UK Caving

TRIP REPORTS - what have you been down to? => Expeditions & Trips Abroad => Topic started by: andrewmc on March 14, 2019, 07:43:56 pm

Title: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: andrewmc on March 14, 2019, 07:43:56 pm
Are you feeling keen to explore snow-covered peaks in the Austrian Alps, learn to find new caves, then bolt, rig, survey and push them? Does the idea of being the first person in new cave passage excite you? Or are you an experienced expedition caver, looking for an area where exciting discoveries are being made yearly?

This year’s Dachstein Expedition will be held between the 17th August and the 7th September 2019, hosted as usual at the Wiesberghaus mountain hut on the Dachstein plateau, Austria. As usual, the expedition is open to all cavers. It is a very cosmopolitan expedition; as well as attracting cavers from university club across the UK and Ireland it has also attracted French, German, Austrian, Bulgarian, Israeli, American, Irish, New Zealand and Czech cavers.

The Dachstein is a relaxed expedition; join us for a week, the whole three weeks, or just a few days.

Last year, the expedition’s main cave, WUG Pot, was finally connected to the 112km long Hirlatzhöhle deep in the mountain after over 40 years. This made the Hirlatz 1560m deep and the 9th deepest cave in the world. This year one aim is to find a higher entrance and make the Hirlatz even deeper!

In 2018 the cave Blood Moon was discovered. This has already been connected to the 600m+ deep Burnie’s Pot, and may also connect to WUG Pot. Resurveying an inlet at the base of WUG has shown that it comes within 50m of the 600m+ deep cave PL2, which ends in a chamber well over 100m wide. The 2017 discovery Thundergasm is now 200m and still going, with several open leads for keen cavers...

Although being competent at SRT will make it a much more satisfying expedition, training is a key part of this expedition. As usual, we will be running the Dachstein Training Weekend (date to be confirmed) to let all cavers learn expedition skills before using them for real on the expedition.

The Wiesberghaus and the caving area we explore are set 2000m up in a stunning area of the Austrian Alps. To the south the Hallstatt glacier rises up towards the 2995m summit of the Hoher Dachstein and the enormous south wall of the Dachstein plateau. To the north is the valley of the Hallstattsee (lake) and the famous town of Hallstatt with its prehistoric salt mine. There are four other mountain huts on the plateau, the show caves of the Dachstein Rieseneishöhle (ice cave) and Mammuthöhle, as well as a range of via ferrata for all abilities, so there is plenty to do on ‘rest’ days.

Join the Dachstein Facebook group at for more information and to keep up with the latest expedition news. You can also join the group’s Dachstein 2019 event.
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: Joel Corrigan on April 28, 2019, 03:19:33 pm
Recruitment is slowly starting to gain pace (we're fairly lazy these days) so if anyone wants to join what is (un)arguably the finest exploration project ever then you're welcome to join.  Andrew has posted most of the details but it's worth emphasising that two decades ago we were the first of the major projects to have an open invite as the organisers were fed up of the unnecessary elitism & cliques within the expedition game back then.  That means that we really do welcome 99% of people who want to go regardless of experience.  All we ask is that you be able to operate as part of a team, get involved with the chores, and not do anything that's likely to lead to an accident.  And just like many things this can be as hard or as easy as you choose: if you've not been down a deep Alpine cave before then you're best advised to cut your teeth in some of our shallower caves & building up to exploring the monsters.

It's also CHEAP & plenty of us have loads of gear we can lend out to worthy causes.  Many of the leading lights in cave exploration have been part of this project & it's our intention to get more people to join as we need fresh blood for the future. 

We are running our annual Cave Expedition Training Workshop over the weekend of 15-16 June based at the outstanding Gloucester Cave Rescue Depot in Cinderford in the Forest of Dean so again this is an open invite regardless of whether you're joining us in Austria (numbers allowing, of course). 

See the Calendar for more details.       
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: Wolfo on April 28, 2019, 04:10:51 pm
Joined  :)
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: andrewmc on June 17, 2019, 11:43:58 am
Expedition Fees:
The Expedition Fee (for anyone coming on the expedition has now been decided and will be:
£70 if paid before 15th July
£75 if paid before the exped
£80 if paid during the exped
This includes use of the seilbahn this year.
Payment can be made to the shiny new bank account:
Sort Code: 40-27-02
Account Number: 91867555
Account Name: Dachstein Expedition Society
International payments to my PayPal at my personal email address for now (PM me) and I'll transfer them over. Please don't use PayPal unless you can't pay into the UK bank account!
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: Juan on June 17, 2019, 06:25:33 pm
but it's worth emphasising that two decades ago we were the first of the major projects to have an open invite
The Matienzo expeditions have had an "open invite" to all interested people since the early 70s. I'm not saying we were the first though, there may be others!
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: andrewmc on June 24, 2019, 09:33:36 pm
Expedition Training

The Dachstein expedition has for many years ran an expedition training weekend, and 2019 was no exception. As usual, the expedition training is open to all cavers including those not planning on attending the expedition, although it is naturally focussed on the skills needed for deep, cold Alpine caves such as those in the Dachstein.
The format of our training weekend has varied over the years. In 2017 the first day of the weekend was spent in a rope access centre training for French-style counterbalance pitch hauling, with the second day spent in Pwll Dwfn putting these skills into practice. The 2018 event was more similar to this year’s weekend, although it had a longer rescue practice.
This year there were 33 paying attendees, with 8 people staying for one day only and the rest staying for the whole weekend. There were also 8 trainers who attended during the weekend, all of whom attended voluntarily and without claiming expenses – for which the expedition is very grateful. As in 2018, the weekend was held at the Gloucester Cave Rescue Group headquarters which features a large meeting room, a small kitchen, camping and parking space and a large barn with various platforms suitable for SRT training. We are grateful to the GCRG for use of their venue for a second year, and were happy to make a donation to the team. The expedition provided breakfast and lunch for the two days out of the fee of £20, and a large takeaway curry order was organized on the Saturday night.

