Felix Article - to be published Spring '05
A Day in the Life of a Fresher on Mountain Migovec
Nine months after I first went underground with ICCC, I unclipped from the rope at the bottom of Concorde pitch, deep within the mountain Migovec in western Slovenia. The white of the floor was breathtaking, polished smooth by the annual flow of snow melt. I was perhaps the 20th person to stand here & see the colours, the shapes and the sheer scale of this enormous stone cathedral, every last facet of it formed by water and gravity.
Connecting me to the world above, and leading ever deeper, were hundreds of lengths of rope secured by literally hammering into the rockface – years of effort by students from ICCC & the Slovenian JSPDT.
I could just see the faint orange light of my caving buddy 70m above me; I built a cairn of rocks as a substitute for a tripod, and balanced my old Soviet camera at an angle I hoped would cover the whole pitch. Dousing my light & opening the shutter, I shouted 'Rope Free!', replied from a long way above by a blurred echo of 'OK!'.
Caving has given me some of the most unique emotions and experiences.
I sat absolutely still (so as not to to nudge the camera) in the perfect darkness for 15 minutes and watched the impossibly small orange dot above me float down as gently as a feather, with the lightning blue flash burning an image into my retina every minute or two. I don't think I've ever felt quite so peaceful; quietly biding my time sitting a shelf of rock surrounded by moonscape.
After packing the camera, and eating some chocolate; we readied for the ascent – 400m of rope to climb, nearly five times the height of the Queens Tower. Over eight hours of solid climbing later, I finally flopped out of the cave and sniffed at the strange Ozone smell of the vegetation, gazing up at the star-framed silouttes of the mountains across the valley.
My buddy, who had been dilligently waiting at the bottom of pitches as I climbed in case I struck difficulty (not once grumbling as he read 120 pages of his paperback sitting in the cold), joined me after a few short minutes. We stumbled back to the Bivvi following the string as it snaked around the many hazards on the plateau. I was so utterly exhausted that I had to be helped out of my caving kit, but was soon warmed by the fire & refreshed with mugs of hot chocolate and plates of chilli.
The photo came out; and with any luck should be reproduced here – a snapshot to illustrate a snapshot of a single day's experiences while on expedition with the caving club. There is no way to squeeze the many activities enjoyed during four weeks in Slovenia into a single article, but I hope that this tiny sliver may kindle your interest.
Caving is so much more than pretty pictures, inky blackness and mud – but is so unique in experience that it is indescribable, at least with my clumsy prose!
About the Club
As enormously taxing as the sport is – both physically and psychologically, caving is neither competitive nor macho. The aim is to use people's different skills in cooperation to further common goals of exploration and enjoyment. No prior experience is required, all training is done within the club drawing on the experience of our mature members. All trips are tailored to the skills and wishes of those taking part & you will never be asked to do things that you are unhappy with or that we do not feel your are ready for yet.
Imperial College Caving Club runs regular weekend trips to caving destinations around the UK – usually costing £25-30 inclusive of all training, equipment, transporation, accomodation, food and leadership. As well as our summer expedition to Slovenia, we have a week long tour in Easter to somewhere warm and long-weekends to destinations around Europe in the spring and summer.
We meet weekly on Tuesdays in Southside upper-lounge from 7:30pm; and practice rope-climbing in the trees in Princes Gardens on Wednesday afternoons from 1pm. Drop by at some point for a chat & we'll do our best to answer any questions that you have.
The expedition is now back in the fleshpots of Tolmin. The cave and bivvy are derigged for another year. Party tonight and then the van heads back to Blighty tomorrow. About 1.5 km of new cave this year - mostly below -700m, damned impressive in my book. Loads more to do next year though....
Yours to the next bottle of Lasko,
Ahoy-hoy. Big storm last night. But another glorious Mig morning. Lead that might link to sis Mig (Soda stream) has been pushed but closed down. Biggest lead is still north Miles Underground! 300m pushed so far. Now takes 2 hours from camp. Lots of side leads. Camp is at cactus junction. Going the other way Double Think apparently goes again. Higher level stuuf remains untouched. TA and JH will be back from a three nighter today.
The underground camp is well set up now - eight people have so far camped at the Fridge (although its a nice camp - the fridge thermometer does say that its 1°C). We've about four hundred metres of new survey data so far. No connection yet - you'll have to wait for the next e-mail. Alls good and pretty much the same as ever - popcorn, fire, the bivvy's a mess but you know where stuff is, weather pretty good, lots of laughs, talk of particle physics and the latest shit.
The van's made it to Tolmin (and is currently trying to make it to Ravne with half the gear). The advance party (Tetley and Chris) have already set up the bivvy, collecting snow from the huge iceberg that we conveniently found there before heading down to join 20,000 people at the Reggae festival in Tolmin. Weather good at the Soca - clouds look ominous over Mig! The rigging starts tomorrow...
Yours to the next crate of Lasko, Tetley.
17th July - Chris Rogers, Tolmin, via txt:
"Ey oh... Bivvy set up, no water yet. Mountain is gorgeous. Down the hill tonight for pizza and reggae. Will see you monday. Chris and Tetley"
13th July - News from Andrej
On Monday 12th July at 15.04, there was an earth quake in Bovec 4,9 grade strong. So on Migovec will be all kind of expectations. It is very cold and a lot of rain. On Sunday it was 12° in the morning. On Vrsic pass (1600 m) there was 10 cm of snow.