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Dachstein Expedition 2022

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
The Dachstein caving expedition returns! The last expedition was in 2019, with Covid stopping both the 2020 and 2021 expeditions.

We have now set the exped fee for 2022 at £150 (£100 for students) and are taking now taking signups on this Google sheet (payment details on the sheet):

[Send PM for the link]

The Wiesberghaus is now charging €13/night (not included in your exped fee, includes €2 of Hallstatt city tax).

Due to lots of things getting more expensive (plus three years of inflation), a probably smaller number of people attending (increasing the price per person) and a need to buy quite a lot of kit this year, unfortunately the exped fee has had to increase quite a bit compared to 2019. However, we are not charging the daily food charge (previously €1.50 per day) and we are giving a student discount which keeps the student rate similar to last year (once the food charge is accounted for).

Since the exped is nearly upon us, there is no early payment discount but there is limited room in the Wiesberghaus and your place is not guaranteed until you pay. Plus if you don't pay we can't buy any equipment for you to use on the exped!

In terms of objectives we are putting a significant focus on prospecting this year, with at least one exped member dedicated to organizing the prospecting trips. Many caves which were historically snow-plugged may now be opening due to climate change, and at least some areas of the Alps had poor snow this year. This is a fantastic opportunity for cavers with limited expedition experience to find new vertical caves and learn to rig and survey them.

We will also be undertaking some re-rigging of WUG Pot prior to starting on a list of identified objectives there which will keep us going for several years (No 33 Passage, survey bottom of the 110 and the camp water pitch, Time Bandit, Forbidden Aven, Deeper Impact pitch, Showadiwadiland, Austrian Airspace etc).

Finally, while Covid has mostly settled down in the UK (for now) it is likely we will want everyone to take a lateral flow test either before they come to Austria or at least before they enter the hut. Obviously it will be a lot easier if you take one before you travel, because getting to Austria and then having to isolate will suck...
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
There's still time to come on the Dachstein expedition! If you've no experience of expedition caving or big SRT trips at all, then come along and we'll get you prospecting for new caves and get you down the big caves soon enough (although I can't promise we won't make you carry a few rope bags :) )

If you're more experienced, then we have some important rerigging to do in our main deep cave (WUG Pot) but then we have a range of objectives and open leads identified in that cave and other smaller caves (plus, of course, prospecting for the next big deep cave or a higher entrance to the Hirlatz).

We are expecting fewer people than previous years (a number of regulars aren't able to make it due to jobs or not being able to get leave or transport), so a better opportunity for new cavers to get new skills and get deep :)
 

pmccarron97

New member
Sunday 14th August 2022

The Dachstein Caving Expedition is back following its hiatus due to the various rolling pandemic restrictions that have hit us over the last couple of years. What can I say, it is great to be back.

With everyone having a mix of travel arrangements, it was decided for everyone to meet on Sunday evening at the local caving club’s hut in Obertraun. With the clock striking 5pm, and after fighting our way through the many traffic jams on the Autobahn between München and Salzburg (thanks to Axel for letting me drive through all the fun traffic jams, whilst he got the smooth & clear roads), we finally arrived to find Alice chilling outside with her large bag, optimistic of the weeks that were ahead of us. Finally everyone else started to arrive shortly thereafter and we headed down to the local pizzeria for some pre-expedition grub, where many expedition plans were discussed over some beers and fine Austrian cuisine.

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It was here the 8am start was agreed such that we’d be able to start loading the Seilbahn up to the Wiesberghaus with all of our equipment.

That is one of the big perks of the Dachstein Caving Expedition, all of your equipment can be ferried up the mountain on the fantastic cable car, sadly you still need to make the trek up the mountain with your own two feet.

This is my second year on the expedition, but if you are interested to see what I got up to on the previous expedition ran before Covid, check out my website write-up here: https://www.paulmccarron.net/blog/caving/2019-dachstein/

Keep er’ lit.
Paul
 

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pmccarron97

New member
Monday 15th August 2022

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Rudely awoken by an early alarm on someones phone in the bunk room, we kicked off what would be an extremely productive day of tasks to be completed involving; the usual expedition kit sorting faff, the stunning hike up to the Wiesberghaus from Hallstatt that never disappoints, sorting out our base in Camelot (sorting water, equipment, tidying and cleaning) and soaking over 800m of brand new shiny rope that we’ll be using throughout the next three weeks to push the many leads in the various cavings around the plateau.

