50 - , Ahnenschacht 3/S/T

Entrances

New Entrance

Explorers

Underground Description

Entrance series

The entrance is in a small shakehole situated on the ridge separating Feuertal and Hintergras. The cave starts with four pitches (p14, p11, p5 and p11) which drop onto a slope formed of big boulders (rope desirable). After this, another series of small pitches (p9, p7, p6, p4, p10, p18, p11) from which is reached the Sinterterrasse at -141m.

From this point, one has left the zone of small pitches and started a series of pitches which in reality are part of a single shaft down to -400m.

Indeed, if you had an unfortunate accident on the Sinterterrasse, you would fall all the way to -400m. These pitches are usually wet, especially after rain... Here is the list of pitches: p25, Schuppenstufe 30, p10, Sicherungsstufe 32, Schachtgabel 48, a 10m ramp, Josef Schacht 100m. On the Josef Schacht, a pendulum 6m from the top enables one to reach the entry to the Horizontal network. Descending the Josef Schacht a little further, after a 6.5m and a 10m pitch, access can be gained to a wide canyon, active in the bottom, and which ends in a fissure. This canyon is fossil in the upper level and certainly presents possibilities for continuation.

Lateral development from Josef Schacht

After one has crossed the "doorway" and a short squeeze, one enters the network proper. At this point is a passage covered in rather special formations. The first junction gives access to a network ... [unfortunately there are lines missing in my photocopy of Spéalp 1]

The Vegetable Garden

This fossil system, which has not been fully travelled through, contains numerous possibilities. It is reached by three principal access routes: the pitch already mentioned; a descending fissure a little before the Belgica; and a sloping passage with formations in the Mammoth pitch chamber. The system is composed of a big chamber with numerous passages and junctions; it is very poorly known and no doubt houses many surprises. Continuing along the passage, one passes a step of 4m to find a junction, to the left at which lies the bivouac.

Belgica system

Directly after the bivouac, there is a 10m pitch, and at the bottom, a new junction: downhill the Belgica passage, of fairly small dimensions, which leads, after traversing past three holes, to a descent of an 8m and a 17m pitch and to the squeezes passed by our French colleagues.

Uphill, discovered by D.Motte and PIE, in the course of the expedition in 1974, is the Galerie de Francs Comtois. This is a large ascending fossil passage interspersed with traverses, dips and pitches. It reascends to -90m. At -150m, a 20m pitch reaches the Résomega.

A little before the 20m pitch, a short descending canyon passage avoids the 20m pitch and the series of squeezes following it. The Résomega is an alternately ascending and descending passage, very chaotic, interspersed with several junctions and pitches which leads to the Balcon du Visionnaire, offering several possibilities. A 60m pitch gives onto another 60m pitch which is undescended. There is another big pitch in excess of 100m and an unfinished ascending passage. A little before, a 10m pitch allows one to reach a passage interspersed with 3 junctions and 7 exits ! This shows the level of complexity which we ran into.

It was also at the Balcon du Visionnaire that an accident occurred in 1975, which terminated exploration in that year.

Back in the Horizontal network, and after passing a little bouldery climb an inlet is encountered, named The Bath. The passage continues a little longer, to end in a pitch. [ exploration incomplete ]

The following junction has been named Mammoth Junction because the passage to the right leads onto the pitch of the same name. It is necessary to exercise great care and attention not to slip hereabouts, because a fall would drop you into same.

The Mammoth Pitch, Para-pitch and probably the Negus pitch, form part of the same system (see survey) which is composed of a 146m pitch, a 10m pitch and a narrow canyon interspersed with several cascades leading finally to a 35m pitch giving onto the sump at -612m. The Para-pitch, p106, is followed by pitches of 5, 10 and 50m and drops via the latter into the Mammoth Canyon.

The Negus pitch, which is undescended, should also drop into the same canyon. Several other small pitches and active streamways should also rejoin this system.

