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MATIENZO 2003 - The DCC contribution to the expedition

Members of the DCC have been taking part in the Matienzo expedition since 1976 and have made regular visits with teams varying from 1 person to more than 10.  In 2003, a team of eight met in Matienzo travelling by boat, over land and by plane.  The team was: Bill Booth, Tony Brocklebank, Nigel Dibben, Len Gee, Roy Hayes, Geoff Standring, Liz Taylor and Chris Wright.

PlanningFigure 1 - Part of the team at base camp planning the next day's activities

During the visit, the main activities by the DCC team were opening and exploration of cave 489, visits including surveying in Cueva Valline, digging in Cueva Candenosa, shaft inspection around Muella, shaft inspection near the TV Mast and a visit to Reñada.  The team also visited Coventosa outside the expedition and, last but not least, the Ason River at Riba.  

Needless to say, the various bars in the village, in Ramales and Arredondo were checked out during the expedition.

Outside the Vega bar Figure 2 - Liz checks out the Vega Bar.  "¡Sonia!  You've got customers [in Spanish]"

We were welcomed by the other expedition members and local residents alike and the DCC went on a number of expedition trips and other expedition members shared in the work on 489.

Throughout the expedition, the weather was exceptionally good and we ate outside every night.  There was rain at the end of the second week but it remained warm.

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The highlight of the expedition for the DCC members was undoubtedly Billy's Vision at 489.  Many years before, Bill had visited 489 with the Hobbit and had since had recurring dreams about the cave, believing that a way on was possible.   At his last visit, the cave had been extended first by a dig through soft calcite and then a tight squeeze into a chamber with a fist-sized hole emitting a draft in the summer.  In 2003, the first plan was to enlarge the squeeze which was achieved with caps and brute force allowing the whole team, including Chris, to get into the final chamber.  The squeeze was nicknamed Chris's F******* Nightmare for obvious reasons.  At the same time, Roy enlarged the first crawl through calcite to make access easier.  With the help of more caps and support from other expedition members with ?snappers?, the second squeeze was attacked.  In the end, however, it turned out that brute force was more effective and a way was eventually broken through using hammers and chisels.

The breakthrough point Figure 3 - The breakthrough hole during digging and before it was large enough for Bill

Bill was first in to his vision and spent a few minutes looking round before calling the rest of the team through.  The frustration of those left behind in the chamber was increased by Bill's refusal to say what he had found until he had had a good look around!  In the end, the whole team (Bill, Tony, Nigel, Len, Roy and Chris) went through and exploration started.  The extension consists of a continuation of the main passage which is about 5 metres diameter and phreatic in origins.  This has been filled with mud and calcite in various phases and in parts only the top section is accessible, hence the dig and two squeezes dug through.  However, in the extension, two separate inlets have washed out the infill and left sizeable chambers.  The passage continues after the second chamber but is filled to the roof and has no draught.  The first chamber has a second inlet and both were looked at by the team but get too narrow.  The best prospect is the outlet in the first chamber where the draft emerges.  Roy dug briefly at this and a return visit would be worthwhile, especially as it hints at a deeper level for the cave.  Between the two chambers is a low passage on two levels divided by a false floor.  Above this is another inlet which Tony explored for a short distance.  In the final chamber, as mentioned above, the way on is blocked to the roof but there is also an aven and hole in the floor which need further examination although there is no draft.

Survey of 489

During exploration, a number of record pictures were taken and some film sequences.  The extension and original cave were also surveyed adding about 100 metres to the length.  The new survey gives a total length of around 210 metres for the cave.

The final chamber Figure 4 - Exploration team in the final chamber

At the end of the expedition, Bill and Roy went back to the first new chamber and had a poke at the shaft in the floor where the draught emerges.

In conclusion, Billy's Vision came true and provided the DCC with an opportunity to make a real contribution to the success of the 2003 expedition.  The whole caving team was involved, some for two or three visits and some on all visits to the cave.  The only ones who suffered were the goats and cows that we evicted from their nice cool shelter when we arrived in the hot weather.  The looks on the goats? faces when they wanted to come back in said everything.

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Valline was a major discovery in 1989 in the Catalan?s area.  The Matienzo expedition visited the cave, did some pushing and as a result was refused a permit for the following year.  However, these difficulties were smoothed over and now the exploration is a joint effort.  The Catalans are particularly strong at bolting and a number of climbs are in progress.  Three visits were made by DCC members in 2003.  On the first, led by Pete Smith, to Valline I, an unsurveyed area was revisited and surveyed adding about 60m to the length of the system.  An unascended aven was identified which was later climbed.  On the second trip into Valline II led by Ali Neal, a visit was made to another unsurveyed section off Abyss II.  The passage turned out to have been explored to the end although it continues as a crawl beyond a boulder and stal blockage with a suspicion of a draught.  About 200m were surveyed.  The area concerned involves about 4 hours of caving to reach so it seems unlikely that anyone will be back there for a long time, if ever.  The third trip was a tourist trip and familiarisation led by Jenny Corrin and Carolina Smith.  We went in by the top entrance using a pull through rope on the first pitch and then the fixed tackle on the second and third pitches.  Once into the level passage, we explored to Swirl Chamber and then visited to the Catalans at a climb off Dragon Chamber on the way out.  The trip only took about four hours and was enjoyed by all.

