Dachstein Expedition 2022

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Time for a slightly late trip report...

While all the other summer expeds have had lots of dry weather, the defining feature of our expedition so far has been rain. So on the 27th August we again found ourselves with a dubious forecast which ruled out a WUG trip. So instead we headed for the 'bombproof' option of PL2.

Dachstein fans will know this is a cave first explored by very hard Polish explorers a long time ago, ending about 600m down in an enormous chamber. The chamber has not been visited since, although the upper parts were rigged about a decade ago.

This trip was only to a large chamber at about -250m; a relatively pleasant tourist trip before the real miserable stuff commences. Dachstein veteran Axel was leading the trip but hadn't been down the cave since 2012.

At some point, getting back to the bottom of PL2 is an exped objective, particularly as well now know PL2 Passage in WUG Pot (with its strong draught) is within 20m or so of the PL2 chamber... But that's a task for another year when we have more exped members and better weather.

For now, we headed up the mountain and down the entrance. The cave was draughting in, so you didn't get the instant chill you get going into a lot of Dachstein caves. After a few little wiggles through blocks (on rope), the open pitches begin and you go down, down, down.

Most of PL2 to -250m is fairly easy going (for an Alpine cave). You do hit a meander before too long, climbing up a pitch into it and wiggling along at various levels, but nothing is too horrific (that apparently comes later...). There are of course plenty of places where you have to be careful to avoid rope rub and loose rock - it's still a grown-up cave - but it was a fun trip :)

As we were passing through the meander, Axel spotted the Pixa 3 he had lost off his helmet on his last trip in 2012. Amazingly, it still worked! (although the 'low battery' light did come on straight away).

Eventually you reach the final pitches into the massive chamber at -250m (but still much smaller than the promised chamber at about -600m). Just before the approximately 40m of pitches into this chamber, I spotted a knife situated precariously on a ledge... Not having anywhere to stash it, I then abseiled down the pitch (including passing a rebelay) with a knife in my teeth like some kind of pirate... Axel reckoned that the knife was probably from the Polish explorers (we left it in the cave).

This was our turn-around point, so we stopped for some snacks and Axel set up a few photos.

The way back was fairly uneventful - at first. After passing back through the meander you drop down, cross the floor of the chamber and prussik up the other side. On the way in, there was a small flow of water into the meander, but now exped newbie Chris could see that the flow was increasing rapidly.

Following instructions from Axel, we donned our gimp macs (cheap waterproofs) and Axel assessed the situation. Unbeknownst to us, a moderate amount of rain was falling outside, and various waterfalls were appearing in the cave. However, it was mostly still just dribbly pitches rather than strong flows, so we began cautiously prussiking up and out.

This was the first time I had used my gimp mac in real anger, and I could tell it made a massive difference. None of the pitches were super wet, but with the water at 2 or 3 degrees Celsius you didn't really want to get soaked. The wettest pitch was probably the one near to the entrance where you have to wriggle up through boulders at the top of the pitch, but by the time I got to it (at the back) the water levels already seemed to be diminishing.

Eventually we all emerged into the evening mist, somewhat damp, but with the rain stopped. We headed back down to the WUG tarp to drop off gear and then plodded back to Camelot (our hut) for food :)

Hopefully next year we will have enough people to push PL2 back down to the bottom and look for leads back into WUG, which would add about 60m to the height of the Hirlatz and push it further up the rankings of deepest caves :)
 

JoW

Member
The last day of the exped, and we managed to squeeze in one last day of caving. We decided to revisit a cave we found earlier in the week, when we didn't have enough gear with us to explore - Ectoplasm cave.

So, we hefted our rucksacks full of gear up the hill, it was a bit of slog, but the cave still goes! So we have to go back next year now 😉. We also found a few other caves around the same altitude, an area which hasn't seen a lot of prospecting activity previously, and has some exciting phreatic tubes, calcite veins, 'levitating' ice and green slime!

Here we are, after 3 weeks of Exped, tired, aching, dirty, looking forward to clean clothes and a real shower, but happy and excited for next time :)
 

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Fulk

Well-known member
Well, I've enjoyed reading your reports, with a certain sort of nostalgic envy, what with my being 'too old for the sort of thing'! Anyway, good luck to you all on future expeditions.
 

JoW

Member
Twas the end of the exped, when all through the hut
Not a creature was stirring, except for *that* mouse.
The ropes were all hung down in Pigpen with care;
Ready for next year when the cavers are there.
The cavers are nestled back home in their beds,
While visions of pitches dance in their heads.
 

