Author Topic: Dachstein, Austria Expedition  (Read 3279 times)

Offline RTurnbull

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Dachstein, Austria Expedition
« on: June 05, 2017, 12:09:02 am »
All is set for the 2017 Dachstein expedition. Cars are being decluttered, karabiners are on order and the vertical rescue training course in July is all set to pull the individuals together into something resembling a team.
 
The current end of the 800m deep/5km long Wot-U-Got Pot (or Schmeltzwasserhöhle) is closer than ever to the western limits of the mighty Hirlatz Höhle & the 2016 limit of exploration is a 25m wide tunnel with a 15m high wall at the upper end which has only been partially climbed.

Base at the Wiesberghaus for survey compiling and exped blogging - 1884m. Credit: Axel Hack

The connection is currently stumped at a draughting up- pitch, littered with loose scree & boulders the size of cars.  It has left the exped vets puzzled how to get a person up safely as the danger of rockfall is more significant than usual.  The expedition leaders aren't sure they're light enough anymore to aid climb without bringing the wall down and the shortage of rope could not have come at a worse time!
 
Therefore the current plan is launch a caver up the 15m pitch with the use of a trebuchet.  Logistically this brings some challenges:  the transportation of quality South Wales timber down the 600m of shafts, through the spacious meander at -420m, down the huge phreatic boreholes & gigantic passages at -600m, past the tents at camp at -700m, to finally reach the Reborn Hope that bypasses the sheer brutality of the Forlorn Hope series.  The lightest and most disposable expedition members have been identified and briefed.
 
Quote
Rachel (f, 21, lightweight): I'm not so sure about this anymore.
 
Alex (m, 24, more intelligent): Look, we've done a lot of calculations & you're going where no one has been before. And it's a lot easier than prusiking. Not only are you the first person to be trebuchet-ed in a cave, but you’re 500m away from discovering the finest through trip in world.
 
Rachel: But we’ve been caving on ropes for years. This seems sub-optimal.
 
Alex: Needs must, Rachel, needs must.  We spent last year re-rigging the main traffic routes for safety and the entire rope supply has been used up.


Credit: Axel Hack


Rachel: But what's actually up there?
 
Alex: Good question.  What we’re hoping for up there is a fine section of cave passage leading to the connection with the Hirlatz Hole. This has been the aim of the exped for the last 40 years, and this is the most promising lead that Grandpa Joel has seen in two decades.  If we make the connection we will have discovered one of the deepest and longest in Europe. Also, we’re hoping for a thick mud deposit at the top of the pitch to provide a soft landing.  And because of the phreatic nature of the cave it’s a good bet that all the boulders will be rounded & a bit softer than the usual hard limestone...
 
Rachel: It’s so draughty down there
 
Alex: Yes, and that’s a good thing, as the strong draught indicates a decent amount of cave beyond: hopefully a potential massive Austrian show cave (pretty sure it’s going to be a show cave).  And, don’t worry, we have included the wind speed into our trajectory calculations so you’ll be fine.


Trajectory calculations drawn up in the expo-war room/curry house. Link to further 'calculations' i.imgur.com/E406YlI.jpg

Rachel: But surely someone with more experience should be doing this?
 
Alex: Perhaps, but the Dachstein family is open to everyone and a great first expedition to learn from since there’s so many experienced cavers from all over the world attending. This year alone there will be Brits, French, German, Austrian & New Zealanders.  The Dachstein was my introduction to cave expeditions two years ago, and many people over the last few decades have learnt the ropes here.  It’s one of the longest-running (4o years)  international expeditions leaving from the UK that is still going. Although this is the first year any keen members have the opportunity to try out this innovative ascent technique and you’re fortunate enough to be the chosen one.
 
Rachel: Yeah, you’re right, I have learnt a huge amount about rigging, rescue techniques, first aid, packing exped essentials and so forth and I haven’t even left the country yet.
 
