Matienzo, Easter 2022

Matienzo, Easter 2022

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    Friday 8th April
    Mistletoe Pot
    Cavers: Chris Scaife, Diane Arthurs, James Carlisle, Simon Cornhill

    I had joined Si and Di in this cave on a flying visit to Matienzo between Christmas and New Year. In my two days of caving we had explored 275m of new passage, then after I’d left they had kept going and taken the total length up to 560m with an undescended pitch at the far end. Many, many times in the intervening months I had thought about the wonders this cave would reveal.

    Great expectations can be a dangerous thing, and by the end of the day’s caving we were feeling despondent. The pitch at the end, which took us a few hours to enlarge with hammer and chisel, was about 16m deep and led to an uninspiring muddy hole where the water disappeared. And nothing else.

    There were a couple of side passages and holes in the floor here and there that we still hadn’t checked, but the general feeling after this trip was that Mistletoe Pot had nothing more to offer. It’s one thing to find something new and then for it to crap out a day or two later, but quite another when the lead that goes nowhere is one you’ve spent the last few months dreaming about.

    Saturday 9th April
    Cueva de las Cosas
    Cavers: Chris Scaife, Carolina Smith, Oscar Scaife, James Carlisle, Juan Carlisle, Nora Carlisle

    We walked up the hill a short distance to this family-friendly cave, which has an enormous main chamber and a generous amount of impressive formations. Oscar walked around inside a cave for the first time ever – he has been in several caves before, but I’ve always been carrying him – and Juan and Nora had a whale of a time.


    Sunday 10th April
    Mistletoe Pot aka Torca del Muérdago
    Cavers: Chris Scaife, Diane Arthurs, James Carlisle, Simon Cornhill

    There were a few odds and ends still left in this cave, none of which seemed like good leads, but it all needs looking at. First we descended a hole in the floor, after the two squeezes at the end of the long traverse. This was just a short distance from another pitch – Audrey 2, which led nowhere -and the hole had no real draught, so expectations were low. I dropped down onto what looked from above like the floor of the pitch, but turned out to be a ledge with a big drop below it. It still seemed prudent not to be overly excited by this, as the most likely outcome was another pitch with no way on at the bottom.

    Au contraire. This 34m pitch, with enjoyable hanging rebelay, opened out lower down into a capacious chamber. At floor level there was nothing continuing, but once all four of us were down, Si climbed up a slope and into more ongoing passage. Surveying this, at first I went around a corner and it seemed hopeless, with just a small hole leading into a loose slope that had a buried alive feel to it. Pushing on, there was then a low phreatic tube, and now we could feel a draught so our enthusiometers were back on. There was a short pitch at the end and this dropped into big walking passage, the walls and ceiling adorned with helictites and several metres away from us, but even in a passage of this size we could feel a strong draught.

    Fighting the urge to run into the unknown, we surveyed as we went along and soon reached a big hole in the floor. Time to turn around and return with bolts and rope. This cave just keeps going, even when it seems all is lost. In much the same way that when most of the other plants in the forest lose their leaves in the autumn, the mistletoe persists.

    Monday 11th April
    Unnamed shaft
    Carolina Smith, Pete Smith, with Chris Scaife and Oscar Scaife as surface support

    Pete had found, but not descended, this hole when he had been looking for a different cave. We went there with a ladder and Carol explored. It was 7.5m deep with no way on at the bottom. Nearby, we also found a short unrecorded cave – just 4m long – with an entrance that was about 2m across. It just goes to show how much could still be found out here, when even big obvious entrances like this, not far from a track, have been overlooked.


    Tuesday 12th April
    Mistletoe Pot/Torca del Muérdago
    Cavers: Chris Scaife, Diane Arthurs, James Carlisle, Simon Cornhill

    The big hole in the floor had a fair amount of loose rock around the top. Si bolted a traverse around to the right to reach a second, deeper, hole in the floor. We now descended this 42m pitch, via two rebelays. As Si hadn’t said anything at the bottom, other than the customary “Rope Free”, James wasn’t sure if he would bother to descend, thinking it probably led nowhere. I think he’s glad now that he did.

