OUCC Proceedings 9 (1979)

Cueva del Viento

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Pete Ireland

Cueva del Viento was discovered, first explored and surveyed to CRG grade 2 by the 1961 Oxford University Expedition to Northern Spain. In some aspects the original survey and accompanying description require amending. This short note does this.

On the original survey the entrance passages to the main chamber are represented reasonably accurately, with the way on being fairly obvious. However, since 1961 the muddy passage between the first, small, rift passage containing a pool at it NW end has silted up so that the entire passage contains a deep pool in dry weather. This requires swimming. In wet weather this part of the cave sumps.

This pool/sump may, however, be bypassed to the main chamber via some newly discovered passages at a higher level. Access to this is gained through a short bedding plane crawl at the top of the 5m climb immediately before the small rift passage. Once through the crawl the way ahead along a rift (probably a NW continuation of the small rift passage at a higher level) ends after 20m, although the entrances passages may again be entered through a tight squeeze in the boulder strewn floor of the rift.

To the right in the small chamber after the bedding plane crawl a white flowstone cemented boulder slope leads up to a 4m climb in an abandoned streamway. This leads over a wide, almost unrecognisable bridge, for 15m, then divides. The right hand passage slopes down to an abandoned sump pool infilled with sand and small pebbles. The left hand passage continues via a shallow pool, then a muddy crawl and short rift to the top of the main chamber. Part of this route after the bridge may be indicated on the original survey although the description given above and the survey do not tally well.

Returning to the small rift passage another possible way on is via a very tight boulder choke at the NW end of the small rift passage. In wet weather the streamway may be heard and seen beyond this choke. Presumably this stream is a continuation of the stream flowing in the entrance passages.

The conglomeration of rooms and passages on the original survey from which 'Rift Passage' and 'Muddy Passage' lead is in fact one reasonably large chamber. Access to this is via an easy rift climb from the swim passage culminating in a flowstone covered dome at the top of the chamber. The route into 'Rift Passage' follows on up the other side of the chamber via a free climb of 3m on very jagged limestone. After the climb the main passage to the rift is on the left and down, then right and up to the NW end of 'Rift Passage' over or under a ridge of limestone.

The rift itself may be traversed at three distinct levels as far as a series of muddy crawls half way along its length. In places access between levels is possible.

The series of muddy crawls consists of angular passages 0.5m in diameter coated in mud. The actual series appears more complicated than the survey suggests with some new passage leading to a small 5m high chamber at a lower level. The route to the sump, however, is via the 'Low Chamber', more rift passage involving easy traversing and finally a stroll down an inclined (15-20 degrees) abandoned streamway.

Between 'Low Chamber' and the final sump the rift is possibly at least 25-30m deep terminating in water. This is presumably the active streamway. No easy way was found down to the rift due to its steepness and tightness.

The far streamway is impressive, but sadly short. An attempt to trace the water from Cueva del Friero to here was abandoned due to lack of time. The amount of time spent in merely locating entrances from old reports was largely to blame for this. It is hoped that more recent reports will prove more useful to future users!