Austria Expo 2015
Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Last summer, a large portion of this years student intake explored caves on the Loser Plateau as part of the Cambridge University Caving Clubs (CUCC) annual expedition to Austria. Much has to be said for the advertisement from Nat, Rob, Holly and Noel as eight expo-virgins jetted off for a laborious 30 hour journey across Europe.
The ULSA contingent was present for the entire six weeks of the expedition, from rigg to derigg; thus this report is a collaboration of everyones experiences. Apologies for taking so long to publish this, evil university work has been getting in the way. In summary 5K of passage was found and a connection was found between balcony and Tunnocks making it 114k long.
After a froughtful coach journey to Austria, the sun was setting as I dragged Luke and his somewhat excessive 160 litres of gear towards the tatty hut. We were greeted by Matt Watson and David Walker of CUCC, with many Gossers and the days that followed included the set up of base camp and much lake (Grundlsee and Altaussee) festering. The arrival of more keen rigging people meant that we could head up to top camp to begin set up, whilst Luke and Joe (Bache) snook off to begin the years caving in 107 (CUCC numbers all of the caves they discover).
My caving began rigging the entrance series in Balkon Hohle, a cave rediscovered by Katey and Nat last year. I spent a fair amount of time pushing in Balcony, getting rather emotionally attached and recovering when kilometres of leads ended in nasty wet pitches or boulder chokes. After the first week, a big promising draughty lead, The Dark Arts, was killed off and we focussed our attentions to the vast amount of cave found by Holly and Noel among others last year, beyond the Far Side.
The total length of new cave passage found in here is detailled below. The arrival of Dan, George and Rob was welcomed as more humans could be put down Balcony, pushing for the connection with Tunnocks. The highlight of my trip was the final twelve hour rigging trip in Tunnocks, below Magic Glue with Anthony Dour Day, which involved 600m of proseccing on my part and a long sit down at the end. Really, who needs 27 rebelays in 80m of vertical passage?!
I travelled with Wookey and Micheal to Austria, 2 weeks into the expo. The journey went relatively uneventfully (minus some small-ish issues getting through Dover), and the Wookvan, complete with mattress in the back, meant it was also quite comfortable. Arriving in Bad Aussee, I was psyched to get up to top camp and go caving, which we did a day later. On my first day of caving, I went with Wookey and Matt into Balkonhoehle, where we found an really cool chamber with ice waterfalls in. It was really exciting being in a section of cave that no one else has been in, and that surreal feeling didnt wear off for the month that I was there.
For the rest of the month, I tried to cram in as much caving as possible without tiring myself out, and continued to push stuff in Balkon and the occasional trip down tunnocks, meaning I got to try the assault course entrance series and improve my hanging rebelay skills. Caving was made especially good by all the cool people I got to cave with. It was great seeing some Leeds people again, and meeting new people from CUCC, UBSS, Reading etc, many of which were able to give me loads of tips, and were really fun to cave with.
Top camp was pretty luxury, and I discovered how delicious instant mashed potato actually was (a love that was quickly picked up on by others and massively exaggerated). Some home improvements were made to the stone bridge, including some seats (with backs) fashioned with rocks by Andy (a guy from Reading) and a tag saying come in my animal hole, made by Nathan when he was especially bored.
My last week there saw Tunnocks connected to Balkonhoehle, via a pitch which dropped from March of the Penguins into Ice Cock Aven, rigged and partially surveyed by Martin, Brendan and Jacob. The pitch was called Penguin Fellatio, I assume leading on from the penguin and dick themes. The next day, we derigged the pitch, and caramel catharsis in Tunnocks, as we did the first through trip between the 2 cave entrances. Some more derigging occurred and top camp was set down, followed by a bbq in the evening.
Me, George, Brendan and Nathan set off back home via various trains and coaches, leaving a slightly lost Luke at Dachstein, to try and find his way to the Cardiff expedition.