    We were now in a streamway for the first time. We have still not been upstream (open lead), or swung into the wide passage about 20m up the pitch. As is customary, we followed the draughting downstream passage. There were crawls, some squeezes, narrow walking passage and a few bits where we had to climb above the stream on dubious holds. It often felt as though there might not be much more to it, then suddenly the stream disappeared down a crawling-sized tube and we were in an enormous sandy-floored passage, with stalactites hanging down from the ceiling like mistletoe and stalagmites jutting up from the floor like trees. Whenever I’ve been on a dig or pushing a cave, this sort of passage is exactly what I’ve been hoping to find.

    We reached a pitch at the end of this cavers’ paradise, and could see a continuing passage down there. It was about 7pm by this point, so it seemed like a good time to turn around. On the way back out we had a quick look at the stream. It was in a crawling passage, which soon led to a pitch of about 5m. There seems to be a soggy continuation at the bottom and a dry continuation on the other side at the top, but we have not yet investigated either.

    As if probably the best day’s caving of my life wasn’t enough, we then saw a wildcat on our way back to the village. The big stuff we had found needed a name befitting a grand place, so Wildcat Passage it is. In other wildlife news, I also saw a booted eagle and spring gentian on the walk to the cave, shrimps and centipedes underground, and a badger and midwife toad on the way to Pablo’s afterwards.


    Wednesday 13th April
    Mistletoe Pot/Torca del Muérdago
    Cavers: Chris Scaife, Diane Arthurs, James Carlisle, Simon Cornhill

    We dropped the short pitch at the end of Wildcat Passage and at the bottom it was a more complex place than expected, with several short leads into chambers. Only one way on kept going though, and this was quite small but with a strong draught. Hands and knees crawling led to flat-out crawling, led to squeezing, but then we were walking and we had rejoined the stream. Or at least, we were again in a stream passage.

    There were more fantastic formations and the passage followed a pattern: the ceiling lowered gradually, whilst the sandstone floor mostly stayed horizontal – meaning that the walking passage would lower to crawling – before a drop in the floor led to more walking passage. After a bit of this, we entered an underground waterpark where the floor turned into a waterslide interspersed with deep pools. This cave has an incredible amount of variety. Eventually, at about 7pm again, we reached our limit for the day: a vertical drop of about 5m that will need a handline at the very least. It looks big beyond.

    The total surveyed length of this cave is now about 1350m and I think we can all agree that exploring it has been one of the highlights of our caving careers. There are so many leads in there now that I can’t imagine we’ll have this one wrapped up in the next few days.


    Friday 15th April
    Mistletoe Pot/Torca del Muérdago
    Cavers: Chris Scaife, Diane Arthurs, James Carlisle, Simon Cornhill

    We headed straight for the pitch we had left undescended on our last visit. Fortunately, we took SRT kits and rigged it properly; it would have been a bold, loose and overhanging handline climb.

    The streamway continued on a sandstone floor, endless fun with waterslides and log flumes. In places the ceiling was low enough that we were more or less flat out, but elsewhere we were in comfortable walking passage. At the end, there was a tight squeeze into a pool of water, with another stream entering. This looked promising, but the stream then disappeared into a long, wide section where the ceiling was too low. If you found something like this close to the road on Leck Fell you’d spend the next few weeks capping it, but it’s quite possible that no one will ever see this part of the cave again.

    Our total length of explored passage for the day was 440m – a triumph – and we still made it back to Pablo’s in time for the best-attended expedition meal I’ve ever seen.


    Sunday 17th April
    Mistletoe Pot/Torca del Muérdago
    Cavers: Chris Scaife, Diane Arthurs, Simon Cornhill

    I had planned to leave Matienzo today but, what with all the tremendous ongoing passage, I was granted an extra day of exploration. Regrettably, James was not so lucky.

    First of all, we went down the 42m Terrahawk Pitch and explored upstream. This started out wide open with several big avens – the bit we could see part way up the pitch almost certainly connects with one of these. The stream passage narrowed, with sharp edges, and we had to climb up slightly to a wider traverse above the floor. A calcite blockage stopped progress. It would probably have been possible to continue flat-out in the stream, but with limited time and open leads elsewhere in the cave it was time to move on.

    Back up the pitch, Si derigged and then bolted a traverse across, past the initial Y-hang, over a rock bridge with a grand stalagmite, then down to a lower rock bridge and a scramble up to the far wall. If this cave was in Yorkshire it would be everyone’s favourite SRT trip. The 65m rope only just made it across the traverse.

