CUCC Austria Expedition 1996
Summary for exCS Newsletter

With the promise of easy caving now that 161d had eliminated all that SRT from Kaninchenhöhle, the 1996 expedition was the best-attended ever. First priority, however, was to find the best access to Scarface on the surface. Recces by Anthony and crew found that the walk via Hochklapf sattel was, if anything, more serious than from our old topcamp, and nowhere suitable for a new camp was forthcoming. A second attempt, from above, engineered a suitable route with the aid of the odd bolt, handline and quite a lot of hacksawing bunde. All but one rope was later eliminated, and most people could get to the entrance (or back) in one to one-and-a-half hours without too much vertical bunde bashing.

Once top camp was populated and caving started, fat wads of passage came thick and fast, but only for a while - then it pissed down for the whole of week 2, including 5" of snow at top camp. Unlike 1993, however, it cleared up again and was pretty good for the busy fortnight which followed.

The climb up where Triassic Park ended so frustratingly last year was achieved, but quickly led to pitches down, at first apparently heading for Flat Battery, but now deeper than that with no sign of connecting. This put the SRT back in with a vengeance, being effectively a 226m shaft. But not to worry, as this could be readily avoided in the extensive horizontal leads of "Puerile Humour Series". The holes in the floor here don't go far down, and the passages ramify to the NE from Triassic Park. Two parties in here found new entrances within five minutes of each other - 161e from "Yorkshire Pudding" and 161f from "Completely Loopy" - or maybe they should be "exits" as they are not terribly accessible on the surface :-)

In this area, one passage, "Where the wind blows", heads out under the east side of the Hinter, to end further north than Anglia, at a slightly higher level. "Iceland" is parallel, but must be quite near the surface as it is pretty much at the "edge" of the hill and contains lots of ice formations.

The wide space between Triassic Park and the "old" cave has hardly been penetrated, though Mike'n'Tina found "Alternative Universe" going some way into this area about half an hour before Wookey did, much to his annoyance. "Fogies' Folly" and "Dr. Snuggles" also go off on this side of Triassic Park, but are not very extensive. Several deep holes in the floor were descended, and the link into Knossos was surveyed exactly where expected.

Other holes in Minoan Surprise and off Trifurcation yielded significant vertical with "Yet another 80m pitch" appearing distressingly often. The "Bottomless Pit of Eternal Chaos", whose name will be a pain to fit on the survey, connects to one branch of "Interview Blues" - ending about 50m under the floor of Knossos. The other branch of Interview is heading steadily downwards, and at -451m is now the third deepest point in the cave.

But SRT is still optional ! Instead you could visit "Stairway to Hell". This is the boulder choke found last year which is so loose that they said "I've never been so scared anywhere underground" and "We're never going back - there must be a way round". The way round was soon not forthcoming, and off they went through "Whimper Way" into "The Forbidden Land", finding passage heading south under the Vord. and almost certainly connecting with parts of Steinschlagschacht - explored in 1983 and 84. The dreadful weather in the final week of expo prevented this from being re-rigged to see, and this will be a priority next year. The explorer's minds were so numbed by the general looseness of the way in to this series that inspiration deserted and passages were named "Elin Algor" and "Tirolia Werke" after the fridge and the cooker in the Potato Hut!

But enough of this caving - did we go on holiday just to survey 5km of new passage (club record) ? Of course not, hence the presence of hang gliders, bikes, windsurfer, diving bottles, michelin-man dry-suit, canoe, and up to ten crates of Gösser *per day*. Julian H, keen to try out AndyW's new canoe, almost immediately found himself turned into the current with a snap decision between bailing out or going over Hilde's weir. Andy having made the wrong choice earlier and gone over outside the boat, Julian elected to go for it and made a fine descent, only to find that everyone had leapt into a car to drive down to Bad Aussee to recover the body. Boats generally got their own back on him later, when he mangled his toe in a pedalo at Hallstatt.

Julian Todd got disgruntled when, despite a posh kite and various techie instruments, he found that Helen, a novice with a crap glider from CUHGS, got higher than him no less than three times on one flight. However, she failed to stay higher than the trees on a later flight, and the Feuerwehr had to cut one down to get their ladder to reach her fifty feet up in another one. They were probably concerned that she didn't do Julian's party piece of puking on Grundlsee from a great height...

With 38 members present, the expo dinner was bound to be riotous, so we were a little disconcerted when Hilde told us that it would be attended by the Mayor of Bad Aussee, 'cos we had been going there for so long. However, the deputy mayor and the head of the tourist bureau, having presented all the old lags with "our valued guest" badges, bought us some beer and beat a hasty retreat before it got too noisy.

Wookey was to be seen wandering everywhere on the plateau locating old and new entrances with a GPS "which always knows where it is". Unfortunately, Wookey doesn't know where it is, so if anyone finds a GPS which isn't lost but appears to have mislaid its owner, can they send it home please :-)

So, 5.4 km of new cave and as many new question marks as old ones finished. There were enough 1995 question marks near the entrance that no-one has actually used the Knossos connection to get to Chicken Flied Nice this year. This means that there is still huge scope for new stuff next year, and still lots with very little SRT to do. If none of the above means much to you any more then (a) it is high time you came out to expo and had a look round the cave - do it next year ! or (b) 1996 journals available from CUCC (contact James Hickson, c/o Pembroke College) cost £4.50 plus postage. High quality A0 sized Kaninchenhöhle surveys at £2 plus postage from Wookey will keep you adequately informed. The journals cover two years, and are jolly thick, so don't whinge about the price ! You only get a full survey once every five years or so, and these are very good, so cough up at once. Failing that, start a virtual tour of the cave at Work is [at the time of printing this article (now finished) - webmaster] already in hand to add this year's stuff (the work-in-progress is on Andy's webspace), and it might be done by BCRA time.