The MONTAÑAS de COLÓN: Reminiscences of Things to Come

The Sutawala Valley, portal to the heart of the Montañas de Colón Karst

The following collection of images was acquired on four trips to the Montañas de Colón made by geologist/caver Ric Finch during the summer of 1983 while working for the Dirección General de Minas e Hidrocarburos of the GOH, and again for the DGMH during the summer of 1984, and later that same summer on an exploration project for Amoco, and finally in Dec. 1984 with a group of cavers. Although most of the photos were taken by Finch, some were taken by Tom Weiland and others by Ed Yarbrough; apologies for not giving specific photo credits. Some of the shots seem to have a number of buzzards and even the occasional condor in the sky; I take the blame for not finding my air brush to clean these slides before scanning them.

The Montañas de Colón (henceforth, MdeC) comprise a belt of folded limestone mountains extending SW-NE along a section of the border of Honduras with Nicaragua in the Honduran portion of La Mosquitia. The Cretaceous age carbonate formation, the Atima Limestone of the Yojoa Group, is thousands of feet thick, is highly karstified, and is covered with dense tropical hardwood jungle.

Finch's geological work in the area gave him an opportunity to recon the karst area using helicopter support, and also a chance to get familiar with the Sutawala Valley area on the ground, and make some useful contacts. Later in 1984 Finch organized a group of Tennessee cavers to make the first attempt by cavers to explore this karst area. The Tennessee contingent consisted of Finch, Trent Carr, Elwin and Debbie Hannah, and Ed Yarbrough. Caver Larry Cohen, then with the US Embassy in Honduras, Economic Section, aided the group from Tegucigalpa in many ways, and also joined the venture in the field.

The target area was the Sutawala Valley, which transects the MdeC through some of the most spectacular karst. This valley forms the only feasible path for crossing the range, and the Sutawala Valley trail has undoubtedly been used by the natives since time immemorial. The cavers hoped to use this valley as a route into the heart of the karst.

The logistical problems of getting cavers and gear to the target area were, and still are, a major difficulty to the success of any caving trip to this area. Once in the area, getting around from place to place and finding any caves is yet another difficult problem. Unfortunately, exploring any caves found turned out not to be a problem for the 1984 group.

The following selection of images will show the area and some of the logistical problems to be dealt with. It is hoped that the members of the 1984 trip will enjoy seeing these pictures and remembering some good times had, and that the cavers preparing for the 2001 MdeC odyssey will benefit from the preview of challenges to come.

Good Caving to All--

Ric Finch, NSS5560RL

Montañas de Colón Photo Album

"Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the ranges.
Something lost behind the ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!" --Rudyard Kipling