Cuevas Sopladoras to Cueva del Agua
Thursday, 14 June 2012

This was recommended to us by a certain ULSA member as a short easy through-trip requiring no ropes (no names shall be mentioned Mr amalgamation of two lower limb parts) It looked interesting as it cuts directly through the mountain without gaining much depth, and pops out high up in the Ason Gorge (at least it looked interesting to me, I think hollys response when I pointed this out was something to the effect of “yawn).

What we didnt realise was quite how small the ratio of actual caving to walking/thrashing through undergrowth/desperately clinging to a vegetated cliff would be
The walk in to Sopladoras is fairly straight forward when using a good description and possibly a map that shows the cave in the right place! We had more difficulty with the steep walk down from Cueva del Agua, though a little forward planning and short reccie of the way down, should make this easier. Alternatively the traverse can be done backwards from the bottom up, as there are no pitches.
SOPLADORAS

Park in the obvious layby in the village of Ason. Walking out of Ason along the road up the valley, take the first right down a steep track, which crosses a bridge over the river. Walk past the farmhouse (which can be seen from the road) and follow the footpath into the Rolacios valley (large valley running off perpendicular from the Ason Gorge towards the West), walking on the LHS of the river. Follow this path (which crosses over the river and heads through the forest on the RHS of the river) for around 45 minutes, until there is a semi-obvious crossing back over the river on the left. (Keep an eye out ‘ you could miss it). From the crossing you can see a field with stone cabins. You enter this field through a crude barbed wire gate (the main path continues on the RHS of the river, heading up towards Rio Munio, etc).

From here we need to head towards the Barranco de la Sota waterfall which becomes visible further up the valley. To do this, walk past the cabins and through the woodland visible beyond the cabins. We skirted this high on the left through bracken, but ended up a little too high and had to descend into the trees through deep bracken where we picked up an obvious path. It may be possible to find this path much lower down in the forest with a little looking. If you are having difficulty locating the path lower down, the way on should be found eventually by heading towards the waterfall, sticking up to the left side of the valley.

The path leads up to an easy crossing, just below the waterfall. It then continues uphill on the opposite bank and leads to the top of the waterfall (The path was difficult to follow here, but the waterfall is an obvious reference point to head towards). At the top of the waterfall there is a resurgence cave on the right hand side of the valley. To reach Sopladoras, follow the river bed on the left hand side. The bed becomes dry and you will soon see a handline hanging down on the left, which takes you up a short climb into the main entrance of Sopladoras, around 5m up a small crag. The walk in should take around 2 ‘ 2.5 hours.

The GPS co-ordinates we found online appear to lead to the separate resurgence cave down-valley from Sopladoras. The local map shows the cave too high up on the mountain. The cave is next to the dry stream bed.

The GPS co-ords taken by us at the entrance are:

UTM (WGS84) 30T 0448287m 4786377m 812m

THE TRAVERSE

The trip from Sopladoras to Cueva del Agua is fairly straight forward, and the route through is marked. A basic description would be as thus: walk along passage following markers, passage starts to not match Spanish translated description at all, climb through boulder chokes, walk more, climb up stuff, climb down stuff, wade through a little bit of streamway, hang on a rope over a pool, walk more, walk into big passage, walk into slightly smaller passage, walk into really big passage, egress from daylight exit one and a half hours after entering Sopladoras.

The only part where we had some route finding difficulty was; following the markers within the cave, we ended up on a route that is different to the Spanish description (as there are two ways through the cave). If you end up following a narrow sandy floored rift with pools of water that eventually ends, turn back around, and keep an eye out on your right (upstream), not far from the end of this passage. There is a spiral like climb that isnt obvious at first from the floor and up into a higher level above the passage.

WALK OUT FROM CUEVA DEL AGUA

The cave mouth looks out over the Ason gorge, from high up on the Western side. Scrambling down a short way soon gains the water from the cave flowing out from between boulders. This soon falls down the large waterfall visible from the valley bottom. The terrain here is very steep with many limestone escarpments not visible from above, so care must be taken to find the correct route, and not try to drop down to soon. Turning right from the top of the waterfall (heading South), gains a small footpath that skirts the bottom of a limestone cliff. The footpath continues along between the cliff above and a steep slope below for a while. The descent route then heads down a steep bracken covered ridge down towards the river. (It is important to get this right, and travel far enough along as we dropped down a steep bracken covered slope too soon, leaving the path, and ended up on some terrifying traverses and climbs on limestone escarpments). It would be useful to reccie this exit route from below before attempting the traverse, in order to avoid difficulties. It is all visible from across the valley on the road, and it is at least worth a drive up here to look before parking in Ason.
The main thing we achieved from this trip was a respectable body coverage of bramble scratches and ticks.

EQUIPMENT

Harness and cowstails (to avoid deep pool)
Tick removal tool