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pmccarron97

New member
It's been a while since getting back from the expedition and I think its best to attempt to finish up my trip reports.

On Thursday 18th August, big pushes were had by all teams entering WUG. For Oscar and Alex, this was further work on "The 70," whilst Axel thought it would be the perfect time for me to stop taking what he defined as "Touristy Trips" and instead put my fresh & keen face to work on the entrance series. With Andreas by my side, we took a zero-faff approach. Of course this fell through instantly when other groups and tasks forced us to have mandated faff, as the other teams got their equipment together and headed into the cave to work on the lower levels, whilst we also had to undertake tarp repairs.

So, into WUG we had three teams. Oscar and Alex on the afforementioned 70, Peter and Alice on route to drop rope, hangers and spare batteries down to the guys in the 70 and Andreas and myself on the entrance series.

I'll fully admit, i'm not the most confident when it comes to my rigging, so it was nice to have the more experienced folk sign off on my rigging as good, and with Andreas hot on my tale to keep me in check, I was feeling fresh and confident going in. With ropes packed, gear shackled to my harness & tackle sacks and with our scheduled mandated faff over, we dropped through the first couple of pitches to arrive at the bottom of the tyrolean pitches in no time.

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The Entrance Series - The Task was to re-rig between the Red. We ran out of rope at the blue arrow, experiencing wetness just at the top of the second to last pitch-head.


Quickly getting into the swing of things, progress was swift as we removed the old rope, mallions and old alloy hangers with new stainless steel hangers, mallions and shiny new rope. However, we clearly underestimated the number of hangers required, and feel short after 10 pitches of progress. In the distance, we heard Alice and Peter approaching and we asked them to hang fire as we only had another 4 pitches to finish off to the tight pitch head.

Paul posing a few pitches before the pulse.jpg

Paul posing for the camera

As I was fighting with a severly rusty and mangled hanger atop of a free-handing Y hang, the mumbled conversation (mainly caused by the washers being held in my mouth) between Andreas and myself stopped. It was clear he had either got bored of this conversation (wouldn't blame him) or something was up. Of course at this moment I had just completely removed the old rope and placed the new mallions and being too focused on the task at hand, I thought nothing more of it...

"Are you almost done Paul?"

"A couple of minutes, why?"

"Water..."

"What?!"

"WATER!! - HURRY!"

"I'm going as fast as I can!"

"Well hurry up, i'm getting soaked!"

Well shit. We had expected some rain, but not as early as this. I've never finalised a knot as fast as this, but in no time, we were down to the lower level and were able to take shelter in my survival shelter.

The Free-hanging Y Hang of Wetness.png

Paul Undoing the Hangers on the Free Hanging Y-Hang of Wetness

Alice and Peter who we had told to wait just at the bottom of this entrance series also jumped into a shelter just below this, and we spent an hour riding out the water. Enjoying the finest haribo's Austria had to offer, we also took a small nap, which cause time to pass a bit too quick. It was clear we were quite a comfortable temperature. Not a bad first time experience of what turned out to be (after chatting to those on the surface) a lot of rain, causing a decent flood pulse below.

Andreas snug in the storm shelter.png

Andreas looking snug and chuffed in the Storm Shelter

Eventually we made the decision to get out, having used all of the rope we had left for that Y-hang, we'd have to bring more down to finish the last two pitches before the tight pitch head another day to get everything finished.

It was nice to head back down the hill to Camelot, have some of Jo's fine cusine, before jumping over to the bar for a couple of drinks.

In the bar, plans were forming for a camping trip for the weekend. Oscar and Alex were looking forward to a rest day, after being washed out from the 70, but with tasks still to be completed - they thought best to finish things up on Friday. The weather however had other plans, and with it looking a bit too dodgey on both the Friday and Saturday, we thought best to hold fire and possibly do a bit of prospecting instead. Utilising the time to rest up for what was looking to be, a 4 night camping trip.
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
I also have to write up a few trips but work and life gets in the way...

Just over three years ago, it was the end of the 2019 expedition. Trying to squeeze one final trip in before I had to be above ground for Jo's birthday, me and Axel were going to do a bounce trip to the end of Uphill Gardeners. It was also going to be Axel's birthday (end of the exped seems to be birthday season!).

Uphill Gardeners is a rising inlet that is accessed from the base of the pitches (about -550m down). So down we went, to the bottom of the pitches and then up the mostly walking passage of Uphill Gardeners. There are a few little rope climbs, but after an hour or so we arrived at the large chamber where exploration had previously terminated, but with a window and on-going passage visible. A large mud slope opposite the window let you get almost to the same level as it, and then a short bolt climb and a traverse should give you access to the window.

