Oxford University Cave Club

British Speleological Expedition to the Cantabrian Mountains of Northern Spain, 1965

in conjunction with the "Espeleologos de Penalba", Leon

British Speleological Expedition 1965 Report

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The Caves of the Río Torío

 R. Bridger

Cueva Pozo del Infierno is the Spanish name of the first cave in the gorge - its English translation means "Cave of the Pothole of Hell". The members of the Espeleologos de Penalba, Leon had told us about the cave, saying that just inside the cave entrance was a. waterfall which had to be climbed.

With the idea of swimming to the bottom of the waterfall, then climbing it, and fixing a permanent belay for a ladder, it was decided to explore the cave. The water coming out of the cave and into the river was arctic-like in temperature. Once inside the cave, the floor dropped sharply. The water was about 8 ft deep. The roof was about 18 ft high and one can see the smooth marble-like sides of the cave, which have no finger holds or possible resting places. After 30 ft water could be heard falling over a slope of about 5 ft from top to bottom (on the next exploration of the cave, it was found that this was the waterfall the Spanish told us about). Thinking that this was only a small cascade, it was quickly climbed, after looking in a small side passage upstream from the cascade. Loose stones and silt had collected at the top of the face and the depth of the water was only 4 ft. After a short time it was 15 ft deep. A slight bend in the cave revealed a side passage above the water level which was completely dry. After swimming a little way further into the cave, it was decided to go back and return later, when the main body of the expedition arrived.

The second party of six people entered the cave one week later. The end of the cave was only 35 ft away from the termination of the previous expedition, and was soon reached. The stream issues from a narrow cleft about 8 ft under water and attempts to dive this sump were made, but they all failed owing to the tremendous force of water coming out of the cleft. Three members of the party decided to look in the roof for a high level passage over the sump. After a strenuous 70 ft climb, the roof narrowed and no way on was found. One other party entered the cave to take photographs but they did not get any further. A separate party entered a cave some 100 yards from this one, and after a short time entered the main stream passage of this one which was found to be tie high level passage described.

NOTE Pumps were to be brought from Leon and the waterfall lowered by blasting but the time needed to arrange this with the G.EL. was too long. Opposite the cave of the pothole of Hell is a small rock shelter which could only be reached by climbing 250 ft up the rock face. The entrance is a low narrow horizontal opening only 3 ft high. The cave extended upwards for about 30 ft. This cave is of no special interest except that it is on the same fault line as the cave previously described.

High level caves in the Río Torío were only on the east side - they are very similar to the ones in Dove Dale near Ashbourne. Just one chamber without passages leading off and of very little interest.

A small cave with a gate on the entrance was not explored as this was the drinking water for a village lower down the gorge. There are signs of many resurgences, which are only active in wet weather. These could not be traced owing to the large amounts of scree and loose rock around the bottom of the gorge.