In contrast to the (relatively) glorious sunshine of the previous year, 1993 was mainly a contest with the notoriously fickle Austrian weather, although we still found plenty of new cave in KH (about 1.3km). This was despite the increasing difficulties involved in getting to the far end, and the relatively inexperienced team. Kaninchenhöhle is now more than 10km long, and is proving to be a fascinating system. We have great hopes for 1994.
It rained. Lots. Every day. For four weeks.
The inexperience of most of the expo this year meant that there was some question as to whether the cave would be found at all before the 'experience' arrived after a week or so. The surprise appearance of old lag Adam Cooper at the beginning solved this problem, and that of rigging in.
France was also rigged quickly, the weather showing its teeth for the first time as they exited, running from the lightning all the way back to the car.
The radio's had been improved with a 50W booster at Basecamp, and a proper aerial which allowed us convincing communication to Topcamp at last.
A few souls pushed back the inevitable onset of more caving by taking the new 200m rope to the big cliff above Toplitzsee shown in last year's slideshow. An unnerving approach down the very steep wooded slope was followed by the rather disturbing rigging at the cliff edge, and the truly horrendous abseil itself. On average it took the descenders about a quarter of an hour to get down, mostly filled with thoughts of rubbing ropes, the knot at the end and thoughts of melting STOP's. It was generally agreed that it had now been Done, and this was a Good Thing, since no-one need try it again.
Meanwhile Adam had been taking poor ouigees down to his 1989 question mark at the end of Yapate Inlet 'The Final Cut'. It started very tight & wet & nasty, but soon opened out giving the 'Gob' series, a gorgeous 52m freehang 'Alexander Technique', and a 35m pitch which joined the De-Hydration route going down to -420m. The ouigees were severly knackered by this deep caving, compounded by light failure, and one vowed not to go anywhere with Adam ever again!
The 1992 drill battery had been replaced by a much smaller and lighter one, still doing about 30 holes. Unfortunately on the first trip to the bitter end (Far Too Far), its lid cane off and it fell down the 8m pitch. Despite the ammo box now being an extremely strange shape the batteries survived. This trip found another 100m of sandy passage leading to yet another pitch, and finally rigged the tyrolean traverse across Hyper Gamma Spaces that had been bolted the year before. The extraordinarily exposed 18m 'Strange Acrossfall' replaced the 28m 'Strange Downfall' and 20m 'Strange Upfall' pitches by going straight over the top of the huge pit. The trip took16hrs.
Everybody was frightened, knackered or at least wet by now, so we had Ali's birthday party as an excuse to have nice food rather than bean slop. He and MTS had shown their skills earlier by sharking some German girls ("she was at least fourteen, honest") and when trying to find their rooms at half past midnight were intercepted by their teachers who were awake and sitting in ambush. Some swiftly cobbled together excuses about the toilets were mumbled before they scarpered. Since then a party of Czechs had shown up, in much improved tents since the previous year. They had a collection of even younger girls, which was just the ticket for our two intrepid Cassanova's. Ali had to be dragged away to be fed his birthday cake and be thrown in the river, and rounded his evening demonstrating his newly found prowess at firebreathing.
A new school of caving was developing - typified by the question 'Are there any Question marks near the top, please'. This meant that 'Ignore this bit', and some very old (1988) question marks in Arrow Chamber were pushed to a conclusion, all going down 30-100m before stopping. One of these trips caused a stir when Dave Galvin felt ill and spent an hour on the last rebelay of the Entrance Pitch, throwing up for the first 20 mins. The dark, cloud, rain and the fact that it was their 1st and 2nd trips to the cave, also made it very hard to find their way back to Top Camp.
With all this against them they missed their call-out so the radios proved themselves useful as the three cavers at Topcamp were able to call up those at Base. An hour after the first call, with still no sign everyone sobered up rapidly - a CB was wired into Wadders van, and two carfuls of cavers zoomed up the mountain. Just as we were driving up, wondering why we had heard nothing from Topcamp there was a 'Top camp calling Base camp, everything is BZZZZT Fizzle POP'. We had blown a fuse at the vital moment. Fettling it at the top we were unable to make ourselves heard but got a repeating message from Base saying everything was OK, just in time to stop all the pissed would-be rescuers from walking all the way across the Plateau. Top camp had suffered a flat battery, and had had to use three Zoom flatpacks taped together to broadcast their final 'All OK' message!
