CUCC's 1995 expedition proved to be much more exciting than could be reasonably expected.
Those of you who have been following the saga of Kaninchenhöhle (or even taking part in it), will have noted a certain grim determination creeping into things, replacing the dynamic enthusiasm of the first few years. Despite the fact that the people change, the monotony of the same miserable hole in the ground for 8 years was beginning to get to expo. However, the events of 1995 have put an exciting new spin on things, prompting a return of that sense of excitment and anticipation.
Things got off to a slow start after initial difficulties with the (France) entrance being under 10ft of snow. A shovel was bought and a few exploratory holes dug, but to no avail. They had to wait until it melted enough to show where to go. Equally the top camp water hole proved hard to find.
The other thing that caused difficulty was the trailer that had been borrowed (as someone has nicked expo's trailer). This proved to be a bit rusty and generally not caver-proof, with 3 blowouts on the way there, the last resulting in axle collapse on the Pötschen pass. This meant the trip took 38 hours, and made the trailer towers (Nick Proctor & Anthony Day - Ex-pres, for those who don't know) very miserable!
Being unable to get into France, people started down 'Main Entrance', as it has become known. They wandered off to the host of question marks in the new section beyond Vestabule, and below Gnome II, accessed by the miserably muddy & catchy 'Stomping' passage. Here various holes were pushed, mostly in rather grotty rift. Classic austrian cave with hading rift & tight pitchheads. Four new bits of cave 'Limo's revenge', 'Splattery', 'Oral series', and 'Doubting Thomas' (after Mike TA pronounced that it 'definitely wouldn't go'). Doubting in fact went down about 110m to the same level as Knossos, before getting too miserable. All these bits & bobs came to about 400m.
Once the snow melted enough to sqeeze past, people went prodding around in France and found some stuff; another route into Twintubs below Algeria ('Daz Automatic'), a big chamber at end of Mohr im Hemd 'Regurgitation', a choked pitch at end of Mississipi 'Black Suspender', but nothing went very big, and a number of things even stopped (eg. bottom of totally huge Sultans of Swing pitch in Algeria!). The radios also failed to work after Julian Haines had fettled them quite a lot so he was dead pissed off. In revenge he built a new drill battery out of an aerial pole which seems to be both practical, effective & robust. It may even prove to be reliable!
Mike TA welded the trailer back together (typical CUCC response - bring a welder & angle grinder to Austria, rather than pay an Austrian garage). In fact the trailer only made it back as far as the Czech Republic before giving up the ghost, and being given to National Breakdown to bring back - we may see it sometime this year...
There were relatively few people in Austria this year. Students: Steve Bellhouse (new CUCC pres), Kate Janossy, Nick, Anthony, Duncan, Paul. Lags (in order of seniority): JulianH & his mate Hugh, Andy Atkinson, Wookey, Mike TA, Waddington. Students from London: Scout (Dave Collins), and Dave Johnson. Finally Penny turned up for a festering trip (no caving gear), and a pleasant re-orientation from clients & power-dressing, to expo squalor. However, everyone there did their bit (despite severe inexperience in a couple of cases), and 750 hours of caving got done.
Me & Andy Atkinson arrived at the end of week 3 and went down RH route to check out a QM near bungalow, and maybe go on to Siberia, but we got sidetracked and climbed up between Garden Party & squeeze - found some more cave higher in the rift. Did some jolly joke rigging and interesting climbs. Then went on to Bungalow and found that passage here went on over pitch, then down another pitch (18m), then to the head of an 80m odd rift. Fucknose where this goes - it's above the Flapjack area, but not really close enough to be the same pitch..
Meanwhile Nick was being hard and decided to check out Gob rift continuation (below the end of Yapate). He had rigged the RH route, and took novice after novice down to Gob, wearing them all out one by one. Things failed to go well (mike TA jacked at the crap bit - citing 'old man's privilege', and Duncan was keen but simply too fat to get through). Thus he finally got to rig it on his last trip, getting down 40m? in big, but rather wet pitch. Oh well - maybe next time.
Then me, AndyA & JulianH went on the trip to end all trips. First we checked out 'The Forbidden Land' which is the most appalling bit of cave ever in the whole world. Tiny (wet, muddy) thrutch (at end of Missisippi/Rocky Horror - ie. southernmost point of cave) comes out in bottom of boulder choke. All muddy and shitty and desperately loose. We all traversed this terribly carefully (about a 15m climb in total) and got into big space. It turned out to be a huge hading rift running approx NNE/SSW which is just full of mega-rocks. (one wall solid, one collapsed). We went about 60m in either direction, but whilst doing this there was a horrible rumble from the hole we climbed in through and we were sure that the end was nigh and we were entombed here for the foreseeable future. In fact only a couple of rocks had rolled down it and we lived, but its probably the scaredest I have been, and definitely the scaredest JulianH has ever been. We are NOT going back, even though it is big stuff that goes south off the end - towards Stellerweg - there has to be another way in somewhere...
