cautious descent of the Giant?s Staircase, but Ruth did not want to climb down, so Dave took her back to his car; Brendan waited for him at the top of the Giant?s Staircase, managing an underground snooze for a few minutes, and the others continued via the lovely Keyhole Passage into Drunkard?s Gallery, then down the Pixie Steps to the Boulder Chamber.

There Martin rigged a brand new yellow rope, all clean and lovely, down the Coffin Lid, and the main part of the group descended into the Water Chamber and had a look at where the stream enters the chamber and at the little waterfall. Meanwhile, Dave was making his way back, and Brendan was still in the land of nod at the top of the Giant?s Staircase.

When Dave rejoined Brendan, they made a very rapid descent to join the others in the Water Chamber (via Bloody Tight and the Coffin Lid), by which time Chris and Connor had already gone on to the Drainpipe. Martin, Helen, Dave and Brendan then made their way via the newly paved pedestrian area to the Drainpipe, and waited for Chris and Connor to emerge.

At this point Brendan took out his tape measure and said, ?I?ve been wanting to measure it for some time.?, a remark which was immediately mis-understood, but which for the record referred to him measuring the major and minor diameters of the Drainpipe at its narrowest point: 20? and 16?.

Martin, Helen, Dave and Brendan shuffled along the Drainpipe to the end, and had a chat. Brendan talked about his hope one day of sleeping the night in the Drainpipe, and wondered if there was a risk of a dangerous build up of carbon dioxide, and who might accompany him (don?t all rush). Martin showed Dave the entrance to the Dexion Series while Helen made her brave way back through the Drainpipe alone.

We were all re-united in the Water Chamber, then we had a look at the little waterfall, and Brendan took Chris and Connor to the Smartie Tube. Chris shuffled gamely into this like a fearless veteran, so Brendan followed him in like a slightly less fearless veteran: they both got as far as the slight widening out about fifteen feet along, chatted for a bit, and then rejoined Connor, and then the three rejoined the others in the Water Chamber.

After the usual malarkey on the Coffin Lid we made our way back through Boulder Chamber and through the Terrace. While we were looking up the Coal Chute and regaling each other about a member of the club who had broken his ankle or knee or perhaps even a whole leg there, a bat flew over us, like a dark subterranean version of a white Whitsun dove, but two weeks early, and a bat, not a dove. Feeling blessed by this encounter, we had a poke about in some of the dead-ends around there.

We minced up the Pixie Steps and had another poke round, with Martin, Helen, Chris and Connor trying the Maze, and Brendan and Dave exploring the passages on the other side of the gallery.

We free climbed out of the Tradesman?s Entrance into the lovely afternoon sunshine, strolled back to the car-park, got changed, said our goodbyes (and for Dave and Ruth, their hellos), and went our merry ways, back in the world of the Surface.

Unusually for a Sunday trip, we had had the whole cave to ourselves the whole time, except for the brief company of the bat.

Written by Brendan, 13th May 2009


New member
Hilliers - Beyond the Sump
Wednesday 3rd June 2009

Judy, Alun, Pete and Dani - Aggie, Andy and Rachel in spirit, whilst elsewhere in the quarry

Pete and Aggie had recently been to Hilliers and noticed that the streamway towards the sump was fairly dry, so managed to tempt a few of us to investigate further and have a look.

As elsewhere on Mendip, the water levels are fairly low at the moment, in fact so low, that the upstream sump in Hilliers is not only not a sump, but has no water in it whatsoever.  Luckily that made the wriggly squeeze a bit easier to negotiate.  Heading on through we continued crawling until we emerged in a small chamber where there was just enough room for us all to sit up.  Round the corner, there was a small area of formations under another low crawly passage, which gave way to yes, you guessed it, more crawly passage, this time choked up with mud.  Pete did a sterling job of clearing the mud, so that we could all squeeze through into another chamber.  Another choked up crawly passage led off this chamber as well as an aven with lots of rather large loose chunks of rock, which made the climb up an interesting game of 'try not to drop a rock on your mate behind you'.  A small tube leading off the aven led to another area with a few formations before it closed down.  By this point, time was ticking on and the pub was beckoning, so we renegotiated the aven and crawled our way back out to be met by the monster spider gatekeepers, Andy, Rachel and Aggie.