Day 1 – SRT and Survey Training

The trainees were split into four groups. Two of these groups headed off in the morning to Bixhead stone mine, an underground sandstone quarry, for survey training led by Tom Foord and Rich Smith and underground survival training led by Ian Holmes and Sam Lee, with the two groups taking turns.
The survey group learned to use DistoXs and SexyTopo to survey the stone mine. Meanwhile, the underground survival group set up camp in a corner of the mine. The demonstration showed the use of various important tools, including group shelters, the ‘gimp mac’ (a waterproof jacket), the MTDE poncho (which can be combined with another poncho to share body heat with a friend), blizzard blankets and small gas stoves. Alpine caves cold, and in the event of flooding it is critical that cavers have the right equipment to stay dry and warm.
The other group groups stayed at the GCRG base to practice SRT techniques and basic hauling. SRT practice ranged from the basic to the advanced. Topics covered included SRT kit setup for use in tight caves, rebelays and deviations, rope protectors, additional braking for descending on ‘fast’ ropes – including an 8mm rope covered in washing up liquid – and finally to rebelays with pendulums and horizontal and sloping tyrolean traverses.
The groups then swapped, following lunch, with the underground groups now staying at the GCRG base for SRT and hauling practice and the surface group heading to the stone mine for surveying and underground survival.
The final portion of the day was lecture format, with the expedition leader Joel giving an overview of the expedition and Alpine expedition caving generally. The use of survival equipment was again demonstrated and discussed, together with general information about the expedition such as where the expedition takes place, what sort of caving people should expect, what other activities are available and what people will need to bring or organize.
A brief overview was also given of French-style counterbalance pitch hauling techniques in preparation for the rescue practice the following day, including the use of plywood boards with anchors mounted on for showing rigging techniques.

Day 2 – Rescue Practice

Following 2018’s successful but lengthy rescue practice at Miss Grace’s Lane, this year’s rescue practice was held at the Wet Sink entrance to Slaughter Stream Cave. The cave had been pre-rigged with tri-hang anchors for the counterbalance rescues, and the trainees were split into two groups. One group went deeper into the entrance series to practice hauling a casualty up several pitches, while the other group practised on the first few pitches of the entrance series, ending with bringing the casualty out of the entrance.
The surface group were first shown the use of the expedition’s Ferno split basket stretcher, which was purchased last year. This stretcher is ideal for relatively large but deep caves, such as WUG Pot, and can be broken in half for carrying. The casualty was then taken down the fixed ladders to the bottom of the first pitch series, strapped into the stretcher (in a vertical position due to lack of space) and then hauled up the series of pitches.
Counterbalance systems were used for the majority of the pitches, but a simple Z-rig system was used to haul out of the entrance gate and onto the surface. Both the surface and deeper group’s rescue practice were successful. This rescue practice was shorter than some in previous years, enabling people to get home somewhat earlier although possibly not drilling home the important message of any Dachstein rescue practice – getting rescued will be thoroughly unpleasant, so don’t hurt yourself in the first place!
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: andrewmc on July 18, 2019, 10:08:01 pm
Just a quick update from the Dachstein team. There are still spaces available for clearly the greatest caving expedition on earth :)
The exped fee has now gone up to £75 but that is still a bargain (as treasurer I am currently in the process of trying to work out how to buy as much kit as possible with minimal money!).

For those who are new to the exped writing up a list of helpful information is on my list of things to do, but here's a few brief points:
The exped fee includes exped gear, use of the seilbahn and most food. There is a small charge per day for fresh food (probably €1.50 / day). There is also a daily fee for accommodation (last year it was €5 / day) which goes directly to the Wiesberghaus. Bring cash! :)
Food is porridge for breakfast and a cooked dinner. There will be some lunch stuff available (bread, cheap jam, margarine). It is highly advised to bring snacks and cave snacks (chocolate, cereal bars, luxuries) and the exped is vegetarian with a vegan option so if you want meat you will have to bring it.
On the plus side the scenery is fantastic, there is plenty of stuff to do above as well as below ground, and the bar is never too far away... :)

In the near future I will hopefully have photos of shiny gear to show, although like Dachstein participants it will probably be coming from all over the place! :)
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: BK on July 22, 2019, 11:16:27 pm
Sent you a message Andrew!
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: Alex on July 23, 2019, 01:08:10 pm
Food is porridge for breakfast and a cooked dinner. There will be some lunch stuff available (bread, cheap jam, margarine). It is highly advised to bring snacks and cave snacks (chocolate, cereal bars, luxuries) and the exped is vegetarian with a vegan option so if you want meat you will have to bring it.

