Summer 1980 saw Cambridge University Caving Club return to Austria accompanied by several members of UBSS; several members of the Pennine were also in the party, namely John Bowers, Andy Waddington, Andy Connolly and 'Budge'. After meeting up in London, we had our final dose of English beer before departing for Dover in a mega-thunderstorm.
The long drive through Germany led us to Golling, south of Salzburg and at the foot of the Tennengebirge mountains - Austria's most promising caving area. Here we met up with the others and proceeded to our first night of Austrian lager and a near miss with the Vienna-Salzburg express on a level crossing which was inconveniently situated between the pub and the campsite. As we still hadn't received official permission to work in the area, we were only planning a recconnaissance here before the main group moved on to the traditional CUCC location at Altaussee - if we found anything promising a small group might stay at Golling. Budge and Andy set off to prospect Die Schwer, a large hanging valley east of Kuchlberg Alm - the site of Schneeloch, Austria's deepest cave. Our hangover befuddled brains led us up the path to Winnerfall - a 50m waterfall resurgence that takes water from both Schneeloch and the Die Schwer area. This was very pretty, but wasn't on the right route. The right route, however, proved very steep, and after five thousand feet of ascent, we found a Frenchman sitting on a rock playing pan pipes. Behind him were several tents, and more Frenchmen dressed in caving gear. After a rather complicated conversation, the French revealed that they had "bagged" the area in 1979 and were just starting to rig into a pot that they had pushed to -300m last year.(1) The area looked very promising indeed but was one hell of a slog to reach and the campsite was a pretty bleak place. Perhaps slightly relieved that the French had beaten us to it, Andy and Budge returned to Golling and joined the others in Altaussee.
The same day, John Bowers and Andy Connolly had set off on a two day high level walk into the Wildensee area with Tony Malcolm. The area seemed to offer quite a lot, though access would be harder than the traditional stomping ground - the only positive benefit was a hut full of schoolgirls who invited them to stay the night, so they did !
The next three weeks saw the thirteen man group caving, walking, swimming, sunbathing, eating, drinking and being ill to varying degrees of seriousness. Four significant pots were explored and pushed to various ends :
Mike Burgess & Andy Waddington.
Expedition members present : J T Griffiths, B A Van Millingen, A P Malcolm, N Thorne, A S Connolly, A E R Waddington, J A Bowers, C Owen, S R Perry, T Lyons, K Baker.
(1) This cave was pushed by the French to -650m in 1980 and to about -1100m in 1981, ie. about the same depth as Schneeloch.
(2) All caves in Austria have a Kataster-nummer, which is their number in a national catalogue. In Loser the numbers are 1623/xxx and we have only named the biggest of our caves.
(3) In 1981, CUCC & UBSS pushed Stellerweghöhle to a connection with the lower reaches of Schnellzughöhle, and then via Schnellzughöhle to a total depth of 680m still going. The 1982 expedition again has a Pennine contingent so watch this space for news !
Cambridge Underground 1981 pp 9-21
Proc. UBSS Vol. 16 No. 1 pp 11-20
Cambridge Underground 1982 pp 5-20
Proc. UBSS Vol. 16 No. 2 pp 77-83