    Fittingly, the final destination of the expedition – for me anyway – was nirvana. We walked along pristine sandy-floored, meandering passage with sumptuous helictites and gypsum crystals jutting out of the walls. The ceiling lowered and a final short, blind pit brought the discovery to an end.

    The total surveyed length of this cave currently stands at 1,937m. Best Matienzo ever!


    Lucky sod lol. Add that 1937 to my 401 and in total the BRCC discovered/involved with discovering 2338m out of 2945m!


    Here’s my trip report, I wrote on the ferry and forgot to post it, if anyone is interested.

      Tuesday 12th April

    People: Alex Ritchie
    Weather: Sunny and warm
    Cave: 0098

    Arriving literally an hour ago at 11am, after putting the tent up, I headed into 0098, to see what the end of the Eastern Branch looked like, which was something I had been interested in doing last summer. There was meant to be an unpassed squeeze past a boulder which drafts strongly.
    However, after getting inside by only 50m I reached water, the passage ahead was sumped. Bugger. So, what to do, then? Well, there was a draft, but where was it going, after all there was no airspace. I followed it up a boulder slope to a tight passage with a squeeze on it. The mud here appeared to have a single pair of footprints on it. I ferreted my way up quite some distance between boulders and small chambers now well above the height of the entrance so well above the flood level. Despite this, there was now no evidence of anyone being here. I can’t believe it after only being in Matienzo for just 2 hours, I was already in new passage, 10 minutes walk from the campsite no-less!

    The draft was howling, and I followed it through some awkward, but nicely decorated passages that reached a climb down. I realised part-way down that this was actually a pitch as a rock I dislodged fell quite some distance. I traversed over the top as far as I dared and could see big passage ahead, but I could go no further. I had to come back, to check all of this out. On the way out I had a route around in the boulder choke finding two further pitches down into who knows where.

    At the entrance I happened to look up and what’s this even more passage right at the entrance! The people who explored it over 30 years ago must have been Blind as a Bat, which gave this new bit of passage it’s name.

    Trip time 2.5 hours

    Passage surveyed 0m

      Wednesday 13th April

    People: Andrew Northall, Gracie, Alex Ritchie
    Weather: Overcast but still warm
    Cave: 0098

    Andrew had approached me keen to learn how to survey, and boy did I have a cave for him. We first surveyed the short blind bat passage in the entrance before surveying the existing passage so we could link it in to the new stuff. Andrew was already not impressed with this cave calling it “a bit shit” he had been in Risco the previous day.

    We headed to the new stuff and I must say as surveying goes for a first trip this was a bloody difficult one, as we now had boulder chokes with multiple ways on, mud and small squeezes to boot. They did bloody good! Andrew was grateful for the learning but complained more on how bloody awful the cave was. But I said to him this was all new stuff.

    We got to the pitch and rigged it with many slings reaching large passage. However, this passage turned out to just be the main passage. The good news though is that we were on the other-side of the flooded passage, so we had a flood bypass route at least, which I named “Accy Bypass”. We had a quick look at the continuing passage to confirm this was the main passage before heading back up.

    On the way up a very large 10kg~ rock dislodged missing me by less than a metre. This, now resides in the centre of the passage.
    We then headed to the second pitch that needed looking at, which required severe gardening to even fit down. By this point Andrew had enough and left, he also and accidently took Gracie’s SRT kit out too. This left me to explore and survey at the bottom alone. This had a nice calcite flow and a possible way on up a 3-4m high calcite wall, that will need looking at, but otherwise it closed down.

    Andrew said it was the second most muddiest place he had been, number 1 being Jenga pot.

    Trip time: 6.5 hours

    Passage surveyed: 93m (new) 135m total.

    Thursday 14th April
    Rest day, went for a 6 mile walk near Remales with John and Jen.

      Friday 15th April

    People: Gracie, Alex Ritchie
    Weather: Sunny and warm
    Cave: 0098

    Andy swore to not go back and Gracie had a certificate from Phil that said she did not have to go back, but we still had a pitch to drop!
    Gracie, was actually happy to come along once more despite how bruising it has been to her so far. We only had one more pitch to drop, however this was a bloody awkward pitch head. It consists of a sharp crawl, over jagged rock interspersed by mud, leading directly to the pitch from a tube.
    We tied off to a natural and I went down, Gracie would only follow if it went anywhere (it did not). However, Gracie did a great job surveying that horrible passage leading to the pitch. I took over surveying at the bottom, which was a weird cross rift series, where unfortunately all ways on are either choked or are too small (one could be dug).

