Slovenia2007 Initial Report
Log in for wiki controls
Absolutely stonking year, very lucky with the weather, lots of interesting developments. No accidents, no missed call outs and generally a very smoothly run, pleasant and safe expedition
Gardeners' World, Captain Kangaroo, pushed to within 28m of the lower M2 1980s JSPDT survey. There is a possibility that we are unknowingly connected (Slovs did not use PSSs in the 1970s except for a red paint splodge at the bottom of Silos), and a probability that a connection exists. This will be a major target for 2008, with the possibility mooted of rigging down M2.
Combined these would now be 11493m + 5229m = 16722m = 2nd longest in Slovenia
Andy and Rik pushed Plop (the tight squeeze) onto the magnificent Plopzilla pitch. A field of helictites festoon the pitch down onto an enormous boulder pile. One side of this chamber is unpushed, the other leads to a boulder choke, as yet unpushed. Plopzilla is 105m deep, penetrating from NCB to below Exhibition road. This makes it the second largest pitch in the system after Silos.
M1 & M6
Repushed + resurveyed. Still a lead (may need chemical persuasion) in a window off M1. Small extensions found in M6 - very pretty little bit of stream formed new cave, ended in draughting bedding plane dig.
New caves on western edge of plateau
"Planika" (named after the Edelweiss present on the wester plateau)and "Monatip", found below B9/M21 (on the western edge of the plateau, approx 100m north of Primadona) and the initial pushing trips conducted.
Planika: 166m long, 46m deep Monatip: 196m long, 28m deep
Planika is a high entrance (1801m) which leads directly to a 40m pitch to a snow plug. Climbing the snow gains another chamber with a large entrance, and a rift leading off. A very tight pitch head at the end of rift leads to a 5m pitch which reconnects to a 20m long snow slope. Digging at the bottom of this snow slope gained another snow filled chamber, with 'phreatic' esque passage etched through the snow by the draught, and extremely drippy snow which I believe is certainly feeding a faithful stream, possibly the one that was found on Smer0 in Primadona, 200m below. To get to Planika, one must conduct a 30m abseil down a cliff, then traverse along the ledge. Extremely pretty - one gets a view across the whole of the Tolminka by day, or the lights of Italy all the way to Venice by night.
Monatip is directly below Planika (24m between bottom of snow plug and early passage), and has a very NCB-like character - possibly a dried river bed. It undulates along, heading into blank mountain
U-Bend connected to Primadona
Hard pushing by Sandeep and Alvin through the previously blown Enigma squeeze on the 40m U-bend pitch has led to a connection with the Druigi entrance to Primadona, gaining Prima an additional 57m of height, making a cave 644m deep. Beautiful survey accuracy - have a look on the .3d file!
Razor cave survey
Coordinated by Martin, we've started to survey Razor cave. 250m already in the book, its a very interesting clearly fault-driven cave, with easy access from the Razor hut.
Primadona Smer0 pitch
Initial rigging of the Smer0 pitch discovered in October 2006 was undertaken, bolting down to ~-40m. Pitch is ongoing. Stream was followed upstream to a tight labyrinth.
Stefan's climb was bolt-traversed to by Rik + Paul, gaining a window that would appear to reconnect to Hardy Pitch. A second look wouldn't go amiss.
Further work was undertaken in East Pole: a number of promising new holes were investigated, including E1 - at ~25m deep pitch leading to too-tight windows that require opening up.
A cave was found within 20m of the tents! A short pitch, rigged on naturals, lead to a spacious chamber that was unfortunately dead. However the presence of a large collection of bones (some crushed, but many in very good condition) that appears to have been from a stag made up for the disappointment!
Heroic effort was expended in the Moth Cave dig: two extra chambers were gained, but unfortunately only lead to yet another too-tight squeeze requiring rock removal. Declared dead and derigged.
New (safe) method of gaining the cave was constructed by bolting an abseil from the cliff-head. Most leads off chamber were found to die, a bolt traverse was made across the pitch to find an aven where we hoped a parallel shaft may lie. Still to be revisited :- we ran out of time and rope, and so derigged.
Most of all, this expedition was an enormous training mission: we now have an extremely strong expedition team together once more, with great ties to the new JSPDT members.
I think that all the lags can feel extremely proud of the enormous cannon of information that has been passed on, the new members proud of the steep learning curve that they all conquered, and everyone proud of the Caves, little and big, deep and shallow that we've found this year.
