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2018 CUCC Austria Expedition - Rope Sponsor Entry


New member
2018 CUCC Austria Expedition Training Weekend

Expedition began in earnest this weekend, where 12 expedition novices ventured to the YSS with a thirst for knowledge among other things, of course. The Helwith was made lively, with a pub full of cavers. Lively tales about the times caving didn't go to plan made up much of the discussion as it usually does. The weekend was attended by CUCC, ULSA, UBSS, NUCC, OUCC, RUCC, MUSC and some others.

Saturday began with Peachey recounting his advice on how not to die in the Alps. A man of many adventures recalled his misadventures and gave a refined kit list to minimise being very sad. The group split off here: expo freshers and expo refreshers.

Martin Green led a session on expedition-specific first aid with the freshers before Anthony Day gave a good introduction to surveying.

Rotating roles in 4 groups, they produced a not half-bad survey of Long Churns. Thanks to Chris Densham, Adam Henry and Mike Butcher for their roles in the resurvey of Alum.

Thanks to Adam for these photos!

Meanwhile Wookey took the refreshers on a whirlwind of survey processing, description writing and updating the expo website, a tool that all the leads for the next year are saved on. 


Martin gave these guys more first aid advice before the freshers returned.

Cat Henry lead the group through ?Ah, someone has hurt themselves in this cave-specific way? scenarios outside in the spring sunshine before we ran through the principles of rescue procedures. The first aid advice given by both Cat and Martin at the weekend was great, realising that caves are imperfect environments for eye removal and untensioning lungs.

All in time for dinner! Thanks to Nadia for all the food for the weekend. A brilliant vegetarian and economic menu. The day's surveys were drawn up and compiled and the real expedition training began.

Many a caving game appeared and with a hut full of experienced cavers, the competition was fierce. The true contestants proceeded to increase their alcohol consumption for maximum pain reduction.

On Sunday, in what was a slow start for some, Haydon Saunders took the freshers for a walk to listen to rocks and learn to bolt.
This picture occurred when a rock split perfectly whilst being set.
Needless to say, it was advised that the freshers did not continue to rig off this bolt.

Peachey instructed the refreshers on croll to croll mid rope rescues, hauling procedures and passing rebelays and deviations with casualties in the YSS SRT wall.


The freshers subbed in and learnt to midrope rescue each other with surprising success. The day was rounded up with everyone parting ways with hopefully a good idea of who and what expo will be.


New member
The training weekend looks to have been a fabulous success, and I'm very sorry to have missed it, unfortunately being away. Many thanks to Rachel for doing such a great job coordinating it!


Active member
CUCC Expo 2018 Rope Sponsorship Appeal

Mission statement

CUCC?s summer expedition aims to introduce as many student cavers to safe alpine cave exploration as possible and ensure that the strong tradition of pioneering British cave exploration continues into the future in the SMK system. We will do this by continuing to explore virgin passage across the system in leads small and big, shallow and deep, with the long-term dream of creating an ?alpine super-cave? by connecting SMK system to the neighbouring Schoenberg system. This ?super-cave? would be over 250km long and 1100m deep: no other cave system currently known comes close to such magnitude considering both metrics simultaneously.

This year we have a very big team of explorers with a huge variety of experience, and this means we will have a great chance to pursue a lot of different objectives, building upon our extremely successful expedition last year. However, our ability to achieve the ambitious programme outlined below will require very careful planning and a great deal of resources and dedication.

Aims and objectives for 2018

Continue to push leads from Camp Kraken, Tunnockschacht

We found less cave in the deep part of Tunnocks, known as Hydra, last year than we might perhaps had hoped. The choking up of the big passage at the bottom of Song of the Earth in a massive chamber, Big Lad, quite early on meant we had plenty of time to follow up on lesser objectives from 2016. One of these, explored on the final camping trip of the 2017 expedition, ended with a tantalising echo which took a while to fade away. Named ?Beckoning Silence?, this lead holds high hopes for 2018. Further leads in the area require bolt climbing to access: due to faulty drill batteries and a lack of resources at the necessary times last year these were left unexplored. We also found a very substantial sump, the Loser Lido, which we hope to get some decent photos of after failing to do this last year. There is also a very very muddy phreatic tube that Densham found, proclaiming it to be another ?Tunnocks Master Cave? despite its flow being described as a ?shit-trickle?, which doesn?t sound that impressive. No one seems that keen to return to this for whatever reason... We aim to get as many novice campers down there as possible this year, and we aim to be more productive by camping for longer periods at a time and managing teams more efficiently (glances at the planning whiteboard from last year will reveal the haphazardness of camp planning at times).

Push other mid-depth leads in Tunnocks towards a conclusion

Since 2013, two very interesting mid-level areas of Tunnocks have been intermittently explored: Champagne on Ice, found in 2014 and pushed again in 2016, and Claytons Cock-Up, found in 2013 and explored further in 2015. These areas of the cave still hold a lot of promise, but have often been neglected as they take longer to get to than other parts of the system and are not as easy to find as other parts of the cave. We aim to try and push both of these areas of the cave hard this year, but we will have to be very efficient with rope and gear if we wish to do this as both require a lot of rope and metalware to rig.

