The 1978 expedition of CUCC returned to the promising area of the last two years to continue the exploration of last year's deep pot Eislufthöhle (1623/106) and to prospect for further pots on the Loser Augst-Eck plateau. Seven members of the expedition were present for shorter periods, all during August this year.
The expedition formed two groups, the first of which were to continue forcing Eislufthöhle, abandoned at -150m last year due to lack of time. We were not prepared for the increase in snow this year and it took us three cold trips of rebolting and digging through snow plugs to get down the 80m "Plugged Shaft" just inside the entrance; but below this rigging was fairly easy. Several short drops of 12-20m led to last year's final chamber "The Taproom" from which a short climb led to a rift passage with a strong draught. This led us to the head of a pitch, which dropped 60m in three sections, the bottom 15m being very damp in wet weather. A traverse above the stream led to the head of a 55m free drop and then a short balcony pitch to the floor of the Hall of the Greene King, a large chamber of 25m in diameter and at least 80m high. Beyond a boulder pile was a subsidiary chamber and the way on was a pitch into a high vadose streamway where progress was by traversing 3-15m above the narrow stream trench. This passage took us to a depth of 350m via a very muddy pitch in an oxbow and we were forced to terminate exploration 10m down a 40-60m pitch when a car crash removed two of the team of five after an overnight trip. De-rigging was achieved in two trips of 10 hours (bottom 50m and spare tackle) and 6 hours; and a trip to the furthest point would take about 6 hours with the pot fully rigged.
The stream should be rejoined by the next pitch (it could be heard below) and the final draught is inwards suggesting a lower outlet, though the entrance draught is inward [this "inward" is a typo for "outwards", WebEditor] suggesting a higher entrance, probably coming in via the high aven above Hall of the Greene King. The other group spent a few days investigating entrances on the plateau, including one hole of about 50m, before finding a powerfully draughting entrance which required 3 days digging to enter, revealing a pitch of 18m to a series of passages. Two further pitches were descended to a junction of ways. One way by-passing an 80m direct shaft and leading to a series of smaller pitches which joined the other route. This involved a short pitch to boulders and then a 95m shaft. Beyond the confluence, a streamway dropped down various climbs and pitches to another rift, ending at a fairly conclusive choke, though it is conceivable that a route could be found above this. The total depth of the pot, named Gemsehöhle (1623/107) was 280m.
Together with last year's finds of Schneewindschacht (-265m) and Bräuninghöhle (-220m), these pots represent four of the five deepest holes in the area. Eislufthöhle at 350m comes twentieth in the Austrian list (based on Spelunca Special 1977) and as a going hole certainly justifies our return in 1979.
A provisional report has been prepared (not for publication, though copies are available from N.Thorne, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge) and a full report will be published in "Cambridge Underground 1979" out about May 1979.