Bring on 2008!
Stories we want for the final report...
- Return to M1 - ??? Jutta, Rik, Jarv, TomB, James...
- Return to M6 - Jarv I guess...
- Hawk - Jarv?
- TomB's penis puppetry
- U-Bend Det Revenge + etc. - Sandeep
- East Cave Things - Jarv/Jana
- Story of looking for M6 ?
- Ping Pong Ball Bombe Action & Mr. Emil - Jarv
- Planika Jama - Jarv
- Plopzilla Rik - written by Rik! Andy's viewpoint?
- Moth Dig (Ben's writeup?)
- G.W. - kill 'em all - Rik, written!
- Razor resurvey - ??? Ben again?
Migovec 2007 – Log Book Write Ups
Ping Pong Ball Bombe
A Slovene super-action was in the making, the shepherd's huts stocked with drink and the young JSPDT bouncing down to -200m in Prima Dona to improve the rigging. The plan was to (mainly) investigate leads off Smer0/Smer1 in Primadona where on a JSPDT trip in Autumn 2006 (joined by Tetley & Jarv from IC) a large rift with an approx 40m pitch was found - most tellingly, with water visible at the bottom. Finding a constant stream this shallow in Mig was unheard of. Meanwhile, a smaller team would head to Bikini Carwash at the end of Exhibition Road in the main system and aid climb to see if the passage continued.
The more curious aspect of this mission was the Ping Pong Ball Bombe, a plan to take ping pong balls down Primadona & set fire to them. The noxious smell hopefully providing a connection. Alas, the SysMig team that was to detect with their noses, also contained the most hardened smokers who spent their time sniffing the air in between dragging on filterless roll ups!
With mammoth organisation, Rik and I were dispatched down via text message from the Bivi to Kal, meeting the Slovs and stealing some bread before crabbing across sideways to Prima. The boulder slope climb was awful as ever, but I took the opportunity to build a cairn on the edge of the cliff so that we could recognise this point from the plateau - to help unravel the mystery of the caves below B9 spotted by Jana & I from the plateau the Autumn before.
So we went down in a mammoth party: Rik, Jarv, Eric, Aliosha, Izzy, Silan, Zdenko & Emil
Zdenko led off with the young JSPDT. Emil was a new character to us - with a bald head framed by round lensed glasses and a fine handlebar moustache that dovetailed with his military demeanour, were it not for the Slovene language I could have easily assumed him to be an old-school English army Colonel. Bringing up the rear with Emil, we were slowed by his enormous tackle sac, stuffed full of bread and cheese I could only assume. About 150m in, standing on a traverse line above a pitch, I was handed a full mineral water bottle from the depths of this magic sack. "What is it?" I asked. "Mmm... made with fruits... and a kilo of Med (honey)... its dobra!". Ah, I thought, some marvellous mountain tea fortified with a shed load of honey - just perfect to give an energy boost and fight off the dehydration. I chugged it back. Tea it was not. Double distilled Zjganja with a kilo of honey dissolved in it it was.
Once at the pushing front we found we were rather limited with gear - just one bolt kit. Rik set to work with Izzy to get down the pitch. Zdenko and the Eric/Aliosha brotherhood set off for the end of Smer0 (passed where Smer1 reconnected to it) to look at the climb that currently ended the passage. Jana, Emil & myself traversed over the pitch (which was a truly frightening undertaking - walls over a metre apart with a 40m drop down) and went to look at where the water which trickled down the opposite side came from. From the pools of water we found a 2m climb into an old dry silted phreatic system leading left facing towards the end of Smer0, starting just before where Smer1 dropped down. This branched to a small chamber with avens, a too tight rift (from which, insanely enough, emanated sounds of Rik bolting) and a chamber with a larger, aid climbable, aven. Alas, with no spare rigging gear for the climb, and no survey instruments, there wasn't much more for us to do but go back to Rik.
Rik & co had made it down about 20m to a ledge where he put in a rebelay bolt. He reckoned he could see the floor a further 20m from there. He was rather put off by the avalanche of rocks that came down when people went over the crazy free traverse. The team that went to the end of Smer0 was already back, and getting cold waiting around with nothing to do we set off out in small groups. Rik finished the rebelay bolt and headed back up, as the guys he was with were getting cold.
