Dezela Zlatoroga: ICCC/JSPDT Slovenia Expedition 2023

Snufkin

New member
Dezela Zlatoroga or Land of the Zlatorog is the name of this years expedition after the legendary golden horned chamois.

Pre expo is leaving in a couple of days to set up the tarps and pray for rain and the minibus will leave London full of kit and people on the 1st of July so last minute purchases and panic packing are in full swing.

Imperial College C
The minibus carrying the precious cargo of our luxury swan
aving Club has been exploring System Migovec in the Julian Alps since 1994 in collaboration with the local caving club the JSPDT. We make the 24 hour trek across Europe in a heavily laden minibus (which has just successfully hobbled through its MOT) and spend 5 weeks living on top of and inside a mountain.

We returned to Slovenia last year after our covid break of two years and were able to introduce new members to the joys of expeditionary caving. We are still feeling the effect of the two year break from caving as the club has had a large and enthusiastic cohort of freshers this year with a lack of leaders in the years above them. Last year the main focus was on two leads in the Primadonna branch of the system and we surveyed around 1.5km of new passage. These leads were deep in the system so we had a camp set up in Hallelujah and ran two night pushing trips. During lockdown a cave entrance was found on the neighbouring mountain which has become one of our promising leads. It’s called Planje and it’s about a 2 hour hike from the Bivi. Last year we pushed and surveyed to -160m deep in Planje and it is looking like a very promising cave.

AnaBolting.jpg

This year we hope to continue pushing in the Hallelujah branch in Prima, setting up a camp in the same location as last year. As this year is a Slovice heavy expedition the plan is to run less frequent pushing trips so there are always enough leaders on the surface. This will mean that we can focus on surface bashing and shallower leads which we haven’t done as a club for quite a few years as there have been clear promising leads deep in the system. There will also be a focus on relearning old routes which will involve resurveying and rebolting and will be a good way to teach those skills to people who are new to the expedition when there are less frequent deep pushing trips. There are also hopes of some bolt climbs in Coincidence and mudaholic. Finally we are planning to return to Planje. Since it’s a 2ish hour hike from the Bivi, which is our main base, we will consider setting up a surface camp there.

Objectives:
-Continue pushing prima with a camp there for the first half of the expedition or until the leads die
-Explore Planje further with the possibility of a surface camp there
-Surface bash and document entrances on GPS
-Relearn old routes and build knowledge of routes within the club

We are very grateful to the Ghar Parau fund for funding this expedition and many others before. This enables us to keep it accessible to everyone who wants to come and the two Alex pitcher awards we’ve received this year will help our freshers to buy most of the kit they need :)
 

DaveyDubz

New member
What is the Hallelujah branch, where is Brezno Pod Vrhom Planje you may be asking. All shall be revealed in low resolution (unless you want to compile our data from Github)!
Please see the Planje surface location, Primadona System (part of the main Sistem Migovec System) Extended Elevation and a Planje Plan.

As of today, a small advance party has arrived on the Migovec plateau to set up the water collection and scrub the water barrels clean of a years worth of mould. They will be joined on Sunday by the main group and the food carries will begin. Here's hoping for a successful expedition of pushing.
Prima_extended.jpg
 

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ChrisEd

New member
We're aproaching mid expo now, with a few pushing trips completed and many more now in the planing stage.

I joined the expedition for two weeks as a fresher last year and had a great time. Though I wasn't keen on the eternal dampness that is underground camp, I loved the Bivi life, exploring new cave, digging, and surface bashing. This year I did not only sign up for the full 5 week expedition, but was one of three volunteers for pre-expo.
Setting up the tarps and water barrels was fun, cleaning mould off of mess tins and colman stoves less so, yet the work needed to be done. After a brilliant week of warm mornings and cool evenings we hadn't succeeded in collecting any water for the minibus crew. Our efforts were soon rewarded however as the main caving force brought the rain with them and kindly cleaned and filled the remaining barrels while hiding our a storm in the neatly set up Bivi.
Many days of carrying food and tackle was next as we strengthened our legs and prepaired to push. Efforts were initially uncoordinated and it was quite a while until we were actually prepaired for a trip. Eventually we got the drills up the mountain and four of us set of to Manđare. James and Davey, two of our more seasoned Slov cavers tought themselves to bolt climb succesfully placing 3 botls and a natural, before reaching and securing a ledge from which to continue. Myself and Astrid joined the trip to try and break through a constriction and the rifts end. This was Astrid's first trip and we borh had a great time with the hammer and chissel breaking through even despite the lead's death 2m later.
I also joined the following trip to our neighbouring cave Planje which lies an hour and a half away on the other side of a mountain. Myself, Davey James, and Ellie, spent a day carrying rope and drills over in preperation and dropped in the next day. Planje is an incredibly loose cave and I had an unpleasant experience last year on a digging trip where we found a large pitch head and crawling gallery. The plan this time was to survey the gallery and drop the pitch. Large loose boulders and a muddy/gravelly floor made the rigging treacherous, but we were delighted to find firm solid rock beneath and a continuation of pitches. 80+ meters of gallery were surveyed and we dropped a 35m and a 10m pitch before heading out. Sadly we ran out of rope, just above the precipice of an inkly black certainly 50+ meter pitch.
The following evening we then endured the worst storm in current memory resulting in 3 tents flooded, 1 torn, 2 shredded and our water collection tarps forcefully 'disassembled'. Furthermore we suffered a change in leader numbers and our underground camp has been voted non-viable for this year. As a result we're looking into higher level leads and have already found a few in M16. Today two tourist trips ran in that direction, finally getting all of our slovices underground, furthermore, it was succesfully run by our slov leaders in training. Following this we're looking to return tomorrow with the intention of pushing.
 