    Surveying done, and the waterfilled passage now dried we had great fun exploring the rest of the cave, which is a complete mud fest. Exploring most of the passage involved kicking in mud steps, or just slip and sliding. An ice axe and crampons would be recommended gear in this cave! We were unable to reach my original objective in the East passage, as it was not possible to climb the mud. Think high level mud caverns in Mossdale.

    Trip time: 4 hours
    Passage surveyed 27m

      Saturday 16th April

    People: Alex and (John P as surface support)
    Weather: Sunny and warm
    Cave: 0662

    The expedition had a tick list of caves to tick off, one was quite interesting called 1142, described as an unexplored drafting cave. So, in the early afternoon we set off to the cave using the GPS coordinates I typed into my phone. The walk up was difficult, deep gorse and sharp limestone pinnacles, meaning it almost took us 2 hours to get there. What’s worse I was coming down with something, I already had sore throat, and feeling dizzy and was sweating profusely. However, get there we did, well at least I thought we did. However, my GPS or me must have a blip as we had unknowingly at the time arrived instead at 0662 as you might have guessed from the cave number in the title, this was some 50m away. The cave we were looking for did not have a photo so we were not to know we were in the wrong place.

    John sunbathed whilst I surveyed in finding quite a large chamber, and two pitches one 6m deep the other 7m, however I only measured them with the disto and did not throw anything down, I was wildly wrong about the depth estimate of one of them.

    On the way back down the hill I started to feel really unwell, falling over several times and barely managing the final gentle walk uphill along a track to return to the car.

    Trip time: 1.5 hours (underground)
    Passage surveyed: 20m (new) 50m overall.

      Sunday 17th April

    I basically spent the whole day in bed, with a fever and very sore tonsils.

      Monday 18th April

    People: Gracie, Andrew Northwall Alex
    Weather: Overcast, cool and starting to drizzle.
    Cave: 0662

    I was over the fever, so I was not going to let what I assumed to be Tonsillitis stop me caving (I had Covid only 3 weeks ago, so it can’t be that!).
    So, with the illness subsiding and my energy levels returning I decided dropping a short pitch would be an easy afternoon recovery activity. I knew the cave had been partially explored after correctly identifying where I was so we could safely ignore one of the pitches as it had been dropped already.
    As, always we were wildly optimistic and brought more rope than we thought we needed but did not bother with a drill as I knew there were natural rigging at the top of the pitches, because a drill, bolting hammer and spanner are bloody heavy and this cave is located high on a ridge.

    However, things were conspiring against us. Our main issue this afternoon was that the hillside was on fire! On the one-hand, it meant all the gorse had gone, but on the other it meant we had to fight our way past a lot of smoke as well as flames. Two of us were determined a little wildfire was not going to stop us caving. The flames we could avoid (these were only grass fires) but the smoke proved too much for Gracie’s asthma, so she turned back.

    Thankfully once we climbed onto the ridge, the fires seemed to not be able to cross and the wind was blowing the smoke in the other direction. We were also happy the grass on this side was sufficiently wet so it would be unlikely to catch fire. (In-fact the fire never crossed the fence line, specifically which was weird).

    We got into the cave and reached the little pitch found on the last trip, however after Andrew chucked a rock down it turned out not to be little at all, in-fact the rocks seemed to bounce around for about 8 seconds, in some cases! A little deeper than 6m then!

    Andrew descended first and waited for me on a large ledge 10m down, where I took over, descending from here down a fine shaft which was a further 21m deep. Somehow, we got to the bottom of this with just a 32m rope, though I did have to get off 1m off the floor. The next pitch also looked deep but from rock tests, we guessed it was no more than 20m, we had a 22m rope remaining. Finding suitable rigging points was interesting, we eventually found a rock spike about 4m off the floor with an even smaller rock spike just below for the main hang.

    I went down first at Andrew’s insistence as it was my find. Getting onto the pitch was tight, kind of like the slot in Swinsto, but not quite that tight. This drop turned out to be 16m so thankfully the rope reached with 1m to spare this time! This was a big wide spacious rig so again was a fine descent!
    At the bottom was big passage, but all too soon it closed down. There was a way on down a hole in the floor dropping us down another 5m, this led through a rock window into a final aven chamber with no way on at a depth of around 60m. I called this cave Tonsillitis pot and named the pitches based on the symptoms.