Has it changed now then, is it not an option to just buy a meal or two next door? When I was there I used to buy a few meals from the Wiesberghaus house when I got sick of the Tex Mex.
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: Joel Corrigan on July 23, 2019, 01:34:52 pm
Andrew is being a bit dramatic & not a lot has changed since you were there, Alex.  Breakfast is generally porridge but traditionally those people about to head deep underground tend to raid the supplies & scoff down pancakes, eggy bread, omelettes etc... but we discourage that for normal day to day meals as forty + greedy buggers will decimate our stores.  And lunch in Camelot is deliberately kept fairly basic to encourage everyone to do something more useful...  And whilst the Exped is essentially vegetarian that's not just because I have a conscience (!) but also because meat goes off very quickly, costs a fortune, and it's far easier to make the same communal meals for everyone & those who want it can hunt, butcher & cook their own marmots for the pot.  We haven't made it sound very impressive but the food is generally very good on the trip but that of course varies year by year. 
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: andrewmc on July 23, 2019, 03:14:07 pm
Has it changed now then, is it not an option to just buy a meal or two next door? When I was there I used to buy a few meals from the Wiesberghaus house when I got sick of the Tex Mex.

It is a great option; the food at the Wiesberghaus is excellent :P
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: andrewmc on August 15, 2019, 09:40:54 pm
In just a few days, the World's Greatest Caving Expedition will begin, and cavers from across Europe will start converging on the Dachstein plateau. The final purchases of gear and food are being made, cars are being packed, and excitement levels are increasing.

This year we are lucky to have been given free or heavily discounted equipment from a variety of sources. UKCaving has always supported cavers and caving expeditions, and we were lucky enough to have been awarded 200m of Spanset 9mm rope, which we look forward to using to rig the deep caves of this area.


You can't get very far in a vertical system without some anchors to hang that rope on, and so we are very grateful to Fischer, the well-known German manufacturer of high-quality anchors and fixings, who have supplied us free of charge with 200 zinc-plated and 100 stainless 8mm through-bolt anchors.


Bolts need hangers, and we are lucky to receive 150 heavily-discounted stainless hangers from a new German supplier whose name I will add as soon as I get sent it :)


Last of the big donations but certainly not least, we were very lucky to receive a grant for £1200 from the Ghar Parau Foundation. This has been spent on an underground Cavelink unit which together with a surface unit purchased by CUCC (again largely funded by Ghar Parau) forms a set which we hope will be of use not just to the two Austrian expeditions (Cambridge and Dachstein) but also to other expeditions.

We were also lucky enough to receive 3 tackle sacks from 2 individuals after an appeal for large tackle sacks to bring gear down to the new deep camp we are establishing this year. We have also, via a group of visiting Austrians, received 6 synthetic sleeping bags for the new camp from Vaude.

In addition to the generously donated or discounted gear, we have also bought:

200 Petzl hangers from the illustrious Mr Seddon


600m of Beal rope
200 maillons
A new Makita drill
3 tents
12 sleeping mats
A new large burner and pot
And lots of the usual boring but essential stuff (food, cleaning equipment etc...)

This year is yet another exciting year for exploration. Deep down in WUG Pot we will be establishing a forward camp to accelerate exploration of the previously diver-only area of the Hirlatzhöhle. With open leads in all directions, this will no doubt be a multi-year (or multi-decade?) project. Higher up we have Thundergasm, now 200m deep and still wide open. Closer to the surface we have Blood Moon, discovered last year, which has connected to the deep Burnies' Pot and will hopefully connect to WUG. Finally resurveys last year showed the long-neglected PL2, a 600m deep cave with an enormous chamber at the previous end, is within 50m of a heavily-draughting inlet in WUG...

Some objectives this year:
- To continue exploring the western end of the Hirlatzhöhle
- To connect WUG to a higher entrance; either Blood Moon/Burnies, PL2, or a new entrance
- To push Thundergasm and other caves as they are discovered
- To continue prospecting the plateau for new caves; the area is riddled with them!

As usual, any glory is due to the Dachstein team; any mistakes are my own  :halo:
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: David Rose on August 16, 2019, 08:38:53 am
I wish you the very best, and that I could join you. The sheer tenacity involved in the exploration of WUG - Hirltatzhohle over so many years is surely without parallel in the history of caving, and it's evident that the story is far from over. I have my own unfinished business to see to at Ario shortly, but I hope I can get to the Dachstein again next year. Awesome place, astonishing caves.   
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: andrewmc on August 19, 2019, 11:17:05 pm
So just like the Cambridge, we have found lots of snow on the mountain this year. Cambridge abandoned one of their caves for the year because it was blocked by a snow plug.
So when we found that WUG, our gateway to the Hirlatzhöhle, the jewel of the Dachstein, was also blocked by snow, this was cause for concern...


This was the cave where we made the connection making the Hirlatz the 9th deepest in the world. This was the cave where we were planning to establish a forward camp to help push objectives in the Western end of the Hirlatz and find a dry route to the lower entrance. We needed this cave.

Where there is a will, there is a way...


A day of hard digging in the sun, and a large pile of shifted snow, and we were in!


With WUG open again, we will be heading back down tomorrow for further exploration and glory...
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: aricooperdavis on August 21, 2019, 08:17:22 pm
We aren't all as virtuous as those noble diggers who cleared the entrance of WUG to facilitate exploration - some of us used our rest days to go walking in the stunning hills surrounding the caves and camp.


The Ochsenkogel (above) is an enormous lump of limestone that looms above Camelot, and which itself is riddled with caves. It sits just North of Wildkarkogel, the large bowl that contains WUG, Blood Moon, Thundergasm, and many of the other exciting unpushed leads of the expedition.

It looks steep from camp, but amazingly it doesn't really look any less steep from halfway up it.


It's well worth it at the top though, with superb views down to camp and across the valley. Points awarded to anyone who can identify the huts we can see from the top.



