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    1st June 2-4pm at Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.

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Dachstein 2023

Oscar D

Active member
16/08/2023

Oscar Doyle and Alex Ried - Quest for the 70 dry bypass Pt.2

An early reveille at 7am was followed by 2 hours of gear hassle and rope packing. Finally at 9:30am we began the walk up to WUG. Arriving at the entrance and grabbing our gear from under the tarp we prepped for the trip ahead. 100m of rope was packed into a tackle sack along with the usual drills and metalware. Heading underground at around 11:00am. Shooting down the entrance pitches we made excellent time and reached the limit of exploration from the previous day at around 12:00pm.

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Alex prepped his bolting kit and racked up the maillons and hangers whilst I donned my down jacket and balaclava. After some re-rigging of the jump-off point - Alex descended into the abyss below. I busied myself with rearranging the local rocks into a chair and dabbling in a bit of causal hypothermia. A couple hours passed and a fatigued looking Alex appeared at the window. We swapped positions and I abseiled down ~50m to see what progress he’d made - at the bottom of the ropes was a huge boulder bridging the shaft with some fossil passage beyond it. Below lay more clean washed shaft and a distant Boulder floor barely in sight. Climbing back up to the window - Alex and I compared notes and the decision was made to continue downwards.

Another couple hours and a few more frozen digits later - Alex called up for more rope. I frantically prussiked out of our hole by the window and scoured the ledge at the 70 for any more string. I returned with a 13m length of rope which Alex used to rig a knot pass to the floor of the shaft.

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Reaching the bottom of the shaft after 113m of rope and several Y-hangs and deviations - we landed in a puddle and were less than happy to find the chamber blind. We spent around 20 minutes scratting about in a couple of tight rifts and digging through the floor before giving up and making for surface.

We arrived back at the tarp at the WUG entrance at around 21:00pm feeling a bit worse for wear. The dream of the 70 bypass had been crushed but we’d found a nice bit of cave in process and it had been a good warm up for projects to come. Tomorrow we plan to head to camp for 4 nights - with plans to climb Forbidden Aven and scout some other clubs in the far reaches of the system.

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Maxim L

New member
18/08/2023

Maxim's reports of the past few days (U25, under a year of experience, first exped, all-around minion)

After leaving England for my home base in Amsterdam in December, I sadly did not get to do much caving the past few months. The Netherlands is by all accounts lovely to live in, but there are zero caves to be found. Needless to say, I am beyond excited to be underground again, in the alps no less!

On our first full day up the mountain (15/08/2023) I did some SRT practice with Wolfo in the training cave nearby the hut- the refresher was necessary! The next day (16/08/2023) I went underground to Tiergarten with Andy, Jo, Bente, and Janka. I carried the rope down the mountain, and because it was bloody heavy I was quite happy we left the rigging up! The pitch down to Tiergarten was approx 20-30 odd meters off of a ledge in daylight, a bit scary but good fun and good practice. Tiergarten itself was gorgeous, the second pitch down was pretty much a slide over ice, and the ice formations in the cave were impressive. The scenery felt like that one scene in Ice Age where they slide down an ice cave. I had a blast.
Yesterday (17/08/2023) Andy, Josh, James, Annas, Bente, and I walked up the mountain to Thundergasm. The walk up was boiling, and the terrain was not made for humans with heavy bags and hiking poles. James ruined his second pair of hiking boots. Impressive, really. Andy and Josh went down to the bottom of Thundergasm, while I did the entrance pitches with Annas, down to about 100m deep. James and Bente went a bit further than that. The rope was slippy so the way down was quite fast, and did have some bounces. The cave was cold, but I only noticed it once I sat down at the 100m mark. When prussiking back up I used a pantin for the first time, and because I didn't have a bag either I just shot up the ropes and was the first one out. That did mean that I had to wait around for an hour until the rest was out, but that gave me some time to practice knots and faff around with my camera. After all of us besides Josh and Andy were out, we walked back down the mountain while the sun was starting to set. The view was gorgeous.
Today is a rest day for me, which I needed to work on my thesis in the Wiesberghaus. I'm having a grand time, and I hope to go deeper underground as the exped progresses!

Cheers
 

Oscar D

Active member
18/08/2023

Oscar D and Alex R - The Definition of Madness

After a relaxing Thursday spent resting at Camelot and enjoying some liquid refreshment at the Weisberghaus - we spent the evening packing and re-packing our freeze-dried meals, sleeping mats and various bolting equipment ready for another trip onto WUG on Friday. This time we would descend the entirety of the entrance pitches to -600m and make an attempt to finish climbing Forbidden Aven which we had started the previous year but eventually ran out of time. We packed enough provisions for 4 nights underground allowing us plenty of time for the climb and to explore whatever lay at the top - we also had some other climbs in the other end of the system in our sights in case Forbidden Aven was blind.

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Friday morning came and it was set to be another bright and sunny day on the hill - with the same weather predicted for the next few days as well. I had a 45L tacklesack loaded with my extra kit for camp such as food and spare warm kit as well as a few comfort items, Inflatable pillow and mattress and MP3 player. I also ended up with another 20L bag with ~200m of 8mm rope cut into a 100m and 2x 50m lengths which we would use for the climbs. Alex had all his camping kit as well as all the heavy metalware associated with bolt climbing - though through various clever tinkering he’d shaved off a lot of the weight by replacing lots of things with dyneema versions and making his own lightweight hangers.

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So it was after the usual faff and the fact that I didn’t exactly relish the idea of taking two tacklebags down the entrance pitches - that we eventually set off from Camelot around 10:30. Arriving at the WUG entrance we got our caving kit off the drying line under the tarp and re-packed our bags for the seventeenth time.