So we started looking for said way in, going back up along bottom of Rocky Horror, poking into every available cranny. Soon found a significant pitch that no-one had been down, and a passage over the top - trivial traverse. This was small and soon shrank to a nasty squeeze which I pushed ('the Brownie's Cunt', after the Nun's Cunt, but off Fudge Brownie..). JulianH had a miserable time getting back out until we moved some of the rocks out of the bottom, 'cos he is a fat bastard. This came into bigger (3m wide) passage. We ran down this in various directions. Again I got lucky, and after finding a choke climbed 5m up a hole, which led into totally huge space (Staud'n'wirt palace). Wandering along from this was beautiful white-floored passage, and lots of batshit (!? - a first for KH). This was 7-10m wide and windy! following the breeze I came into an even bigger passage (hard to see far side - 'Triassic Park'). At this point I felt I had to go back and get the others, and we proceeded to walk 250m down this huge stuff before getting cave overload & going home happy bunnies!
Next trip Steve & Duncan & Kate surveyed another 350m on the end - still no sign of an obstacle!, and it was awfully close to the edge of the mountain (far side of Hinter). Then me and Andy came back up the hill, surveyed the bit we found down RH route near bungalow (semi-detached) and derigged all RH route (6 tacklesacks + the coax that has been there since 1989).
Next day we decided it was time to find a new entrance so we went in and followed the batshit & breeze (the other way - downwind). We found three dead bats and some dead moths and a skull of something else (bird?) so the surface must be close, but wind went into a big choke and tiny impassable passage, until andy disappeared down 'obviously choked' bit and found loads of extra-scrotty passage, almost full of rocks except for top foot or so. After loads of this (in a significant gale) we got to a place where distant huge waterfall could be heard.
After a bit of prodding we realised that in fact the noise was the howling of the wind through a tiny bit of passage at roof level. I would have given up here (yep, it was that bad...) but Andy was determined that the surface was moments away and forced himself into this wind-tunnel (stopping the wind very effectively). This was only 'jolly' small, but had a bulge at the end which turned it into a total bastard (thus 'Battle of the Bulge'). I took my belay belt off (our SRT gear was left at the bottom of the rope in Algeria :-), it was so crap. Beyond the passage size increased and we found a chamber with loads of moths, mostly shagging. A few metres beyond this we had the enormous pleasure of running out into the open air on the side of the Hinter. Huge grins, and major excitement!!!
We had left the survey book at the choke, so we had to remember some bearings on mountains (to find it again) and then went back and spent some time discovering two different other ways back (one each) which avoided the crap stuff after Battle of the Bulge. We also noted, whilst surveying, that there were two places, one either side of BOTB where there were very similar-looking chokes of small rocks in big passage, which could conceivably be the same spot - thus a potential BOTB bypass - necessary for this to be a useful route in for non-skinny cavers.
We decided to leave our SRT gear and try walking back to France up the outside. This proved to be pretty fucking exciting. There is a 30m cliff above the new entrance - 161d, known as Scarface as there has been a big rockfall recently from the cliff above, which has removed all the bunde in the area, making it easy to find. This cliff either requires an exciting climb (Andy's route) or some appalling vertical bunde bashing (my route). The next day we tried some different down-routes, but these were even worse, as the bunde makes it impossible to pick your route sensibly from above. Finally, on the way home, I tried walking down to the Stogerweg & around the Vord., but that was pretty grim too, as I did miles of bunde bashing with a huge sack and then had an hour's walk back to the restaurant. However I reckon that a sensible route does exist from this direction - but it could take some time to find.
So in summary we have removed all that nasty SRT from the cave (it is currently a welsh caving trip!) but have made the walk-in rather more exciting.
After the success of the 'today we will find a new entrance' trip, we set out on a 'today we will survey a kilometer' trip, but this proved less sucessful, as Triassic Park stopped after another 250m (800m total). In fact you can see it continuing about 15m up in the roof, so we have another Staircase 36 to do 1st trip next year. In the opposite direction at the T-junction near the end (Trifucation) there is a big 25m+ pitch, a bigger (70m+) pitch, and a 15m drop to a rocky slope which is about 99% certain to be the back corner of Knossus!! - looks like nobody ever had a good enough light to notice this - we could have been here 6 years ago.
All very interesting stuff, and there are 72 new QMs on the 1995 list! So in the last 9 days of expo another 1500m was surveyed, bringing he year's total to 2km, and the cave to just over 14km.
I confidently predict that a good selection of old lags is likely to make an appearance in the light of the above: 'No SRT you say?', 'Miles of horizontal passage?'. All we have to do is work out where to put the campsite for 1996.