Before the sun rose after the CUCC expedition dinner, we piled some curries into George’s van and plied him with coffee. He drove us towards Ebenesee, from where we walked 1 hour to the Mittereckerstüberl (752m). We loaded our things into the seilbahn and walked 2 hours to the Hochkogelhaus 1558m). We were expecting to meet Andreas at 10am, but on arrival were informed he had left towards the Ischlerhutte at 5am. We sat down for a coffee, baffled, and around 12pm, Arndt and Julius arrived from the Arge Caving Club. They were confused since they were expecting two British girls, fluent in German. Luke did not fit this criteria.

They suggested we should hike to the Schönberg (2090m) before heading to their camp at Lou-Toti. Here I realised I was being cooked in the sun, slowly dried out in the endurance race, carrying caving and camping gear for 8 hours. 

Julius, Luke, Rachel and Arndt on the Schönberg. In the evening light, the cross is sometimes visible from CUCC’s top camp, the stone bridge.

The caving began the next day with P, Robert Zinkler and Will. The bivi (1800m) was about 10m from the cave, but the location didn’t detract from the quality of the bivi. Lou-Toti is a sloppy cave, rigged off through bolts and one-bolt wonders. It is 1.5km from the most northern parts of Balkonhöhle, and they have found 2km of new cave this week alone. 

 

Lou Toti Bivi, Totes Gebirge

We descended to 250m, to push a pitch after a horizontal development. Another group of campers were pushing at 350m, so we were led to believe our lead was a bit of a time filler. The 350m lead was easy to get to, but camping underground reduces the commute and Germans seemed very relaxed about it. They took their own sleeping bags etc. 
We pushed the pitches 60m downwards, with lots of pitches branching off. There was a good draught out of the cave with multiple ways on. We left progress in a rift chamber with an infinitely deep pool, that you could not see through. Robert took some photos on the way out. T.U. 9 hours. 

The walk back to Top Camp the next day was mostly cairned with Hunter’s trails, before Luke recognised the way on to Balkonhöhle. Roughly 3 hours walk.

Lessons learnt: 

  • Cous cous = bulgur
  • Bivi’s can be set up next to caves very easily. Perhaps when we push Homecoming and other far away caves, we should consider camping at the entrance.
  • Camping for one night is a good option, even if the lead is only 3 hours away. 
  • Leaving caves rigged is a good thing, but the rope has to be respected a lot. 
  • Curries are really heavy and don’t contain any calories. And they are really hard to eat when you have heatstroke.