In the end we didn't burn the Ping Pong Bombes, as Prima appeared to be breathing 'out' in all the bits a draught was detectable.
As well as the spirits, Emil had another mineral water bottle filled with white wine, for the journey out. When he returned to the mountain hut well gone midnight he did not look particularly well. One can only assume he burnt through his hangover on the pitches out!
Primadona is I'm sure an absolutely amazing cave system, who's secrets have only been very partially unlocked. Unfortunately I fear it will require a heroic effort to make easier access (possibly by reactivating the abseil route, or finding a better abseil way down via B9/Planika/Monatip) to allow the dozens of small trips necessary to properly relearn the cave system, recapturing the knowledge lost with the retirement from caving of the 'middle-aged' JSPDT who mainly explored Primadona.
B9 & Beyond!
Walking briefly over to B9 the day after the super-action, Jana and I could spot the cairn I left on the headland north of Primadona. Combined with one built by Jana & I on the headland near U-Bend, suddenly the whole complicated 3D structure fell into place. Neither of the caves we could see from the plateau near B9 were Primadona, though the entrances looked similar - both were new caves in an area never visited!
The next day we were joined on the plateau by some of the young JSPDT. Jana & I went with Alijosha and Spela to B9, and explained the situation. The weather was awful - thick cloud everywhere. While the Slovs re-explored bits of B9 and checked to see if anything had changed after the earthquake (a pitch had disappeared off the original survey as a bit of the cave collapsed and turned into a boulder climb!), I placed two bolts for the descent down the cliff. This was really quite exhillerating - a gale swept over the edge of the plateau, the rock was soaked and slippery, and every now and then the clouds would part for a giddying glimpse of Krn or the Tolminka valley a very long way away!
The next day Aliosja and Spela went down from the plateau, so Jana and I went back alone to B9 to rig down the cliff. The weather was much improved. Jana abseiled down first on 'super' low-stretch rope and went investigating the three cave entrances, while I came down behind and put in the rebelay bolts. The three entrances were very interesting - the main one contained an enormous aven which connected back up to the headland above u-bend (you could see the sky through the top), but was an enormously steep boulder slope with useless fractured rock for walls. The further entrance was a crawl in boulders that was only briefly pushed by Jana. The smallest, highest entrance was the most immediately interesting - a perfect metre by metre triangular arch which led directly to a deep pitch. A shimmer of white was just visible at the bottom. Bolts were placed for a traverse along a beautiful slab of limestone to save freeclimbing on the steep bowl valley edged with a cliff, and the main hang bolt + first rebelay was placed for the small-cave pitch, finishing our 100m rope. We decided to name this new cave 'Planika Jama', after the rare mountain flower growing from a crack in the limestone pavement used as a traverse ledge.
Rather confusingly, we could occasionally hear echo-y shouts bouncing around from below as we walked about the bowl valley, inevitably disturbing stones which tumbled down. Initially we thought the voices were walkers on the footpath a very long way below. We tried to be as careful as we could, but couldn't really understand what was going on - except for the fact that one of the voices sounded like Kos.
Once back on the plateau, Jana pieced together the situation by mobile - Alijosha and Spela had gone down to Kal, and found away to the lower cave entrance pointed out to them the day before. They found a route via an abseil down the headland near Primadona where I had placed the cairn, ending up in the perched valley one below Planika. Jana went down to Kal to discuss the situation that evening, coming back up the next day. The lower cave was to be called Monatip ('Fucking Idiot' in the local dialect).
The next day started with Goaty & Jarv surface surveying to B9. Jana and I then descended the cliff, surveying as we went. Again, within the cave, we used the efficient technique of the lightweight Jana abseiling down past rub-points, followed by Jarv bolting the rebelays behind while Jana explored the next bit. The pitch was perhaps the most beautiful entrance pitch on the Mig plateau. From a bolt placed in the sloping ceiling a hang dropped down past a fridge-sized boulder before swinging out to a rebelay or an enormous flake (placed by using my walking boot heel 'skyhook'). From here one abseiled down an almost perfect brick wall, above an enormous snow plug, before swinging into a little dry streamway cascade to pass the last bolt and land on the snow plug. The snow contained a large metre wide 6m deep hole bored out of the ice by wind or water, and similar, more narrow, gaps on the edges of the plug. A small rift led off SW but immediately closed down. The cascade was gained by swinging, and seemed to be made out of narrow inlets at the top.