However, as is often the case in WUG, there was mud - and that slows everything down. But after around 4 hours of fighting the mud, using our 9mm, our 8mm and finally (for the short slope at the end) a bit of 6mm we had a roped route to the ongoing passage which would become known as No. 33 Passage. This was (for WUG) a surprisingly pleasant passage - easy walking on a smooth mud floor. We surveyed the first 50m or so, but Axel is very strict about 'no exploration without surveying' and (even though it was his birthday!) we didn't run down the passage ticking it off because we were running out of time and needed to head out.

So we left the ongoing, open, pleasant passage and headed back down Uphill Gardeners and then up the long slog of the pitches. We did have a brief (freeze-dried) meal on the way out (which is always a good idea on long trips). The other saving grace was that, unlike most objectives in WUG, Uphill Gardeners did not require you to go down Deep Sludge and so our boots weren't entirely coated in mud! After about a 17 hour trip, we emerged into the night air. Although it was sad that we didn't get to explore the new passage this time, we would be back at the start of the exped next year. Right?

Fast forward to 2022.

Two years of exped had been cancelled due to Covid, and it hadn't been certain that 2022 was going to happen either - but finally we were heading up the mountain. The first tasks were to start re-rigging the entrance pitches. With a team of only 10 people, we knew we weren't going to get the whole thing re-rigged but had to start. We also had to try and get the Cavelink working once we got it off the Cambridge. And then, as described in other reports, it started raining. There were two days were I supposed to be doing a bounce down to WUG Camp to install the Cavelink but neither happened due to combinations of not having the Cavelink, not having the weather or needing to do the surface installation (since I knew the most Cavelink wizardry). It ended up that I'd been on the hill for well over a week and had been underground for about 2 hours at one point... fortunately the end of the exped was a bit better!

But eventually the end of the exped began to approach with only one camping trip (by other people) having happened so far due to the poor weather. There was time and weather for one more one-night camping trip, and the target was surveying and exploring No 33. Passage. Finally! We also had to bring out the underground Cavelink unit, and a pair of drill batteries had been stashed at the base of the pitches. All our gear was packed the day before, and when the morning came me, Chris and Andreas were all soon sat outside the entrance getting changed and getting ready to go underground.

Then we saw Jo heading over the plateau. 'Oh no', we thought - 'what have we forgotten?'. '(name omitted) has Covid' said Jo.

Bummer.

So immediately everything changed, and we start thinking about what we should - or shouldn't do. Jo gave us all tests, and we all tested negative, but Andreas had a few cold symptoms and (quite reasonable) wasn't very happy about the prospects of developing Covid nearly 700m underground (subsequent tests also came up negative, so he probably had something else).

It was decided that camping was probably a bad idea, but since me and Chris felt fine now, we were probably OK to do a bounce to camp to retrieve the Cavelink and bring up the drill batteries at the same time. We could also move some rope and metalwork that had been left at the bottom of the 70 by mistake down to the bottom of the 110 where they would be safer from spring floods until next year.

But there wasn't really time to head up to No. 33 passage as well and survey it, so that had to be abandoned (again) until next year. But down we went, and Chris got the deep trip he wanted - down the many, many pitches experiencing the pleasant new rope and the extremely quick old rope, moving the gear, and then trudging through Deep Sludge to the camp. The Cavelink wasn't working particularly wet at this point and we were only getting reliable one-way transmission (underground to surface) for some reason, but we packed it up after sending a message to that effect. Our new 200m fixed underground antenna was giving good earthing so the problem was more likely on the surface (where earthing is difficult). Then back through Deep Sludge, pick up the drill batteries, and up, up, up and up the pitches. I made sure I was ahead of Chris on the way up so that I wasn't constantly trying to keep up with a fit youngster :) but we still made pretty good time out and emerged to a star-filled sky. The view from the entrance on a clear night, looking down at the hill below, is beautiful. We were back at the hut around midnight (thanks for the food, Jo).

And that's the story of how after three years I'm *still* waiting to walk down the easy walking passage we discovered in 2019...

PS to people who say you don't get to go deep on the Dachstein if you aren't a caving superhero, Chris was 18 and this was his first expedition, and he did a bounce trip to camp and would have done a camping trip and deep exploration if it wasn't for the weather and the unexpected Covid case... (sorry about that Chris!)
 
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