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.