Thanks to Pete for his JCB services and tempting us down there in the first place and all for great company as usual
Hilliers - Beyond the Sump  Photo's
Wednesday 3rd June 2009

Judi, Alun, Pete and Dani - Aggie, Andy and Rachel in spirit, whilst elsewhere in the quarry

Some photo's

Alun emerging from the sump into the spacious passage.

The curtains beyond the 'dig'


mud splattered


The full set is here:

The floor of the passage was quite sandy, digging caused quite a lot of dust and moving in it was like swimming through dusty water.
It wasn't muddy at all but one part smelt of diesel and the roof was very greasy which was just at a low point where I went through on my back to take a photo looking up into a curly curtain (if you wondered what it was.)


New member
Matienzo (better late than never) Part 1

The jaunt to Espana

Spain. If you?ve never been there like me then you might be mistaken to think it is a barren desert landscape as dry as a caver?s mouth after 10 hours of digging. I had only heard about it a couple of times and each time the words ?Matienzo?, ?pissing rain? and ?great caving? were close to each other. I thought that if we were lucky with the weather (which to be honest we generally are on our holidays) then it might be worth a go. So I set out to persuade Megan to go to Matienzo at Easter. I didn?t have to try too hard as we hadn?t had a break since Christmas and Megan was keen to visit her brother who part owns some land in the Pico?s De Europa. 
So after checking the Matienzo website and applying for the time off with the boss (as we both work for the same company) we thought we were set. Our boss, a lovely man who I will not hear a word said against him as the only star in our solar system is actually located in his back passage announced that we could not have the second week that we applied for due to other staff booking that week. Namely, him. So we then applied for the first week and the week before. This somewhat threw him, thinking that we would give up altogether. He then replied saying it was a very busy time for the company and that we would probably not be allowed to have any holiday together until June. See, I told you he was great.
We were then told about four weeks ago that we could have the holiday that we had applied for the second time. So with no waste of time we booked our ferry and started making the serious plans. We decided to start off at Aiden?s place in the Pico?s for five days then five days in sunny Matienzo.
After telling Aiden what crossing we were on it transpired that he and his two mates were on the same crossing. So it was obvious a good time was going to be had?????

Sunday 29th March
It was a quick trip to Plymouth for the ferry with no hold ups. Breezy weather but fairly sunny. We sat in the queue waiting to board and Ed, Aiden?s mate drew up behind us. Lots of chat then we drive in to the biggest ship I have ever been on. It was a really impressive piece of engineering. I hoped that it performed as well as it looked as the scenes from ??Titanic?? were playing through my head. As you can imagine I haven?t travelled by sea much.
What can you say about an overnight crossing on a ferry? Everyone reading this will die laughing when I confess that I was actually looking forward to the ?entertainment?.
Megan, Aidan, Ben, Ed and I all sat down to have a few jars at a very reasonable ?2-90 a pint. Well most of us did. Ed continued to neck it whilst the rest of us went for a kip in our cabins. Visiting the bar later in the evening we could see that Ed was well past the ?jolly?, had marched on through ?quite drunk? and was heading toward a Rowley Birkin ?very, very drunk?.

After the Guinness earlier I decided I wanted something a bit more refreshing but less volume. The cocktail bar was open so Long Island Iced Tea was in order. Five of these later and we were well away. Ed however was on another planet. We were treated to the delightful squeaky voiced duo which whistled and whined their way through all sorts of Cheese FM songs.
Then we had ?Steve Storm? as Elvis. He was actually quite good but why talk like Elvis between songs? I know he is dead. This was enough for Ed who proceeded to throw loads of F**ks and C**ts in the general direction of the stage. We hung our heads in shame. How could we get rid of him? I decided to keep him quiet with the promise of more drink to hopeful put him asleep. It eventually worked.