The depth of 612m should be treated cautiously because the method of survey used (based on the height of a man) is fairly imprecise. The bottom could be anywhere between -580m and -630m. The shortage of time prevented us from redoing our survey. [The depth quoted in Atlas des Grandes Gouffres is -607m, which is shown as the bottom of this system. However, a Belgian survey shows the Yodl system (which is supposed to end at -607m) to be somewhere else entirely, so it is rather unclear which survey is wrong.]

Turning left, the Zipfer passage is followed for 150m before reaching an important junction: to the left Chimneys passage, to the right Draughting passage.

Chimneys Passage

This is very large with a constant slope, interrupted in the middle by a squeeze and a couple of drops. The Schnaps pitch (40m with an unexplored, narrow canyon) is avoided by traversing to reach a 25m pitch in which you must pendulum 5m from the bottom in order to reach a chamber in which is met a small stream. Climbing up a little opposite, a short upper passage rejoins the stream by a 20m pitch. In the chamber, the descent of a 10m pitch allows the stream to be followed to a squeeze beyond which one can hear the grumble of a large river ? A place to go back to.

Draughting passage

This is fossil, and tight in places, and allows exploration of a very complex network which intersects itself in various places and which could hold very great surprises, since its exploration has only been sketchily outlined. The exit from this passage is in an area of boulders where two possibilities exist:

To the left: a tight passage has been forced on a slope to Kitschacht (Tackle Bag Shaft) a magnificent 50m drop, very wide and completely free hanging. At its base, several possibilities. A tight active canyon which can be bypassed by a fossil passage, broken by an earthy drop of 3m to a huge 15m pitch leading to a sump at -360m.

A drop of a few metres gives access to a huge fossil passage (10 × 5m). The floor of this is cut by a deep canyon which has not been explored. After a hundred metres or so the passage ends at a vast wet pitch. Climbing over a big boulder on the right gives access to another pitch upwards.

Just after the base of Kitschacht, a passage of 80m makes a connection with the system of the Décollement pitch at the bottom of the 40m shaft. A canyon leaving the junction passage can be followed for more than 300m, and exits, in several places, into the side of the big fossil passage, just before the pitch upwards.

To the right: The Décollement pitch, with, at its base, a sloping chamber full of boulders. To the left a very deep ascending canyon is unexplored. In the bottom is the Méandre Emeri, so called because the formations are orientated in the direction of progress and of the draught. This rejoins a wide pitch with an inlet. After this 15m pitch is a short canyon and a damp 40m pitch. At the bottom, a huge descending passage suddenly turns almost vertical. This is the Toboggan, needing 20m of rope (a very spectacular passage). At this level one again cuts a new streamway. The passage continues, then contracts, and chokes at -385m.

Extensions to the Belgica system (various Belgians, June/July 1977)

After the Bivouac: a 10m pitch, then turn left into a small passage, ignore three pitches to the side, then descend pitches of 8 and 13m to arrive at some easy squeezes on the left. After this, a climb of 5m and a 42m pitch. Stops in a sand blockage at -410m.

Over the 13m pitch a small passage goes to several climbs in a fossil series. There is a 25m pitch and two 10m pitches ending in several very tight chimneys.

Yodl system (explored GSAB, August 1977)

From the entrance, after 70m down Josef schacht, climb down 7m over a large block and descend about 12m in the bottom of a meander. Progress is then in the meander, with a short climb in a fault on the left and a 120m pitch, in sections of 22m and 100m. Beyond is a tight canyon with a 20m pitch to a sump at -607m (the last part of the 100m pitch is wet).

Atlas des Grands Gouffres du Monde 1979 says that the original -395m route goes on to c-470m (unsurveyed) and there are also routes ending at -385m and -386m.

References

78.2012
(GSAB) Spéalp 1 (June 1977) pp 33-49, Totes Gebirge : Description des principaux gouffres de la zone ouest du massif, Jean Claude Hans & Etienne Degrave
English Translation
En Français
79.1855
(GSAB) Spéalp 3 (Oct. 1978) pp 44-45, survey, Ahnenschacht 77/78, Jean Pierre Braun
English Translation
En Français

The description was translated from the references by Andy Waddington and Jill Gates.