Matienzo 2018

Cave exploration during 2018

In 2018 just under 6 km of new passage was surveyed and 137 new caves and sites of interest located in this important caving area of Northern Spain. Well over 300 km of passage have been found by the UK led expedition over the past 47 years.

As well as finding new caves and surveying them, the expedition members are also involved in supporting scientific work including: archaeological work; helping a number of research projects to date changes in climate using stalagmite analysis; examining the biological diversity in the caves and testing and mapping water flows.

The expedition takes place at different times over the year with most people attending at Easter and during August. It is important not only for the caves it explores and records, but is an opportunity for younger cavers to easily take part in an oversea expedition and learn from other more experienced members. They also can help to develop surveying and prospecting techniques in caves, which can then be applied elsewhere. The expedition is also unusual as being based in a village in easy reach of amenities it means some cavers who have family commitments are able to travel with their families and take part in the expedition work.

The short report here only details some of the work and finds of the over 200 caves visited in 2018, for more details and information readers are invited to look at our extensive website that contains all our
information collected over the years. It can be found at:

This year key finds included extensions in:

• Diving, pushing and surveying of Cueva Valina upstream in Rio Rioja with over 700 m added
• The discovery of the 167 m deep Drone Pot with passages still to be pushed off the main pitch that could link into the 35 km long South Vega System.
• Pushing Cueva del Bosque (0373) to a depth of 204 m and over 1 km in length
• Extending Cueva Fresnedo II by over 600 m with open leads left for 2019
• Extending Cueva-Cubio del Llanio by over 800 m to where it runs above the 60 km Four Valley System, with the link to be pursued in 2019
• Extending Fuente Aguanaz by over 400m via diving through several short sumps

The expedition also has been mapping the drainage in the areas and so identify the hydraulic extent of the various resurgence caves in our area. Figure 2 shows the results of test carried out to date and also gives an idea of the caves found and their extent.

Cueva Vallina is currently almost 35 km long and the river in the cave has been shown to flow to the 35 km long South Vega System. So if connected it would make a system well over 70 km in length. We also know the system must extend to the west where sinks have been shown to flow into the caves.

The full potential of the system is at least 100 km. The work to dive the downstream sumps and try and find a way through to the NVS was hampered by the very wet weather in the first part of the year. Preparation for diving using a rebreather were made but high water levels with almost nil visibility stopped an attempt to push
further into the sump. Work will continue in Autumn 2018 and in 2019. Other work in the system included
climbing Jochen’s Aven at the end of FN passage to a height of some 35 m noting a number of leads including a boulder choke that looks to lead into a big passage and other passages needing more climbing to enter. Work was carried out in the Galería de la Cisterna (West off Swirl Chamber) area to push a number of pitches and passages and to complete the survey of this area, 168 m of cave was added in this complex area.

A two-man diving team worked in the main upstream Rio Rioja sumps pushing and surveyed through sumps 6 to 8 with walking passages between them and then along a streamway to a crystal-clear sump 9, not yet dived. In addition, the almost 400m of sump and unsurveyed passages which were pushed in 2017 from sump 3 to sump 5 were surveyed.

Torca del Dron was found using a drone, the open surface shaft leads down pitches to a big 80 m shaft with passages going off at the sides. At the bottom of the big pitch, further pitches followed to where leads choked off. Almost half a kilometre was surveyed, and more.

Cueva del Bosque was extended from a small cave to a fantastic sporting pothole. To gain access a dig was opened up to provide pitch into a short passage, just beyond was Squirrel’s Pitch – a magnificent 75 m deep, 10 m diameter drop. The tortuous rift at the base was followed for 15 m to a squeeze and the 10 m deep Helmet Trapper pitch. A comfortable descending streamway soon ended at a steep rift to the take-off point for the 50 m deep Double Six Pitch described as “another stunning descent in a large, beautiful shaft with the stream falling at the far side”. The pitch ended at a 15×8 m flat boulder floor with the only outlet being a flat-out crawl – Roll Again. This soon met a sizeable streamway – the Río Dado that ended at sumps. The upstream sump was dived and found to be 6 m long to a passage ending in a small chamber needing work to make progress.

Cueva-Cubío del Llanío was pushed hard but the connection with Cueva de Riaño that will make a system over 75 km long with potential for much more, is very close (tens of metres) but is still to be found. However, in looking for this link a total of 862 m of new passage was surveyed.

A major diving project in Fuente Aguanaz which has a average flow of 1 m per second, was hampered by the wet weather, and on one occasion the water flooded the top entrance area submerging stored diving gear. Despite this over Easter and August, the diving team added over 400 m to the system and left a number of open leads for 2019. This cave has a massive catchment as our dye test has shown with the test this year from a sink some 7 km to the south.

A 90 m long inlet on the east past sump 2 was found in the summer this was pushed to a passage leading to a chamber (Rudolf Chamber) where one of the team slipped on a climb and landed on his nose causing him and his partner to exit the cave but leaving some of blood behind.

At sump at the end of the main passage the team got to a low airspace in the tight passage with the sound of running water beyond, in the summer rocks were capped and some 9 m of progress made but high water levels made this work difficult. More capping is needed, preferably with lower water levels in 2019, to make progress at this key site.