Alex: Remember the three “C’s” for a successful expedition: coffee, codeine and couscous.
 
Rachel: What happened to sun, sea, and sand? 
 
Alex: That’s the 2018 trip after we’ve made the connection
 
Rachel: Alright then, this seems like a good opportunity and Matt St Clair said he’d buy me a pint
 
Alex: Well to be fair, that beer is about all the expedition can stretch to.  As many of the participants are  students and broke contractors the exped fees aren’t that high, and the 2 km of rope already used in WUG doesn’t come cheap.

Follow the Ascent Adventures and race for the Hirlatz connection on:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dachstein_caving_expeditions/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/dachsteincaving/
and of course, UK Caving.

All photo credits to Axel Hack
« Last Edit: June 05, 2017, 12:19:14 am by RTurnbull »

Offline Badlad

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Re: Dachstein, Austria Expedition
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2017, 10:59:02 am »
I caved in the Dachstein from 1984-1989.  I'm not sure I could support an expedition which has made me realise I'm getting old.
 :-\   ;D ;D

You will have a PM

Offline MJenkinson

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Re: Dachstein, Austria Expedition
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2017, 11:17:10 am »
Brilliant!

Offline RTurnbull

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Re: Dachstein, Austria Expedition
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2017, 01:17:58 pm »
Up in the mountains of Austria, the lightweight Rachel is just completing her task of carrying the rope to the entrance of Wot U Got Pot in preparation for rigging the following month.

Rope retrieved kindly by CUCC, transported to Austria then soaked and prepped. Many thanks to Elliott Smith, UKC and Spanset.

Quote
Alex (over the phone): “Is it really necessary for the rope to be brought out four weeks early?”

Rachel: “Definitely as I wanted to make sure that the trebuchet idea was firmly discounted once and for all as I don’t see myself as a human projectile.  And it also gives me plenty of time to explore all the delights of the Austrian Alps before the forty other expedition members arrive”.

Alex: “Fair enough but are you sure you didn’t just end up on the wrong expedition to Austria?”

Rachel: “Yes, I wanted to do both & the Cambridge exped very kindly collected our rope from the sponsors in Ingleton (UK Caving/Spanset/Badlad) & then brought it out to Austria for the Dachstein mob for which we’re all very grateful.”

Alex: “At least the rope is out there ready to go; the more we have the better as there may also be an opportunity to explore upstream of Wot U Got Pot with the chance of connecting it to higher cave entrances such as PL2.  And some of those entrances may well be in steep cliff faces so we can’t discount the trebuchet option just yet!”

Rachel: “Think it might be best to stick to using the rope for now as I don’t possess a kevlar oversuit”.


Meanwhile, far from the mighty Austrian Alps, the expedition team were practising the counterbalance & counterweight rescue techniques during the Dachstein Vertical Rescue Training workshop. The weekend, carried out at the Mistras Rope Access training centre on the Saturday & underground in the legendary Welsh pothole Pwll Dwfn on the Sunday,  was a chance for a group of 15 cavers with varying experience to learn techniques essential in case of misadventure beneath the mountains.  With almost forty cavers going to the Dachstein this summer it’s felt that everyone needs to at least have an understanding of the methods that will be required to extract someone to surface in the event of an accident.  And whilst it’s unlikely that the majority of expedition groups will be able to conduct a full-blown rescue by themselves a fair proportion of the personnel should be able to at least get the ball rolling & assist the local team so it’s essential that they know what’s required. 