At around 12:00 we began the journey down the cave - I more or less instantly regretted taking the rope bag as it made a habit of tangling itself at every rebelay and being a general pain in the ass. The initial pitches passed by slowly but surely soon gave way to the exposed rebelay-fest that was the 110 and then to the grubby-swingy rope fest of the Fossil Pitches. My sanity and upper body strength was put to the test in The Meander as I attempted to wrangle the two wayward tackle bags along it’s tight confines. After much swearing/sweating and a pair of bruised elbows later The Meander was behind us and we now only had a couple hundred meters of descent left. We sped our way through a rather dry Wet Canyon and carefully eased our way down the Final Pitches - taking care as a few of them are loose already without the extra danger bought about by extra baggage.

Touching down at the end of the tensioned traverse that marked the end of the pitches - we gave a few whoops of joy before making our way down the enormous passage to the Left Fork Junction at around 17:30 where we ate our lunch and ditched all the gear we wouldn’t need for the Forbidden Aven climb . Mercifully for me this meant all but 50m of the rope and all the camping kit. All the bolting kit and the rope was coerced into a single bag along with our bare survival essentials and we set course for the Left Fork Basement.

If the entrance pitches are the Yorkshire Dales then the Left Fork Basement is the unholy love child of Derbyshire and South Wales - being a huge phreatic passage strewn with huge boulders but also being coated in the most awful sticky clay mud that makes any progress slow and not without risk. Squelching along the passage - all sounds of water soon stopped as we headed away from the pitches and up some greasy free climbs. Soon enough we passed PL2 Junction and arrived at the bottom of the Aven around 19:00.

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Taking extreme care to not get mud on the etriers or any of Alex’s SRT kit - we set out our gear on the cleanest rock we could find. I donned my synthetic jacket and balaclava in anticipation of the long belay session ahead. Ascending the short pitch up to the ledge that we’d rigged last year - we encountered the familiar challenge of avoiding the many rub points that threatened our 8mm shoelace of a rope. At the top of this fabulous pitch we dragged our way along the mud slope traverse - coating our lower bodies entirely in clay and gaining an extra ~5kg of it on our wellies. Reaching the end I tied myself into my belay - a dyneema loop through a thread and a bit of rope coming off the Y-hang Alex had rigged around the corner - both of which we’d put in the previous year. With the 8mm threaded through my mud caked Simple, a set up that probably wouldn’t offer much friction in the case that Alex were to fall, he started up the Calcite fall above the grotty ledge and the second battle of Forbidden Aven would begin.

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What followed would be 3 hours of hypothermia for me and the core workout from hell for Alex - only interrupted by the occasional call of ‘slack’ or ‘take’. Alex’s system comprising of his home made ‘stick-up’ pole as well as impact driver to drive home the concrete screws made for a fairly rapid ascent up the next ~18m of the climb. All was going well apart from a stuck and subsequently buckled drill bit (Thank god for spares) and Alex reached a gradual slope merely 2-3m from the top of the climb before disaster struck and our drill decided that it didn’t want to work anymore and so promptly conked out on us. Alex put his technical skills to work in an attempt to fix it - but no amount of profanity or kinetic encouragement could remedy the problem.

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Now stuck up shit creek without a drill - Alex employed some creative rigging to create a Y-hang using the holes he’d already drilled and made a precarious abseil to the bottom of the Aven using a length of 10mm he’d taken with him. We rendezvoused at the rock with the rest of our gear at about 00:00 - both feeling cold and exhausted. The despair of failing to reach the top for a second year running not helping morale either. Shoving our gear back into the bag - we drank our remaining water and began the slog back through the Left Fork Basement and then the dreaded Deep Sludge (a 100m deep mud slope that feeds on wellies and dreams alike) to Camp 1, picking up the kit we’d left at the junction along the way.

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Arriving at camp at around 01:30 I left Alex to unpack the sleeping bags and begin making camp whilst I subjected myself to the misery of the water pitch to get us some much needed H20. The journey back up the water pitch being bad enough with 10kg of water - not helped by my ascenders not wanting to work owing to the mud from Forbidden Aven and Deep Sludge caking them.

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I dragged myself into Camp 1 proper around 02:00 and devoured a freeze-dried pouch of Bolognese. Without a drill we couldn’t even go and attempt any of the other climbs so the plan for the rest of the trip was uncertain. After more faff and kit hassle we eventually decided that’d we’d figure it out in the morning - making it to bed at around 03:30 with no alarm set.

Stay tuned for the next chapter where our drill-less duo battle the fiercest mud so far to reach the far end of the cave!
 
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Oscar D

Active member
20/08/2023

Oscar D and Alex R - Pitch Pitch, Mud Mud

Fast forwarding to Sunday morning - Saturday was spent in Camp 1 doing a inventory of all the supplies, making a detailed list of every last Spork, gas canister and out of date packet of Smash that we could find. We had big plans for the day, Austrian Airspace was the objective, a huge chamber at the far end of WUG that was the the connection point with the rest of the Hirlatz reached in 2018. After the usual difficulty of extracting ourselves from our sleeping bags, made all the harder for me this year by my inflatable mat which actually made sleeping too easy, we enjoyed a traditional camp breakfast of porridge and stale coffee. The aim of the trip was to have a look at a couple of potential bolt climbs in Austrian Airspace for next year when we would hopefully have a working drill (grrr) and scout out a couple of potential locations for Camp 2. This meant that we could pack light and so we ended up with just one small tackle bag loaded up with the classic alpine caving goodies - gimp mac, bothy bag, survival bag, water, candle, first aid kit and extra layers. We left camp at about 10:00 looking forward to the closest thing to a sport trip that we'd managed to have on exped so far.

