Author Topic: CUCC Austria Expedition 2019 Blog  (Read 1263 times)

Offline tcacrossley

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CUCC Austria Expedition 2019 Blog
« on: July 11, 2019, 01:16:18 pm »
At the time of writing, I am sat in the Tatty Hut at Base Camp in Bad Aussee. It is day five of expo and a lot has happened.

We discovered on Sunday (day one - 07/07/2019) that our Top Camp, Steinbrueken, was full of snow:


Philip Sargent standing in snow-filled Steinbrueken

Meanwhile, Base Camp preparations were well underway:


The Beer Tent being assembled at Base Camp

The beer tent was being hoisted (above) and the new rope (thanks to UK Caving and Spanset for the sponsorship!) was being soaked, coiled, and cut into usable lengths ready for caving.

The next few days consisted of Expo members undertaking multitudes of carrying trips up to top camp, and a few hardy folk doing their best to fettle the bivvy for habitability. Tuesday (09/07/2019) night saw the first people sleeping in Steinbrueken. Mostly, they described the experience as "chilly" but one person went as far as to claim he had been warmer there than at Base Camp.


People carrying equipment to Top Camp

Also on Tuesday (09/07/2019), a new route was devised and cairned directly from Heimkommen Hoehle to the tourist path on the coll. The idea being that Homecoming could be close enough to push from Base Camp rather than Steinbrueken. This came with the discovery that Fischgesicht Hoehle's entrance was under two to three metres of snow:


Michael Holliday and a broken shovel standing on top of the snow that covers the entrance to Fischgesicht Hoehle

On Wednesday (10/07/2019), Expo split into three groups. The majority went to Steinbrueken to commence the final push towards habitability while some went to investigate Balkonhoehle. Three of us (Dickon Morris, Daniel Heins, and myself) went to Heimkommen to rig to the pushing front (the decision to concentrate on Heimkommen and Balkon having been made for us by the plateau).


Daniel Heins and Dickon Morris on the rigging trip to Heimkommen

That's all for now,

Tom Crossley (11/07/2019)
« Last Edit: July 11, 2019, 01:24:40 pm by tcacrossley »

Offline Peregrina

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Re: CUCC Austria Expedition 2019 Blog
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2019, 07:18:01 pm »
For months leading up to the start of the expedition the assault on Fish Face had been discussed, carefully planned and plotted over drinks late into the evenings. The entrance being under several meters of snow has been an unfortunate setback. Michael H spent a part of Tuesday evening kneeling in the snow hopelessly attacking it with a shovel until the handle snapped in half. This wouldn't have been half so painful if we hadn't spent the previous evening with Becka getting excited over the survey from last year, with its numerous continuing passages and undropped pitches.

Photo from Michael H

As our cave was inaccessible we decided to find another one. Me, Michael H and Reuben spent the next two days tramping back and forward over the plateau looking hopefully down every crack in the limestone pavement waiting for an entrance that connects through to the caves below. We found lots of promising horizontal entrances leading a few meters to small, drafting holes or choked continuations. The snow plugs in every depression this year have unfortunately probably hidden some entrances. Our most promising cave was a shaft we climbed down on Wednesday which went horizontal, widened out into a reasonably large rift and continued on above a bold climb. Reuben's exploration fever carried him flailing up the overhanging climb with impressive determination. Sadly after another aven the cave ended in a pair of choked crawls. Reuben then got an introduction to solo surveying when I passed him up the tackle sack, as I had no intentioned of repeating his feat of strength to see these short crawls. In the end the cave was around 50 m in length. We dropped a nearby shaft, which led to a remarkably similar cave to the one we had just discovered, which was *definitely* not the same as the first one, according to the first explorer. Once someone else got down there, it was very clearly the cave we had just surveyed.

Reuben dropping the shaft and finding a 'new' cave:
Photo from Michael H

The forecast for the weekend is poor, and most of us are now back in base camp sheltering from the rain. Yesterday's pushing trip down Homecoming ended up being another slightly embarrassing excursion as the team drove up from base camp and walked across the plateau before realising they had not brought any bolts.

Photo from Michael H

Me and Michael H also found a pretty snake guarding a cave entrance:

Photo from Michael H

The weather is due to improve after the weekend, and pushing trips are planned into Homecoming, Balcony, and into Happy Butterfly which hasn't been touched since 2017.  Happy Butterfly is likely to connect with Fish Face and allow us to bypass the new snowplug, and reclaim what was lost.
Speleotramp

Offline DanH

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Re: CUCC Austria Expedition 2019 Blog
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2019, 01:16:07 pm »
More Details on Homecoming

As Crossley stated, he, Dickon, and I rigged to the pushing front of Heimkommen on July 10th.

Dickon rigging the entrance series

On a second trip (July 12th), Andrew, Crossley, and I went down to investigate the leads and improve the rigging.  The air blows strong, and many bolt holes were drilled, though a miscommunication left the actual bolts behind, to be placed another day.