The walk back down isn't half bad either, as it encompasses both the Simony Hut (which boasts beers with glacial views) and the path down past all of our promising leads!



More photos, hopefully of some actual caving, on their way as the exped continues...  ;D
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: Speleotron on August 22, 2019, 11:35:50 am
The digging reminds me of a similar effort on a Durmitor expo, where we had to dig through snow-plugs after an unusually heavy winter. But we were digging to try and find a stash of Booze rather than any cave!
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: pmccarron97 on August 23, 2019, 04:07:54 pm
On Monday (19th August), the push to clear the entrance into WUG continued for second day with a small team of six working tirelessly for hours to clear the entrance which was composed of mostly the Irish Crew (Adam Prior, Emily Punzalan, JP Wallace and myself) along with Wolfo and Oscar Doyle.


Eventually after around 3 hours or so, Axel turned up after to have a gander at how we were getting along and of course offers to lend a hand, after which he breaks through into the entrance after the first hit! He just wanted to steal our glory!


We spent a bit more time tidying up and marking caution tape around the entrance to secure the snow a bit more. All in all a great effort from all involved. The evening then consisted of a lovely walk back to Camelot in the rain.

The following day (Tuesday 20th August), Axel, Oscar and Myself decided to head to Blood Moon, a particularly interesting cave and one of Axels objectives for the expedition due to its location and possible linkage to another cave nearby, that being Burnies, however, Blood Moon required surveying the second half of the cave to prove the linkage to burnies.


So we went about completing this task, surveying as we went along until we descended down the final 30m pitch of bloodmoon and Axel keenly spotted the pitch entrance for Burnies, rigging it halfway down this initial pitch. The survey was completed linking the two caves together.
This is an interesting project as there are many leads still to push in these caves which could end with the possibility of a linkage to other systems.


On Wednesday (21st August) I spent the day prospecting the area above WUG, this was to mainly check a number of possible leads which haven’t been pushed and slso to see if we could spot any other caves in the process. The views around this region are stunning, however the weather was not on our side, with dense mist and rain constantly moving in. There were a couple of interesting leads that we found during this and we hope to head back soon in the coming days.



Dachstein 2019 has been my first expedition and so far i’ve really enjoyed it. I look forward to remaining week and a half I still have out here!

Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: andrewmc on August 23, 2019, 08:38:01 pm
 The weather has been a bit difficult and unpredictable over the last few days which has held off a serious attack on WUG. This was about the best of the weather on Wednesday:
The rest of the time it was raining.

The last two days have been much sunnier but with thunderstorm warnings, and as many of our caves flood badly this has restricted what can be done. Irritatingly the thunderstorms have failed to materialize... However, tomorrow's forecast is good and serious work in WUG will begin then.

The views from Camelot have, despite the warnings, often been pretty good in the evening...


One piece of gear of use to the expedition caver is a drill condom. Usually, this is a drybag with a hole in but some people have developed winners of neoprene and waterproofed fabric to keep their drills clean and dry in the worst conditions. But since necessity is the mother of invention:


Last but not least, a very nice view of the fault that presumably causes the dry valley up the side of the Wildkarkogel:


As I write this in the bar, the first pushing trip of the year from Thundergasm is probably on the way out, and I am eagerly awaiting what they have found...
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: aricooperdavis on August 24, 2019, 09:54:25 pm
As I write this in the bar, the first pushing trip of the year from Thundergasm is probably on the way out, and I am eagerly awaiting what they have found...

And what a first pushing trip it turned out to be!

But first some background...

Thundergasm is a reasonably new cave - discovered by The A-team (Alex, Alex, Andy, Angie, and Ari) in 2017. It was found when a prospecting team hunkered down in an emergency shelter to sit out a thunderstorm, and emerged to find that they were sat right next to the entrance.


This was the first year in the Dachstein for all members of The A-team, and exploring the cave has provided some fantastic learning opportunities for many of the people involved; from placing bolts and making surveys to capping squeezes and everything in between.


Last year the surveyors left the cave at about 200m deep, with an unexplored meander twisting off into darkness at the bottom of a wide and deep aven. But this year we couldn't just jump straight back into exploring - there were other chores to do. The entrance snow slope had melted enough for the rigging to become awkward, and there were a fair few other pitches deeper in the cave that had been rigged rather precariously with limited rope and bolts in the heat of exploration excitement.

So the surviving members of the A-team and a new cohort of explorers set about bolting, rigging, and capping to make the journey to the pointy end a bit more manageable. The entrance pitches were rebolted and rerigged, the Sphincter (a tight meander at about -100m) was capped to oblivion, and a few traverse bolts were thrown in here and there to replace some of the more "creative" naturals.

They even put a tarp up to store kit by the entrance.


And then the pushing team went in, which is where Andrew's post leaves off.

Travelling light, having already moved most of the rope down to the end, they made it down in record time. They dropped the last pitch and headed off into the unknown...

The unknown turned out to be a deep and remarkably slippery meandering rift. If you've ever been to Afton Red Rift in Devon then imagine that but on Alpine steroids. Undettered they free climbed what they could and bolted and rigged what they couldn't. After 3 pitches, about 50m of depth and 50m of horizontal wriggling they found themselves at the top of a large and deep aven.

As the water from the rift poured down the pitch the character of the surrounding cave changed completely - rusty red crumbling rock turning dark and brutally sharp. And at the bottom of the pitch this impenetrable rock forced the water down into an even tighter, sharper, and lower meander than had carried it before.