Roam the Wild West

Last year something happened which hadn?t happened since we found Balkonhohle (for the 4th time) in 2014: two completely new caves were found and are still going very strong. These caves, Fisch Gesicht Hohle and Glucklich Schmetterlinger Hohle (GSH), are exciting for reasons beyond having silly names (?Fisch Gesicht? refers to Luke waking me up after a heavy night by slapping me in the face with a herring). They have gone very deep very quickly, they are extremely cold, they draught like hell and they are in the middle of nowhere on the West of the plateau. We hope to be able to connect the caves this year (they lie less than 200m apart) and we expect to be able to connect them into the system reasonably soon. This Western area of the plateau is also a key area to push for possible ways closer to the Schoenberg.


New expo-goers Corin, Adam and Radost having a break in the sun before fishing for new cave in Fisch Gesicht. Photo credit: Alice Shackley aka 'Shacktivities'

Go deep in Balkonhohle

Balkonhohle has for the last 4 years been a sort of ?training ground? for cavers new to the expedition due to the friendly and accessible nature of the leads there. This characteristic of the cave has started to slip away in the last two years, with the discovery of a number of much deeper shafts which have been quite cold and wet. We anticipate returning to at least two of these areas of the cave this year, Sloppy Seconds and Cathedral Kazam,  and we hope that persistence with the deeper areas of Balkony will provide a compelling challenge for newer members of the expedition.


Left, Adam bolting in Balkonhohle. After doing only 6 SRT trips before coming out on the expedition, he was by the end of it exploring virgin passage at a safe and independent level, though his surveying leaves a bit to be desired. Luke, right, has to take over this tedious duty, motivated to continue only by caramel wafers kindly donated by Tunnocks. Photo credit: Kristian Brook

Further prospecting to the North near to Organhohle

To connect to the Schoenberg we require more cave to be found to the North of the plateau. We thought that a cave explored in the 90?s by UBSS might be a good place to start, but the team who went there found that this cave hadn?t much to offer that had not already been looked at. However, the area has a lot of prospecting potential, so will offer a place for people to head to for something slightly different, even if that is just drinking Whisky Gold?

Conduct preliminary investigations for performing tracer testing work in Hydra

We are more than a little curious about the hydrology of this deep area of the cave, as there is more water here, in both sumps (Loser Lido) and active streamways (Song of the Earth), than has been found almost anywhere else in the cave. We are working with local Austrian cavers to design tracer tests to determine the fate of water in this part of the cave, for which we will need the relevant permissions set up and also to do a recce of all possible resurgences. We will not be able to perform the tests this year, but by next year we aim to have everything in place to carry out the work and hopefully collaborate with Austrian cavers to understand the drainage of the plateau?s caves in a more quantitative sense.


Where we're at with the SMK system so far, in elevation view.

Why do we need more rope?

You might think that, after last years much-appreciated haul of rope from UKC and Spanset, that we would be able to rig our caves twice over. After careful calculation, we have produced the following chart, which shows our rope requirements to rig all the leads we hope to explore, and you will see that it is quite substantial. On top of this we will need pushing rope, and also surplus to replace rope retired this year (the ropes down to camp have been mostly left in, so we expect them to be pretty shagged at the end of this years expo). We really appreciated the addition to our rope stash from this cause last year and we feel no differently going into this year.


Pie chart showing the rope required to rig leads in Tunnockschacht (TS), Balkonhohle (BH) and the Wild West.

What can expo offer in return for the rope?

As we demonstrated last year, we really enjoyed updating forum users on the progress of the expedition and are able to do so very easily with a huge variety of contributions from different members of the expedition. We feel that our expedition offers something very unique to the caving world and we really want to share this with you all again. We aim to take a lot more photos underground this year which will hopefully result in a great digital representation of how special the SMK system is to explore. 

We are working hard to get everything ready for when the expedition kicks off in July, and we will update this page as we go. We will be caving around Bull Pot Farm next weekend so newer members of the expedition get to do as much caving as possible before heading out, and we have several other social media outlets that we will be updating as we go as well, so watch this space!



K Brook admires the Braunenzinkel and the Dachstein en route back to the Loser hutte carpark during one of many amazing sunsets. Photo credit: Shacktivities


New member
CUCC's Second 2018 Training Weekend

It?s important that, once you?ve gotten off the train in Bad Aussee, you know that your enormous and heavy bag is full of useful things. For example, useful things include hand jammers (a mistake I made in 2015) and unuseful things include a wetsuit, two bottles of port and a good book (a nod to 2017). Then, you need to know you have the fitness to carry it all up the hill to camp with two cement bags of smash. With this in mind, we met at Bull Pot Farm for a weekend I termed, ?generally getting better at caving?. For some people, this meant learning to rig, navigate or even rebelays! See the post above for our ?expedition specific training? weekend.

There were 29 expedition members from Cambridge, Leeds, Bristol, Nottingham, Manchester and Sheffield, showing off different SRT kit configurations and modifications made to make expedition-style caving easier. Such as adding gear loops to harnesses to attach hammers, drills and at least four tackle bags at all times. The average age of participants was 23, filled with a strong group of expedition goers.