    Trip time: 4.5 hours
    Passage surveyed: 67m

      Tuesday 19th April

    People: Gracie, Andrew Northwall, Pete Smith and Alex
    Weather: Overcast, rain.
    Cave: 0027 (top ent to 0025)

    A tourist trip led by Pete Smith, we went through some awesome passage as far as the climb up from the lower series which is about half way along the through trip.

    On the way out I wanted to take a quick look at a major inlet passage (Marvo). Pete then told me that the waterfall halfway along had not been entered by anyone. I could see it seemed to go on so I decided that it should be my next objective! The question was, how the heck was I meant to get up there. It’s only 4 or 5 m above the floor but climbing direct was impossible as all the “rock” was actually clay and fell off as soon as you even looked at it. This needed a plan of an attack, I carefully looked around and formed a plan to return.

    Trip time: 3.5 hours
    Passage surveyed: 0m

      Wednesday 20th April

    People: Patrick Warren, Alex
    Weather: Overcast and light rain, heavy rain on exit
    Cave: 0027 (top ent to 0025)

    My plan to tackle the waterfall obstacle, was to bolt up diagonally along the right-hand wall, as although the distance was about 5m across and 2m up, it was a far better prospect than the left wall which was very friable.

    I had a quick crash course from Jim Lister the night before, but I was still nervous about this kind of bolting (I haver never bolted a free-hanging traverse before). Nevertheless, I made good progress before I let Patrick take over who is a dab-hand at this kind of thing at least compared to me. My time was not wasted though as I used to tie in the new passage we were sure to find with the nearest likely survey station a major kern at a junction of passages 50m back.
    When I returned Patrick was done and had rigged a y-hang. As it was my trip he kindly suggested that I should go first into the new passage. It was a bloody awkward pitch to get off without protection, I should have brought the drill with me. Nevertheless, I made it into the new passage and found a good belay to rig a traverse from. We then spent some time just removing the original bolt traverse and re-rigging the pitch properly before we started exploring.

    Immediately the passage opened up somewhat to walking size, but then seemed to quickly diminish to a squalid crawl, which neither of us particularly wanted to survey. Thankfully a slope to the right bypassed this. We re-joined the stream in high rift passage which continued for some distance. Then, the water sumped at an 8m high avon chamber, but again there was a way on that went around this, along a narrow but high rift. Climbing up as it looked bigger we found this very loose, but nicely decorated. After about 40m of this we re-joined the stream in larger rift passage, high above. The passage was now 8m high, and we were near the top. A traverse led over a hole, it was very wide and had a significant fall risk, so we decided to leave it here, with big open passage still going on ahead.

    We both found it an enjoyable trip.

    Trip time: 6.5 hours
    Passage surveyed: 101m

      Thursday 21st April

    Enforced rest day as no one to really cave with, went for a wander around Riva, sorted out surveys etc.

      Friday 22nd April

    People: John Proctor, Alex
    Weather: Overcast, dry
    Cave: 0027 (top ent to 0025)

    I was considering doing it solo, however John was feeling sorry for me and volunteered to help surveying the new passage. He was not minding the trip that much until it came to getting off the awkward pitch-head into the new passage. He even went as far as saying “Caving is some kind of mental illness” or words to that effect. So that’s what I called the passage “Mental illness inlet”.

    Anyway, we soon got to the traverse that John crossed easily, I found a narrower bit even higher up (scary as F, but doable) and we continued the exploration. We followed the rift at about 4m up before finding an easier way down to the stream. From here the passage increased in size dramatically, to being about 3m across and 10m high, we were in something big. We passed under an aven 14m high and the large passage continued, but with a lower roof. A slope up, then suddenly it ended! We were staring at a wall of rocks and tree roots, which was not surprising as the passage found yesterday looked to be heading to the surface. Maybe a dig here would make a new entrance, it’s very close.

    Near the end there were a few smaller passages leading off but all of them seemed to choke after a few survey legs. The exception was the passage with the water in it as this continued as a narrow 1m high rift, but it was getting exceedingly tight and is currently partially blocked by a rock at present so has not been pushed further. The water is also getting very close to the surface.

    Overall, this passage was a good find, my best find on the expedition I think, not a Mistle toe, but still.

    Trip time: 5 hours
    Surveyed: 107m

      Total found 416m
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