CUCC Expo Rescue Debrief – 2016

High Level Summary:

  1. There needs to be better transfer of knowledge of known hazards, such as pitches susceptible to flooding. Installation of safety dumps (bothy, stove etc) should be part of the rigging process. However, information needs to be readily available in addition to on rigging guides, ideally in cave descriptions at base camp and at top camp.
  2. All caving parties also to carry their own emergency equipment, to include a group bothy bag, personal survival bags and personal spare clothes as a minimum.
  3. Need to get smarter about obtaining and using weather forecast information prior to planning trips.
  4. Setting callouts: better to not get out too late in the day (night) if possible; avoid extreme slack in callout.
  5. If do have a long callout, e.g. due to a deep trip, then self-sufficiency is important. Three people on deep caving trips means that someone can come out if there is an accident.
  6. Responding to missed callouts: factor in the depth of the missing party, the weather, the resources required and those available.
  7. In the event of a rescue appoint an experienced leader and follow their instructions (unless those instructions break down). Write everything down, including timings.

Action Summary:

  1. Julian to research best sources of weather forecast information.
  2. Chris to investigate the purchase of a cave radio system
  3. Expo to purchase a pool of bothy bags.
  4. Review contents and labelling of first response bag
  5. Invest in second phone at top camp which can be used at cave entrances in the case of a rescue.
  6. Documentation pack needs preparing about how to contact Austrian rescue, and also cave information required in event of a rescue.

Those Present:

Mark, Anthony, Andrew, Fleur, Pete, Frank, Ian, Katey, Jenny, Olly, George, Luke, Ash, Michael, Roshni, Hayden, Julian, Becka, Aiden, Elaine, Sionad, Martin, Chris, Rob, Nathan.


There have been a few callouts of varying severity on the expedition this year. The purpose of the meeting is to review these incidents and discern what can be done better in the future. Each incident is summarised, followed by a discussion of the responses and what can be done better in the future. The focus is on learning, not blame. It is a collective issue, involving many of those present, bothunderground and on the surface. Generally the response was good, but there arealways lessons that can be learnt.

Incident 1:

Roshni and David were flooded in Balcony. The weather was generally good that day; the forecast was not inclement. However, a storm broke suddenly and earlier than expected. The cavers were caught underground. Roshni tried to ascend the entrance pitch, but couldn’t get up and came back down. At this pointin the expedition there was no emergency equipment in the cave so the pair survived on their own personal equipment. There was a quick response to the callout. One person descended with the grab bag and found that Roshni was developing hypothermia. However, the situation was quickly sorted out and all cavers were able to exit the cave, with assistance as required.

Incident 2:

Mark, Anthony and Luke were marooned at camp in Tunnocks due to the rope out of Kraken getting pulled up by the previous exiting party. They spent an extra night underground, while a rescue was instigated. The rescue was also escalated to include the Austrian Rescue, which involved a helicopter and eight rescuers at the car park. The CUCC response was to send in two runner teams. The second team started to take in extra rigging gear. The third response team were just preparing to go in when the message was received that the party were found and all was ok. Everyone was out by the end of the afternoon. During the afternoon there had been some difficulty finding relevant documentation about the cave (description etc) to provide to the Austrians.

Incident 3:

Merely a minor administrative problem when the callout for Olly & Jenny was not cancelled properly in the base camp callout book. This lead to a preliminary investigation of the situation being instigated by the top camp team, however it soon became clear that the cavers were out. This was a communications failure rather than a serious incident.

Incident 4:

Incidents 4, 5 & 6 all related to the same storm causing cavers to be trapped underground by flooding on pitches. This was caused by very heavy rain at 7pm followed by continued rain over night. In incident 4, Elliot, Alice, Nathan & Luke got flooded into Balcony and had to sit out the elevated water conditions for 2.5 hours until water levels dropped and they exited around 11pm, one hour after their callout. They were able to make use of the bothy bag and stove left underground after the previous incident. Despite the callout being missed a rescue was not initiated due to the surface conditions and the cavers exited under their own steam.

Incident 5:

The camping party in Tunnocks (Chris, Rob, Ian & Katey) were also flooded in the same night due to a flood pulse on Procrastination pitch. Rob was prussicking up to the first rebelay on the pitch when the flood pulse came through and thereforehe came back down. This swift action, facilitated by having his descender on in case, would have prevented the situation from being much worse. The team spent an enforced night underground sharing a bothy bag near to the base of Procrastination. Their callout the next morning was missed and runners were sent down to the top of Procrastination to check. The runners found the missing cavers exiting near the base of the entrance series.

Incident 6:

The final incident was also in Tunnocks, where the Champagne on Ice party (Becka, George, Nat) were trapped by floodwater for five hours. They did not miss their callout, which was the next morning, but were delayed and spent theirtime sharing a bothy bag. Previously, it was thought this route did not flood so badly, but clearly conditions were sufficiently extreme.


While these are not the first incidents CUCC have experienced in Austria it does represent the greatest density of incidents in one year. There were no serious injuries and all the incidents were dealt with satisfactorily, but lessons can be learnt.

F. Loveridge, 14th July 2016