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Passing the camp toilet and heading down the slope towards the Chutney Mines - this was to be new ground for me, having only been to Camp 1 and the Left Fork Basement, Alex had been this way before in 2018 when he'd been to Deep Impact and so was in charge of navigation - not like its possible to go far wrong in this part of the cave as you just follow the big stomping passage and reflective markers (picture the Time Machine in Daren Cilau but a tiny bit smaller) Firstly, however, we had to worm our way through the Chutney Mines - a pretty tight and sharp crawl that had been dug open to find the rest of the cave. Emerging on the other side of the Chutney Mines I was relieved to be back in walking passage - the Chutney Chambers are quite big even compared with the rest of the passages. But it wouldn't last long - after wandering around for about 5 minutes we found the continuation hidden down below us on the right hand side. It's Not Ideal was aptly named - a series of short electron ladders and mud caked roped takes you down an awkward slot and a sticky mud slope to a thankfully dry mudded and walking height passage. We made swift progress up Fat and Fearless - probably my favourite bit of passage in the cave - being a tall bit of passage that you ascend via a few short ropes up a gently sloping dry mud slope. After this the passages leading up to the top of Frexit are all walking height and all relatively easy going with only the odd loose bit of floor to slow progress - unfortunately the same can't be same for Frexit itself which is a bit of a pain in the arse. For those familiar with the cave - Frexit is an SRT version of Deep Sludge - it's not too long but you'll spend a good amount of time playing tug of war with your own wellies and getting your SRT kit covered in filth.

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Reaching the bottom of Frexit we were faced with Constructive Negativity, a single pitch with 3 rebelays. Although it doesn't sound like much - the mud from Frexit coats the rather new and skinny 9mm ropes which allies with gravity to encourage a rather terminal speed of descent if you don't have a good grip on the break rope (How/If people manage this pitch without a Raumer Handy, I don't quite know) The last bit of rope lands you on a boulder heap in a large chamber - with crawl behind some puddles of water leading off one way to Choke the Farmer and a large passage continuing downhill on the opposite side which is Exploration Fever. Exploration Fever is another brilliant bit of cave - even nicer on the way in due to it being downhill rather than all the uphill we'd had so far. It's dry mud floor making for easy going and it wasn't long until we arrived at Sho-Wadi-Wadi Land.

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Looking down from a ledge above - it was clear that the chamber had some volume to it. Alex abbed down first and soon we stood atop the sandy mound in the middle. After briefly marvelling at it's scale we headed down towards where we thought the connection to Austrian Airspace was - the golden sand turned to slimy black mud and we weaved our between boulders before coming face to face with huge dark sump. Realising we'd gone the wrong way - I decided to climb up a mud slop on the right hand side and get some photos, being very careful not to slip and fall into the ice cold water beneath. Heading back the way we'd came we headed the opposite way, down into the inky blackness of Bolivia Can Wait. The roof dropped here and after a couple short pitches and a small crawl we found ourselves in a sort of U-bend between the two chambers. The quasi-aqueous nature of the passage being obvious by the silt deposits and wetness of the ground - neither of us were keen to spend any time there at all - water being the alpine cavers worst fear. Scrambling up a short climb and heading uphill we passed through Passport Control and entered Austrian Airspace.

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Our lights swallowed by the dark maw of the chamber - the black mud coating its walls - it was quite disorienting at first. Down to our left we hear the rumble of a water and could make out another large sump. Up to the right lay a huge boulder slop spanning the width of the chamber - the top of which we couldn't see. Much like the approach passage before it - it was evident that the chamber took a gargantuan quantity of water - the tide line being some 40 odd meters above the sumps. Feeling more than a little uneasy we decided to head upwards to the top of the slope to look at some of the leads marked on the survey. Alex got distracted by a side passage disappearing off into the far side wall whilst I continued on to the top of the slope where I found the rope that Joel had put in after having to bail off the climb some years earlier. Heading back down the slope to find Alex - I sent a fair number of boulders crashing down ahead of me, the slope not having seen much traffic and being very loose in places. Soon I found Alex sitting on a sort of beach down the passage he'd set off down - it turned out to be called B-Series and was the only continuation off the chamber found so far apart from the connection to the Hirlatz, although it ended in a sump. I joined Alex on the beach and we enjoyed a fine lunch of sausage and wine gums before we headed back into Austrian Airspace and Alex ascended the rope I'd found at the top of the chamber. Passing some bolts in a less than ideal condition he was relieved to find that the rope had a solid anchor and ended only a couple of meters from the top of the climb. Once he was down we had a look at some of the leads marked on our survey from the ground before taking an uncomfortable amount of time to find the way out again. We scurried back through the U-bend and were soon back in Sho-Wadi-Wadi land, where we took some photos of a potential camp site before starting our way back to Camp 1. We made two more stops in Exploration Fever to take more photos of two other potential sites for Camp 2.

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The rest of the way back was all plain sailing except for Constructive Negativity where all of our ascenders went on strike and caused us significant misery. We arrived back at Camp 1 at about 19:00 - which meant we could have tea at a reasonable time. Cracking open another couple of freeze dried meals we informed the surface team of our successful trip via the CaveLink and discussed which camp site we each liked the best and managed to get to bed around 21:00 so we would be well rested for our return to surface the following day.

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sorslibertas

New member
Well, you will have read the tales of derring-do and epic descents in Dachstein this year. This is not one of those. This is the expedition diary of a caving numpty, by Annas (Age 46 and 3/4).

