OUCC Proceedings 8 (1976)
Cueva la Huelga
by Dave Kelsey, Martin Laverty
|OUCC Proceedings 8 Index
A rather complex cave providing a through trip on two main levels, the lower apparently active in winter. Some work might well yield an active system of rather more interest and much greater potential here, several indications of its existence having been found. Engravings and drawings in the upper series show frequent habitation, but probably only since the time of Homo carbidensis.
This cave was explored by the 1965 British Speleological Expedition to the Cantabrian Mountains, who found only the upper entrance but also discovered a short active stream passage not located by us. Numerous villagers from Cardes and the surrounding places are acquainted with the system, a local boy showing us the through trip. It appears from a trench dug near the upper entrance that some archaeological work may have been done here.
From the village of Cardes (first turn to right off the road to Covadonga after the Junction with the Cangas de Onis - Mestas de Con road) take any one of the several paths which cross a stream and then ascend the opposite hillside to an extensive area of fields in the polje drained by the cave, where the upper entrance is located at the lowest point under a 15m cliff face. The lower entrance is a well vegetated valley below the path used to reach here. Villagers will prove helpful in locating the entrance!
A dry stream bed enters the arched upper entrance and the passage continues fairly high, wide and boulder strewn to a 10m pitch on the left into a deep pool which is near the flood streamway of the lower series. Keep ing to the right a smaller passage leads to a muddy series of walking size with rock pillars, many choked crawls and remains of a false floor which chokes with mud Just beyond the presumed archaeological trench. The main route on is in a fairly large passage which includes some old stal and gour formations before reaching a chamber where the route to the lower series is to the left. To the right, the passage continues under a rock bridge to a 6m rope pitch into a choked chamber. A small passage is descended from the previous chamber to reach the lower series, the first hole in the floor being ignored except by those wishing to explore a very muddy 6m pitch into an even more muddy chamber with sound effects reminiscent of roaring underground torrents coming through a millimetre scale orifice.
The 1965 explorers attempted to dig this, but the lack of results is not very surprising when the site is seen. The afforementioned hole in the floor requires a rope for its descent and the pitch head so reached is also accessible from further along the route to the lower series by a bedding plane crawl. Back on the main route, an ascent leads to a chimney down to a low chamber with two holes in the floor (connecting to each other and the muddy 6m pitch by short narrow rifts below), which one crawls between before crawling up to a small pebbly chamber leading to the descending rift and steep mud slope to the flood streamway.
Turning right at the Junction leads upstream, via several water filled potholes, which can be stepped over, and two small holes revealing a lower passage which is impenetrable to where the main passage chokes. However, a crawl to the right leads to much flood debris - mainly twigs and branches -to a fairly large and high chamber. A considerable stal slope can be climbed to reach a point giving a good view over the pool at the foot of the 10m pitch near the upper entrance. From the chamber several other passages connect back to the main route just described via climbs and another hole can be descended to an uninteresting muddy crawl. Opposite the Junction of upper and lower series is a short, hand-and-knees crawl, while left leads to easy walking or stooping on cobbles until a sharp right hand bend is reached, where the route to the lower entrance is disguised as a flat out crawl into a wide, mud-banked passage of stooping height leading to the flood resurgence. Continuing on the main passage one is soon confronted by an abrupt change of passage size and form and it is necessary to chimney down into and along a high, narrow, greasy rift. To the left at the end of this is a muddy, slanting chamber with a passage leading to the flood streamway Just before the rift, while climbing down to the right leads to a sloping rift.
This was carried out simultaneously by two pairs -M. Laverty and M. Wilbourn surveying the upper series from the upper entrance and S. Tarran and D. Kelsey working in from the lower entrance. Incredibly good timing enabled the two pairs to meet at the Junction of upper and lower series and at the 10m pitch, giving a large loop for testing the survey data. Closed loop errors averaged 1.6%.
Comparison with the 1965 survey shows reasonably good agreement except for some details of passage width and cross section and, more importantly, in the amount of passage found at the two ends of the flood streamway. We discovered much more passage near the foot of the 10m pitch, while we did not find the section of active streamway discovered at the lower end of the flood streamway, apparently reached via the sloping rift which was the lowest point we reached. 730m of cave were surveyed with a verticle range of 31m.