The caving trips were chosen for their expedition attributes. Saturday morning saw a group head to the classic Juniper Gulf on the Allotment. It?s a cave similar to the Balkonh?hle, with a long free hanging pitch towards the bottom of the cave, in a wide diameter shaft, coupled with exposed traverses.


Sophie, rigging for the first time underground in Lancaster Hole.

An experienced group took to Quaking Pot, to practise being truly miserable, although I will wait to ?learn on the job?. A group in Petersons to Pipikin expected more discomfort than was in fact experienced, and ran through the cave in good time.

Other groups, practised rigging in Pool Sink, mimicking (although much smaller) the multipitch setting found in Tunnockschacht. This is useful for being ready to ascend when you hear the ?pitch free? and not bumbling around tightening chest harnesses, vital in 2-4 ?C Alpine caves.


Paul, first time expedition caver, in Easegill.

Another group joined a party from Combined Services Caving Association for a tour of Lancaster hole, learning SRT on the way down and another from the group learning how to derig on exit. Many thanks to Paul, Lee, Chris and Matt.


General faff was rehearsed, ready for the big event in Austria.

Saturday night was notably a much quieter affair, suggesting, much to my hope, there was a challenge for everyone that day.

After an Alpine start on Sunday morning, the cavers grouped and fled underground. Once almost everyone left on the Sunday, we fought back the midges (visitors to the farm beware) and took some group shots.


A group photo

Cheers to everyone who attended, cooked, cleaned and led groups. Just a month to go!
There are more photos of the event on:


Staff member
It was a pleasure to read about last years expo and you did a great job.  I hope it paid off in more ways that just the rope.  You've got a fantastic project out there.  I like the sound of 'beckoning silence' - the very best of luck.


Active member
Nerding: the Art, the Science, the Truth

It is no secret that we on the CUCC exped (well, some of us) love geeky things like plots, maps, DATA and coding. We find that having a (semi)-consistent approach to organising and presenting cave survey data goes a long way in helping find new cave passage. Rather than trying to stab in the dark at where to find new cave, and the hows and whats that come with that (How do I get there? What kit will I need to push a lead?), having up-to-date records of what has been explored and what is a good prospect really makes exploring new cave efficiently much easier. Last year, however, we really let our guard down with this, which seems to have some correlation with the number of high-level nerds and survey wizards present (Arch-Mage Wookey and old hand Anthony Day were both absent).

With this in mind, we really had to turn it around this year, not least because all the easy leads have been explored now. We have therefore been conducting online 'Nerding Sessions' at convinient times, with operatives in Cambridge, Liverpool and Dublin all getting a slice of the action. I'll run through a little of what we have been doing, hopefully without boring the utter piss out of you all.

The Great Battle of the Platforms

In the old days, when internet was slow and 'This Corrosion' was not a song that cast dread into the eyes of expo-goers, there was a general consensus that an offline, centralised server with a repository of data that could be pushed to a web-based repository (the expo website) using a distributed revision control system (we use Mercurial) was the way forward, and this still serves us well today (pardon the pun). However, recently we have been using github to collaborate on updating things, and this has worked well mainly because some of us are thick and like user interfaces with nice pressy buttons. There is a scheduled battle to decide what the way forward will be for after this years expo, where Wookey and Julian will have numerous competitions such as 'who can commit the most files to the server in one minute' and 'what is the longest you can sit hunched over a tiny laptop in a camping chair under a gazibo in the rain coding when you could be caving?'


Example of user interface for collaborating on survey data fixing on GitHub. Who will win the Great Battle?

What needs doing - Drawing, Tunneling, Pulling, GUSing, Migrating, Crying...

We have recently been trying to get the survey in good shape so that we can actually use it to find things when we are caving (rather than just have a pretty picture - I know this is more important for some). This means it needs drawing up from the survey notes taken in the cave, then scanning back in, then tracing over in Julian's vector graphic cave mapping software called Tunnel (recently George and Thom have been very obedient Tunnel bitches). All the individual bits of the survey are then collated into a full survey in GIS software and bingo!



The processing workflow for drawing up a survey: locate the relevant survex file and print out; draw up survey data in 3D from centre-line; digitise the drawing using Tunnel; collate many Tunnel drawings to form a coherent survey. Note that these images do not all represent the same bit of cave passage!

In addition to this, I have been scouring the database for QMs in order to form a QM list of leads to be pushed this year, which will hopefully allow our newer members who do not know the cave system as well to be more independent in their exploration. We are also hoping to produce a full prospecting map with surface and subsurface data present. Watch this space!


The Liverpool team pleased with progress at the Hackspace.


New member
CUCC 2018 Expedition: Week 1
Once again the H?hlenforcher have travelled from the UK to Bad Aussee with gear, curry, and high expectations. It was all looking a bit bleak when Jim suggested it would be a no-drinking expedition, but when he promptly ended up drinking 7 beers the same night, we knew we were in business. The first week has passed quickly, with both bottom and top camp taking shape.

Frank has put in a heroic effort, here seen adding grommets to a new tarp for the bier tent. 

The weather has been treating us nicely, possibly too nicely. This has made water collection on top of the mountain a bit problematic, but means we get the tans that are otherwise sorely lacking in the caving community.