Brendan and Nathan
Finally we had reached bad aussie train station after a long bus/coach journey from england and I was feeling glad the worst was over, or at least thats what I thought unitl I noticed Nathan looking exaperated/angry/upset. Turns out he was explaining to me for the 3rd time we had infact gotten off at the wrong stop ‘ I checked the map on my phone and it looked like it was only a couple hours walk to base camp so with our massive bags full of expo gear we decided to walk there instead.
A few minuets into the walk I recived a call, assuming it was a cold call I put my phone away. However hours later at the hut we were told the call was actually Olli Betts offtering to give us a lift from the station, much to nathans dismay.
Base camp was really nice and we had arrived just in time for expo dinner, where we heard stories of expo exploits from before our arrival, EXPO NEWS: Rachel and Luke mistaken as couple by CUCC. Luke branded insane after eating slug for the promise of‚£5 (He never got any money). Robert Rignal accidentally steps on perfectly preserved dead bat while exploring Balcony. George given Grease ferret award. Sarah becomes potato after eating too much mash.
The next day we headed back up to top camp, a place which had everything I could wish for in the middle of a limestone Plateau, large water/ice supply for my Frappuccinos, an animal hole for my Nathan, an infinite supply of instant noodles/curry and much much more.
My first trip was down Balcony with George, he was taking us on a tour of the cave; so far discovered in balcony over the past two years, including a new area of cave + a big aven found by Sarah, Matt and Wookie. Sarah was asked to name the passage, however after being unable to come up with a name, it was given the default name of Ice Cock Aven by Matt as it was annoyingly cold and had a few quite large ice formations in it.
Our other objective was to survey the “ULSA Grotto, some side passage found by George near the Leeds bypass. It was time to finally get my disto dirty and try out some new surveying software on my phone (TopoDroidTM: Android OS).
I was pretty impressed by the software and would recommend it to anyone with a distoX, it means you dont have to type all the data into survex manually and reduces the risk of transcription errors, all though keep an eye out for incompetence errors. The downsides are it doesnt take LRUDs automatically (although you can type them in manually) and sketching on a capacitive touch screen is pretty difficult.
Back on the surface there was the eternal decision about what food to eat next, top camp was 24/7 buffet of all you could eat: boil in the bag curries; cous cous; noodles of every flavour; mash potato; pesto and lots of random Chinese sauce packets. Sarah or Potato Parker as she became known as on expo, had developed an impressive obsessive affinity for mash potato, I think Nat has his work cut out for him as she ate ~ 2 portions an hour + every flavour of pesto in existence.
Nathan: One particularly miserable day in which rain and cloud had set in and no one particularly felt like caving, several people decided to learn how to hand bolt. This provided ample entertainment for a few hours, with George managing to clog the spit up entirely with limestone and fail to make any progress for at least 20 minutes without noticing. We also discovered Sarahs fear of snails, as George placed one on the top of her head and we tracked its progress over half an hour, down her hood, then her hat until it reached her forehead. Screams and laughter ensued.
The last few days of expo were caffeine fuelled and fun, I had finally succumb to expo fever and I was excitable enough to do anything ‘ CAVING! On the last day of pushing in Tunnocks I went to march of the penguins with Jacob and Martin. After bolting a traverse, we found a massive camber with a big pitch on the left.
The chamber was interesting as it contained loads of evidence of being quite close to the surface: lots of condensation on the walls, Fresh soil + bits of rotting bunder on the floor and lots of leads in the celling. This alone was exiting news but more importantly according to survex it was very close to balcony.
Martin started to bolt the pitch but couldnt get all the way down due his battery running out half way through placing a blot for a rebelay, meaning the rope touched the floor of the chamber below however we couldnt get to the bottom without rope rub on the way back up. He came back up the pitch explaining it could be ice cock aven but his light wasnt bright enough to identify it properly.
I went down after him and had a look with my light on its brightest setting, it took me a while to realise as I hadnt seen it from this angle before, it was like looking at Ice Cock from a dream but after a while I concluded it was definitely ice cock aven and we had officially connected Balcony to Tunnocks! We swiftly left the cave itching to tell the news to the others waiting on the surface. The next day we went back with Matt, Luke and Sarah to do the first ever Tunnoks/Balcony through trip a nice end great expedition.