Monday 30th March
We got down to our car to depart the Pont Aven. Meg and I were very pleased with our luck. We were right at the front of the ship alongside a lorry so we would be first or second off the ship. Lots of noise and warning buzzers and the ramp started to lower down. About two foot then stopped. More bells and then lots of French engineers running about shouting.  Something was stuck and it took about an hour before the ramp seemed to be manually winched down and we were free.
From Santander we set the SatNav for Aiden?s village and headed west toward the Pico?s.

This was a short drive through what was some of the most stunning scenery I have ever seen in my life. Massive mountains capped with snow, gorgeous waterfalls and above all, lots and lots of caves. I was like a kid in a sweetshop. CAVE! CAVE! CAVE! CAVE!................... After about an hour of this it was beginning to tire on Meg. Ok, ok! Yet another cave! But I couldn?t stop. All sorts of dreams of discovering something special went through my head. I was in heaven.
The original plan was to camp on Aidan?s land. Aidan informed us that they would be hiring a house in the next village and that Chloe would not be arriving until the Wednesday so would we like to stay there? Of course we would! We stopped at ?Granny Ding Dongs? for some food to cook. This tiny hairy faced but quite sweet Spanish woman sold everything under the sun in her shop. The back room contained the most enormous casserole pots I?ve ever seen. You could boil a small cow in them. These were alongside the washing powder, clothes lines, dustbins and more. The main counter sold (from the left) cheese, dried beans, electrical sockets and earth sheathing, plastic plumbing fittings then vegetables! It was like no shop I?ve seen before. Clogs hanging from the ceiling and really good walking boots near the door. Very strange but bloody good value for money.
The rest of the evening was spent eating a spaghetti Bolognese with a mountain of garlic in it. Oh, and also starting to demolish the litre bottle of Aberlour whisky I purchased.
Tuesday 31st April
Ed wanted to show me his ?cave? near their land and of course we wanted to see the barns that they had been working so hard on.
After 10 minutes looking at the barns I was itching for Ed to show me the cave. We had been told about it years ago so I was quite excited. Pedro is their next door neighbour. One of his cows had fallen into the cave last year and he tried in vain to haul it out. He eventually had to shoot it. I was hoping that the cave was shallow enough for the flies to get in there so that it was fully devoured by now. We started a steep hard slog up the mountain through sharp gorse plants. It was however quite beautiful. The mountain range on the other side of the valley was huge. This was where the National Park territory started. Really deep snow covered the top 600 foot or so. The sun came out and revealed the whole valley in all its glory. Our boots crushed wild mint which filled the air with an amazing scent.
Ed remembered almost falling into the cave himself whilst coming back from the local bar and I was amazed that he actually found it extremely quickly considering it was overgrown with brambles. It was a hole about 2 feet in diameter. I peered into the black void. There was the poor cow about 15 feet below me. It was stripped clean to the bone so it didn?t smell. Unfortunately there was nowhere what so ever to set up a rope.
No trees, no boulders, no natural belays at all. Ed informed me that he had a wrecking bar that he used on the barn and a sledgehammer. We could drive this into the ground to loop the rope around. Ed decided to go back to the barn and start work again. Meg and I decided to walk further up the mountain to the exposed Karst rock to search for other caves and also to try and get closer to the Egyptian and Griffin vultures that were perched at the top. It was hard going climbing over rock that had been carved into sharp slices by thousands of years of rain. Sharp gorse grew in between this but it was exciting as it looked as if there was a cave around every corner. We found three or four dolines that looked as if they had good potential for digging but nothing open and ready. We spent ages up there looking and it was tiring.
I thought we ought to make our way back so we clambered across the rocks trying to pick the best route back to where we thought we had come. It was then that I heard Meg shouting ?Echo, echo, echo!!? Having found nothing so far I thought it was a wind-up. She had stumbled across something that looked like a proper cave. The chamber had collapsed in a couple of places so it had two windows in its roof on the Pico?s sky. We climbed in and I had butterflies in my stomach. Aiden and Ed had not mentioned a cave of this size on the mountain above their land.