Gear from last year has been systematically inspected and repaired. Anthony went through all the dry bags, noting that a lot of them seemed to have more than the one hole you would expect, and patched them up accordingly. He claimed that in order to truly repair a dry bag you have to become one with the bag, and demonstrated how to do so.

This year, we have to take two large solar panels and accompanying batteries up the hill. Haydon stepped up to over-engineer cases that would protect these from any nuclear attacks that may be encountered on the way up. Several of us sat around providing some much needed moral support and criticism.

When it comes to over-engineering, one must of course never forget UX testing:

As always, the CUCC expedition is blessed with a great supply of nerds. Phillip Sargent spent an hour trying to convince me that the 4-step version control system couldn?t possibly be easier to use. Today, Mark Shinwell stepped up when the printer was malfunctioning, and solved this by pushing in the paper tray. Some people just aren?t made for the nerding I guess.

Up on top of the mountain the tarps are set up, and curries, noodles, flapjack, gear, soup, more curries, and the all important bog roll.

Leads are already being pushed, with the first few surveys already coming out. Our first major surface find of the year, Homecoming Hole (Heimkommen H?hle) has been pushed down 7 pitches so far, and is still going strong. While this cave was named in anticipation of football coming home, it seems like we?ll have to settle for caving coming home this time around.

The nights end with plenty of drinks and cheer, and continued nerding to slot in the new leads in the database. It's looking like it'll be an exciting year in Austria!


Arriving to Expo For My Second Expedition

After a 20 hour train journey from Zagreb I arrived to Bad Aussee at 6:50 in the morning. Stepping off the train I was hit by a wave of fresh mountain air. I was excited to be back! As early as it was I assumed base camp would be asleep and started the hour walk to camp. When I arrived people were up and at it and I was greeted with coffee! After a good chat and an exciting update on the leads, I sorted through my things and had a quick nap. Another walk into town to pick up caving gloves, I always manage to forget those, and it was time to go up the hill.

I had been feeling quite fit and was ready for the walk up to top camp. Unfortunately, I was surprised by the struggle of walking across the plateau. At the end of last Expo I was racing across the rugged landscape. But this year I was back to feeling unsteady and laboured as I picked through the uneven rock. A walk that took me 1.5h at the end of last year, took me 2 hours again. The views on the walk had not changed and were as beautiful as ever. Walking at sunset is a must! Feeling a bit worse for ware we arrived at top camp and I was instantly stoked up and signed up for a trip tomorrow.

Morning arrived and we were all set to go survey the horizontal leads in the new cave Homecoming. Considering it had just been found I thought it would be a short trip to ease me into caving. A 2 hour walk later my legs felt like jelly and it seemed I had signed up to more than I bargained for. The cave descended 200m down a massive fault system.  An impressive bit of cave, but much deeper than I had anticipated. Just after we had gotten off the last rope we heard a distant rumbling, this soon sounded closer and closer as the flood pulse moved down the cave. My last expo I had managed to avoid all flooding so this was my first experience of flooding. The sound of the water was impressive and daunting. We decided to carry on surveying and hope the water would go down by the time we were done. Luckily when we were finished the cave sounded the same as when we had entered.

We started the ascent a bit apprehensive of flooding, there had been no rain since the cave had been found, and therefore there was uncertainty as to where the water would come down. Luckily the ropes were all dry and we had nothing to worry about. 200m of prussgiking was more than I wanted and the walk back took it out of me. I think my big mistake was setting off expecting to keep up with cavers who had been on expedition for the last week and a half.  Come next week 200m will seem like a walk in the park! Today however, I needed a rest so a quick walk down to base camp and a few bottles of beer.


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New member
My First Expo

Writing this from base camp on the evening of my last night on expo.

Expo has been a new experience for me and I've loved every second, from the comforts and luxuries of base camp to the Swiss Family Robinson style living on the plateau.

I arrived last Monday by plane and train and made my way up the hill and straight in Balkonhoehle on the Tuesday. The walk up was scenic, despite being strenuous, as we were greeted by the local cows.


At top camp, beds were set up. Bellow is a scene of my "bedroom" (for want of a better word) at top camp as well as the view of top camp from the outside.



The next few days were spend learning to rig on caves that had been bolted in years past under the supervision of more experienced cavers (many thanks for your patience, Dickon and Chris).

On my return trip from rigging String Theory in Tunnocksschacht, I discovered my chest jammer (originally bought by my mother in the '80s) had given up the ghost and was slipping by several inches by the time I got out. New jammers were swiftly ordered in and I managed to borrow an interim pair from Becka.

Later on, I went on some trips into Fisch Gesicht to do some surveying. I took the opportunity to try out my new Exotogg thermal layer which kept me extremely cosy, if a little bulkier than usual!


The next day, back to base camp for a shower and refreshment. The day was spent assembling the lints for carrying the new Solar Panels and Car Batteries up the hill (required for charging of drills, lamps, phones etc on top camp's own power grid). Below are images of the testing of the battery carrier. I still have bruises from being one half of a solar panel carrying team...





My next underground experience included some bolting and rigging tuition from Mike Butcher - a very enjoyable experience despite my largely ineffective hammer use... None of my bolts failed and with any luck my traverse line will keep some pretty corral-like calcite formations safe for years to come.


