Cambridge Underground 1996 pp 22-25

Austria 1995

by Steve Bellhouse

"In July," etc, etc.

Yep, we went to Austria again. This is the second Expo report of the journal. If you've read the first one thoroughly, you're probably getting bored of the endless tales of rainy day festering by now. Well, sorry but there's more. But don't give up yet, because Expo 95 was different, for two reasons.

Firstly there was the trailer. We'll say no more about that now, as there's a suitably dour description of the misery it caused elsewhere in this esteemed publication. Secondly, we discovered some cave that would accommodate Yapate and Mississippi side by side, and still leave space for MarkF and Kate to stroll down the middle without their lardy buttocks even touching. Its big.

However, before you get to the exciting stuff, you're going to have to read the usual torrid tales of festering, fuckwittedness and the occasional bit of TU.

Given my usual technique of ignoring problems until they go away, the organisation went surprisingly well. My opening gambit at the Sports Council interview, "We were going to wear suits, but there's been a bit of an error", will go down in history as something not to do, but even this failed to cause a major disaster. So I disappeared to the Alps after the alternative dinner and left Anthony to sort out all the stuff that was bound to go wrong in the last few days.

It wasn't long later that Anthony and Nick first laid eyes on THE TRAILER. It probably wasn't dark and stormy, and there probably wasn't an intangible aura of dread in the air, but there should have been. However, instead of spraying it with silver bullets and driving stakes through its rotten axles, they decided to change the indicator bulb and, satisfied the thing was now legal, they attempted to tow it for a thousand miles, blissfully unaware of its evil nature. This, however, is (a small part of) another story. Suffice to say they got there eventually, and Expo was ready to go.

Once Base Camp had been established, the laborious carries up to Top Camp began. Paul exhibited the technical expertise one would expect from a historian by politely inquiring if the yellow charger was to be taken up to top camp. With great patience, it was pointed out to him that power sockets on the plateau were far from abundant, and an Expo fuckwit was born.

The day soon arrived when some caving appeared to be inevitable. They set off to rig France and take a look at some of the many good leads left in '94. However, they arrived in the area of France entrance to find a large featureless snowfield, due to unseasonal snowfall in May. Much digging ensued over the next couple of days, accompanied by even more muttering and grumbling, but the entrance did not appear.

Animal appeared not long later and was deemed to have the necessary knowledge of main entrance to rig in and show team youth the way to some leads. Although the question marks were a bit scrotty, they eventually led to some worthwhile finds. The "Doubting Thomas" series descended 100m down tight rifts from Dreaming of Limo chamber. Also found was the "Oral" series, encompassing, amongst others, "Throat" and "tonsils" pitches. It remains a mystery why cavers developed such an obsession with head-and-throat anatomy whilst spending a month in the field.

Meanwhile some snow had melted and some cunning navigation and frantic digging had revealed France entrance. The first rigging trip was aborted as Dave Johnson, a novice from ULCC, got strung up in the entrance. The second trip was more successful, and cavers swarmed into Algeria to grab the best leads. A new pitch into Twin Tubs was named Daz Automatic, and a hole in the floor in Hob Nob Passage dropped into a promising 3m wide passage, which unfortunately choked after 100m. This was named 'Piss Pot' as both Kate and Dunks sprinkled their scent around in the passageway.

Then it was time for the dinner, so the plateau was left deserted for an evening of song and laughter. Prizes for outstanding achievements in various fields were generously given and graciously received, and Kate refused point blank to attempt eleven Mohr im Hemds.

We were all terribly surprised when the radios failed to work. However, our disappointment was reduced as the Base Camp aerial did at least provide amusement as people hung various items of (other people's) clothing from it's higher reaches, and Julian sawed up a scaffolding pole to create a serviceable drill battery. Armed with this, Julian and I took the two Daves off to France to hopefully get to the bottom of Sultans of Swing, having got off halfway down the pitch last year and found fat wads of cave. Julian was fully kitted up and ready to duck out of the sweltering sunshine and into the cool entrance, when he realised the drill-bit was sitting back at Base Camp. So of he went back down, to return the next day, whilst Dave squared went to push some crappy lead and I went 'prospecting'.

Around this time we were joined by Balázs Izapy, a Hungarian who had played a big part in organising our post-expo jaunt to Eastern Europe. At first we thought he looked a bit clean for a proper caver, but then we noticed his 1 litre tin mug dangling from his rucksack, and surmised that he was in fact the genuine article. After one trip down France, he conceded that the shafts were impressive, but generally concluded that our cave was cold, wet, miserable and completely devoid of pretties. He spent the rest of the time prospecting with Kate, who was the only person he could communicate with. This communication problem made it difficult for us to explain to him that his favourite spot on the plateau, where he would sit and write his memoirs, was in fact the toilet. All in all, I think we came off best from our little exchange trip.

Sultans was finally bottomed at 320m, and the new battery proved to be remarkably effective, capable of drilling twenty-odd holes from one charge, and only being very heavy rather than utterly ridiculously heavy like some of the previous attempts.

Back at base camp, we cooked chicken on the fire, drank Gösser and festered lots. It was getting to the stage of Expo when everyone was knackered and lethargy ruled. A combination of the dodgy connector on the CCMC stove and Julian's usual over-exuberant pumping nearly burnt the beer tent down, which provided an exciting moment as the rhino ran around base camp with the stove, a five foot tower of flame bursting up from it. Subsequent efforts to fix the stove resulted in Paul spreading a tin of Hammerite over the grass, leaving a nice blue patch for years to come. His subsequent efforts to clean up with bog roll met with limited success, turning his hands blue and achieving little else. We laughed at him a bit and drank some more beer.