Running out of time and with a literall uphill struggle ahead of them the pushing team put this continuation behind them and set off back for the surface. The cave is no longer the tiny entrance series that it once was, and by the time they reached the surface the sun was setting.


So the story of thundergasm continues - the new passage needs surveying, new leads need exploring, and more fun needs to be had.

(Underground photos to come when I collect the cave camera from the cave!)
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: David Rose on August 27, 2019, 11:22:07 am
Great effort, guys.
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: maxb727 on August 27, 2019, 06:32:44 pm
Really enjoying these updates! (from all expeds)

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: andrewmc on August 29, 2019, 08:26:32 pm
Got back yesterday from a camping trip down WUG yesterday; still knackered...

We left on Tuesday morning at around 11am after a brief Cavelink related delay, heading up the hill and down the pitches towards camp. Due to the snow above the entrance, the entrance pitches (including the Tyrolean traverse a few pitches down) were exciting drippy and the Gimp Mac (an old/cheap waterproof, Dachstein patent pending) were essential for avoiding freezing in the cold snowmelt water...

After the entrance pitches, the drippiness went away and it was back to the usual fairly dry descent. After a few more pitches we went down the 70 (70m of pitches) and then the 110 (80m of pitches as the current rope avoids the bottom). This is followed by a few more pitch series, the Meander (a traverse at different levels across the top of the meander), various awkward pitches and final the final pitch series until the base of the pitches is reached.

The cave then changes character completely. Instead of vertical shafts and vadose canyons, you immediately walk into giant fossil phreatic tubes with mud and rubble floors. A short pleasant walk reaches the top of Deep Sludge, a ramp with a vertical height loss of around 120m. Some of the ramp is on rubble, but most is on a horrifically sticky mud which liberally coats itself onto your gear and makes your boots weigh twice as much as usual.

Eventually the camp, which is actually very pleasantly positioned in the large tube on a dry mud floor, is reached. However, there is no rest for the wicked, and after dumping camping gear we headed on to help resurvey some nearby parts of the cave.

The onward route is via the Chutney Mine, a small dug crawl where the roof of the main passage drops. This leads into the large Chutney Chambers. A small awkward muddy slot - It's Not Ideal - near one wall leads to a small pitch down to continuing passage. This was the breakthrough in 2016 to the rest of the cave.

Our destination was the Glory Holes, a small very muddy dead-end passage, and another unnamed passage. After surveying, we headed back to camp for well-deserved food and sleep.

Meanwhile the other camping trip pushed a new tight lead at the head of Deep Sludge.

The next day we got up, ate breakfast, packed up the camp and headed off to the Left Fork, a passage off from the base of the pitches. One team set off to take photos of the passage, while we headed down into the Left Fork Basement, a small passage entered in the floor of the Left Fork passage. Unlike the mostly large tunnels of the Hirlatzhöhle, this was a much more British sized passage that wouldn't seem out of place in OFD. We surveyed 195m of passage which varied from tight boulder entrance to reasonable walking passage to rifty canyon to flat out crawl where the ceiling drops and finally ending in a chamber with a run-in boulder choke, probably from the Left Fork above.

After heading back to the base of the pitches, we began out ascent out. The ropes in the lower parts of WUG are liberally coated in mud, so your ascenders jam and don't bite on the rope. The pitches are also more difficult in the lowest 150m, with several awkward pitch heads and the meander which makes taking a big camping bag difficult. Finally after reaching the base of the 110 we still have most of the distance left but most of the difficulty is gone. A few hundred metres of prusiking later I finally escaped the muddy grasp of the Hirlatz, emerging shortly after midnight to clear starry skies.

Sadly my gear did not escape the muddy grasp of the Hirlatz and is still mostly brown...
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: aricooperdavis on August 30, 2019, 09:40:49 pm
And whilst Andrew is in Camelot recovering from his WUG trip, Nooty and I are sitting on an overnight bus to Cologne. Which is the perfect opportunity for me to post the promised cave photos!

UK Caving generously donated some Spanset 9mm rope to the expedition, and a bit of that made its way down Thundergasm. These photos show where it got used for ;D

First things first, "Paranoia Pitch". This was last year's limit of exploration, and was named when the first explorers heard voices in the water trickling down it. Whilst it was dropped last year the shortage of rope meant that it was rigged on 2 threads and a single bolt rebelay, and even then two slings and a foot-loop had to be tied to the bottom for the explorers to be able to get close enough to the floor to free climb down.


As mentioned in my last post, the bottom of this pitch led to a long and deep alpine meander, which also needed bolting and rigging. Having learned to bolt in the very same cave last year, Nooty put his new skills to good use to enable this meander to be passed.


Meanwhile, Olly investigated some leads at the top of the pitch. These phreatic inlets, previously overlooked whilst the pitches were explored, became keyhole shaped rifts as they ascended, eventually becoming uncomfortably tight.


So instead he headed further up in the cave to "Mad Junction", where a drippy pitch drops into a sharp and tight rift. Here he placed his first bolts, and dropped the pitch into yet more vertical rift passage. He later returned with Krystal, where she also placed her own first bolts, to pursue the lead.



Whilst initially promising, the final pitch in this rift was completely blind save only for a tiny stream. In desperation Nooty attempted to worm his way into a tight muddy tube from a 2ft ledge nearly 10m off the floor. Being a Devon caver at heart he took remarkable enjoyment in this, but alas after 15 or 20m "Crawl of the Mountain Gimp" too became impassable even for him.


