CTS 80.1741: BCRA Caves & Caving 8 (May 1980) p 30 [ISSN 0142-1832]

Cambridge University Caving Club - Austria 1979

In August 1979 eight members of the club returned to the Loser Plateau, Totes Gebirge in Austria to continue the exploration of Eislufthöhle, which we were forced to abandon due to a car accident after reaching about -350m in 1978.

Just inside the entrance our problems restarted in the 80m Plugged shaft where the ice and snow had completely re-organised itslelf again, necessitating time-consuming rebolting. After this, the next pitches of 13, 19, 14, 12, 30, 11, 48m were rigged in one trip. The next trip rigged two short pitches and then explored a new route from the -280m level. This rejoined the stream canyon found last year after easy pitches of 17m and 9m landing in a small chamber seen from below in 1978. Much muddy traversing and a very muddy sloping 26m pitch led to our 1978 terminus (now determined to be at -331m) and here two ways on were possible; straight down sounded wet, so a further muddy traverse was followed to a 20m pitch descending the far side of a rock wall into a dry chamber. This was clean and a further climb of 5m led to an awkward meander descending to the head of a rather sharp 23m pitch at the base of which an increasingly tight and nasty rift led on. After an extrememly tight section, a window onto a pitch was reached; this seemed to be about 20m to a boulder floor and rose above in a high aven. This pitch was never descended as the narrow rift was smaller than expected for the main way on.

Straight on down from 1978's terminus proved larger than had been expected from above, dropping into a huge cross rift with a remarkable pinnacle on the far side. The pitch was 28m to a ledge, then 33m in a smaller, damper shaft. Below this, a climb escaped the water and a traverse led to a dry shaft, with the stream still audible. Twenty four metres later, a small ledge formed a useful place to rebelay the rope, now showing signs of rubbing above and the rope ran out 19m later. A sharp climb of 5m led to another ledge and the awkward takeoff for a 24m pitch rejoining the water part way down. The rope was too short for the next pitch but from the end, the pitch clearly landed on a flat floor in a huge rift passage at around -500m. Hopes were very high for a major continuation but four days of rain caused to abandon our only attempt to continue and we were running out of time.

A massive pushing, surveying, derigging trip was our last chance and the new pitch was bottomed at 17m but the huge passage led on to a muddy boulder climb and a pitch down to the inevitable but impressive sump at -506m approx. With mixed feelings of elation and disappointment we took photgraphs and then derigged to -210m, emerging shattered after 16 hours. The pot was fully derigged two days later and the plateau cleared of gear for our return.

There are still several loose ends, most notably the undescended pitch beyond the tight rift at about -390m and another undescended pitch at -140m. Also, a totally untouched wet shaft at -150m and a couple of upstream continuations. After three years of learning about continental caving, all spent in the same pot, however, C.U.C.C. is moving on to new areas, leaving 80% of the plateau still untouched. Full details of our earlier explorations are in "Cambridge Underground" 1977, 1978, and 1979. A complete description of Eislufthohle will appear with our 1979 report in "Cambridge Underground, Journal of C.U.C.C. and exC.S." for 1980, to be published in late spring when large surveys should also be available.