It’s a small and efficient team of 10 in total this year over the three weeks so it’ll be great fun and lots to keep us all busy!!

Rumour had spread from previous years about my porridge making skillset - so it looked like i’ll be getting used to the many early starts involved to ensure everyone has full stomachs before setting off. This was accomplished before we packed all of our gear and food back into our vehicles and headed back over from Obertraun to Hallstatt to begin the slow process of loading it all into the Seilbahn.

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Since the last time we were in the Dachstein, the Wiesberghaus has attained a new extension to the Seilbahn, and as a result it now runs directly down to the old carpark, helping to make loading the equipment even more efficient. Sadly however, the new coffin is a similar size to the old one, and thus still requires a similar number of trips to the previous Seilbahn to stock up.

With the large volume of kit to be shuffled up, Andreas, Axel and Andrew stayed below to pack, whilst two teams began the beautiful scenic walk up the Wiesberghaus.

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The walk was great fun, and we even had a wonderful time foraging some wild blueberries, raspberries and delicious strawberries throughout. Words cannot do justice to this walk, so please enjoy some of the fantastic pictures taken by us during this walk.

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On arrival, all the loads had arrived and so the unloading began - again, please enjoy some of the pictures of us fettling with gear.

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This also involved a break midway through to enjoy some delicious Apfelstrudel und Kaiserschmarren at the Wiesberghaus - a short 1minute dander from basecamp at Camelot.

Finally to prepare ourselves for the weeks ahead, we got to work on soaking that aforementioned rope, starting with the first half (400m of 800m).

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The Dachstein Expedition is always open to those who have never been on an expedition before. It was my first and its the group is extremely welcoming to those who would like to go on their first.

Keep er’ lit,
Paul​
 

Oscar D

Active member
Tuesday 16th August 2022

After a bit of rough night sleep owing to the mice we seem to be sharing Camelot with this year - we awoke to a new and exciting day on the mountain.

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View from the kitchen window

Alex Ried and myself set off for WUG to rig the entrance pitch and go down to -120m to widen the ‘Narrow pitch head’. Paul McCarron, Andreas Klocker and Andrew McCleod rigged up the tarpaulin shelter next to the WUG entrance to keep kit dry. Jo White and Alice Ball scouted the entrance of Sprechen sie Welsh in preparation for a push trip the next day.

Alex and I made quick progress down WUG which was thankfully free from snow this year - the 2019 expedition taking 3 days of digging to open it up. We made swift progress down to the tight pitch head and began the widening operation. Alex started off on the rope on the other side of the tight section and we utilised some Hilti persuasion to remove a good amount of rock from either side. Working backwards we widening the approach to the pitch itself over the next few hours. On the way out we passed Axel, who was inspecting the tyrolean and placing new bolts.

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Alex and Oscar at the WUG entrance

The exped has gotten off to a fantastic start with a few days of clear weather and teams in WUG on day two of the exped - which must be a new Dachstein record. With many leads to push in WUG, it’s important to complete the re-rigging work first to pave the way for deep pushing trips both this year and in years to come.
 
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pmccarron97

New member
Wednesday 17th August 2022

Wednesday was full of jam packed action, with lots of projects to be completed within both WUG and on the pushing front as Spreche Sie Welsh.

Of course with the mist gently rolling across the hills, the softly sleeping cavers were all once again rudely awoken by our fan group hiding in the rafters above - the collection of edible door mice attempting to knawl their way out to jump all over us. Looks like they’ll be with us for the entirety of our exped.

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Andreas marking the dates on the lovely fresh rope.

With a small and efficient group of cavers this year, it is the perfect time to get WUG ready for lots of action on the pushing front both for this expedition this year and the following. With this in mind, two teams headed down into WUG to carry out this essential work.

One of the most important jobs to complete this exped in WUG was to re-rig the Tyrolean. After many years of use, it was starting to no longer be as tensions, but also there was a large flake of rock that, if you were not careful, you could significantly damage the rope. So, Axel, Andreas and myself headed into WUG to carry out this task, taking with us enough rope and metal work. As Axel and myself sorted the Tyrolean out, Andreas finished re-rigging the first couple of pitches in WUG.