From the top-left of the snow plug Jana found a crawl way under a rock bridge to a climb up on ice on one side and rock on the other (the ice was a more reliable foothold!), to reach a snow-filled chamber which was daylight flooded and clearly below the slope of the large entrance. We named this chamber Yorkshire Pudding, as was filled with a torus of dimpled-centre snow. From the far side of the chamber (after an icy traverse) one could squeeze down between the rock and snow, attempt a climb past a stack of wedged boulders towards the aven, or walk down a snow-bottomed meander (one could also squeeze down the side between snow and rock). The meander we named 'Acre Lane' after our London home. This meander suddenly regained a rock floor and led on to a tight rift which seemed to be a small pitch head. There were a lot of boulders strewn around. Here we PSS'ed and headed back.
The next day we were joined by Andreja & James H. Jana and Andreja bolted the backup bolt for this new traverse, while I gardened my way along the tight rift and then placed a bolt holding myself in place within the rift by breathing in until my ribs were wedged securely! This was perhaps the slowest bolt I've every placed as I was lying sideways with the arm holding the driver bent back behind my head, and the hammer cocked under my budy, while considering the 6m drop to the floor. It was with some relief that I took the rope through from the girls and rebelayed my way down.
Around the corner the cave got strange once more - from a rock balcony one is confronted with a chamber filled with a 45 degree slope of compacted snow. Exploring around this we found that the upper levels shut down, but seemed diggable (from the survey it appears that we were within a metre of the Yorkshire Pud - it must be the same snow slope), and there was a beautiful inlet which had formed some amazing ice-pearls. The obvious way on was down. The snow steepened and disappeared down at about 60 degrees with the rock roof not too far away. Careful traversing across the snow, I placed a bolt on the wall, and abseiled down on my back. The ceiling closed in and the rope began to rub, the walls shut down from both sides. At the bottom I faced the end of the snow, with a 50cm gap of boulders sitting there.
The next step was obvious as it was insane - digging at the bottom of a funnel with a lot of loose rubbish above. By picking up the boulders and rotating I found I could play an effective game of Tetris, the fitting pieces disappearing with a gravely rush through the floor. There was a strong draft, what on earth was I digging towards? Images of digging directly onto a pitch floated in front of my eyes!
There was an utterly terrifying series of rock booms and human shouts almost directly above my head. I pushed myself into the corner of the snow shoot and hoped for the best. It turned out that the rift pitch head had been disrupted as someone passed rope through, collapsing a drystone wall and sending a few hundred kilos of rocks cascading down, none of which luckily found their way onto the snow slope. Jana had just reached the rebelay bolt going up, narrowly avoiding being caught in the waterfall of limestone.
Once I stopped hyperventilating, and accepted that no further boulders were coming down, I carried on digging with bare (now bloodied) hands. With ten minutes of frantic energy, a way was found. Originally I was digging alongside the snow, but as it opened up I found I could go straight down and away. A 5m climb on boulders took me down to the strangest chamber I have ever been in.
Still attached to the rope, I stood on a metre wide ledge that ran alongside a wall of perfect white ice. The ice was wet - drips were everywhere. The ledge continued and narrowed, snaking alongside this berg. From the middle of the ledge I saw the strangest sight of my life
- a phreatic crawlway winding down at 45 degrees through the ice, distinctly blowing, and with a similar rock ledge and wall visible on the other side. With no bolt kit and no camera, I headed out to my shaken compatriots. I was frozen, as my wellies and cuffs were now packed with snow, and everyone was a little spooked after the collapse.
Our last trip was a speedy survey, photo and derig, with Ben B and Emil. Jana went down the ice slope but didn't fancy the still unstable boulder climb, so we surveyed from this edge. The photo-gear was too much of an effort to get passed the tight rift-pitch. Ben placed his first bolt as a safety for the traverse across the ice. After surveying back to above the rift pitch, we switched to photography documenting the cave as we derigged out with the rope and metalwork.
Emil and Ben headed back to the Bivi while Jana & I met to Tetley to bolt down with the Planika rope to reach Monatip. This was so Izzy & him could surface and cave survey the following day, tying monatip in via both Primadona (which was surface surveyed down from u-bend by abseil) and Planika. Glorious weather, we sat watching the sun set behind Krn, with the Venetian bay visible beyond.
