Author Topic: Maraton: ICCC/JSPDT Slovenia Expedition July 2019  (Read 698 times)

Offline Jifer

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Maraton: ICCC/JSPDT Slovenia Expedition July 2019
« on: June 24, 2019, 09:57:39 pm »
Maraton: ICCC/JSPDT Slovenia Expedition July 2019

Maraton = Marathon. As we intend that, by the end of this summer’s expedition, anyone who wishes could complete a 42.195km endurance caving trip through the known system...

Following the success of last year’s expedition where we collectively found and surveyed 2.6km of new cave passage, passed the 40km+ mark for total cave length and introduced 9 students to expeditionary alpine caving, ICCC returns for its annual pilgrimage to Sistem Migovec in the Julian alps of western Slovenia for 5 weeks of living on and under Tolminski Migovec. 25 years have passed since members of our club first plumbed the depths of this hollow mountain alongside our Slovene counterparts. Sistem Migovec stands as the longest cave system in ex-Yugoslavia since a connection made in 2012 by the JSPDT, the caving section of the Tolmin alpine club.
Last summer’s expedition was bountiful, owing in part to the sponsorship we received from UKcaving, and wholly devoid of bivi-targeted lightning strikes so it seems the Caving Gods must be appeased by Imperial’s subterranean efforts. Long may we remain in their favour.


This May 12 of us, 11 of whom are expedition-bound, undertook an Outdoor First Aid course to prepare ourselves lest any member of our party injure themselves above or below ground.This was beneficial, particularly as, due to being a university club, we maintain a young base of members. Fear was heightened but we now feel much better prepared to deal with situations we may face when >700m below the earth, thanks to Sean Whittle of Dales Training.


Our IC union branded minibus will be leaving from outside of the Royal Albert Hall on the 5th of July, bound for the town of Tolmin, Slovenia. We have our fingers crossed that the bus won’t be in a garage undergoing an MOT it may not pass, on the morning we intend to depart across continental Europe as occurred last year. We are armed with drills, maillons, bolts, metalwork and rope (an item of which more is always comforting, we always run out...) but arguably the most important to the expedition has yet to be brought - food (Read: tens of kilos of Cheese, hundreds of tea bags and 110 sachets of couscous )!
Our tents need water/UVproofing, our crates packing and we all need to buy plenty of baby wipes, so the next 2 weeks will surely be hectic but the excitement is palpable. The drive across Europe takes 24 hours with our drivers taking it in turn to sleep whilst the aged, speed-limited minibus rolls unfalteringly through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria and finally Slovenia. We eventually arrive into Tolmin, the town that lies beneath Tolminski Migovec and is home to our friends in the JSPDT.


Upon arrival we head down to the river Soca with beers for a swim/wash, fill our stomachs with pizza and sleep in a Slovenian caver and cave rescuer’s ex-army barracks now factory. With an alpine start the next morning we hike, laden with camping and caving equipment, 1km of ascent up the zig-zags to reach the Migovec Plateau and pitch our tents. We have now returned to the Bivi, our much beloved shakehole and the home base for 25 of the grubbiest cavers the world has to offer for the next 5 weeks.
Some members have recently been up there as part of a continuing research project studying cave ice, and have confirmed that the bivi is not going to be completely buried under snow, as has been the case in some previous years.







Last year’s bivi improvements included a chimney


This year we will return again to the Primadona entrance, located 150m down the side of the cliff, accessed by a stunning abseil that has us hanging 1400m above the Tolminka Valley.


Primary objective - Deep exploration from Moonraker camp (Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino)

Last year we set up a camp at Deja Vu junction, some 400m underground. From this, deep leads were found leading to a new camp and our main objective this year.


Last year's camp - The Manger

During the course of last year’s expedition, we found a short stretch of horizontal passage off the main Klic Globin pitch. We identified over five different leads, which consist of a mixture of open going passages, pitches, and a large stream passage at altitude 1150 m (the Aqueduct). A camping spot was identified in Moonraker passage here, and we will use this as our base for deep exploration.

This close proximity to the leads and a steady water supply should ensure our success, and hopefully we will have lots of exciting finds to tell you about. The camp will be located at -690 m below the surface of the Plateau and provide the ideal jumping board for deep exploration (>700m depth).



We will set up a first aid, gear and food cache as well as an intermediate Cave-Link relay station at Mary’s Cafe, in Senja Soba. This is a major junction between the ‘trade route’ to camp and the Testify! branch. Last year’s camp will be repurposed into a brew station/food cache/first aid dump, to provide a rest stop for cavers returning from the deep camp. These stations will facilitate the set up of the camp in Moonraker, and trips to these points with kit will be used to train novices.



Secondary objective - Hallelujah branch


This branch carried on going last year and promising leads remain. However in an effort to keep the expedition accessible for all our cavers pushing the deep leads here will be on pause for this year. We instead will assess higher up side passages here, to find a suitable place for a new camp next year.



Tertiary objective - Surface exploration


Last year Coincidence Cave was dug and broken through. The cave is now 169 m long, with several climbing leads and digging options still available and developed post expedition with a little chemical persuasion (bang!) courtesy of the Slovenes. The considerable draft, and now reduced distance to the southern end of Sistem Migovec, down to 213 from 250 m, makes this cave passage a strong candidate as a lower entrance to the system, at an altitude of 1300 m, compared to the other eight entrances which lie between 1720 and 1860 m asl. Perhaps a little more digging could yield a connection making a fine, feasible through trip.
We also hope to find new surface leads with the aid of drone equipment and expertise from Ben Richards as Top Gun, to identify and abseil to potential cave entrances on the Plateau, which may lead to more ‘Primadona-like’ cave systems.