These techniques are based on the system perfected by the French & now used by many, many other teams around the world & are ideal for deep caves where the traditional approach that many of us are familiar with has proven to be too slow & inefficient.  The SSF (Speleo Secours Francais) runs a week-long international training course in France every couple of years & one of our veteran organisers attended this a few years ago.  He says that it’s without doubt one of the best things he’s done & recommends it to all serious vertical cavers/rescuers. 
The basic concept is fairly simple: a bomb-proof tri-hang with a self-equalising belay that allows for change of direction; attached to this is a rescue pulley with a single rope running through it that drops to the bottom of the pitch where it is attached to the casualty/stretcher & the opposite side is for the counter-balance caver who is attached by his jammers just below the pitch-head pulley.  Clipped onto the pulley itself is the Controller & he/she won’t leave this location during the operation.  Therefore this tri-hang supports the weight of a casualty, counter-balance & controller which is a fairly scary proposition for many of us but once you know what you’re doing it’s an absurdly effortless procedure that allows for very rapid extraction of broken cavers up complex pitches. 

Quote
Alex: “I missed the training as I was on an expedition to the Picos so will there be an opportunity to play catch-up in Austria?”

Grey-Haired Old Man: “Well we can probably rig the all-weather training cave & at least have a demo on a rainy day so we can find you a sacrificial caver to use as a casualty....”

Alex: “Ok, that sounds fair enough.  Hold on: did you say “all-weather training cave?  What the f...?!”
Grey-Haired Old Man: “There’s a little multi-pitch cave close to the hut that we adopted as our training venue ages ago.  It’s ideal for newcomers to sort out their techniques under the watchful eyes of the oldies & we now have a tarpaulin over the entrance as nobody likes to get damp unnecessarily.  We realised years ago that although exploration of the deeper caves in the Dachstein is amongst the hardest in the world there is no reason to have a shit time on the surface which is why we have such a luxurious top camp!  After all, any idiot can suffer but it takes a real expedition ninja to stay comfortable...”

Alex: “And I guess that the tarp could be used as a safety-net in case the trebuchet doesn’t perform as well as hoped?  We’d best keep that quiet from Rachel as she’s not as enthusiastic about the whole idea as she once was...”

Grey-Haired Old Man: “Don’t worry: we’ll convince her that the exploration potential as a human cannonball outweighs the potential risks.  And besides, she’s young & has plenty of time to recuperate if it all goes wrong!”

Alex: “Good plan.  And I guess that the surface holiday conditions goes some way to explaining why it’s always been such a popular expedition. And talking of which, are there still spaces available?”

Grey-Haired Old Man: “We’re definitely pushing our limits but there’s no way we can turn away enthusiastic individuals as that goes against the ethos of the project so just tell anyone who’s interested to find us on Facebook or on the UK Caving thread & get in touch as we may be able to offer them a space.  Search for ‘Dachstein (Austria) Caving Expeditions’ on FB or follow the previous links on our last blog."

Caption competition! Whoever comes up with the best caption for this photo will get an excellent pat on the back  :)

Credits: Alex Hannam and Joel for writing, pictures from Rich Baker and Rachel Turnbull

Offline Mike Hopley

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Re: Dachstein, Austria Expedition
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2017, 01:40:08 pm »
Very interesting report on modern rescue methods, thank you. :)

Offline David Rose

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Re: Dachstein, Austria Expedition
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2017, 01:44:02 pm »
This is the most interesting and creative post I've ever seen on this forum. I really wish I could come, especially as I think I could have made a useful contribution by introducing  other medieval siege weapons. For example, properly aimed and targeted, battering rams may be an obvious shortcut for use in boulder chokes - much quicker than all that drilling and capping. 

Offline RTurnbull

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Re: Dachstein, Austria Expedition
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2017, 09:05:46 pm »
After weeks of preparation, Rachel and Alex finally embark on the two hour hike to Camelot, base camp and home of the expedition for the next three weeks.