Just beyond the Y-hang I was bolting in the above image was discovered a huge chamber with a railway sized tunnel on the other side. Named Ulysses, it is fittingly large and hard to get through. Very exciting!

My final trip of the expedition was a pushing and surveying trip in Homecoming Hole (newly discovered this expo) where I christened my first cave passage "Kit-Kat Connection" which was discovered while taking a break in Hobnob Hallway.

Back down to base camp now - gear all washed in the river and hung up to dry.



My only wish is that I was staying for longer. I can't wait to come back next year and I will be following the progress of this year's expo with interest. Thanks to all of the expedition for making it possible.



Well-known member
First Timer on Tour
I arrived in Bad Aussee, bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for an adventure, and boy did I get one. Soon I found myself on top of a rather large hill, eating noodles and curry. Food of the Gods. I decided to join the new project of the expedition, Heimkommen Hoehle, as it looked promising, and I was looking forward to a good push.

Heimkommen Hoehle, Second push

The three small pitches in the entrance had already been pushed by Dickon and Jon, but a 30m pitch, soon to be christened Radagast, was waiting for us, and so down we went. a small wormway and an up pitch took us into Definitely Not A Dachstein Meander, which was a puzzle to get through. Small pitch after small pitch, until.... A 40m drop in the meander landed us nicely on a boulder. Below us, at least a 50m shaft. These two I decided should be called Wallace and Gromit, as they were cracking pitches. But alas, we were out of rope, so out we surveyed.

Heimkommen Hoehle, Fourth push
Much to our dismay, the third push dropped down Gromit, and went further down, reporting back that it didn't go anywhere. Dickon and I decided to have one last look at it, and if we couldn't find a way on, derig, and abandon Heimkommen. down we went, dropping the rather impressive Gromit shaft, and landing at the bottom. We noticed a ledge a short way up and decided it was worth a look. Dickon traversed it, bolting as he went. He rounded a corner as i sang to spur him on. Suddenly all I could hear was maniacal laughter and whooping. We had found a continuation! And it was horizontal! Immediately naming it the Second Coming of Homecoming Cave, we realized that we didn't have any survey equipment with us, so the push would have to wait.

Heimkommen Hoehle, Fifth Push
A strong team of Crossley, Nadia and I went down, ready to push along a phreatic tube, which would be named Hobnob Hallway, for the crumbly sand that was in it. Plenty of flapjack was had, and surveying was done. Up until we thought it got too treacherous to continue, as it sounded like there was a pitch ahead (there wasn't). While we were having a break, I noticed a small hole, and my exploratory instincts kicked in. I pushed into it, and found it connected to a point that the other team pushing that day had already explored. So we surveyed it, and Crossley named it Kit Kat Connection. I was very proud of him. Out we went, to come back another day.

Heimkommen Hoehle, Seventh push
Myself and Adam descended to push more along Hobnob, setting the bolts fully as we went (a story for another time). we pushed along, and found a small chamber, called Phil Lyns Concert Hall. A B lead led off the far end, but Adam spotted a phreatic tube in the wall. We crawled in, and were confident it would go. we forged ahead, climbing a rather awkward climb, and rounding a corner, only to find it blocked. Oh well. We were on the way back out when I spotted that the rift in the floor wasn't that deep in places. In we went, and found our way to a junction of a keyhole passage, drafting well. One for another day.

Heimkommen Hoehle, Eighth push
Frank and I pushed along the keyhole passage, going through the phreatic upper part of what would come to be known as Papsi Pessage (no copyright problems here), until it came to a t junction at a canyon. We decided to leave it there, and look at some of the other leads. One, Dead Fly passage, led to another junction with two A leads. Then we explored some body sized phreatic tubes that were fun to survey, but had some nice stals in. all in all a good final trip.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the two weeks I've spent out here in the Todesgebirge, and the company around me has been the most pleasant I could have imagined. I look forward to spending more time here next year. Good luck to all pushes yet to come this year, particularly in Heimkommen.



New member
A series of short notes on things that could go wrong.

Part 1.

You don't want to find this below you.


If you do, you shouldn't just pass it and descend the 20m to the next rebelay.

Not familiar with the EDK? Look it up. Really. I insist*.

Whilst I'm on the theme: knots in the ends of ropes. We can at least all agree on that one, yes? YES?

Here's an example that failed the visual inspection. Arguably, the fault lay with the puppy that was forcing an old dog to learn a fresh trick.


Part 2 will cover keeping anchors in the rock.

No further parts are planned but we're only 1/3 through the expedition.

*Though to be fair the top hit on Google is in it's defence.


Well-known member
Becka said:
Not familiar with the EDK? Look it up. Really. I insist*.

Standard and recommended knot in climbing for joining abseil ropes :)

Of course, that's so it doesn't jam up when you pull the knot down (as the knot sits offset) which isn't an issue for caving rigging so most other bends (joining knots) would be superior. It is much better than an offset figure 8 (fig-8 version of that knot) which have been known to roll on bodyweight and eat a lot of tails in the process...

Rethreaded figure 8, alpine butterfly bend, rethreaded overhand, double fishermans or BFK would all be superior. But an EDK is probably fine really :p


Midterm Report
Three weeks in and three weeks left. We are all filtering down the hill to clean up for the annual dinner and refresh for the second half of the expedition. Here's what's happened so far...