It all started when I saw the expedition training weekend advertised. I thought, "I'll just go along - It'll be a cheap way of meeting new people and learn some SRT." I did learn some SRT that weekend, however the combination of Mr Seddon's presence and my lack of impulse control meant that it was a bit more expensive that I planned, as I came home with a complete, shiny SRT kit. Fast forward a couple of months, I got a new job where for some reason I managed to convince to give me annual leave on my start day, followed by induction upon my return. I now had no excuse to not go, so I went. At time of departure, the extent of my caving experience was a trip to Swildon's Hole passing Sump 1, and a trip up and down Hunter's Hole.

Day 1
Dropped off Spawn at his mum's, said my goodbyes to my partner, then jumped on a plane to Vienna. I knew that I would arrive too late to make it to Hallstatt or Obertraun, so I kipped at the airport, strategically close to the toilet, the snack machine, and the train station entrance. The benches were comfortable, and there were a fair few people doing the same. I would rate Vienna Airport as a reasonably decent place to kip.

Day 2
Caught the first train leaving the airport. Arrived in Obertraun about lunchtime, having had neither breakfast, lunch, or even a coffee. I had murder on my mind, that was salved by getting a coffee near the station. The lady running the cafe said her family has been living and working in that exact spot since the 1870s. When I told her that I was planning to go caving, she proudly informed my that her great grandfather was involved in the initial exploration of the ice cave. She bade me good luck as I left to find the Obertraun caving hut, where some of the expeditioners were waiting. It struck me when meeting them that I am simultaneously the most senior (by age) and the most junior (by caving experience) by quite a few years. This will be interesting.

I joined Josh, Axel, Bente, and Wolfo for a wee walk up a hill, only to discover to my chagrin that my fitness level was even worse than I thought. I'm not sure which was suffering more, my creaking joints, or my burning lungs. When I get back to the real world, I need to work on my fitness. For now though, I have a more pressing problem: A blister on my left heel the size of a 50p coin. This is suboptimal.

Day 3
We drove to Hallstatt to load the seilbahn, then set off up the hill in several groups. I walked up with Alex, who I managed to offend within minutes by assuming he was almost my age, only for him to vehemently correct me. For the record, he is a young whippersnapper of 33 years.
Despite this initial hiccup, it was a very pleasant walk up the mountain, followed by emptying out the last few seilbahn loads and starting to set up Camelot, our home away from home for the duration of the expedition.

Day 4
Walked up the hill a bit more with Bente, Janka, Jo, and Andy to install a new tarp at Wot You Got Pot. Installed my first bolt. Returned back to Camelot, then went to the training cave to practice SRT with Wolfo, Janka, and Maxim. Wolfo rejigged my setup to improve use.

Day 5
Went prospecting above WUG with Josh, James, and Paul. Walking on the limestone feels like how I imagine walking upon a moonscape would be. I have however decided that I really dislike scree. I do however like the beer at Simonyhutte.

Day 6
Walked up to Thundergasm with James, Bente, and Maxim. Maxim and I were to do the entrance series down to about 100m, while the others would continue pass the Sphincter. The abseil was uneventful, but I struggled to prusik back up, as the rope wasn't pulling through the chest ascender. It took me a while to figure out that it would help if I tucked the rope between my feet as I was ascending. I also made a note to tighten up my chest harness, and to make sure nothing was to the right of my chest ascender - as it was before it was moved around at the training cave the other day. Andy looked rather taken aback when I beamed, "That was my third caving trip!" I think he knew I was inexperienced, just not how inexperienced!

Day 7
Ostensibly a rest day, but last night in a moment of weakness at the bar I was convinced by Paul and Oscar that I should carry 150m worth of rope for them to the WUG entrance, followed by a lovely walk at my own pace back to the Wiesberghaus.

Day 8
Prospecting near Ectoplasm with Petie - Josh and Paul were also prospecting, but on the other side of the valley, with a bit more success than me and Petie. Petie dropped a couple of holes that didn't go. I further confirmed how much I despise scree.

Day 9
Went down Ectoplasm with Petie, James, and Janka. After Death By Ice and Death By Rock, we started into a tight meander where Petie turned around to me and said, "Don't feel that you have to come through - This is probably too technical for a beginner." I respect experience, so I agreed to sit one out. I waited for a bit before deciding that I was getting a bit cold, so I headed back to the entrance. My SRT kit worked much better than before, so the adjustments worked.

Day 10
Rest day. Andy and I went through some first aid relics left in the Pigpen. Impressively, there were a few items that expired before some of the expedition members were even born! I was particularly impressed by the items that were manufactured in 1989 and expired in 2004. I felt like Indiana Jones investigating ancient artifacts - it even had the dust!

Day 11
Went to check out a few old leads that still appear green on the map, this time with Andreas, Alex, and Jo. Got to practice some bolting, which was nice. I dropped down a hole called C-8/Scheekluft but it didn't go. I then went down a cave called Rolling Stones, that was first visited in 2014. The initial plan was to enter it with Andreas, but as he couldn't fit through the squeeze at the entrance, I entered alone with a handline to boost my confidence. True to its name, the floor was a collection of loose rocks of various sizes upon which I slid and climbed down. I found a bolt to which I installed a hanger and tied a rebelay to help with rope rub. At about 20-25 m down there was a tight meander that I started to enter. I could see that there was another drop at the end of the meander, but decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and retreated back to the surface.

Day 12
Went on a tourist trip to Tiergarten with Alex, Alicja, Aimee, and Josh. It was a pitch down the doline, then a short pitch slipping and sliding down an icefall. It was a short yet very pretty cave - easily the prettiest one I've seen so far on this trip. We spent a bit of time faffing on the ice to take photos before heading back up the hill to the Camelot.