Crossley concentrating intensely on drilling holes, dust blowing away by the power of the drafting cave.

The way onward continues along this long rift, to a section of beautifully decorated passage, and onward to another long (and slippery rift) in need of more rigging.  The air blows strong, and a large chasm calls for dropping.

Andrew looking at a wonderfully decorated section of passage.

Weather has been a bit rough thusfar, but we are heading back up to top camp this evening (July 14th) and hoping for a return to good weather to push a number of exciting leads in Homecoming (along with a fair bit of rigging to add and tidy).

Dickon and Crossley returning to the col from Homecoming
« Last Edit: July 14, 2019, 01:41:04 pm by DanH »

Offline Mr Dinwiddy

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Re: CUCC Austria Expedition 2019 Blog
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2019, 09:10:09 pm »
Am I the only one who can't see those images? I just get a small blue icon with a question mark within.  :(

Offline wookey

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Re: CUCC Austria Expedition 2019 Blog
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2019, 10:50:44 pm »
Nope. They are images on a googleusercontent page that says 'this is a priviliged page'. No use for posting on a forum like this. (I worry a lot about images referenced here getting lost over time unless they are carefully put somewhere that will last - like on the expo server which does a reasonable job of keeping things for 40 years.)

Offline DanH

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Re: CUCC Austria Expedition 2019 Blog
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2019, 03:33:10 pm »
My bad y'all. I posted in haste before going up to the plateau for a few days.









I fear that these show up a bit oversized if in line, but alas I have surveys to draw up so fixing that is on the backburner.

--------

On that note, an update on the past few days of exploration at Homecoming!

Monday Jun 15:
Dickon and I went down Homecoming to the start of the Second Coming (after the airy Gromit pitch) and did a 2 bolt climb into a small lead that turned out to be a bit of phreatic passage heading generally east.  ~200m of survey (including a short 15m pitch and a bit of clambering about) has resulted in a new area of the cave (dubbed 'Propane Nightmares') breaking away from the main passages. Most of this section was straightforward and linear, though an area centered around a surprise sump has a maze of cutarounds. Onward we have left one notable lead in one passage climbing upward, and another pair of leads at the end of another leg, with a good lead continuing on top at phreatic passage, and another lead dropping down a rift.

Tuesday Jun 16:
Crossley, Harry, and I went and added some additional rigging on the entrance series.

Wednesday Jun 17:
Crossley, Sarah, Michael, Harry, and I went down to Propane Nightmares to rig some climbs/a more user friendly cut around to the leads. Crossley did some further rigging on the entrance series as well. I showed the others the leads Dickon and I had found to spread the knowledge for future pushing trips. Cold temperatures and misplaced nail varnish limited surveying to one of the cutarounds.

Thursday Jun 18:
Back down the hill to basecamp.  Jon has arrived suddenly to Expo, and discussing his efforts last year at Homecoming with Dickon and myself has only increased our confusion about the large drafty leads deep in the Second Coming. Another trip shall resolve this. 

My phone is bricked, so unfortunately I have no more photos to contribute.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2019, 03:45:00 pm by DanH »

Offline Mr Dinwiddy

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Re: CUCC Austria Expedition 2019 Blog
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2019, 08:49:24 pm »
Thanks Dan, I can see them now. The above ground shot is great and gives a real sense of where you are. Keep the reports coming- they are welcome.

Offline DanH

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Re: CUCC Austria Expedition 2019 Blog
« Reply #7 on: July 21, 2019, 05:02:06 pm »
I just noticed my last post I said 'Jun' instead of 'Jul' repeatedly, whoops. Back down from the plateau again, and off back to Bristol so this shall be my last update.

Friday Jul 19
I went into Homecoming with Jon, who on a whim returned to the expedition, to sort out some confusion at the far pushing front past the pretties I posted a picture of. As it turns out, he and Haydon had in fact pushed, surveyed, and rigged the 'long slippery rift in need of rigging' I had mentioned, but at ceiling level rather than where Andrew and I had gone. Misunderstandings had led us to believe that this traverse was left in place when it was in fact de-rigged last expo, and so Jon and I set out rigging the traverse on the existing bolts. We had just enough rope and I was able to stretch the hangars/maillons just enough to reach the end, where another pitch down will access this pushing front. This whole area was named the Lizard King, and we eagerly await the data from last year to better illuminate this front.

At the same time, Dickon went down Homecoming with Reuben and Aileen to push Propane Nightmares. They went on the upper level phreatic lead, which continued horizontally and then dropped into downward pitches of phreatic passage, in need of more rope to continue pushing.

Sat Jul 20
As I had not done any prospecting this expo and Jon wanted to feel warmth again, we decided to head west to prospect on the plateau beyond Homecoming.  Much bunder bashing and karst scrambling was done, and many chocked holes and snow plugs were clambered down into. Amongst all of this though, we found two quite promising prospects in need of dropping.  Jon has photos and a more clear understanding of location (as he logged them on the GPS), but as he is still up the plateau I will describe them in brief.