The chamber was crescent shape of a length of about 50 or 60 feet. The ceiling was about 15 feet high. All we had was some spare headlights so we donned these and walked to the back of the chamber. About 8 feet up to the right was a ledge leading to another chamber. Without the right
gear on and no ropes we decided to return the next day to look further. It seemed much more exciting than the small hole we had peered into earlier.
So we headed back to the barn to meet the others and prepare for dinner. The caves would have to wait until the morning.
We did not want to try and ?big up? our other find too much just in case it led to nothing so we casually asked if they knew of any other caves on the mountain. The quick reply was no and none of the locals had ever told them of one either. This news really got me wondering what Meg had stumbled on. Ed seemed very eager to look at our new find too.


New member
Matienzo (better late than never) Part 2

Wednesday 1st April.
The day started sunny and quite warm. I started slow and sleepy. Different beds, different times (England put their clocks forward one hour and the Spanish were one hour forward from this) and too much booze again.
We slogged up the mountain again, this time in very hot sunshine but I was eager as I knew from Ed and Aiden?s information that nobody had ever been down this cave. Ed drove in the wrecking bar and I was glad to descend into the coolness. Meg waited for me to let her know if it was worth her getting changed. It did not take long for me to let her know that it was not. I had entered into a chamber that was about 15 feet deep and bellowed out to about 10 feet in diameter. The bones of the cow and also what appeared to be a calf lay stripped and white on the floor. I started to look about and found a couple of ways on that looked full of mud and rubble. Digging this out would take a winch and a lot of work. I made my way out slightly disappointed with the cave I had looked forward to seeing for so long.


Gearing up for the descent into the cow?s grave.


My disappointment didn?t last long when I thought of looking at Megan?s find. The three of us trudged up the slope in the ever increasing heat and it did not take long before we were sweating like fat girls in a chip shop with no money. (No offence to any fat girls reading this)
Ed was astounded that they had not spotted this cave before but I think that they had probably just been working hard here and not playing hard. I got into full gear quicker than I had ever before. Ed only had a headtorch and clambered up into the second chamber before I could get there. I followed up fairly quickly and waited at the top to help Meg if needed.
Ed said that he couldn?t see much and would wait for us to join him in the next chamber. We stepped down into it and looked around. It was about 15 feet long by 10 feet wide. At one end was what looked like a couple of low ways on but these closed down. There was also a small climb which Megan went to and found some bones which we could not recognise. At the other end of the chamber was a large beehive shaped formation that ended in a stalagmite formation.

Meg?s cave.


Me looking over the stal into the void with Ed in the foreground.


The drop into the void.

I was really disappointed now. The previous night images of caverns measureless to man ran through my head. Meg and Ed were busy looking at the bones. I thought I would climb up the side of the beehive to see what the chamber looked like from there. When I got to the top I could see that there was a gap behind it. I could not believe what I saw when I looked in the gap. Behind the stall was a pitch that my Petzl Duo could only just see the bottom of. I chucked a rock down it. It took about 4 or 5 seconds to reach the bottom. The pitch also seemed to bellow out to at least 9 or 10 feet wide. There seemed to be no natural belay to fix a rope to and no bolts or drill marks either. I concluded that this must be an unknown cave. I certainly hoped so. I did not have enough rope on me to go down the pitch and with Meg and myself as the only ?cavers? there it would have been foolish to try and carry on.
Evening = more good food and lots of Ed?s Spanish cider. Bloody good too!

Thursday 2nd April

Meg wanted a break from the excitement of caving and wanted to go for a good walk. We had been recommended to try the Cares Gorge. It was the best suggestion for a walk that I had been given. I won?t go on any further about it. The pictures can tell you far more than that but even these do not give it justice. A memory I will never forget.


Cares Gorge


The viaduct for the hydroelectric station. Amazing engineering.


Huge resurgence in the gorge. Dave Ryall told me what system it came from but I have forgotten.


An external chamber! Cool.


A sign that has been badly translated and should read ?Will all cavers please feel free to wander in and out of any hole that takes your interest?.