Day 13
Went prospecting near Simonyhutte with Andy and Jo. More bolting and rigging practice - dropped into three holes of 8m, 12m, and 10m respectively, but none of them led to anything. Stopped for beverages at Simonyhutte before heading back down to Camelot.

Day 14
Pushing Rolling Stones with Chloe, Aimee, and Ethan. Aimee and Chloe put up a Y-hang over a rift at the end of the meander. It still goes.

Day 15
Pushing Rolling Stones with Chloe, with Ethan and Jo surveying. We went down the pitch over the rift, which was quite awkward to get through, and could see that the caved branched into an undescended left-hand pitch that looked tight, and comfortable right-hand pitch. I bolted a Y-hang then went down the right hand pitch, which again branched into two. The larger one was boulder-choked, but Chloe managed to squeeze into the second one, which was extremely tight, but she reported that it still goes. We made our way back out, but I got gassed out trying to climb up the rift and into the meander. It didn't help that my beard got caught in my cowstails. Thankfully, Ethan kindly agreed to derig for me, allowing me to exit the cave unencumbered.

Day 16
Headed down the hill with Vlad and Andreas. Andreas' mum kindly gave me and Vlad a lift to Obertraun, where I managed to grab some breakfast and a coffee before the long slog of train, bus, train, train, and plane back to London. Top tip: Try and avoid travelling in London on Carnival weekend while there is a soldout Pro Wrestling event at Wembley.

All in all, I had a great time, and I think I learned a lot. I do hope that I'll be able to go caving more, and maybe, if the stars align, head back to Dachstein next year.
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Well after arriving home just after midnight yesterday, I can give some overall summary of how everything went...
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(Photo credit Paul McCarron)

Firstly, thanks to our various sponsors who help up keep the prices down for new/young cavers:
UKCaving for 200m of 9mm Spanset rope (as well as various other ropes in the past which can still be found in Pigpen and rigged in WUG Pot).
Kordas via Eurospeleo Projects for 200m of 10mm Kordas rope
Ghar Parau for £500 funding plus two £100 Alex Pitcher awards (as well as helping fund our half of the Dachstein-Cambridge Cavelink set).

We had a good mixture of experienced cavers and cavers new to expeditions this year. We are grateful for two £100 Alex Pitcher awards from Ghar Parau for new young expedition cavers, and the expedition gave a further cavers (who were eligible for the Alex Pitcher awards but we could only submit two applications) a further £50 discount on top of the standard U25 £50 discount. We had four cavers from EUSS and a number of young cavers from Ireland/Northern Ireland; it would be great to see new cavers from other UK and Irish clubs next year.

In the first week, most people focused on Ectoplasm and the surrounding area, approximately a two hour walk up the hill. Admittedly this commute began to take its toll on people (at least on my knees) after a bit, but with Ectoplasm creating more and more leads as it was pushed, people kept coming back. The theme of cave, sadly, remained 'small meander' rather than 'massive pitch series' but with a strong draught, still worth pushing. The nearby cave of Todestrichter ('death funnel') was also discovered nearby by Bratchley, which is a big shaft with a strong draught full of ice and frozen boulders (hence the name), so big vertical development does exist up in this area...

A brief visit was made to Thundergasm, last visited in 2019 where it was declared 'probably dead'. This was mostly for practice for some newer cavers (as the first 100m are relatively pleasant) but also to confirm it as 'dead' allowing derigging. However, Bratchley had other ideas and after passing an awkward squeeze at the current 'end' at 200m deep dropped a small pitch and declared it still going, if now quite hard work. With lots of easier leads/caves ongoing (and higher entrances), this has been left on life support for now.

Petie Barry pushed Spezialeshöhle (spelling probably incorrect) to an end in a choked floor; the cave was surveyed and derigged. Lots of survey work was done in Ectoplasm which is a complicated cave; a voice connection to another entrance on the surface means there is still more to do here.

While this was going on, the dynamic duo of Alex and Oscar were pushing (as described above) what was hoped to be a bypass to large parts of WUG but unfortunately didn't go. Their efforts were next turned to completing the Forbidden Aven climb which they started last year, but here technical problems stopped progress just a couple of metres from the top. They'll be back next year! The spent the rest of their three-night camping trip inventorying the camp and searching for potential new camp locations near Austrian Airspace at the 'end' of the cave where the connection to the Hirlatzhöhle was made.

As we moved into the second half of the expedition, there were more trips into WUG either for tourist trips for some new cavers to get a bit of depth experience before they left, or to clean up old rope. There was a short camping trip to explore Passage No. 33 at the end of Uphill Gardeners, which was last pushed in 2019 (thanks to Covid). Open walking passage was surveyed until it was intercepted by a pitch. Probably the passage continues upwards, requiring a bolt traverse and possibly some bolt climbing, but can also be explored downwards.

Prospecting continued, including a little nearer to the Simonyhütte (which allows for easier access to tea and medals) including a new cave Goblinhöhle, which is ongoing. There are plenty of other interesting holes in this area which has not previously been prospected in detail as far as we know.

Overall the weather was great (if anything, a little _too_ hot) for most of the exped, with just a pair of wet days at the end of the trip. A bounce trip to a decorated section of Uphill Gardeners was squeezed in after this wet weather. Stalagmites were located, assessed and photographed by a cave scientist for their potential use in paleoclimatology research. The option then exists, following gaining all the relevant permissions, to sample some of these stalagmites and bring them out of the cave. Formations are relatively rare in WUG and appear to be confined to the main inlets (Uphill Gardeners and PL2 Inlet) so these stalagmites may be valuable scientifically.