Homecoming Hole
The new cave of the year has been a smashing success. Found early in the expedition, Homecoming has been an excellent training ground for many of our expedition newbies. Over time the cave has been pushed below 200m which includes a 60m pitch, no easy feat for a tired caver. Up steam is a large rift traverse being pursued by Haydon and Jon primarily. Down stream there are many tight rifts left to be explored.

Two teams gearing up to push leads in Homecoming

Fisch Gesicht
A promising lead from last year is still going strong. We have dropped this below 200m as well. It has reached an exciting pitch called Ulysses. Attempts have been made to Traverse around to find an appropriate place to drop the pitch, however the other side of the shaft is no more appealing. This is creating and interesting challenge for our cavers.


Surveying in Fisch Gesicht

We had our first camping trip down Tunnocks this week. Chris, Antony and Lydia pursued leads down Beckoning Silence with much success; running out of rope, hangers and stoke all at the same time. Another aim of the camp trip was to test out our cave radio systems. Top camp was very disappointed with the failure of the system. Mean while the campers had a good laugh as they were able to hear top camps attempts to contact them but a fault in their microphone prevented them from responding. This lead them to name the continuation of Beckoning Silence, Radio Silence. Plans to fix the microphone fault are in the works and will hopefully soon have a fully functioning radio system! Further trips into camp have been prevented by a lack of hangers and maillons! Too much success! New ones have been bought and exploration will continue.

Last year a lead was found that had been walked past for 5 years! A small crawl leads to an open chamber which was being pushed at the end of last year. Becka and George (with a rotating cast of helpers) have been putting in the hours this year to extend this further. First ones to leave in the morning and the last ones back. They dropped a pitch, Hangman, through a tight squeeze and into surveyed passage. A quick trip down the hill showed that they had connected in to Tunnocks! Dropping further down Hangman lead to a 200m pitch series, Mongol Rally. 50m from the floor is a swing into a window, The Pit Stop. From The Pit Stop horizontal blowing phreatic passage slopes down pushed ~500m and still going. At the floor of the Mongol Rally more phreatic tubes where found ~20m in diameter! Becka and George managed a whole kilometre of surveying in a day! They popped out on a window to a large camber, climbed down and found that it had been surveyed. Another connection. Putting the data in to survex showed that they were just above camp Kraken. A potential new way into camp. Many exciting things going on in Balcony. 

The top of Mongol Rally

Looking to the Future
Our overarching aim is to connect our Schwarzmooskogel system to the Sch?neberg system to the north west. Homecoming and Fisch Gesicht are heading in the right direction, one step closer to our goal. looking forward we would like to pursue a connection from the existing system to these two caves. With Homecoming an hour and a half walk away from top camp we are working on setting up a satellite camp in the west to minimise the commute.

The new bivy cave. The floor has been flattened out and terraced to accommodate 6 cavers.

This year we have had an influx of student cavers from many different universities. We will have 14 cavers on their first expedition from 6 universities, Cambridge, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham. We are working on developing our newer cavers with surveying and bolting as well as general caving skills to pass down knowledge and experience to continue to develop our expedition as well as student caving in the UK.


New member
It?s coming home: Final Homecoming Stint

Homecoming is a cave found this year, approximately 90 minutes walk from our bivouac on the Loser plateau that has just gone and gone! Unfortunately, it has sunk lots of resrouces and plans have been formulated to set up a satellite bivi in the future, where our expedition aims will consolidate underground efforts.

The derig
Despite our best efforts, we arrived at Homecoming to begin the derig, a cave we had little information about, but that did not extend much further than a junction, 200m down. Luke raced ahead and left Nadia and I remarking at the cave?s remarkable features; howling icy draught, deep free hanging pitches and long, low hanging traverse lines over rift passages.

Having entered the cave, thinking we were going to derig 200m of pitches, we found shit tons of rope after where we had expected to start, perhaps twice as much rope as we expected. Luke began the derig, Nadia ferrying tackle bags and myself ?processing rope? and packing bags. After an ambitious few hours, moving 200m of rope, we arrived at our preconceived start point. Here we plotted our PAELLA: Pulling A Extremely Long Length Altogether.

None of the 3 of us had ever ?paella?ed rope before but we knew we were not going to be able to prussik it all out, easily. We sent Luke up first with the rope tied to him and all the metalwork, ~35 handers+malloins and the emergency kit. Nadia and I derided the traverse to the big 120m pitch. With each bolt ~5m apart and no handholds to speak of, we questioned our sanity, but pushed through. Luke was much faster than our derigging effort and pulled our rope chain up 80m to the ledge, prussiked the tackle sack up 40m and came back down to meet Nadia on the ledge again. After a bit of discussion as to how to pull rope up two pitches at the same time they figured it out. Luke prussiked up the 40 and created a new pile as Nadia pulled the ropes I was derigging up. Very smooth.


At the top of the 40m our chain was over 300m long and we were entering rift passage. Luckily the timing was right and we were met by Ruairidh, Jacob and Alex, who supported the transportation through a climbing rift, by acting as human-deviations getting the chain ~60m through twists and turns to the next pitch head.  The rest of the trip was smooth sailing with only a few rocks being dropped and one hanger escaping out of a hole in the bottom of the tackle sack. The final length that lay piled outside the cave entrance was over 500m and bigger than the average caver. An estimated 70 hangers and maillons plus deviation crabs were also brought out. Cavers returned to camp for 2am.