New member
Matienzo (better late than never) Part 3

Friday 3rd April
After a long lie in we made our way to the barns to say goodbye. After admiring the progress of the work over the last few days we sat back and enjoyed some food in the sun. The weather was gorgeous and Ed decided to clear some of the gorse that surrounded the top barn…………….by setting fire to it. He had seen some of the local farmers doing this over the years and thought it would be a good idea. It was not a good idea. It was a very bad idea. He had taken his eyes off it.  Ben had been mentioning only minutes earlier that there was a 6000 euro charge for the fire brigade helicopter to be called out. The fire spread and everyone started to try and put it out. It was no use as there was no hose. Buckets were not enough. Meg and I helped with the fire fighting but we all decided to hope that it would burn out. Meg and I decided that it would be good time to set off for Matienzo.
A drive of about an hour and 45 minutes took us down through the mountains and back past Santander through some more wonderful scenery.
The clouds grew the closer we got to Matienzo.
Once in Matienzo we checked at one of the bars where all the cavers were in our broken Spanish as we could see no sign of a huge campsite. We eventually found Pablo’s and pitched our tent. In the evening we met up with Juan who proceeded to show us the ropes in Matienzo. We also met up with a certain Mr Pringle who suggested a trip to Torca La Vaca (Cow Pot) the next day. The promise was of a lovely decorated cave and a fairly easy going trip. Just the kind of thing to start off our caving in Matienzo. Oh and a late start too. Fabbo.

Saturday 4th April
We awoke fairly early as we had actually been quite good and gone to bed at a reasonable midnight. Lots of luvverly porridge and honey from the Asturias was just the ticket for caving. I also had a good sleep due to remembering earplugs. Those who do not bring them when camping in Matienzo do so at their peril.
In no time at all Andy Pringle, Jim Davis, Terry Whittaker, Jane (sorry Jane but I cannot remember you surname), Megan and myself were on our way. It was a short drive of about 20 minutes. The walk to the entrance was only 5 minutes. And what an entrance it was!
This was a fantastic trip in a cave that like Dublin has more than it’s fair share of pretties. It also has massive shafts of frightening depth. The photos will show you what I mean.


Cow Pot entrance


Loads of pretties in Cow Pot



The traverse.


Gorgeous pure white formations.


The anorexic pr0n star – Cow Pot (Torca la Vaca)

After exiting Cow Pot we decided to do a bit of cave hunting further up the hill. We all went different ways in pairs. Jim and I went further up the hill to look at a bramble infested doline. There was no way into it unless the US airforce Napalmed the thing. So we walked on further. After looking at some more depressions in the hill we started to walk back to the cars. Jim suggested a limestone outcrop would be a good place to look so I then turned to walk there across a field. After about 20 feet I spotted a hole in the side of the hill. Not having any kit on me after having changed I thought I would get my caving suit on again and have a look. Jim seemed unimpressed and said he would go back and wait for the others. His last words were ‘’Take your time, it looks as though the others are’’. So I walked back to the hole. I soon realised why Jim was unimpressed. It was no more than a Badger’s hole really. So I then continued onward toward the limestone outcrop. More brambles, more large boulders and likely looking holes until I looked in them. It was hard work but I was really enjoying myself. Unlike Mendip where discovering caves is very difficult, I found this place full of possibilities. After quite a while (I had no watch on) I thought that I ought to start making my way back to the others but just like an obsessive fisherman I thought I would just take a quick look in the huge doline that I could see. The brambles and weeds were clawing at me, not wanting me to get any further. I spotted some enormous boulders at the top of where the depression started. I looked at the dark holes under each one. They all seemed to lead nowhere. Then I spotted one that seemed very promising. I crawled under the boulder into the hole that lay beneath it. The boulder had fallen over the edge of the rockface and at the bottom of this was an entrance hole. I had actually found something worth investigating further!
I started to make my way back and once out of the woods and into the field I spotted the others waiting for me. It seems that they had spent quite a while waiting for me to come out of the ‘Badgers’ hole. Jim had actually got changed back into his kit to go in and find me. I think that I found it funnier than the others!
So it was back to Pablo’s for yet more beer and fun. Dave and Sue Ryall arrived later and the drinking then got more serious. San Miguel was not enough and the top shelf started to be hit hard. I was on Cardhu whiskies whilst most others were drinking Pablo’s Smeg. It is a drink, honest! I think Meg and I bowed out at about 3-30am. Other nameless people carried on until 5am or so!