Finally, against all odds a new pitch series was discovered in WUG right at the entrance only one rebelay down and in sight of daylight! Probably a hundred cavers over the last ten years or so have passed within ten metres or so of this new pitch series, dubbed the 'Parallel Universe', which has also been missed on both the original and resurvey. Just goes to show that stuff can always lurk concealed around a corner... This was pushed to around 40m deep and ongoing and larger than the current WUG entrance series, so there are high hopes that it will bypass some of the existing series and the awkward 'tight pitch-head'. We do seem to have a habit of discovering something interesting right at the end of expeditions, which is always good for bringing people back for more!

Apologies for all the stuff I have forgotten...

We are very grateful to the Wiesberghaus mountain hut for continuing to host us. They also generously cooked us a dinner one night and made us a large tray of cake later in the trip :) This year we had both Camelot and the winter room to use; next year we should have all the same access we had this year (although beyond that is less certain) which limits us to around 20-25 people at once (depending how much we want to play sardines). So if you want to come next year, sign up quick once we open signup next year :)

Our provisional dates for next year are Sunday 18th August to Saturday 7th September - put it in your diaries now ;)

Plans for next year are to complete the Forbidden Aven climb, drop the Parallel Universe, continue some WUG re-rigging (depending how the Parallel Universe goes, of course), push Passage No 33. further by bolt climbing and rigging downwards, continue in Ectoplasm and other high entrances, and set up a second camp probably in Exploration Fever in WUG for a long mid-exped camping to push leads in Austrian Airspace near the current connection to the rest of the Hirlatz (plus plenty of other little projects).
 
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andrewmcleod

Well-known member
That was a lot of words and no pictures... so here's two pictures instead.

It's important to keep clean on expedition (even when you are at a remote mountain hut where the showers are not generally available). Fortunately our expedition is fully equipped for this purpose :)

shower_photo.jpg


bath_photo.jpg


Warm water in both cases (albeit not _super_ warm in the bath).
 

pmccarron97

Member
Now that the first week of work has been completed since returning from expedition, I thought best to note done some excerpts from my time on the expedition this year.

My main goal associated with the expedition before even leaving Northern Ireland this year was prospecting. There were a few possible entrances that Emily Punzalan, JP Wallace, Adam Prior and Nadia Raeburn-Cherradi had prospected around in 2019 that I really wanted to revisit. Additionally, with the exploration of the higher area on the Wildkart walk (650) past the Simonyhütte in 2022 and the lack of prospecting in this area in previous years - I really wanted to dig my teeth into dropping some pitches to find out where they went too.

Following on from my previous post - there was definitely alot achieved during these 2.5 weeks on the plateau. After getting the entrance series sorted out in WUG - I quickly turned my attention to a day of prospecting. Managing to rally a group of experienced and fresh faces, Josh, Annas, James and myself set out on some exploration above WUG to see if I could find these holes that I had dreamed of in the weeks leading up to the expedition.

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James taking in the sights of the Plateau (credit: James Colville)

Tackling the mountain of scree that lay in our horizon, we shortly arrived at approximately 2100/2150m altitude, beginning the search for these mysterious holes. Pondering over the location whilst trying to also decipher the GPS location from an extremely broken version of ViewRanger (which has been discontinued since 2022?) we eventually cave across a number of entrances before I realized the locations saved didn't match where I was standing and that we had found plenty of new shafts! These are all marked up on our mapping solution that we are using this year for the expedition. The most promising one looks to have a recently melted snow plug with a possible sloping shaft that seems to go for about 25-30m before we can't see anymore (below image). Unfortunately having been unsuccessful in the initial search, we had a group huddle and decided to explore even higher up and see if when we've gained the height we could contour around the ridges to end up on the path back to the Wiesberghaus from the Simonyhütte.

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The promising shaft found initially by Josh Bratchley
(credit: Paul McCarron)
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Another interesting shaft found by James - unfortunately due to the open nature of this rift, it was easily filled with scree and thus plugged at the bottom, bummer!
(credit: Paul McCarron)

Pushing further and further across the Plateau, and with us plotting a serious number of entrances (nearly 40) to possible shafts or caves to drop - Josh decided to check out an alcove atop of a super duper fun scree slope, whilst James and myself checked out another promising lead, which sadly on further detailed inspection (dropping an absolutely massive boulder into the shaft) quickly realized it sadly crapped out. It was at this time we started to pay slightly more attention to the ominous collection of dark clouds about our heads, so a pact was made to only log entrances or possible holes with photos into the database, and the last hole we found on the path we would drop.

IMG_4657.jpg

It's like where's Waldo, except its where Josh in the scree (Credit: Paul McCarron)

Alas, distant cries could be heard from Josh as he proclaimed "Höhle" in the distance - it would be the one to drop and unfortunately the one to crap out after a ~7m pitch and a ~3m crawl atop a snow plug. Bummer! At this time the mist had really started to drop down and presented poor visibility issues. Knowing how crap it can be to navigate with extremely poor visibility, I quickly sent James to route out a way down to the path. Fortunately for him, this was quickly found due to his agility of leaving his heavy rucksack with us. Unfortunately for us, James had nievely left us behind with his bag, so it meant between Josh, Annas and myself - we had to carry it over to him. We eventually made it back to Camelot, mostly in one piece. By this, some of us had picked up the odd scree tattoo, but unfortunately for James, after two days on the mountain his shoes acquired second hand from an auction had failed him miserably. Of course we stopped for some beer at the Simonyhütte.