Man hours: 66



New member
This will be a summary of the last Kraken camp of 2018, and maybe ever.
The trip was partaken by George, Becka, and myself (Adam). We went underground in Balcony on Friday the 3rd of August around mid day and surfaced from Tunnocks around 8pm on Sunday.

Following a generous helping of faff resulting in an irate Becka we set of towards Balcony with optimism. This would be my first ever underground camp trip, so there was a pinch of excited apprehension in my mood.
After the necessary commute in balcony we made it to the Mongol Rally, this 200m shaft, sloping slightly from the vertical, was by far the biggest i've ever seen. The decent, seemingly endless, is mostly experienced with blackness above and below.
After a short journey from the base of The Mongol Rally feeling suitably far from home, we started work at the pushing front.
Day one was finished with around 250m surveyed; George had dropped a pitch which led into large airy passages. Throughout the day George had been commenting on invasive smells. Most of these instances were a result of Becka taking out her pet mouldy cheese. I quietly found this rather amusing.
George and I awoke after a night at camp to find Becka doing lots of productive things, she had checked the radio (unfortunately without success) and was well on the way to making breakfast. Led by Becka's enthusiasm, day two was begun with less faff than the previous. We set of along Tentacle Traverse and down Octo Pussy towards the front.
I was feeling remarkably weary on this second day. There was point, as George and Becka shot off, where I was nearly defeated by a section of upward sloping mud.
An arduous (for me) and increasingly muddy commute later, we reached the pushing front: a muddy wet pitch, great! Feeling a touch despondent at this point, we pushed on; George started bolting the pitch while Becka and I waited at the top. Waiting very quickly got cold so in an attempt to alleviate this situation we started jumping about. The nature of this was quite comical, it was a fusion between a Zumba class routine and the irregular movements of telly tubies who have just been exited by the sun baby.
To our surprise and elation, the muddy gryke of a lead dropped into a dry spacious expanse with multiple ways on. We began surveying down a railway tunnel passage sloping slightly down. This, to our bewilderment, led to a gentle meandering river banked by sloped volumes of mud. All of a sudden, Becka became exited, George and I rushed over, she had found a sprout in the mud! A surreal occurrence at ~700m below. The sapling drank in our light deeply as we admired it's lone perseverance.

A few pictures later, we moved on, only to find a sump. This would have been annoying if not for the alternative upstream continuation.
Half an hour or so up this lead, much to my relief, we stopped on a muddy bank for a lunch break. The only way on was a 3m climb into a relic inlet. Becka argued that we should turn back as it was getting late (a sensible idea to be fair). Despite Becka's standpoint, George and I were up for going on. With Irate protest from Becka, George began the climb. Out of sight, George began talking in awe of an interesting blue lake.  With more protesting from Becka, I climbed up as well.
The pool in question was like something out of a sci fi film, Its colour and complexity was preternatural. I could explain it to you by a picture able to convey more than words.

With rekindled enthusiasm for exploration we continued deeper into a truly surreal environment, the vast relic stream passage was littered with artefacts of its past; here and there, pools of immaculate water lay undisturbed for presumably quite a while; marbled fractal mud formations encrusted the lower surfaces; bizarre spiky rock formations en-habited the walls, formed by a vigorous torrent, long forgotten.
With over 400m on the PDA, we returned to camp. The commute seemed friendlier, for me at least, with a sense of accomplishment under the belt.
Waking up for the second time in absence of sunlight, the task for the 'day' was to de-rig and prusik out.
The camp was packed up and raised to the top of Kraken in five caries up the pitch (one by me two each by George and Becka). George competed a particularly obscene carry: a huge orange survival bag tied at the top with cord, he looked like a surreal speleo version of Santa Claus.

Once camp was sorted, we began the long ascent to the surface. Becka and I set of with some bags of rope while the machine that is George began to de-rig the pitches.
This was my first trip to Kraken camp, but it might also be the last. However as one good thing comes to an end, the next is on the horizon: with the persistent efforts of this year (especially by George and Becka) a new region of Balkony has proved promising, and so, the camp will be reformed there with new opportunities awaiting.


New member
A mature view of Expo

We've already had posts from first timers so, to balance that out, here's my old-timer's perspective on this year's Expo. This summer I did a lot of my caving with George because, at the start of Expo, it was clear that he was lacking direction and, whilst not green (this was his third time out) that he'd benefit from my experience, constructive advice and tactful supervision.

For the avoidance of doubt, and for those of you don't know us, that's utter bollocks. George is a far better caver than me at SRT, rigging, finding and sticking with a project, navigation (not hard), climbing, carrying heavy bags, derigging, patience, surveying, conservation and scooping (yup, it's out there, sue me for defamation if you dare!). Don't be running away with the idea that list is comprehensive though: I have the edge on him at squeezes (despite him being willing to try harder, sleep deprivation (my, don't young people sleep a lot?), I'm far bossier and, though I haven't tested this properly, I reckon I've a greater bloody-minded capacity for enduring misery (I suspect it would take around a week of 10 hour trips in small, cold, wet, muddy, boring caves to break him and you just wouldn't believe how full my diary is right now so that'll have to wait).