Text: Philip Papard
Photos: Torben Redder/Amata Hinkle/Philip Papard

Download: Summary Expedition Report / Full Expedition Report



Website Use

Terms of Use

Please read these terms of use carefully before you start to use the site. By using our site, you indicate that you accept these terms of use and that you agree to abide by them. If you do not agree to these terms of use, please refrain from using our site.

Reliance of Information & Disclaimer

The materials contained on our site are provided for general information purposes only and do not claim to be or constitute legal or other professional advice and shall not be relied upon as such.

We do not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on the information on this site and to the fullest extent permitted by English law, we exclude all liability for loss or damages direct or indirect arising from use of this site.

Information About Us

The Ghar Parau Foundation is a 100% voluntary-based charity that manages an investment fund to provide grant aid to assist British caving expeditions to all parts of the world. The fund focuses on those expeditions which include an element of innovative exploration or scientific study. We are also particularly keen to encourage young cavers into expedition caving (as well as sport caving) to maintain an active caving community in years to come.

The Ghar Parau Foundation, a sub-charity of the British Cave Research Association, (267828-1) works by investing the capital within the fund and distributing the interest in the form of grants to caving expeditions who apply and fit the foundations criteria.

Accessing Our Site

Access to our site is permitted on a temporary basis, and we reserve the right to withdraw or amend the service we provide on our site without notice (see below). We will not be liable if for any reason our site is unavailable at any time or for any period.

Intellectual Property Rights

You may print off copies, and may download extracts, of any page(s) from our site for your personal reference and you may draw the attention of others within your organisation to material posted on our site. Please credit The GPF as the source and any expedition whose detail or report you have downloaded. Expeditions and organisations may have additional copyright or restrictions as to using their data and reports and The GPF does not relieve you from any of those additional restrictions.

You must not modify the paper or digital copies of any materials you have printed off or downloaded in any way, and you must not use any illustrations, photographs, video or audio sequences or any graphics without further permission.

Our status (and that of any identified contributors) as the authors of material on our site must always be acknowledged. You must not use any part of the materials on our site for commercial purposes without obtaining permission from GPF.

Our Site Changes Regularly

We aim to update our site regularly, and may change the content at any time. If the need arises, we may suspend access to our site, or close it indefinitely. Any of the material on our site may be out of date at any given time, and we are under no obligation to update such material.

Our Liability

The material displayed on our site is provided without any guarantees, conditions or warranties as to its accuracy. To the extent permitted by law, we, and third parties connected to us hereby expressly exclude:

This does not affect our liability for death or personal injury arising from our negligence, nor our liability for fraudulent misrepresentation or misrepresentation as to a fundamental matter, nor any other liability which cannot be excluded or limited under applicable law.

Information About You and Your Visits To Our Site

We process information about you in accordance with our privacy policy. By using our site, you consent to such processing and you warrant that all data provided by you is accurate.

Viruses, Hacking & Other Offences

You must not misuse our site by knowingly introducing viruses, trojans, worms, logic bombs or other material which is malicious or technologically harmful. You must not attempt to gain unauthorised access to our site, the server on which our site is stored or any server, computer or database connected to our site. You must not attack our site via a denial-of-service attack or a distributed denial-of service attack.

By breaching this provision, you would commit a criminal offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. We will report any such breach to the relevant law enforcement authorities and we will co-operate with those authorities by disclosing your identity to them. In the event of such a breach, your right to use our site will cease immediately.

We will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by a distributed denial-of-service attack, viruses or other technologically harmful material that may infect your computer equipment, computer programs, data or other proprietary material due to your use of our site or to your downloading of any material posted on it, or on any website linked to it.

Links from Our Site

Where our site contains links to other sites and resources provided by third parties, these links are provided for your information only. We have no control over the contents of those sites or resources, and accept no responsibility for them or for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of them. When accessing a site via our website we advise you check their terms of use and privacy policies to ensure compliance and determine how they may use your information.

Jurisdiction & Applicable Law

The English courts will have non-exclusive jurisdiction over any claim arising from, or related to, a visit to our site.

These terms of use and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with them or their subject matter or formation (including non-contractual disputes or claims) shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the law of England and Wales.


We may revise these terms of use at any time by amending this page. You are expected to check this page from time to time to take notice of any changes we made, as they are binding on you. Some of the provisions contained in these terms of use may also be superseded by provisions or notices published elsewhere on our site.

Your Concerns

If you have any concerns about material which appears on our site, please contact the committee. Thank you for visiting our site.


Privacy Policy

Your data

We do publish grants awards and expedition information and pass information to the press about the expeditions we support and grants we make. We do publish the names of expedition members but we do not pass on personal details to any organisation outside the British Cave Research Association or British Caving Association, unless requested to do under the Law of the United Kingdom.


Accessibility Policy

We endeavour to make our site as accessible as possible to people of all abilities. We test our site for compatibility with a range of browsers and permit those browsers to enable any accessibility preferences the user may choose to use. However, as volunteers, we cannot accept liability for any accessibility issues any user may have, though we shall be very willing to gain feedback and address any issues we can. Please use the site feedback facilities to do so. The GPF however, work strictly with the UK English language and, whilst this site should work, we do not design this website with features for use on mobile devices such as tablets and mobile phones.