Sunday 5th April
A late start was in order after the night before.
Andy P suggested more cave hunting with a trip to the Langdale depression and to look at what I had discovered. Andy P, Sue & Dave Ryall, Jane, Meg and myself all set off. We went to my little cave first. After a bit of a struggle through the creepers and brambles we made it to the entrance. Sue, Andy and I went in armed with a crowbar and other implements of war. Andy and Sue waited whilst I made my way in. The entrance into the first chamber was a bit of a squeeze so Andy and Sue waited in the covered space provided by the fallen boulder. The first chamber was small, about 6 feet in diameter and only about 2 foot high. There was a hole of about 8 inches in diameter in the floor which I had to crawl over. Looking down this I could see that there was a pitch of about 30 feet below. Thrutching on through to the next chamber which was a bit larger I could see a rift ahead of me. It was more than adequate to get into. I decided to press on ahead into the much larger third chamber. This was about 10 foot across and it sloped upward toward the left which only led back toward the surface. To the right the chamber sank down to what looked like a chocked shaft. I turned back and went to the rift in the second chamber. As I positioned myself to descend into it some of the ‘rock’ I was grasping crumbled in my hand. It seemed like mud coated in a thin layer of calcite. I must admit to being a bit nervous about this as the rift I was lowering myself into had some substantial sized boulders perched over it seemingly glued together by this ‘mud’. It was only a drop of about 5 foot into the rift. Moving forward I could then see the top of the 30 foot pitch properly. It opened into a slightly larger than body sized hole. It would be easy to get down it but coming back up might have been a problem. Andy was quizzing me about what I could see and my conclusion in my state of wimpishness was that the 30 pitch was the only way on and it was too tight at present. In truth I just did not fancy looking around what I thought was a bloody unstable little cave. I did encourage Andy and Sue to take a look though for back up of my opinions. Andy then started to enlarge the small opening to enable himself to get in. at this point he exposed a further hole beneath him. He declared that this was the most promising lead as it seemed to be blowing a draught. It was also obvious that it would take quite a bit of manpower, sorry, personpower to shift what were some quite large bits of rock. A decision was made to come back with a bigger team so we headed out. I was even more encouraged by this.
We then went to look at the ‘Blackberry’ depression (I think that was the right name). This was a small doline that was looked at previously but not seriously dug. We went armed with crowbars, drills, caps and other destructive paraphernalia.


Me emerging from the ‘Blackberry’ depression lead.

Andy P, Dave R and I started moving the obvious obstructions to what looked like a boulder choke only being stopped by a substantial piece of limestone. After trying a cap to break it in two which did not work we decided to leave it where it was. I crawled into a very tight space and could see that there was a body sized rift ahead but a bit more gardening would be necessary to continue.
So back to sunny Matienzo again.
We had a nice invite to eat non meat products by Andy, Sue, Dave and Karen which we took up. They were staying at some rented accommodation opposite the bar down the road. They must have thought that the weather would be like last year. The veggie meal was very nice and they all helped to finish my bottle of Aberlour whisky before we headed off to the bar as suggested by Sue. Sue and Dave were sat opposite Meg and I with their backs to the huge flatscreen TV opposite. After a while Dave seemed to notice our 1000 yard stare and turned to look at what we were watching. Total hardcore pr0no being shown in a bar! With our intoxicated state we had a fit of the giggles which amused the Spanish family sat beneath the TV. They looked up and then looked at us very strangely.
The evening turned into another 3-30 / 5am finish. Will we ever learn??

Monday 6th April
Meg felt totally caved out and wanted another walk. We scoured the info provided by her parents who had visited the region before and settled on a walk up to the source of the Ason river. This culminates in a waterfall of about 70 feet high coming straight out of a cave at the top of the mountain. The walk to this was superb. The river was tree lined and covered in huge boulders that had fallen off the mountain. Some were the size of small houses. There was a large tree broken completely in half by one of these monsters. It was awe inspiring. There was no breeze this day but standing at the bottom of the waterfall was amazing. The gale created by the falling water almost pushed you over. We then carried on past this until we met the main road, then walked back to where we parked along the other side of the valley for a different perspective. We also took lunch in a large cave entrance which we climbed up to. It was a fantastic walk. An early night was called for. We were knackered.