The Banana Hole is a deep pit in a large expanse of sloping limestone pavement up a hill.  The bottom is beyond what can be seen with a caving light in day time, but dropping rocks gives roughly 4 seconds of free fall, before ricocheting further down and unknown amount.

The Boop-Boo-Da-Boop-Da-Boop [exact spelling pending confirmation] complex is an area of multiple very large holes surrounding a small flat expanse of karst, half surrounded by cliffs. Two of the entrances are extremely appealing, with one a few meters wide and unknown depth (again, the rocks take long to go down, a disto would've been helpful), and another similarly wide and quite deep and clearly going diagonally into the hillside, reducing likelihood of being choked. 

Both of these leads really require photos to better explain (and someone with more awareness to convey their geography) but represent very exciting prospects in a fairly untouched region of the plateau.

Offline tcacrossley

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Re: CUCC Austria Expedition 2019 Blog
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2019, 12:28:41 pm »
The second half of Expo picked up a lot: the sun came out and most of us ventured up the hill to stay at top camp. See Reuben below in the bivvy:



I spent a deal of my time practicing my rigging skills in Homecoming but my last two trips were into Balkon with Radost.

We went to explore a lead that Rad had assured me was going to be spectacular. The lead was an aven reaching up from a cavern just off the side of the trade-route away and out of sight above us. Water dripped down one wall and down through an impassible hole in the floor.

We adopted the tactic of Rad climbing up a short distance, attached to one end of a rope. Then we would pass the bags up one by one on the rope before Rad made an anchor for me to prussick up too. We repeated this twice before Rad decided that he would like a bolt in for the next bit of the climb.

So up went the rigging equipment, bit by bit. Only when Rad shouted down "Crossley, do we usually have to hammer the Hiltis in?" did I suspect we might have made a mistake... As it turned out, we were now 15m off the ground with an 8mm drill bit and 10mm HKDs. Oops.

We decided to call it a day from there - but on our return to the ground thought it might be entertaining to try to fit through a constriction in the right hand wall. I went first, pendulumming around to the squeeze and wriggling through. It went! We had emerged into another aven, larger than the last. On the left hand side was a sloping wall with lots of holds that must surely lead up to above the drippy pitch we had previously been ascending. We brought the rope through the squeeze, leaving one end tied to the anchor that we had just been abseiling off, and Rad began to climb again.

This time, we had no bags with us so the going was easier. We regrouped on a shelf just above yet another big hole in the floor and from there, Rad traversed along and up until he came to a boulder choke. Through the boulder choke, he set up an anchor and belayed me up the climb (my climbing ability and confidence being much less than his). The chamber we were in showed no signs of crapping out - indeed it only got bigger as you went up.

Finally, we were both through the boulder choke and directly above our initial aven. We had a brief poke around at the leads: phreatic continuations in both directions, holes in the floor of the meander, and two intersecting streamways. We decided to call the chamber and general area "\" in an attempt to upset the sensibilities of our surveying software (it did, a little too much. We had to rename it "the_backslash" to avoid melting the system).

Now for the last challenge: to retrieve and sensibly rig the rope. Rad rigged the rope off some handy naturals and I abseiled down it until I was level with our original anchor. From there, I undid the anchor and swung over to the squeeze to pull the rope though that. Once the dead end of the rope was in the big chamber, Rad pulled it up through the boulder choke and to the top of the pitch, where he re-did his natural rigging and abseiled down to level with me, tied a rebelay, and went down to the ground. I grabbed the bags from where we had left them tied to a handy spike and abseiled down to join him.

The next day, we returned to the lead (with a 10mm drill bit) and I set to work rerigging the pitch to avoid the worst of the rope rub and spare the rope being tied directly around any rocks (opting for slings instead).

After warming Rad back up with some noodles, we started to survey our way up the pitch. We tandem-prussicked, with Rad on Book and Instruments and me as the Dog - handing precariously on my sky hooks to paint survey stations on handy rock points.

Once at the top, we took some splays of the chamber and decided to follow one of the streamways up. This involved yet more of Rad lead climbing and then anchoring me up. At last, we came to a section to steep and drippy for Radost to comfortably climb and we resorted to bolt climbing, discovering (as have many before us) that setting Hiltis one handed while standing in a sling through a sky hook is no mean feat.

After two bolts, we made it over the lip of the climb and into yet another aven. The streamway showed no signs of constricting as it went up but we were both ratther cold, damp, and tired. We decided there to head out and back to camp.

And that was the end of my Expo this year, I hope to come back to this lead in 2020, and hopefully to push it to the top (and ideally to a new entrance to 1623/264-Balkonhoehle). I'm afraid I didn't have a camera with me on these pushing trips else I would have posted some pictures. Instead, here are some that Rad took on the surface:





All the best,

Crossley

Offline MJenkinson

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Re: CUCC Austria Expedition 2019 Blog
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2019, 05:07:30 pm »
These really does read like an amazing expo.