Sanderson

New member
Earlier this week, James and I were able to push the ‘dry lead’ below the Hallelujah Streamway, just above Cantina Canyon, as labelled on the map above by Davey. Branching off of the most obvious passage discovered last year, a loose climb into the ceiling led into a 2x3m passage, leading perpendicularly away from the main route. Our surveying party last year were halted by a small trench that intersected the passage, hence my aim this year was to traverse across the trench and descend the pitch beyond, hopefully finding the source of the sounds of trickling water. Being relatively inexperienced at expeditionary caving, this would be by far the most ambitious trip I had ever undertaken, but a series of 'smaller' trips in the previous weeks had given me confidence that my fitness and technical abilities were up to it. I had estimated a 15 hour round trip, hence James needed a fair bit of convincing that some fun could be derived from it.

The journey down went relatively uneventful, James even becoming what one might call enthusiastic after the first 250m of descent. Reaching the lead after about 5 hours, I immediately began bolting the traverse, across such a slippery ledge that it may as well have been free-hanging. About 2.5 hours of alternated bolting finally let us drop down into a large rifty chamber full of shattered boulders on the other side. We had dropped into a high-level traverse above a streamway, which, on the downstream side, connected via a waterfall into known passage, and on the upstream side, reached the bottom of a large waterfall that disappeared into the darkness above. Behind this however, dry winding passage led away from the stream for ~60m until a short, dry, undescended drop was reached with another traverse leading away from the drop: two excellent future leads. Here we were forced to turn around due to lack of rope and time, so we surveyed the passage backwards, naming it Delta Blues and totalling slightly over 100m, before making our way out.

Just as the sun was rising over the distant mountains at 5:30 in the morning we staggered into camp, 18 hours after departing. That was the last day I had on the expedition, so I’m really glad the trip went well – I’m now back in England, enjoying things like plumbing and clean drinking water.
 

ChrisEd

New member
The expedition is gaining speed now, with two solid pushing trips completed, and an underground camp setup trip planned for tomorrow.

I joined the expedition for two weeks as a fresher last year and had a great time. Though I wasn't keen on the eternal dampness that is underground camp, I loved the Bivi life, exploring new cave, digging, and surface bashing. This year I did not only sign up for the full 5 week expedition, but was one of three volunteers for pre-expo.
Setting up the tarps and water barrels was fun, cleaning mould off of mess tins and colman stoves less so, yet the work needed to be done. After a brilliant week of warm mornings and cool evenings we hadn't succeeded in collecting any water for the minibus crew. Our efforts were soon rewarded however as the main force brought the rain with them and kindly filled the remaining barrels from the shelter of the bivi.
Many days of carrying food and tackle was next as we strengthened our legs and prepaired to push. Efforts were initially uncoordinated and it was quite a while until we were actually prepaired for a trip.
 

AstridRaoryt

New member
We're at the end of the expo and currently driving back to London. This was a year of the storm till the very end, everyone was soaked during the last down carry but was worth it for the pizza and frika we had two nights in a row.

This is my first ever expediton and I am dedicated to the five weeks of mountain life. As a Slovice, I had a lot to learn about expedition caving as well as expedition itself, and above all is the importance of owning waterproof clothing, essential for hiking through thunderstorms and prussiking up waterfalls. Bivi life with booze and music was amazing, something to look forward to after a long trip. Although proper sunset was rare for this expo, we persisted on having dinner at sunset spot in clag, occasionally enjoying a clear dusk before the night rain, staring intensely at the lightening in Italy as storm clouds creep upon us from all sides.
lightening strikes Italy

This is a rather surface heavy year and surface bashing down on limestone pavement was a huge success with plenty of new caves logged onto the GPS. Nevertheless, my cave-pizza ratio throughout the five weeks still reached a satisfying 12:3, pizza was consumed twice at the beginning of expo and once at the very end. As for the caves, I visited M-16 five times (one tourist trip to Galaktika, the largest chamber in the system; four surveying/pushing trips to Auld Alliance and Fools Gold down NCB connection passage, a series of small pitches followed by a 30~ metre one that connects back to a known pitch, Titanic), Primadona thrice (two pushing trips: Manđare and Hallelujah wet lead as labelled on the map above; and one derig trip to Mary's cafe), twice down
Coincidence cave for digging trip and bolt climb, one trip to bolt down the first pitch of PF10 of the limestone pavement and one brief visit to Bonsai Pot, a promising looking cave that died after two pitches. They were all memorable trips and I will write more about Auld Alliance/Fools Gold, Hallelujah wet lead and possibly surface bashing in the following posts.

I've also participated in a rescue during mid expo when a crawl, the Rock, between Primadona and Mona Tip collapsed. While no one was injured and one caver, Leo, made it out Belladona safely, two other cavers, Perry and Julien, were stranded at the entrance of Mona Tip with the exposed cliff traverse unrigged. Chris and Dan left on short notice to rig the traverse and Ana and I took over around midnight. After considerable route finding, we reached the entrance around 3am in the morning to find the two shivering in a Bothy, in a slightly better condition than we'd imagine. We made it back to Bivi around 6am, as we awed at the view of Krn when the rising sun lit up its peak, the weight on our back and the tiredness of the night felt not as bad.
Ana with the shivering orange lump

Julien and Krn at sunrise
All in all, although few disappointments ensued this year's expo including long hike to Krn and camping trip due to storms and lack of leaders, numbers of successful pushing trips and long bounces occured and surface bashing was a success. I truly enjoyed this expo and the excitement of discovering/entering fresh, new caves never grows dull. My enthusiasm persisted through leaky tent and wet sleeping bag, and though we all pray for a sunny expo next year, I doubt depressing weather would sway my determination of returning to Slov next summer.
 

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