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Cueva Candenosa (682?) and Torca Candenosa (681?) are located in the Cobadal area which is west and slightly north of Matienzo.  To get there used to require a trip out of the valley to Ria? and Entrambasaguas but a short cut from Ria? now saves quite a distance.  We were led to the site by Juan Corrin.  Cueva Candenosa is a large cave entered by a collapse and access was so easy that even Liz wandered in in her shorts and sun hat.  The rest of us dressed up as cavers in boiler suits and helmets.  

Candenosa Figure 5 - The entrance to Candenosa

Inside, the cave is roomy and cool with, at the bottom, some rifts drafting out.  The target was to dig at the rifts which had been identified by Terry Whittaker on a surveying visit.  At the lowest point, two digs were started which revealed narrow rifts which would take a considerable amount of digging.  More promising was a climb down below a massive boulder in the centre of the cave which led to a phreatic roofed area with, again, a draught.  This was dug for a while and could have potential.  A rope and some tools would be helpful.  During the visit, Juan filmed some of the work for the record.

Notes were made to amend the survey detail in the light of the work done.  On the way back to the car, we looked at Torca Candenosa but did not have tackle to explore it.  Tony explored a farmer's field and found a knee depth pool of sh*t to cool his feet in.

Candenosa Figure 6 - Digging at the draughting narrow rift in Cueva Candenosa

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While the caving team was working on cave 489, Liz and Geoff walked in the same area and investigated two other caves and a potential shaft.  A return was made later in the expedition with GPS and more information to try to identify these sites.  One rift was descended but only went 4 metres!  However, the opportunity was also taken to check GPS coordinates for a few other sites.

1.    The first site was a depression west of the track that links the Llueva valley col with the Senda de Colseco path at approximately 53917.98262.  This was about 6m deep, 12m long but had no obvious outlet.

2.    Next was a depression at 54143.97605 south of the path in which there is a rift, draughting slightly.  The rift was descended with a ladder to -4m where it was choked although digging would not be too difficult.  The rift has a fairly solid roof and bouldery floor and descends steeply.

3.    The third site recorded at 55326.96897 is an open cave full of cowsh which corresponds with site 297.

4.    The fourth is a smaller open cave at 55391.96830 which corresponds with site 321.  On the expedition maps, 321 is marked in two positions, one with a question mark.  This location is roughly half way between the two.  The cave is roughly 8m long and 3m high and appears to be blind.

An attempt was made to find site 304 which is recorded as a 30m shaft but despite walking all around the area where it is marked, the shaft was not found.

All along the Senda de Colseco there are a number of depressions but it seems that none are draughting.  Maybe one will be found!

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A number of shafts were explored by Juan Corrin, Andy Pringle and Tony.  The first was a new cave discovered the day before by Juan.  A fairly obvious entrance by a tree, not noticed earlier, led to a 2m drop into a short passage leading after 10m to a 3m climb.  The base of the climb sloped to a drop into a chamber, which turned out to be about 7m deep with no way out.  Daylight was observed entering from another small hole noticed a few metres from the entrance.  A quick (hand damaging Petzl knife) dig in layered, dry mud near the bottom of the shaft led to a 10m extension which again closed down.  There was no noticeable draft.

The second and third sites nearby were attacked through heavy jungle using boilersuited cavers (one for Pringle, one for me) as machetes.  Both were laddered, but were in fact short climbs with no way on.

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For Roy and Chris, this was there first visit to the area so a trip was taken into Reñada to show them what Matienzo caves can be like.  The party included Dale Street but not Liz.  We went into the cave to Stuffed Monk and Chris took a number of photographs.  The passage was followed towards the stream passage but we turned back in Crowbar Passage where there are a number of climbs.  The entrance was totally dry and the only water was in the blowhole and a bit on the floor in the 'duck'.  All in all, a dry and very enjoyable trip although Geoff found it a bit cold waiting at the top of the rope climbs while the rest of the party explored to the end.

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The DCC team did not limit itself to digging and caving.  Apart from the frequent visits to the Ason during the hottest phase, we also helped with setting up and cleaning up after the barbecue which took place on the campsite this year.  Roy deserves special mention for his contribution to the entertainment.  As well as supplying orange gloves, we now know that Roy is into orange underpants.

The striptease Figure 7 - Roy challenges the Catalans to a stripping duel

We had a visit on the first two nights from Jock, Mary, Kieran and Sean and shared two meals in Pablo's restaurant with them.  Towards the end of the expedition, we had a paella meal in Bar Tomas which almost became an expedition meal with more than 40 cavers and partners present at the same time.  The team also paid tourist visits to Pozalagua, a show cave the far side of Ramales, and to Coventosa in the Ason gorge where the first chambers were explored.

And then there was Roy's car, Lennie's trailer tyre, Nigel's brakes, orange foot-gloves, senior moments ?

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I can only sum up my personal views on the expedition and I hope that others will send their own comments.  This is probably the best visit I have had to Matienzo for many years as it included a significant discovery in Billy's Vision, some good caving in Valline and all with excellent weather.  Probably as important if not more important was the feeling that the DCC are no longer a fringe team but are integrated into the main expedition.  On the great majority of days (including one at 489), other members of the expedition joined the DCC or vice versa.  In the bar and on the campsite too, there was continuous mixing between the club's members and other expedition members.  Once again, I look forward to returning to the magic valley.

NJD with additional material from TB

August 2003

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