This leaves the Thundergasm team with fewer promising leads than they might like, but a survey full of question marks and a lot more to do. Perhaps Wolfo's enthusiastic capping can be put to good use to widen the rift at the deepest point in the cave? Or maybe the maze of rifts leading off from Paranoia Pitch will eventually relent after more determined efforts.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see!
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: andrewmc on September 04, 2019, 09:24:26 pm
We are coming towards the end of the expedition now. The entrances pitches of Thundergasm and Blood Moon have been derigged, and the last camping trip down WUG should be coming out early in the morning.

I am still recovering from my final trip down WUG. This was a bounce trip with Axel to push a lead in Uphill Gardeners, a rising inlet passage that leads from the base of the main pitches. After a relatively faff-free morning we set off at 8:30am and were underground by 11am. Three hours saw is at the base of the pitches, and another hour saw us at the current lead.

As Uphill Gardeners is directly off the base of the pitches it is not well-positioned for a camping trip since this would involve the extra trips to and from camp, hence our bounce plan. Uphill Gardeners is walking passage (with many small bouldery climbs) which slowly heads up towards the surface. Unlike most WUG passage there are actual formations - stalagmites, flowstone and other calcite formations, suggesting this passage is very old. We hope it will pop out somewhere on the surface in the vicinity of the bar!

Previous progress was halted at a chamber where the walking passage ended but there was a possible continuation at a higher level. Below this entrance is a mud slope, ending in a flowstone overhang. Consequently Axel bolted a lengthy traverse around the top rim of the chamber. The mud was a real problem; the hardest part of the climb, according to Axel, was getting feet in and out of the muddy etriers.

The Fischer through bolts we were using held steady even in surprisingly poor rock. This was good as the rock quality was very variable!

After about 4 hours, Axel had reached the upper continuation - which went! Unfortunately we didn't have time to do any proper survey, and therefore restricted ourselves to the first 100m of passage but what we saw was one of the nicest passages in WUG. It has a dry mud floor, easy walking, a good draught and formations as well.

We then cooked a freeze-dried meal each and started to head out. We were at the base of the pitches at around 10am and took a respectable 6 hours to prussik out, meaning we got out the cave around 4am and we're back in the hut and ready for bed around 4am.

I am still recovering, but doing my first bounce was good fun if incredibly tiring! :)
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: yuvals on September 05, 2019, 02:36:15 pm
Any updates from our last year capping project in Blood moon?
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: mrodoc on September 05, 2019, 06:15:16 pm
Looking forward to a detailed report for the BB!
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: Subpopulus Hibernia on September 05, 2019, 07:10:44 pm
PL2 Connection Attempt

Since last years connection between Wot-U-Got Pot and the Hirlatz the combined depth of the Hirlatzhöhle system is 1560m, making it tied at ninth deepest cave in the world with the Sistema Huautla. Also last year, a connection was made between the nearby caves of Burnies and Blood Moon. These two latter caves sit at a higher altitude than WUG, with the entrance of Burnies sitting about 58m higher than WUG. Less than 60m separate WUG and Blood Moon, with several leads heading from Blood Moon toward WUG.

Higher still is the cave of PL2. This is a classic Dachstein cave - cold, drafty, narrow, hard, and generally unpleasant. Originally pushed in the late 80s by a Polish expedition, the cave ended in a 100m free-hang into the largest chamber in the Dachstein, lying only a short distance away from WUG. A large branch passage exists from WUG heading towards PL2, and re-surveying last year positioned the end of this passage at 40m below and 20m away from the end of PL2, with a high-level continuation visible from the foot of an aven.

The connection with PL2 would add some 78m to the depth of the Hirlatz, positioning it as the world’s sixth deepest and Europe’s second deepest cave system. Pushing PL2 Passage from WUG was then one of the main focus’s of this expedition.

Mid-way through the expedition a team of Jean-Paul Sounier and Sylvain Furlan pushed this passage. Aid-climbing up the aven for 8m, they climbed an ascending canyon reaching a large chamber some 40m long by 15m wide. At the very end the draft emerged from the foot of a boulder run-in, with no way on apparent. A few days later Tom Foord, Tom Chapman and Nadia Raeburn-Cherradi went and surveyed this extension, and in conjunction with a surface survey between the WUG and PL2 entrances, this indicated that the two caves were separated by as little as 10m. They looked at the choke and Tom F had been able to poke his head in enough to see black spaces just above the underside of the choke. Without tools they hadn’t been able to do any proper digging, but it was felt that the choke might be a short one, and with a bit of luck it might be possible to collapse the boulders and climb upwards into the PL2 chamber.

So, on Tuesday morning Joel Corrigan, Tom Foord, Christan Vogel (Wolfo) and I set off on a camping trip with the hope of connecting WUG and PL2. Laden with gear, including a huge 1.2m long crowbar we made sluggish progress down to the bottom of the ropes at -580m. Ditching our camping gear, we made off into the huge horizontal tunnels that make up the majority of WUG. After a half-hour tramp up and down over boulders we reached the turn-off for PL2 passage. This passage was originally pushed by Joel Corrigan and company some 8/9 years ago, and started off as a series of short upward rope pitches separated by sections of muddy horizontal passage. The third of these climbs is particularly awkward, being a dismal trudge up a mud ramp while struggling to move jammers on the greasy rope. Lord only knows how Joel climbed this originally. At the top is a squeezy boulder choke, which finally pops up into another big horizontal borehole. Unusually for WUG this passage is filled with old muddy flowstone, with some big pillars and stals visible. Some of the old calcite is disintegrating into fine calcite needles, which sit in the mud and make it remarkably clumpy, wellies can swell to three times their size within a few steps.

