Taken from our UK Caving Rope Sponsorship application.
CUCC's summer expedition aims to introduce as many student cavers to safe alpine cave exploration as possible and ensure that the strong tradition of pioneering British cave exploration continues into the future in the SMK system. We will do this by continuing to explore virgin passage across the system in leads small and big, shallow and deep, with the long-term dream of creating an 'alpine super-cave' by connecting SMK system to the neighbouring Schoenberg system. This 'super-cave' would be over 250km long and 1100m deep: no other cave system currently known comes close to such magnitude considering both metrics simultaneously.
This year we have a very big team of explorers with a huge variety of experience, and this means we will have a great chance to pursue a lot of different objectives, building upon our extremely successful expedition last year. However, our ability to achieve the ambitious programme outlined below will require very careful planning and a great deal of resources and dedication.
We found less cave in the deep part of Tunnocks, known as Hydra, last year than we might perhaps had hoped. The choking up of the big passage at the bottom of Song of the Earth in a massive chamber, Big Lad, quite early on meant we had plenty of time to follow up on lesser objectives from 2016. One of these, explored on the final camping trip of the 2017 expedition, ended with a tantalising echo which took a while to fade away. Named 'Beckoning Silence', this lead holds high hopes for 2018. Further leads in the area require bolt climbing to access: due to faulty drill batteries and a lack of resources at the necessary times last year these were left unexplored. We also found a very substantial sump, the Loser Lido, which we hope to get some decent photos of after failing to do this last year. There is also a very very muddy phreatic tube that Densham found, proclaiming it to be another 'Tunnocks Master Cave' despite its flow being described as a 'shit-trickle', which doesn't sound that impressive. No one seems that keen to return to this for whatever reason... We aim to get as many novice campers down there as possible this year, and we aim to be more productive by camping for longer periods at a time and managing teams more efficiently (glances at the planning whiteboard from last year will reveal the haphazardness of camp planning at times).
Since 2013, two very interesting mid-level areas of Tunnocks have been intermittently explored: Champagne on Ice, found in 2014 and pushed again in 2016, and Claytons Cock-Up, found in 2013 and explored further in 2015. These areas of the cave still hold a lot of promise, but have often been neglected as they take longer to get to than other parts of the system and are not as easy to find as other parts of the cave. We aim to try and push both of these areas of the cave hard this year, but we will have to be very efficient with rope and gear if we wish to do this as both require a lot of rope and metalware to rig.
Last year something happened which hadn't happened since we found Balkonhohle (for the 4th time) in 2014: two completely new caves were found and are still going very strong. These caves, Fisch Gesicht Hohle and Glucklich Schmetterlinger Hohle (GSH), are exciting for reasons beyond having silly names ('Fisch Gesicht' refers to Luke waking me up after a heavy night by slapping me in the face with a herring). They have gone very deep very quickly, they are extremely cold, they draught like hell and they are in the middle of nowhere on the West of the plateau. We hope to be able to connect the caves this year (they lie less than 200m apart) and we expect to be able to connect them into the system reasonably soon. This Western area of the plateau is also a key area to push for possible ways closer to the Schoenberg.
Balkonhohle has for the last 4 years been a sort of 'training ground' for cavers new to the expedition due to the friendly and accessible nature of the leads there. This characteristic of the cave has started to slip away in the last two years, with the discovery of a number of much deeper shafts which have been quite cold and wet. We anticipate returning to at least two of these areas of the cave this year, Sloppy Seconds and Cathedral Kazam, and we hope that persistence with the deeper areas of Balkony will provide a compelling challenge for newer members of the expedition.
To connect to the Schoenberg we require more cave to be found to the North of the plateau. We thought that a cave explored in the 90's by UBSS might be a good place to start, but the team who went there found that this cave hadn't much to offer that had not already been looked at. However, the area has a lot of prospecting potential, so will offer a place for people to head to for something slightly different, even if that is just drinking Whisky Gold...
We are more than a little curious about the hydrology of this deep area of the cave, as there is more water here, in both sumps (Loser Lido) and active streamways (Song of the Earth), than has been found almost anywhere else in the cave. We are working with local Austrian cavers to design tracer tests to determine the fate of water in this part of the cave, for which we will need the relevant permissions set up and also to do a recce of all possible resurgences. We will not be able to perform the tests this year, but by next year we aim to have everything in place to carry out the work and hopefully collaborate with Austrian cavers to understand the drainage of the plateau's caves in a more quantitative sense.
Back to Expo Planning Guide.