This year we got into print ‘The Hollow Mountain 3’, the second published volume of the subterranean efforts in exploring Tolminski Migovec. Available online, with the hollow mountain 1, on our website: https://union.ic.ac.uk/rcc/caving/slovenia. Let us know if you fancy a physical copy!
We have run an active expedition twitter feed every year since 2009, follow if you’d like to receive live updates whilst we’re watching the sunset on Mig. Not long now...


Offline Jifer

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Re: Maraton: ICCC/JSPDT Slovenia Expedition July 2019
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2019, 10:22:49 pm »
Pre expo team is on the mountain


Pre - expo started with the three of us meeting in Salzburg, two of us flying to the airport and the other hiking from the dolomites. Many trains later we arrived in the lovely town of Tolmin in time for a brief drink with our local contact, Fratnik, before he rushed off to deal with an emergency gas leak - beer still in hand. We were then joined for pizza with an old member of the expedition known simply as Tetley.
Tetley gave us a much appreciated lift the next morning to the shops (breakfast + a toothbrush) and then to the trailhead at Ravne. We started our hike uphill and just 3.5 hrs later we were met on the plateau by glorious sunshine.


(Image of empty bivi)
This post will be sadly imageless due to lack of signal...


We got one tarpaulin up (mostly) before the thunderstorms set in. Whenever we touched the tarps after that, the rain restarted. Occasionally the rain was replaced by apocalyptic 10mm hail. The rain was so intense that we managed to fill most of our water barrels in just the first two days, (an expedition record!)


(There would be a size comparison photo here)


Today we got up, faffed with the tarps a bit, did some washing up and all that

Can we go caving yet?

So on the walk up Davey had spotted a hole in one of the sinkholes. He stuck his head in and decided it had potential. Today we went to dig it. We had digging tools but little in the way of kit as that remains in London for the time being. The digs is muddy and grim but heading an interesting way and less than ten minutes from the bivi. It was eventful but fantastic fun until we got chased off by an oncoming storm.


So we now have four full barrels of water and a lot of mud.

Offline Jackhal

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Re: Maraton: ICCC/JSPDT Slovenia Expedition July 2019
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2019, 12:08:31 am »
And They're Off!

Well the last few days have been a bit of a whirlwind. We’ve all been furiously packing, and fettling, and food shopping (sooo much cheese)!

The rope generously donated by UK Caving arrived in the nick of time last Thursday (with the mini bus due to leave on Friday  :o). There was no time for caver post, so SpanSet kindly employed the regular postal service to convey the precious cargo to London. Of course the courier managed to screw this up, so I got a call from a rather disgruntled security guard in the wrong bit of campus sometime on Thursday morning.


A very large box of delicious SpanSet 9mm, with the silhouette of an unimpressed security guard in the background.

Having found the rope, I awkwardly carried the heavy box to stores in the hope of finding some space to stash the rope until Friday. This proved to be no easy task as, by this time, stores was (quite literally) stuffed to the rafters with bags, crates, and general detritus.

Come Friday morning and it was time to pack the bus. First job was to move all of our crap out of stores and into the glorious sunshine of the Biet Quad.


What a lot of stuff!

When we were finished with this, we stopped for a bit to survey the task ahead of us. Why did we have so much stuff to pack? Was it more than in previous years? How on earth was it all going to fit in a single, rather small, minibus?

We didn’t pause for long though, the only way to find out if the expedition was doomed for failure was to move forward. With this in mind, we moved forwards.


Jimmy surveys the miracle of the morning – an unbelievably well packed minibus.

Of course we needn’t have worried. Within a couple of hours of Tetris like manoeuvring, the bus was packed. I managed to miss quite a lot of this process for one reason or another and, to be honest, I still don’t really understand how the feat was achieved.

After only another hour or two of pointless faff, the minibus finally pulled out of South Kensington, bound for Migovec, Slovenia packed full of bags, tents, caving gear, and 9 (very squished) humans.

Left feeling sorry for ourselves on a glorious Prince consort road were me and Chris. As PhD students, we both felt compelled to spend another week or two getting some actual work done (heaven forbid) before joining the others on the mountain.


I look crestfallen (or possibly just stupid) as the bus pulls away from Imperial.

Throughout the next couple of days we received patchy updates on the bus’s progress. First they were on the Ferry; then driving through France; then I muted the Facebook chat where all this was being posted because I was just feeling too left out :(


Jimmy watches England disappear behind the Ferry

Last time I was able to bring myself to check the chat again, everything seemed to be going to plan with people installed on the Mountain and establishing camp. I’m sure that before too long people will be underground re-rigging the trading routes, establishing stashes of food, and even beginning to setup our new underground camp in Moonraker. Disgusting.

There have of course been plenty of pictures being beamed to those of us still stuck at home, and I’m sure that some of these will be shared in a post here before too long. For a taste of what’s to come, here’s a picture of some happy campers watching the sun set over Italy from the comfort of our camping spot on the Migovec Plateau.


Mark, Tetley, and Davie watch the sunset over Italy