(Rik's were written in van on way back across Europe, typed up by Jarv. Proofread by Rik (hardcopy) + corrections added by Jarv.)
Rik and Andy go to Plop
(an abject Failure)
The mission was simple – venture into Sys Mig, traverse the gaping holes on Level 2 to reach the ratty old rope for Faulty Towers and push into NCB. Once there we hoped to bottom the fabled 'Plop', a big pitch just off NCB, rumoured to be over 50m, strongly draughting and utterly jinxed!
Armed only with a vague description from a rather drunken Tetley the night before, we set off for M16 during a brief lull in the raging storm. Once down in the cave we quickly hopped up to NCB, reviewing the excellent tourist trip across the big stuff in the system.
When we got to NCB, we stumbled as Tetley had not mentioned the lairy traverse over a ~20m drop on tatty 13-year-old 9mm. We concluded that Plop was the pitch immediately below the rope from Torn T. This was the error which cost us the pitch. The bolts continued down the pitch and I had a sinking feeling as I reached the bottom of this pointless lead.
After this we inspected the rest of NCB going East, crossing the bad traverse with some care. Andy and I took it in turns to examine the side passages and one of the ones I inspected was, as in the legend of '95, a very windy squeeze, which could be depth tested by throwing rocks with some difficulty. I was sure this was it, but Andy had an earlier memory which led us to think that it might be Godzilla. Stones took around three or four seconds to drop!
We left with five hours to spare before callout, on the very cautious side, and left the tackle bags at NCB. Tomorrow we're going back, and this time Plop must be conquered!
The Eventful Conquest of Plopzilla (nee. Plop)
After my first trip to NCB I was kept awake thinking about that three to four second drop known simply as 'Plop'. By eleven the next morning I'd managed to convince Andy of the merit of a return visit. Since we'd left the necessary tools and rope for bolting a monster pitch in NCB, we quickly shot down the M16 entrance series and up Faulty Towers into NCB.
Fairly terrified of getting stuck in the tight pitch head above that formidable drop, I took off most of my SRT kit, leaving just cows-tails and Croll. The squeeze was fairly easy and Andy passed through the bags as I put in a bolt to make a Y-hang.
Since Plop had already been attempted several times there were quite a few existing bolts. I made use of these on the way, stopping only to take down a couple of boost bars: a bit of Cadbury Courage. I felt oddly calm swinging about in the huge chamber. We had thrown more rocks from the top but the bottom was too far away to see. Even from the first rebelay I was having trouble speaking to Andy. Our words boomed around the huge pitch. Two rebelays down, I was standing on a gravel floor, shivering with the adrenaline. I'd been forced to put in a knot pass in the rope and reverse prussic past it. Two more bolts got us to the bottom of the pitch, by which point our nerves were totally shredded. Though the hang of the rope was very clean, a rope disappearing into empty blackness above can be really terrifying!
Though we were almost expecting to break into 'Level 3', an as-yet undiscovered horizontal passage at least three kilometres long, the pitch was completed choked with boulders at its lowest point. We scoured the nooks and crannies before pronouncing the bottom of Plop officially dead.
However, twenty metres back up the gravel slope, another boulder choke went down, an obvious lead for a return visit but by this stage we were too tired to push and survey a new cave passage. We left a going lead in boulders, along with an easy swing into a window halfway down the pitch.
Exit from the cave was difficult due to being tired and thirsty but we were in a jubilant mood after a seventy-six metre survey leg! Plop was the biggest pitch either of us had ever seen. As the first to bottom this monster, we renamed it 'Plopzilla'.
Analysing the survey data back at the bivi, it measured in at an impressive 105m of depth.
Riggin' Captain Kangaroo
First trip was with Thara. Tet had already rigged down Pico (re-bolting it in the process), so we set off for that familiar window with a bolting hammer, a hundred metres of rope and a couple of cinnamon malt loaves. Had the same trouble finding Tet's single bolt as I'd had in
- However, instead of bottling it, I placed two new spitz, this time within sensible reach for easy rigging. A hundred metres of rope got us to Traverse Chamber, cursing and kicking the heavy bag all the way through Scrotty.