Anyway, we (us two, Luke, Olly, Adam, Rachel, Nadia, Jacob, Philip, Wookey and Max) had a series of fine trips including finding what we think is the deepest shaft in the SMK system (Mongol Rally at 200m deep), two connections between Balkonh?hle and Tunnockschact, a sprout and a sump at -720m, many, many bat bones and over 5km of passage including the monster Grand Prix (incidentally, I agree, what's with the names? My carefully crafted puns were all flat-out rejected so we're stuck with a notable chamber called Big Lad - it should have been Raisin' Hell - and both Hangryman Pitch and Hangeryman Pitch are still up for grabs). Also, after 5 weeks of training I've mastered an alternative way to the tie a stopper knot and learnt the industry standard way to tie knots in the end of a rope (thanks, guys, for that fine use of my strictly limited long term memory).

After 220 hours underground this summer with CUCC I've skipped derigging (obviously I'd have loved to have helped out but unfortunately the timing was against me) and I've decamped to spend a week with the local Austrian club (VHO http://vho-caving-news.blogspot.com/) on their Plankamira expedition. This made for quite a culture change - there's only 5 of us and we're all around a half century old. Now, at last, my rigging suggestions are listened to attentively (rather than being firmly squashed) and nobody passes comment about the volume of food I get through (George eats like a grasshopper). I've also escaped the unending put-downs - "if you're going to rig that pitch don't do a half-arsed job of it"; "that wouldn't have happened if you hadn't placed it in a flake"; "you and your slopy shoulders"; and "no, you can't lead us out, you're so bad it's just not funny" and so on. Also, it's relaxing not having to tell everyone what to do :) Best of all, I'm now the fastest prussiker (yeah, yeah, of course it's not a competition).

On the down side VHO are agonisingly slow to get going (how can anyone spend more than 9 hours in a sleeping bag? It's mental torture when you're camping underground and you're too polite to start loudly crinkling plastic bags and accidentally shining your light in people's eyes. Not that that worked anyway, you idle sods). And then, once they're up, there's the coffee to drink then the second coffee then breakfast then herbal tea and a second herbal tea before anything might happen. Hmm, thinking about it, George would have done better here instead of me (his favourite thing: sleeping; his next most favourite thing: sitting around doing nothing).

I did struggle on skills transfer ... this summer I heard someone claim that thru-bolts (as VHO use) have fewer modes of failure than Hiltis (that CUCC uses). Well, not in my hands, I can tell you. Of my dozen none went in easily (I must have been given the wrong diameter drill bit, goddammit) and there was horrible flaking with several, whilst one cracked out altogether with the rock it was in (I blame the Petzl hammer they gave me, it made all the rock sound shit so, since the good-looking rock made the same sound I deduced that all the rock was good. Then it fell apart). Most distressingly, on three of them the sleeve thing split and refused to go into the hole, just rucking up on the outside. Please, can I give up and go home? VHO rigging is typically spare, no Y-hangs unless there's a big swing and no deviations (there wasn't a single sling on the expedition). However, I was so worried about my lousy thru-bolts that my section was backups and Y-hangs all the way.

On the first day we got out in the dark from a new cave with over an hour's walk back to camp and big bags. The other half of the team set off confidently but then, 30 minutes later, he pointed at least 90 degrees off when I asked him to show where he thought camp was. Foolishly I'd not saved it as a waypoint on my phone and he was struggling with a new app on his phone so all we had to go on was the outline of the peaks around us. I persuaded him I knew which one to aim for and, 15 minutes later, hurrah, someone at camp saw us and left their light on so we slogged towards it. But then the light went out and we were reduced to navigating towards the sound of the generator reverberating in the huge rock bowl we were lost in before it was switched off. Then my companion, dressed in the shortest of hip-hugging racing shorts, refused to follow me through some prickly dwarf pine. I'll go round and meet you, he says, then disappeared. So now I'm by myself, three hours walk from anyone bar us few cavers so I shout his name. Eventually he shouts back "Don't cry unless it's an emergency". Then silence. Grrrr. So I hang around looking for his light and eventually spot him beetling off towards camp without a backward glance. I'll be damned if he gets there first so I stumble off and we arrive together. Two hours on Karren karst on a moonless night and I barely glanced up once so I caught just the one shooting star on the best night of the year for the Perseid shower.

Now I'm back down the hill in time to fix my broken tooth (note to self: don't eat rock at underground camp). We (well, the Cambridge University Caring Club, which tickled me) have just been awarded a certificate for our 35 years of service by the Mayor of Bad Aussee, Hilde made us delicious doughnuts to celebrate and I'm signed up for a final top camp carry tomorrow so all's right with the world.



New member
Becka said:
A mature view of Expo

Here's a few photos to brighten up the post and, I stand corrected "whilst not green (this was his third fourth time out)"

A strikingly colourful lake near the sump in Tunnockschacht

What's this? Surely not life on the banks of a starless river?

Yes: a pallid sprout growing in a huge mud bank just before the sump

The sump at -720m at the end of Scum of the Earth in Octopus Garden

All photos by George Breley