The next day, those unfortunate to be at Top camp were treated to rain, sleet, mist, drizzle, hail and an over inch of snow. All the cars were hiding at base camp, and the radios were dead, so a break for Base camp was made. Eventually, despite the several inches of snow at Top Camp people got bored enough to go caving again. France then went deep, changing from big pitches and chambers to a typical Yorkshire streamway, with cascades, pools etc. and an awful sump at the bottom(-378m). All the other finished stuff was surveyed and derigged.
Because of the amount of caving required to get to the far end, people began prospecting around the area of mountain above the end of the cave. This yielded nothing except a few small shafts, so it was time for another long trip.
Bolts for campsite hammocks were installed, and a ramp pitch 'Axle Stand' rigged at the end of 'Black Velvet', leading to 'Further Chamber' with all the breeze coming out of the roof. This 9m pitch 'The Needle' was freeclimbed to look out onto another big chamber 'Even Further'. About 140m of sandy crawly passages, 'Scrofulosity' were also found. The exit from this trip also caused problems. Clive was last out at the 30m Knossus pitch. He wasn't seen again on the way out, and was assumed to be slow. The others staggered back to Topcamp at about 5am, deciding that no sign of Clive by 8am meant he was definately late. Normally the sun roasts the tents so that everyone is forced out of bed by 8am, but this morning it didn't happen (cos it was raining) so it wasn't until 10am that Clive's rescue got going. He was out of the cave by 3pm, having spent 27 hours underground. He had gone the wrong way in Boulder alley, got exposed and then psyched, so sat down for several hours until he felt up to another try. After more wandering to get his bearings he was making his way out when the rescuers arrived, just before his light finally died. He came out to more pouring rain.
It was so awful everyone hung around in base camp shouting at each other about the lack of bolts, slings, sunshine, nice food etc, until with the end drawing near the camping trip that had been mooted got underway. All the stuff found on the previous trip was surveyed, and the awful angled, slippery pitch into Even Further, 'Weasel Pit' rigged. In a stunning display of competence they had lost the setter for power drill bolts, and the only hand bolting kit was missing its driver, so dodgy naturals were the order of the day. Two were sleeping in hammocks, the third on a mudbank. The hammock users hadn't tried them before, and after spending a good 45mins getting in, they spent all night staring at the ceiling worrying about falling out again! Needless to say the mudbank was lovely. Team hammock weren't too chuffed so after surveying the remainder of the finds they retreated to the surface, coming out in the rain, of course.
Meanwhile some more of the leads in Algeria were checked out, finding 'Twin Tubs', a pair of parallel shafts, one wet one dry.
We had 36 hours of not rain (even some sunshine) then a truly incredible rainstorm. 3 inches in 20 minutes, turning the place into a river, running through people's tents, soaking all the stuff that had just got dry. A trip had just reached Algeria when the storm hit. They got very cold & wet on the way out.
The crappy weather even stopped us festering properly. A couple of people borrowed tanks from the Austrians and went diving, and some cycling was done, but the Hang-gliding was washed out, although Julian got in a flight towards the end, which was somewhat marred by him being buzzed by a helicopter with a dead cow hanging from it.
So, a less than brilliant year, mostly due to persistently awful weather. We still found 1.3km of new cave even though it is getting to be a long, hard trip to the far end. More camping may well need to be done in the future. The question mark list continues to grow faster than we can tick them off, currently at 44. Kaninchenhöhle is now 10,210m long and looks set to be a very significant cave. The END
Adam 'Moose' Cooper, Ali 'Child molester' Morris, Andy 'Half a caravan owner' Waddington, Anthony 'Dour Yorkshireman' Day, Clive George, Dave Galvin, Dave Gordon, Hugh 'Ninja Caver' , Julian 'Rant' Haines, Julian Shilton, Julian 'Womanizer' Todd, Lummat 'The Gumby', Mike 'The Sapling' Pigram, Nick 'Alcoholic' Proctor, Pete 'Doris' Lord, Seb "Fatty" Holland, Spencer 'Curry Monster' Davey, Tess 'Token Woman' Jones, Wookey