OUCC Proceedings 7 (1975)

North Spain 1973 - General

Neil Boulton

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Personnel 1973

N.S.Boulton Queen's College Leader & surveyor
R.B.Willis Exeter College Treasurer
G.C.Cox ex Dept Botany & Leeds Univ. Surveyor & Photographer
W.J.M.F.Collis Balliol College Medical Supplies
J.Forder ex Corpus Christi College  
P.J.Friend Hertford College  
M.Laverty Brasenose College Surveyor & Report Editor
M.A.Morrison Lady Margaret Hall  
P.G.Urben ex St. Catherines Coll.& Durham Univ  
J.Wild Leeds Univ.  

Objectives 1973

The expedition had three basic objectives before it. The first was to continue the successful series of O.U. Cave Club expeditions to Northern Spain. Second, the main work of the expedition was to explore and survey a number of cave systems which had been located by the 1972 reconnaissance expedition (Ref.1) in the area of the Cantabrians between the rivers Cabras and Sella. Finally, it was our intention to investigate the more promising limestone blocks of the area for further cave systems to increase the knowledge, from a Speleological point of view, of a little known limestone region. 

The 1973 Expedition

The original plan had been to take two vehicles, a Land Rover, bought with the aid of a loan from the Clubs' Committee, and a Citroen, belonging to one of the members of the expedition. This was felt to be necessary to transport the large amount of impedimenta which burdens a caving expedition, and also to give a certain amount of flexibility to a party whose average size at any one time was eight. In the event, it proved to be impossible to raise the amount of money required to insure and maintain a Land Rover, so we were wholly dependent on the Citroen and a trailer, which the club possessed as a result of irretrievable breakdown on a previous expedition. Four members of the expedition travelled independently, either by air and train, or via the Southampton-Bilbao ferry.

The main body of the expedition left Oxford on July 4th and reached Llanes on July 6th, having a relatively trouble free journey. It was decided to set up camp at Rales, a village 3km south of Posada, since it was close to Llanes, the market town for the area, and offered a cave within walking distance. No other site could be found which presented these advantages, and the decision was ultimately vindicated by the amount of exploration which the caves of Rales demanded.

Arrangements were made with the owners of the village bar for the use of a field next to the river as a campsite, and for a power point in the bar from which to charge caving lamps. We used Rales as the base of the expedition throughout.

John Forder and Peter Urben arrived on July 10th, Bill Collis on July 18th (though due to mismanagement we did not make contact until two days later) and Robin Willis appeared on July 26th. The caving effort of the expedition breaks down as follows:

Rales area, 18 trips; Mestas area, 5 trips; Covadonga area, 3 trips; Lledales, 2 trips; Llovio area, 2 trips; Villa area, 2 trips.

Some time was also devoted to investigating other possible sites, particularly in the vicinity of Rales where we were shown numerous small holes. Towards the end of the expedition we visited an area between Infiesto and Campo de Caso, which had not been explored. Several caves were observed and plans were made to return to the valley to make a fuller reconnaissance.

As in previous years we were immediately assisted by the local villagers, who took considerable interest in the work we were doing. Indeed, by the end of the expedition, we were being informed of the whereabouts of new holes almost daily.