Progress on the Tyrolean also was slow. Axel sent me across the old stretchy Tyrolean for the last time to sort out the side under the drippy, icey wall of hell - whilst Axel sorted out the side near the entrance. Once sorted out, we created a temporary tension so Andreas could cross and head down to Team 70 to check in on them and bring down additional ropes and hangers, but also to check in on them in case they wanted to have a team swap.

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Paul enjoying the icey and drippy wall on the other side of the tyrolean.

I headed back over to Axel to help tension the Tyrolean, with my trusty traxion helping to form the basis of a Z rig. A lot of faffing, pulling and whack - we eventually got the whole setup fully re-tensioned.

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Axel adjusts the tyrolean rigging.

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The Finalised Tyrolean

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Axel pops out of WUG

With this completed, we headed back to camelot to help cook the dinner.

Team 70 Re-rig joined us shortly afterwards and elsewhere on the plateau, the team dropping Sprechen Sie Welsh were having a fun and joyus time.

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Delicious dinner hand crafted by Jo.
 
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Oscar D

Active member
Wednesday 17th August 2022

At 10:00 we headed down into WUG to start the re-rigging from the tight pitch head down after our successful trip yesterday exploding the tight pitch head to make it the “less tight pitch head.”

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Alex drilling in the tight pitch head

Equipped with a large volume of rope as well as an assortment of metal work, drills and bolting equipment we headed down to replace the rope and change all of the mild steel and aluminium hangers to stainless. Progress slowed as most of the existing hangers weren’t keen to give up their post and the maillons weren’t very cooperative either. This coupled with the free hanging nature of the Y hangs slowed progress even more. A lot of time was spent drilling holes for new bolts to replace old ones too corroded or loose to be used as well as creating foot loops to make the traverses between the pitches easier.
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Alex tightening a bolt

Between the two of us we carefully removed a large 200kg+ flake from the top of one of the free hanging Y-hangs - upon inspection it was held on by a bit of mud and some hopes and dreams - we sent it to the bottom of the pitch with a big crash and a fair bit of shrapnel. The going got a bit easier as we landed next to the remains of the flake and were on solid ground yet again.

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Alex hammering a bolt home

We finished off the day by rigging a nice tight traverse line above the final pitch down to the top of the 70, leaving the rope and hangers so we could return the following day to bottom it and finish the job.
With time running short and our callout approaching, we decided to head out of WUG and back to Camelot - surfacing at about 21:00 and making our way back in the dark to a much appreciated dinner left for us by the other members of the team.
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Elsewhere on the Dachstein Plateau, the team dropping Spreche Sie Welsh - Andrew, Alice and Jo were having fun...

The aim for today was to revisit a cave first explored in 2017. It was a long and arduous slog in the belting sun from WUG, but eventually we arrived at the strongly draughting entrance. We soon realised, however, that our memory was of the cave was less than ideal, missing out some of the more important details.

The entrance itself is an awkward, loose, hole that you post yourself into feet-first and desperately scrabble for footholds as you emerge at the top of a fun meander which requires navigation through minor obstruction. This results in an enjoyably sliced oversuit, like a finely chopped onion, ending at the bottom with a pile of loose rock and lumps of ice.

Following this is a tight and awkward crawl round a corner, at which point a short free-climb down leads to the second pitch and a significant enlargement of the cave. Pitches lead down to a resumption of the meander.

We decided to rig ropes down to this point, but unfortunately ran out of metalwork so had to bail out. We will have to return!!

Once we reached the surface, we taught Alice to bolt and put an additional bolt in on the surface of the cave to protect the entrance drop, before heading back down to camelot via the 651 path.
 

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JoW

Member
We're now at the mid-point of the expedition and people are starting to think about having a shower and washing their clothes...

We've had some highs and lows so far. We had a spell of rainy weather which delayed plans, but 5 people have been 600m down in camp since Sunday/Monday pushing some underground leads. They're due to come out of the cave tomorrow ahead of some weekend thunderstorms. After some trouble getting hold of a SIM card, today we also installed the surface Cavelink so we can now send weather forecasts and abuse down to camp.
 

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AliceBall

New member
I've returned to the UK after 8 nights on the Dachstein expedition. Despite some poor weather, we managed to fit plenty into the 8 short days I was there (and I wish I had stayed for longer!): prospecting in the breathtakingly beautiful Austrian Alps, exploring Sprechen Sie Welsh, a trip down WUG - which has been excellently re-rigged by the WUG teams, and hiking up high near the glacier in the vicinity of Simmonyhuette, to bolt some of the many unexplored holes up there.