The Weisberghaus, an alpine hut of warm hospitality and cool beer, opposite Camelot

The new expedition rope is packed tightly in the seilbahn and en route up the hill. Through the torrential storm, expo vets can be found eating pizza in Obertraun and propping up the bar in Cardiff.
Quote
Rachel: So Alex, what’s to do first?
Alex: First job has to be rigging the tarp up at the ‘Wot U Got’ entrance.
Rachel: Why are we doing this?
Alex: It makes a safe kit store, a place to keep the new rope, hangers and bolting gear on the many carries up the hill.
Rachel: Sounds like a good place to shelter if the bad weather comes in.[/size]

As the rain clears, eighteen more keen expedition cavers (including university cavers from Kent, Dublin, Bristol, Leeds, Cardiff, Exeter, Reading, Plymouth and cavers from Australia, Czech Republic, USA and Hungary) can be seen making their way up the hill, ready for adventures and to write their own blog posts.

To be continued... [by someone else!]

Alex (CHD), Liam (UCD), Tom (UCD) and Emily (UCD) working tirelessly to meet the day’s objectives

Offline RTurnbull

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Re: Dachstein, Austria Expedition
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2017, 10:02:04 pm »
Quote
Trip Advisor: 'Below expectation'

A fabulous first stay at Camp Bum Fun: Joel and Axel are the perfect hosts and nothing is too much trouble. Our tent must have one of the best wake up views in the country: total darkness.
The little extra touches do not go unnoticed: where else do you get a basket of all the things you usually forget on a weekend away from couscous to Hilticaps, 9mm Spanset rope to Mammut expedition sleeping bags?



P.S. on Joel and Axel’s recommendation we ate at this wonderful limestone hotel. Perfect night; perfect food. Photo credits to Axel Hack.

Plus the extra luxuries such as bedside chocolates, nuts, flapjacks and crisps all served up with a smile.
The breakfast does all it says on the packet.
Camp Bum Fun has got to be in one of the least picturesque locations in the world but please don't tell anyone else as we will find it hard to book again! Bounce trippers may find it hard to get a sleeping bag on the day.

John and Sheila from Sheffield

Stayed: August 2017, traveled as a couple
We’re giving it 4 stars - would have given it 5 stars if the water collection hadn’t been such a pain.


The Hirlatz is creeping closer! Meanwhile, bounds of cavers have taken to the sunny surface, armed with rope and the ViewRanger app, used to plot cave entrances and follow up coordinates on solid prospecting efforts. More details to follow on their successes.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2017, 10:10:32 pm by RTurnbull »

Offline Rowan

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Re: Dachstein, Austria Expedition
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2017, 06:56:42 pm »
Then what?

Offline Badlad

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Re: Dachstein, Austria Expedition
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2017, 01:20:18 am »
According to one FB account a connection has been made and a 1559m deep cave created. (congrats if that is so).  Another FB account says the connection is not proven.  What's the story here guys? 

Offline RTurnbull

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Re: Dachstein, Austria Expedition
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2018, 06:48:57 pm »
So did they? Did they not?
The last heard from the Dachstein expedition saw a team of four start at the previous limit of exploration, 800m underground. They rigged a couple of drops and raced through 200m of spacious tunnels to reach a window in the side of a huge ramp that may or may not be the far reaches of Wadiland in the Hirlatz. After some time searching for evidence, and sun setting on 2017’s expedition, they had to return to the surface and leave the exciting lead for 2018!

With more promise than ever this year’s expedition runs for a full month: 25th August – 22nd September… immediately following on from Eurospeleo which is just being held just down the road.  This is probably the finest cave exploration project in Europe and there is the genuine potential to find the deepest cave in the world.

Ahead of 2018’s expedition a training weekend will be held at Gloucester Cave Rescue Group HQ in the Forest of Dean (12-13 May). It includes:
  • basic SRT, advanced SRT,
  • SRT self-rescue, hauling & lowering, vertical team rescue,
  • cave surveying,
  • first aid, emergency procedures/survival skills,
  • kit selection, underground cooking,
  • expedition do's & don'ts,
  • photography workshop,
  • Dachstein presentation, etc..

Sunday: large-scale underground cave rescue practice.

Promises to be as cheap as chips.  For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/315520948971994/