Wookey and Andy Atkinson arrived for the latter part of the expedition, and soon afterwards went on the trip to end all trips. All lethargy about repeated KH trips was soon to disappear after the finds of the last week of the expedition. Going down France, they first checked out "The Forbidden Land", a truly appalling bit of cave at the end of Mississippi. This was the southern most part of Kaninchenhöhle and therefore worth a look. A tiny, muddy, wet thrutch came out at the bottom of an utterly desperate boulder-choke. Traversing this carefully, they found themselves in a huge rift running in the NNE/SSW direction. One wall was collapsed and the floor was strewn with huge boulders. At this point they heard a horrible rumbling noise from the hole they had just crawled through, and hurried back. Fortunately only a couple of rocks had fallen and they weren't trapped, but all present declared this the scaredest they had ever been and vowed never to return.

However, the stuff they had found had been huge, and was also in the direction of Stellerweg. They decided there must be another way in, and went looking...

... and they soon found a trivial traverse over an undescended pitch, which led to a nasty squeeze. Pushing the 3m passage they found in both directions, Wookey found a 5m draughty choke climb which led into a totally huge space now named "Staud'nwirt Palace" after our base camp Gasthof. From this led a windy, 10m wide passage containing bat droppings. Another entrance nearby perhaps? Following the breeze led to an even wider passage, "Triassic Park". Around 20m wide in places, this was all becoming a bit too much, so they surveyed out and returned gloating to Top Camp, making the less experienced members feel a little stupid that all this cave had been found down a lead that should really have been explored the year before but which hadn't even been included on the survey.

The next trip another 350m were surveyed and the passage was still left going strong. The survey data put us close to the side of the hill. If a new entrance could be found, we could effectively leave our SRT gear at home for the next expedition! Faced with this exciting prospect, a team went into France to try to find 161d from the inside. They went downwind, following the bat droppings, and went through a couple of ridiculous squeezes with gale force winds blowing through them (one named "Battle of the Bulge"). They found a skull, and some moths, and moments later they found daylight. 161d was promptly named Scarface due to a recent rockfall from the cliff above.

The only drawback was that the route back to Top Camp can only be described as bloody tedious, involving vertical bunde-bashing and scary climbing which, whilst okay during the day, would be desperate in the dark after a long trip. Possibilities of a new Top Camp have been mentioned, but it appears this would cause problems with the Austrian authorities. However, with some hard work to beat a trail, it is likely that we could get reasonable access to Scarface one way or another. To give some idea of the scale of the finds, in the last 9 days of the expedition we found and surveyed 1500m of cave, and there are 72 new question on the 1996 list. [The northern end of Triassic Park ends at a junction - 'Trifurcation' - from which one branch leads to a 10m climb in need of a bolt ('Bugger') at the top of which a similar sized continuation can be seen. Another branch - 'Minoan Surprise' - is sitting on top of Knossos. Flippant Editorial Remarks Inc. regard neglecting to mention this as something of an oversight on the part of the author. Ed.]

Just as everyone got keen again, it was time to derig and leave. Anthony and I were surprisingly efficient, using our pulleys to haul gear out of France. Main entrance was also derigged with a minimum of fuss. Striking Top Camp proved a bit more bothersome, as I managed to convince myself that a large pile of shit up there could be brought down in three carries, and so told folk they didn't need to go back up the hill. Once our legs had seized up, Andy returned and told us that I had been completely and utterly wrong, so Anthony and I ran back up the hill in the dark.

Then Expo was over. Anthony, Kate, Dunks, Wook, Tess and Andy all headed off to Hungary and some stunningly pretty caves, but that's another story. All that remained of Expo was the writing of reports and the drawing of surveys. Oh yes, and a hat full of meaningless statistics derived from 21 tallies (including the tally tally):

Total TU: 721hrs
Average Trip: 8.3hrs
Highest TU: Nick with 96.5 hrs

Beer Tally: 681 beers in total, won by Duncan with 106 beers
Limo Tally: 369 limos in total, won by Anthony with 58 limos

There were 77 official smelly farts, although I suspect many were not recorded.
Paul was the Quote King and Animal was the Father of Farts.

And, since I don't like to waste a perfectly good tally, I'm forced to tell you that there were 0.286 baseball caps per piss-on-the-butty-box.

The Culprits:

Anthony 'Dour' Day,
Nick 'Bullfrog' Procter,
Duncan 'Drunk'un' Collis,
Mike 'The Animal' Richardson,
Julian 'Rhino' Haines,
Paul 'Sparky' Bilton,
Penny 'Jet Set' Reeves,
Dave 'Scout' Collins,
Dave 'T'other Dave' Johnson ,
James 'Cancer' Eckersley,
Kate 'Oral' Janossy,
Hugh 'Twitmobile' Adams,
'Ard Andy Atkinson,
Balázs 'Big Mug' Izapy,
and me.

Photo - 8k jpeg, link
to 59k jpeg Photo - 7k jpeg,
link to 79k jpeg
Dave Scout in the Brownie's Cunt - the squeeze at the Zombie Slime end of the connection to Fudge Brownie and the rest of France, and the route via which Staudenwirt Palace, Triassic Park etc. were found. Kaninchenhöhle 1995. [Photo: Andy Atkinson]Steve Bellhouse in "Shortage of Walls", Kaninchenhöhle 1995. [Photo: Andy Atkinson]