It was an excellent expedition, accompanied by a fantastic group of people with varying levels of experience, and all with awesome stories of past caving adventures. This is only my second expedition, and most of my experience has been with horizontal rather than vertical caving. I was nevertheless supported by the rest of the team, who provided patient training and excellent opportunities for a relative SRT novice like myself to explore and learn. Thank you especially to Andrew and Jo for their conscientious and attentive organisation and training!

I look forward to returning to Dachstein on future expeditions. There's so much potential in this beautiful landscape pockmarked everywhere with new and exciting leads. I hope the others have an amazing last few weeks on the expedition - I'm currently feeling a monumental amount of FOMO sitting back in the UK! - and I look forward to seeing them all next year. I would recommend this expedition to all - the people are awesome, the hut is comfortable, the bar is close, Jo is a wizard in the kitchen, and there truly are multiple varied opportunities for cavers of all abilities.
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Unlike the camps of some expeditions this summer, our 1000l water tanks are fully stocked.

Unfortunately, this is because it has been raining - a lot. The dry early weather passed into a long weekend of rain. A proposed four day underground camp then became a three day camp. Now, the weather has changed to being mostly sunny but with erratic thunderstorms, which does make things difficult!

Hopefully there is still time for one more camp - in addition to the other leads there is still open unsurveyed walking passage down there!
 

Oscar D

Active member
Monday 22nd August 2022

After having to bail early on Thursday's rigging trip and having been confined to surface duties for the weekend by the rain - we were desperate to get back underground. A three day camp trip was planned so that Alex and I could attempt to climb 'Forbidden Aven' at the upstream end of the cave and hopefully have time left over to check out a few leads near to camp as well. We had attempted to descend the entrance series on Sunday evening, but had been stopped at the 70 by a flood pulse hitting the bottom of the pitch. Despite waiting for an hour at the pitch head for the water to recede, we were eventually forced to leave our bags and retreat along with the other camp team - consisting of Axel, Paul and Andreas.

So it was at 11am on Monday - the two of us set off up the hill towards the WUG entrance hoping that the weather window would hold and that this time would be the one. The other team, having less faith in the weather window opted to leave on Tuesday morning instead. After kitting up for what felt like the 100th time, we set off down the entrance pitches, making swift progress since our bags were some 200 metres below us already. Soon we reached our kit and I began re-rigging the bottom of the 70 whilst Alex kept himself busy with a spot of landscaping at the rescue dump.

A couple hours of wrestling rusty maillons later, we were on our way down again, I was both excited and nervous to see what lay below the 70 as I'd never been below it before. We made quick progress down the 110 (The 70's big brother) and then slightly less quick progress through the drier but much muddier 'Fossil Series'. It was here that the rigging starts to get a real expedition feel to it and I was very glad that I'd left my usual steel oval at home in favour of a Raumer Handy. After that followed 'The Meander' which is pretty much what it says on the tin and a right pain in the arse, especially with a 45L tackle bag. Then came 'Wet Canyon' which was nothing to write home about though I expect the story is different when it rains. At about 8/9 o'clock we made it to the top of the 'Final pitches' a few short pitches and a right bitch of tensioned traverse line and we were finally in the Hirlatz proper.

Here the cave changes dramatically from steep SRT in mostly clean washed passage to large phreatic tunnels with boulder floors that are oftentimes covered in inches deep sticky mud - picture some unholy lovechild of Derbyshire and South Wales. Now very thankful that I could put my tackle bag on my back, Alex and I made our way along the tunnel - depositing the 60m of 8mm rope and the bolt climbing kit at the 'Left Fork' a junction to the upstream passages and then down the Notorious 'Deep Sludge' a ~100m boulder slope absolutely caked in the sort of awful mud described earlier. At the bottom of this lovely piece of esoteric suffering - is an orange reflective marker that marks the way under a wall at the side of the passage and into camp. After de-mudding ourselves and dumping our bags, I got busy fetching water from down the water pitch (A delightfully squalid quest, usually bestowed upon the youngest member of the party) whilst Alex pulled out the sleeping bags from their dry bag cocoons and set up the cooking area so we could make dinner. It was then after a feast of noodles and instant coffee that we retired to our beds - eager for the day of bolt climbing that lay ahead.
 
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