Sandeep was the next victim, this time we set off with a hundred and fifty metres of rope. We rigged down to Olympic Rift, stopping on the way to chisel open an awkward squeeze. We left thirty metres of rope in a tacklesac at the start of Olympic Rift and did some re-bolting on the last two pitches. Also left three hangers and maillons, ten spits & cones, two karabiners, a chisel and two slings. At this stage the squeeze and huge black space the other side at the end of Olympic rift seemed like the best lead in Captain Kangaroo.
A bounce to Pico with James gave me the chance to do some more work on the entrance to Captain Kangaroo. I put in a tensioned traverse which removed the 'traditional' rub-point at the start of the take off.
Pushin' Captain Kangaroo in 2007
I had hoped that keen cavers would rush into Captain Kangaroo to push the more shallow lead off Traverse Chamber, leaving me to go and smash open Olympic Rift to fame and great glory in whatever gaping chasm lay beyond the terminal squeeze. Unfortunately, Vom-Brown and the Deep turned back near Bonus Chamber, with 'visions of hell' muttered back at the bivvi from the first sign of mild scrotty-ness.
I collared young Ben in the bivvi over a generous swig or two of rum-spiked tea and we hatched a plan to crawl along a tight rift that I'd looked down with Jarv in 2005, but been unable to survey due to lack of tape. With survey pencils and instruments in tow, we slipped through the cave to the pushing front and stripped off SRT kits to pass more easily through the rift. This was somewhat tighter than I'd remembered and shredded my PVC oversuit.
We pushed as far as we dared survey, breaking out right at end into a large double chamber with several leads coming off. The most obvious of these was a climb down into what looked like walking passage.
Returning a few days later with Izzy from Tolmin, with a bag of rope and bolting kit, we pushed the passage another fifty metres or so. Some gardening of large rocks was required to pass a short section of rift but we were mostly in big passage, clambering down rather sharply over a series of climbs.
Eventually we reached a point where a big passage closed up to about one or two metres of very tight rift with a big (approx. two second) drop on the other side. This was passable but looked more than a little unpleasant without some serious work with a chisel.
We looked around the chamber a little more before discovering a tight sharp crawl which dog-legged before coming out in beautiful white rock at the top of a twenty metre pitch. Izzy belayed my full weight from within the crawl while I put in the two bolts. This allowed us to descend to the bottom of the pitch with a few metres of rope to spare. This is possibly not the same pitch we were throwing rocks down through the tight rift but obviously very close!
As we dropped the pitch there were windows on both sides looking like they came from either other pitches or more rift-like development as well as two leads at the bottom. These were a small Captain Kangaroo-esque rift and ten or twenty metres more of the pitch. We left ~10m of rope, but took the tacklesac out.
This was a very exciting new section of passage. We named the contents of our push “Kill 'em All” after the first Metallica album. Upon inspection of our survey data, it became clear that we were exceedingly close to passage below Silos/Godzilla in M2 (less than thirty metres at closest approach).
Unfortunately, a month on Migovec was starting to catch up with me and though I wanted another trip in Gardeners' World to push Olympic rift, I was completely exhausted with very sore knees. The leads we left in Kangaroo this year will be far too tantalising to sideline in favour of surface work in 2008. The prospect of a connection with the System seems very likely and next year we're already planning a return to M2 to resurvey (our current data comes from a 1970s survey carried out with a home-built clinometer!) and to exhaust the deep leads.
Alex Pitcher Memorial Award Report
by Ben Banfield
This summer I was a member of Imperial College Caving Club's expedition to Tolminski Migovec in the Julian Alps in Slovenia. The club has been running the expedition for over a decade now and was looking forward to improving my caving skills and techniques as well as contributing to the knowledge about the caves under the Migovec plateau. The Alex Pitcher Memorial Fund kindly awarded me some money which helped me purchased my own helmet and helmet mounted light. Having my own helmet mounted light was essential to my participation in the expedition, as the club only owns FX3's with batteries on a belt that are unsuitable for Migovec due to the batteries needing a mains. Below is a report of most of my caving activities during the expedition.
Wednesday 18th: (July)
After being suggested as a lead with a lot of potential and a good place for budding cave explorers, Tom Brown and myself set off for Moth Cave, in shorts, t-shirts, knee-pads and helmets for a look. Spent a few hours shifting boulders and scree 15m into the cave at the pushing front, before leaving. Has a gusting draught at the pushing front. Will return again with tools and proper clothing for a better look.