Up Jean-Paul and Sylvain’s ropes we went, skinny 8m bootlace rope, exactly what you want when you are completely caked in mud. We reached the chamber after some 10-11 hours of hard caving. While Joel and Tom set up a stove to make a hot meal Wolfo and I started prodding the choke. The first few boulders were easy to drop out of the roof, enough to reveal that the black spaces were just more voids in boulders. The boulders seemed to continue up, tightly packed for several metres. After 5 minutes it was apparent that we weren’t breaking through, but since we’d come all this way we continued on making increasingly futile progress for some 45 minutes. Caked in mud and frozen by the powerful draft, we gave up.

Joel and Tom had enough energy to climb a nearby mud slope and drop a tight pitch at the far side. This dropped into a small chamber going nowhere. Other drafts were followed into chokes in the floor, but there was nothing happening. We started the grim plod back down the passage. At around six in the morning we arrived at camp, then began the chores. Gathering water from camp was a particularly unwelcome task, involving hauling water drums up a series of awkward climbs and pitches from the foot of a drippy waterfall. Finally at 10 in the morning, as Europe set about it’s day, we went to bed with over 18 hours of caving behind us.

Waking at 4pm, we spent the day sorting gear and closing up camp for another year. The WUG camp is a fairly pleasant space to while away the day, once you’re dry and active it’s fairly warm. Also, a bit of music makes it a much more homely space. At midnight, we set off for the surface, collecting various bits of kit along the way, arriving on the surface to morning sunshine.

Sadly, WUG remains at the same depth it did at the start of the exped. We’ll continue to push both Blood Moon, Burnies and PL2 in search of a connection to a higher cave. Who knows, perhaps pushing from above in PL2 will reveal something not obvious from below in WUG…

- Petie

Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: Subpopulus Hibernia on September 05, 2019, 08:06:45 pm
Any updates from our last year capping project in Blood moon?

A group of us rigged back down to the very end and did an improved survey. We didn't end up doing any further capping as the focus was on the PL2 connection. It's a priority for next year.
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: Alex on September 06, 2019, 10:27:47 am
I seem to recall after the tigth pitch head at about -200m you emerge into huge canyon passage with water surging in from all over the place, this is just before the 70m. My memory is hazy, it's been many years but has all the avens here been explored, this seems like a large convergence point to me.
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: David Rose on September 06, 2019, 10:47:40 am
Gripping, inspiring stuff. Thanks for a terrific report.
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: andrewmc on September 07, 2019, 01:46:01 pm
My memory is hazy, it's been many years but has all the avens here been explored, this seems like a large convergence point to me.

To be honest while I wouldn't know if they had, I suspect none of them have been explored by bolt climbing up - most of the focus has been getting down, rather than going up and trying to push up all the inlets (which inevitably just lead to surface chokes in most cases). Bolt climbing all the avens on the pitches would probably take 20 years of expedition on its own...
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: andrewmc on September 07, 2019, 01:48:59 pm
So the expedition is winding up now, and most people are either home or on the way home. I hope everyone involved enjoyed themselves, and hope people enjoyed the reports. I am hoping for a few more reports still to come and I will thank the sponsors again who helped make it all possible, but for now let me just say thanks to everyone who helped in any way. And if anyone has any issue with anything to do with the expedition, let me direct you to our relevant department...  :tease:

Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: Alex on September 07, 2019, 08:07:11 pm
ather than going up and trying to push up all the inlets
Just thinking those inlets may lead to higher entrances.
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: JoW on September 09, 2019, 12:37:08 pm
ather than going up and trying to push up all the inlets
Just thinking those inlets may lead to higher entrances.

They could be yours for the taking next year  ;)
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: Subpopulus Hibernia on September 09, 2019, 10:17:34 pm
Tiger Trap

Tiger Trap was my first cave on the Dachstein Expedition. In 2018 I arrived up the mountain and my first trip beyond the Wiesberghaus was a prospecting trip in Schladmingelloch, a huge glacial corrie. One of the caves that Joel advised us to visit was the C-106 (Tiger Trap). This was a promising lead he’d looked at in 2005, and was happy to turn over to the young folk.

The entrance is a 2m square horizontal opening, dropping down onto a large snowbank that you can shuffle down into a 6m square chamber. The most obvious route out of this is a climb up and over a loose pile of scree and then down into the foot of an aven. Leading off from this is a narrow calcited rift, that ended in a minuscule squeeze. Here, Rob Moffat somehow managed to squeeze through, descending through several more squeezes to the head of a pitch he estimated at 30m deep. But no-one else was able to follow.

More interesting was the discovery of a 16m pitch off the entrance chamber, accessed via a flat-out crawl over scree. Later it transpired that the cave had been visited by a prospecting party in 2017, and they hadn’t found the pitch as it was covered by the snow slope.

The interest in Tiger Trap was in it’s position 800m above the recent extensions at the far end of WUG. If a more direct way could be found to far end of WUG this might open up the area for further explorations. Also, given the position of Tiger Trap at the back of the Schladmingelloch corrie, with numerous large choked shafts above and beyond the cave, there was the possibility to break into a large shaft series that could descend anything up to 800m before hitting the horizontal levels.

Flash forward to 2019.