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"Shaft Bashing" by Josh Bratchley (Credit: Paul McCarron)
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A Shoe Misfortune (Credit: Paul McCarron)

Just an aside;
Many thanks to our sponsors for providing rope to assist with our exploration. It was fantastic to have plenty of resources to enable us to drop everything that we wanted to during our three weeks on the mountain! Massive thanks once again. Enjoy this picture of our amazing rope washing volunteers - Alex Ried and Janka Van Der Merwe;

IMG_4788.jpg

The clean up crew (Credit: Paul McCarron)
Whilst Andy, Josh, James, Annas, Bente and Max making the decision to jump into Thundergasm to experience the Sphinchter, I had to turn my attention to cavelink - the perfect excuse for a short rest.

It is extremely vital that the Dachstein Caving Expedition has a set of fully functional cavelinks that can be utilised to communicate from the surface to WUG Camp and visa-versa. The Dachstein Caving Expedition is extremely thankful to the Ghar Parau Foundation for helping to support both the Cambridge University Expo and the Dachstein Caving Expedition purchase a set of Cavelink units between ourselves. Unfortunately, when the units were handed over to ourselves, lots of items were left in a dirty state and pieces were missing and time needed to be dedicated to get them into working order again. So my task for this day was to inspect the units, clean, reconfigure and test all methods of communication (surface to camp units, camp to surface, gsm to camp etc). After a few hours of fettling and much swearing - we finally had a fully functional set of units - Surface (14) and Dachstein (01) cavelinks - perfectly in time for Oscar and Alex's camping trip the next day. Thanks to Bente and Andrew for setting up the Surface Cavelink the next day.

IMG_4771.jpg

Cavelink Fettling (Credit Paul McCarron)
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Andrew pondering over the location Cavelink GSM Antenna (Credit Bente Hollestelle)
 

pmccarron97

Member
Moving onto the next day then;

I decided to head back up the mountain on the arduous climb to see what all the craze for Ectoplasm (Ektoplasm? it was spelt so many different ways!) was about, but also to strategically place my equipment as far up the mountain as I could to assist with my prospecting plans for the following days. Grouping together with Andreas and Janka, whilst Vlad went with Wolfo - we headed up the mountain slowly, making sure to not ruin any more shoes, nor pick up the latest scree tattoo. Unfortunately for myself in the days prior - I, in true Northern Irish form managed to bake my skin to a complete crisp. As a result, I was the latest shade of red and was handed a lovely plaid shirt thanks to Janka, allowing me to live out my role play as Hammond in Jurassic Park;

“Welcome to Jurassic Park”
IMG_4842.jpg

Making a complete fool of myself as usual (Credit: Janka Van Der Merwe)

Or as some might have said, I looked like a Geology teacher from the 1970’s. At least the shirt managed to keep me from becoming the latest ripe tomato off the vine. Eventually after nearly 2hours we arrived at the cave, got changed and headed into Ectoplasm. Ectoplasm itself is a small opening (or what used to be very small till Wolfo blew it to pieces) with a very strong cold draft, perched at about ~2270m altitude. It starts off with a short crawl into what is named the changing room – a master bedroom sized chamber with plenty of standing height, with drippy room and rocky floor – the perfect gear stash. Our task was to push a number of leads that had yet to be rigged. So with my trusty new drill in hand, I set off with Andreas and Janka behind me to set a new traverse line in place before arriving at a pitch head. Sampling the rock (which was pretty good) I noticed a large boulder hanging free at the top of the pitch, which I decided to hit with the hammer hoping to dislodge to ensure safety whilst on the pitch itself. A few hits in and the boulder was nearly released, however with the final swing the boulder dropped but the hammer was no-where to be seen in my hand. It seemed I had assumed momentarily that I had indeed become thor and thought the hammer would simply return. Alas, it did not and so after drilling two holes for the Y-hang, a trusty rock became my new and improved bolting hammer. Dropping the pitch carefully, I was excited to see where this could take us in the cave. Unfortunately within a meter I spotted a red rope and after shouting back up to Andreas, confirmed that I had landed in what was termed “Death by Ice”. So, all that was left to do was head back up the pitch after retrieving Thor’s hammer, pass the drill the Janka and head deeper into the cave. Through the first meander I realised the dust from the drill had me parched to I headed back to the changing room where we had left our misc supplies whilst Andreas and Janka headed towards the tight rift.


I wish now I hadn’t popped out momentarily, as apparently according to Andreas, Janka learned how to swear before they both aborted this plan as the rift became impassable for both. Regrouping we headed down to see how the other team had got on with their capping, after hotboxing us above with gunpowder and sulphur from below. In the interim however, some of the rigging needed to be adjusted, so it was the perfect time for Janka to be taught how to place a few bolts here and there. Midway through this task, Wolfo shouts up to Janka asking if she liked “tight shit” so off Janka and Andreas scuttled to check out what this was all about, whilst I was left to finish off the rigging. It seemed they were indeed successful in widening the passage below to everyone's joy, however they had ran out of batteries and caps and so with all avenues explored at this point, we all retreated from the cave to find Jo and Josh at the entrance after spending the day scouring the area for caves, and caves they did find.

With prospecting in this area now getting exciting, two teams were put together for the next day to push these leads that Jo and Josh had found the previous day. Team one would be Petie and Annas, whilst team 2 would be Josh and myself. With three caves each, we set off to explore. Team one’s first cave seemed promising as we communicated over the radios compared to our first – which crapped out after a ~8m pitch and a ~5m crawl. Similarly our second cave need not be explored as on further inspection it crapped out almost instantly. But then came the third cave.