Ason waterfall.


Tuesday 7th April
I felt that I could not leave Matienzo until I had seen my little discovery investigated further. After getting up late and missing all the different parties going off elsewhere Meg and I decided to look again in the Langdale depression. We looked at a lead that Andy and Meg had found a couple of days earlier but these proved to be too tight to gain entry. We then went back to my find.
After getting in under the main boulder I then went into the cave by myself while Meg waited. After a quick scout about I decided to look at the 30’ pitch again. How I did not notice another way on behind me I will never know. The rift went straight on behind me and seemed to end in a choke, however it also went off at a right angle too. This then went on to a T-junction which was blocked to the left but carried on to the right. A small climb enabled me to bypass the fallen boulders blocking this rift. It left me with a 9’ pitch and I had no rope. I called for Meg to join me and we both realised that this had the potential of a being a good find. We decided to come back later with some more experienced cavers…………..and some rope!
Upon getting back to Pablo’s Dave Ryall was more than up for exploring a potential unexplored cave. So we gathered some surveying kit and rope and headed back. In addition to what Meg and I had seen the cave continued along the rift to another T-junction. The cave was very unstable in parts. Large pieces of flakes that you would expect to hold your weight peeled off the walls when you touched them. Never having been in a ‘virgin’ cave before this was a new and quite unsettling experience for me but also a very, very exciting one. Turning left at the junction we climbed up and fond ourselves at the bottom of a 50’ aven. There seemed to be a high level passage at the top of this so a maypole will be needed. There was also another short pitch of 9’ below the first 9’ pitch. Dave checked this out and confirmed there was no further way on. So, in conclusion the cave had two ways on. One a high level passage and the other is the 30’ pitch which is blowing a gale. Returning to Pablo’s and giving the GPS coordinates to Juan it confirmed that it was indeed a new find. Dave wanted to know what I would call the cave. What an honour! Most people reading this will think me a very sad man but those who know me are aware of my love for Liverpool football club. I named the cave El Nino which is Spanish for the child or kid. It is also the nickname for Fernando Torres, Liverpool’s exceptional new striker. I thought it quite appropriate. It was without a doubt the most exciting caving I have ever done. That feeling that you are the first human to see what you are looking at is very difficult to describe. It will spur me on to start digging again on Mendip to hopefully have that feeling again. I guess that is what made J-Rat addicted to digging.
Very sadly we left Matienzo the next day to catch our ferry.
We will definitely go back next year. Hopefully we will find more new passage or new caves and hopefully to find that El Nino has grown from a child into and adult of obese proportions :)


Dave Ryall taking coordinates at the entrance to ‘El Nino’.
Wednesday 1st July 2009.
Pant Mawr Pot
Chris Castle, Nicky D.

We had driven over the evening before and stayed at the SWCC cottages at Penwyllt. A bloke called John accompanied us on the walk, making it quicker to reach, although the weather was fine and it was not difficult to find. The walk is supposed to be 3 miles, but it seemed a lot more to me, but I was carying most of the gear. At the pot I rigged it for SRT, which to South Wales cavers seems a pointless exercise when ladders can be used! I researched it from the internet (the book is out of date) and found that the reccomended rope length is 30 metres, but this is not enough if you use a handline to the ledge at the edge of the pot - 40 metres is needed. However, in those dry conditions a handline was not necessary.

Once down we headed upstream for a short distance to see the fine rock ledges and waterfall, then started downstream, negotiating the three boulder chokes. I went the wrong way in the first, and did a sort of round trip among the boulders, but we were soon on the right track.

After the third choke we went as far as an inlet called the Fire Hydrant then returned to visit the Vestry and Organ Loft, but due to incompetance, did not find it. I'm sure we could have done, but Nicky was a bit worried with just the two of us there, so we quickly returned and prussiked out.

The walk back was endless. The temperature was in the 30s, the humidity high, the load heavy and it was one of those walks which was uphill in both directions. I was beginning to fear we'd left the correct path when thank goodness we passed Top Entrance.

The SWCC were very friendly and helpful, a pleasant couple of days.