Alvin joined Tom and myself today to continue pushing the lead in Moth Cave. After a few rotations of digging we had a badger sized hole and decided to stop for lunch. Afterwards more excavating around the badger hole and scree slope occurred. Several animal bones were recovered from the scree. An ominous slab of rock sat at the top of the scree making progress tenuous. Further digging around the badger hole led to another badger sized tunnel off to the left of the original. After moving 45-50 bags of scree we called it a day. Out 8pm with plans to ask about explosives for further pushing.
A short look at Moth with t-shirts and shorts again with Martin to ask about explosives and other digging options. Moved the ominous boulder at the top of the scree to ease our minds about becoming crushed. The bottom of the scree slope was dug to more resemble a trench for easier access to the pushing front.
With the potential for leads and the fact that Moth lies on top of the System Migovec / Primadona connection area linking it into the main survey was a priority. Martin taught several of us the essentials of surveying while we surface surveyed to Moth entrance. Alvin and Thara continued digging while Martin, Tom and myself surveyed to the pushing front. 6 survey stations later we joined up with the digging team. Using various combinations of left and right-handers we made a lot of progress expanding the left hand badger hole and the trench. Breakthrough looking likely tomorrow.
After a day's break I rejoined the Moth pushing team. Sandeep had joined us and almost straight away he managed to squeeze through the tunnel (now named Badger Highway) and into a small chamber. Alvin and myself then made it through and throughout the afternoon work commenced on enlarging Badger Highway from the other end, to make it accessible to larger cavers. The chamber contained going leads. One, a long crawl/squeeze that needed enlarging had most potential.
In 3rd week of expedition:
After proving to be such a promising lead before the expedition and during the first two weeks, Moth cave needed the final push to see whether it goes or dies. The day prior the petrol drill joined us to try and enlarge Badger Highway to allow more people to reach the pushing front. Unfortunately the drill was more of a hindrance than a help, fuming the cave and not expanding the passage.
With no draught coming from the pushing front or even through Badger Highway any more, hopes for a breakthrough didn't look promising. Everyone else had plans for the next day, so armed with a survey kit and some bright red nail varnish, I took on the mission of completing the survey and exploring all available leads.
The squeeze through the tunnel looked more daunting than ever, but with the knowledge a call-out team would be along within a few hours, I pushed through. Minor digging allowed me further access along the main lead. Another small chamber with no going leads was found. The nail varnish came in useful to mark a permanent survey station. Taking all digging tools and the survey notes out, I was back to camp well before my call-out and in time for a nice rest in the sun.
After a jolly into System Migovec earlier in the week in a large group, it was definitely time for me to go deep in a pair. What better way than to help Rik push Captain Kangaroo! With leads that had been looked at but not surveyed, interesting data collection in scrott was the order of the day. Down, down, down through the early Gardeners' World pitches and past some “interesting” rigging (greatly improved later in the expedition). Squiggling through the rifts in Scrotty until we reached Traverse Chamber. The first lead ended quickly in a pitch preceded by a tight squeeze past a spiney. With no rope and no hammer to help make the entrance more accessible let alone rigging, it was impossible for now. After surveying back to a fork, we pushed on.
What followed was a crash course in free climbing as taught by Rik. Plenty of top tips later, we made it past the fiddly squeeze where Rik and Jarvist turned back at the last exploration. Beyond was an open chamber. Rik climbed down and suddenly Captain Kangaroo became a whole lot more exciting. A pitch, two going rifts and horizontal walking passage. The climb was do-able, but really needed rigging, so we turned and surveyed back to Traverse Chamber. Out an hour early, we hurried back to camp for slop. As our survey data, excitement mounted. Our data was heading towards System Migovec for the mythical connection. The laptop was whipped out and data entered. Our survey came within 36m of the bottom M2 below Silos! A bit of rope and some further pushing and we'll be there . Roll on the survey legs!
I found the expedition an extremely enjoyable and fulfilling experience. I gained a lot of valuable caving experience. The exploration and discovery of new cave passage was very rewarding. Having my waist freed from wearing a battery belt, made caving in tight passageway and squeezes immeasurably easier. I would like to thank the Ghar Parau Foundation and the Alex Pitcher Memorial Fund for helping me on my first caving expedition.
ICCC Expedition to Tolminski Migovec Member 2007