IMG_20230819_134942.jpg

Bolting Cave 1 for the day (Credit: Josh Bratchley)

After rigging the first, I handed the drill over to Josh to explore what he deemed to be, “the most promising entrance of them all.” What initially started as a traverse quickly changed to a downward direction. After Josh took his time to rig the first and second rebelay, he called me down into the cave to have a look. The approach is a half-melted snow plug with the traverse line positioning you into the snow. After the first rebelay, I landed on a small ledge to find Josh sitting on the anchors to the second rebelay before giving me a stern warning to not touch anything. Flicking the headlight to a brighter setting, I took a quick look around – a large black pit surrounded by death at every corner – icicles, snow, unmelted glacier and unstable floors and walls. Josh pointed once again to the black void below him and keeping quite, he threw a large boulder down… one… two…three……. Fourteen seconds later it came to a stop. Looking at each other in awe, and bluring out a soft giggle we wondered what the hell we had found. With time running short and with less than 20metres of rope used, we decided to come out and grab more equipment to push this cave the following day.

IMG_4902.jpg

Josh timing the boulder drops (Credit: Paul McCarron)

What had we found… a question that can only be answered by further exploration!
 

Leclused

Active member
Very good write-up indeed. But perhaps one small remark. When prospecting the usage of a standard prospection sheet is very handy for post processing.

Hereby an example of a filled in prospecting sheet that we use on our expedition (Anialarra)

propecting sheet.jpg
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
We did have prospecting forms in the past, although the rate of getting people to fill them out was not so great...

Probably I should have written up our prospecting method a bit more in the report. We have a database of known cave locations (there are many hundreds if not thousands). Previously we were using ViewRanger so that people could see the points on their phone as they were prospecting. Since ViewRanger has become problematic (I still have it on my phone, but you can't easily get it on new phones) we had to find a new solution and (shortly before the exped) someone found MerginMaps. This lets you have offline mapping with a variety of map layers, so you can see both the terrain and the cave locations while out of signal, but it also lets you record new points (and access routes etc.). You can mark a point at your current location and then add a description and entrance photos. It doesn't do surveys which is a limitation but you could just take a photo of a sketch, I guess?

Once you get back to signal, you can then push your updates out to the 'cloud' and other people can then pull them in (possibly pending approval). To be honest, you get signal over most of the mountain anyway...

Quite a lot of our prospecting is just 'purposeful wandering' without necessarily dropping any holes; since almost all the entrances need vertical gear to check out this people often have a look at the 'open' points on the map to look where to go check out (and generally kill off) open entrances. We have a coding system for holes which is something like: on-going, snow-plugged, needs digging (unlikely to happen unless very close to the hut!), unknown, finished. These are colour-coded on the map view so you can see what's worth a look (in conjunction with the description). A lot of our points are old and lacking good description so worth revisiting; anything snow-plugged and not visited recently is also worth a look to see if the snow has retreated (climate change).

For map layers we have an online (slightly more detailed) and offline map of the terrain, then the map of cave points. We also have the (line) survey of the Hirlatz so you can see where this is running under the hillside (albeit typically 500m+ below you). You can add extra layers to the server and show/hide them on the app as you see fit (it's all based on GIS stuff I think).

You can then export the MerginMaps results that have been collected over the exped to other sources. Next year we should have a bit more time to play with it; it worked very well last year but with more time we can do more training etc. We did have a few issues with permissions and certain devices not playing but hopefully those should be resolved/resolvable next year.

Just having a GPS map on everyone's phones with the terrain, paths and cave locations is massively helpful in terms of people heading off and prospecting; I don't think we've had anyone get lost in the time I've been on the exped (except possibly coming up the hill which is a marked trail to the mountain hut).
 

Leclused

Active member
We did have prospecting forms in the past, although the rate of getting people to fill them out was not so great...

Probably I should have written up our prospecting method a bit more in the report. We have a database of known cave locations (there are many hundreds if not thousands). Previously we were using ViewRanger so that people could see the points on their phone as they were prospecting. Since ViewRanger has become problematic (I still have it on my phone, but you can't easily get it on new phones) we had to find a new solution and (shortly before the exped) someone found MerginMaps. This lets you have offline mapping with a variety of map layers, so you can see both the terrain and the cave locations while out of signal, but it also lets you record new points (and access routes etc.). You can mark a point at your current location and then add a description and entrance photos. It doesn't do surveys which is a limitation but you could just take a photo of a sketch, I guess?

Once you get back to signal, you can then push your updates out to the 'cloud' and other people can then pull them in (possibly pending approval). To be honest, you get signal over most of the mountain anyway...

Quite a lot of our prospecting is just 'purposeful wandering' without necessarily dropping any holes; since almost all the entrances need vertical gear to check out this people often have a look at the 'open' points on the map to look where to go check out (and generally kill off) open entrances. We have a coding system for holes which is something like: on-going, snow-plugged, needs digging (unlikely to happen unless very close to the hut!), unknown, finished. These are colour-coded on the map view so you can see what's worth a look (in conjunction with the description). A lot of our points are old and lacking good description so worth revisiting; anything snow-plugged and not visited recently is also worth a look to see if the snow has retreated (climate change).

For map layers we have an online (slightly more detailed) and offline map of the terrain, then the map of cave points. We also have the (line) survey of the Hirlatz so you can see where this is running under the hillside (albeit typically 500m+ below you). You can add extra layers to the server and show/hide them on the app as you see fit (it's all based on GIS stuff I think).

You can then export the MerginMaps results that have been collected over the exped to other sources. Next year we should have a bit more time to play with it; it worked very well last year but with more time we can do more training etc. We did have a few issues with permissions and certain devices not playing but hopefully those should be resolved/resolvable next year.

Just having a GPS map on everyone's phones with the terrain, paths and cave locations is massively helpful in terms of people heading off and prospecting; I don't think we've had anyone get lost in the time I've been on the exped (except possibly coming up the hill which is a marked trail to the mountain hut).
This explanation tells a much better story. Thanks for the clarification.
 
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