Trip 1
A group of Irish cavers had flown out a drill, bolting kit, and a capping kit with Tiger Trap planned as a key project. The group pushing the cave was Petie Barry, Adam Prior, Emily Punzalan, and John Paul Wallace. After reaching the cave we got off to a poor start with me forgetting my SRT kit, and realising that we’d left all the through-bolts at Camelot. JP heroically lent me his SRT kit and went off on a two-hour round hike to pick up the through-bolts. To pass the time until JP returned the rest of us went to cap the squeeze at the end of the main passage. After setting off two caps, Adam squeezed through and reported that the 30m pitch was actually 10m free-climb into the foot of a large aven, with a possible continuation. It took about 6 more caps before the squeeze was passable to SRT kit-clad cavers of a more average build. We called this passage Righty Tighty. By now JP was back with a fistful of through-bolts, and a bit sunburned after two hours in the sun.

So off to the other lead, the 16m pitch. This was soon rigged and dropped. At the bottom there was another drop of 6m, and also a boulder-choked crawl under the wall of the pitch that seemed to lead into a large chamber. I kept rigging down, with the 6m pitch dropping to the head of a 3m pitch, after which a short crawl lead to a 15m pitch. By now we’d run out of rope and metalwork, so I drilled several holes in preparation of another push the following day. While I’d been drilling, Adam and Emily had dug out the boulder-choked crawl to reach the head of a booming 23m pitch. This was a very promising lead! So at the end of the day we’d turned our two leads into three, a very satisfying return. The main route ending in the 15m pitch we called the Sunburn Series, the big pitch we called Next Big Thing, expecting it to be just that, a huge never-ending lead.

Trip 2
Expecting to drop a huge number of pitches, we carted up 100m of rope and about 25 hangers and maillons. We went straight for the jugular, bolting and descending Next Big Thing. Alas, at the bottom a 6m free-climb lead to a progressively narrower rift that quickly pinched off. Leaving the other three to survey, I grabbed a 50m rope and headed back up the pitch to continue rigging the Sunburn Series. As I approached the end of the previous day’s rope I suddenly heard water falling. It was as if someone had turned on a shower, it was that instant. Thunderstorms had been forecast, so this was no great surprise. We ditched the gear and high-tailed it for the entrance chamber, spending 2.5 hours sitting in a shelter listening to the thunder rolling outside and making inane chit-chat. Eventually Emily tired of the inane chit-chat and decided to make a bolt for Camelot in the rain, the rest of us followed her lead.

Trip 3
Straight down to the end of the Sunburn Series today, popped in two bolts and dropped the pitch. At the bottom, the only way on was a desperate squeeze along a rift that only Adam could manage. A little further along he found a narrow 8m pitch down a rift, which was blocked by several boulders. With a lot of capping needed to even reach the pitch, this lead was more or less dead. We went all the way back to the surface for some sunlight. Adam and JP headed back to Camelot, eager to beat the forecast rain. Emily and I were happy enough to chance pushing the Righty Tighty rift, and headed back and pushed through the previously capped squeeze. A few further squeezes down the rift we reached a tight squeezy pitch head. I popped in a bolt and abseiled down through the unpleasant drippy squeeze. At the bottom of the 8m pitch was a 5m diameter chamber with the way on a snaggy hole through boulders. I wriggled in, in full kit and gimp mac, and got properly shredded. Beyond was 6m of rift reaching another 15m aven. The way out of this was a tight rift, which reached a 6m pitch. Sadly this was too tight to get to. However, it was clearly continuing beyond, and drafting strongly. We left an 8m rope for a push the next day.

Trip 4
A solo derig with Camilla Casella for surface support / donkey work. I derigged the Sunburn Series and then went down Righty Tighty to retrieve all the gear. Overnight I’d decided I wasn’t bothered capping the tight pitch head - in spite of it’s promise it was only 33m down and already getting fairly desperate. Capping the pitch might only suck us into an unending circle of miserable pushing drips with increasingly committing ongoing passage. Joel had warned me that Schladmingelloch caves are typically miserable and hard. While struggling to derig the tight drippy pitch and fighting my way up through the squeezes with a rope bag I felt vindicated with this decision. Perhaps next year if we’ve nothing else on we’ll have a crack again.

Total passage surveyed was c.200m, and 57m deep at the deepest. A fun adventure while it lasted.
Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: Wolfo on September 10, 2019, 04:39:15 pm
Three golden rules of 
british faffing:

1. Never start a trip before 12 o'clock - you could miss sleep, your porridge or the coffee.

2. Always pack your stuff directly before the trip - otherwise you would propably take a 110m rope while finding a 100m shaft on the actual trip.
    Better take the 25m rope.

3. Faff is an art. Celebrate it.

Greetings, your german cave bugger
.aka "german jesus".  ;D

There is still so much to do on the Dachstein karst and I'm looking eagerly forward to next year's exped.

Title: Re: Dachstein Expedition 2019
Post by: andrewmc on September 12, 2019, 05:12:09 pm
Still a few more posts to come, but I want to thank the sponsors again:

First obviously UKCaving who provided 200m of 9mm Spanset rope. This can be seen, in use, earlier in the thread :)

Fischer provided us, free of charge, with 200 non-stainless and 100 stainless M8 throughbolts. I'm always a lot happier hanging on a quality German manufacturer's bolts rather than no-name (or worse, Screwfix) bolts!

The new web shop SpeleoConcepts gave us a fantastic deal (roughly half price) on 150 stainless hangers. These have been put to good use!

We also got 6 new Vaude sleeping bags, organized by the visiting Austrians (thanks!) and had three tackle sacks donated by two British cavers (thanks!).