CUCC Expedition Handbook

Mobile Phone Use Guide

Base camp: 00 43 664 9995 5784
Top camp: 00 43 664 9995 5785
Cavelink: 00 43 664 871 6782

After many years of using complicated radio systems of varying degrees of complication and reliability, we have finally settled on a foolproof method for communicating callouts from top camp to base camp: mobile phones. Cheap Austrian pay-as-you-go mobiles have sufficiently good reception on the plateau for sending SMS messages, and even occasionally for conversation.

Tips and Tricks

Phones and SIMs in use

After the 2016 expo we decided that it would be a good idea to invest in second phone at top camp which could be used at cave entrances in the case of a rescue. This has not yet been done (2019).

For some years (including 2018) we have been using the "B-Free" mobile scheme provided by the A1 company. We get reception even inside the Stone Bridge bivvy. (In 2011 we tried using another provider which picked up the T-Mobile network, however the reception was not as good as B-Free.)

B-Free has an annual renewal of the SIM which gets you the phone number and connection (plus some credit).

More credit comes either by paying online or in the form of a receipt with a printed code or a card with a scratch-off secret number.

Robust phone

We use "feature phones" with real buttons not smartphones with touch sensitive screens. The top camp phone is particularly robust Russian "RugGear explorer p860" with yellow plastic case and rubber grips, a talk time of 10 hours, and a stand-by time of 18 days. It has 2 SIM slots. We only use one. This is the SIM with the number that is already in old-expoers' phone books so don't swap it. It is charged using a standard microUSB charger.

Bascamp phone is a Nokia phone which requires a unique Nokia charger to which it is permanently connected in the potato hut.


New in 2019 is the Cavelink system which communicates between topcamp and a station in a cave. The topcamp end has a SIM which means that it can receive and send text messages.

Annual renewal

This has to be done in less than 13 months otherwise it costs a more as you essentially have to start from scratch (~€10 for a new SIM with €5 of credit). The phone cannot be used in the last month, but renewal is cheaper than starting from scratch. Also if we fail to renew we have to get a new phone number. This means that every expoer has to update the entires in their own phones. This is unsafe as these phones are the primary means of communication in case of emergency.

You will also need to renew the SIM card in the cavelink system. Either do it online (being very sure that you have the right phone number) or take it out of the cavelink and put it into a phone. Renew as below and then replace the SIM in the cavelink system.

"Renewal" is just a matter of buying another €10 or €20 credit.

We also need to renew the SIM card used in the cavelink GSM system (new in 2019).

Checking credit

The simplest way (which doesn't require understanding a number read out to you in German) is to dial *101# ("0 BALANCE" in the contacts list in the phone book). This doesn't actually make a call but results in you getting an SMS-like message containing the balance details. There's no charge for this.

Adding credit

If you need to buy more credits for a phone the simplest way is to buy it online using a credit card.

The next simplest is to buy a "B.Free" A1 top-up ("bon") at the Post Office (closes 1200-1400 for lunch) and to use a webpage to credit it to the phone SIM.

Adding credit online using credit card

Go to this page
and select the link "Online aufladen" in the second row of boxes. Ther eis a faint "EN" in the top-right corner which will render the page in English for you.

The page that links gets you to has fields to type in your phone number and to select which type of credit card you will use.

In 2019 we could renew the SIM number entirely remotely from a computer. Now it looks like we will get a token and will need physical access to the phone. Which is not easy when the SIM is actually inside the bascamp Cavelink system. .Now be extremely careful: if you make a mistake in the phone number you will be paying for credit to someone else's phone and there is no way to recover from this. Be sure to enter your email address in the box as the only receipt you get will be in an email and you will need that to reclaim the cost from expo.

Then you get a standard credit card payment form and if that all works you will get a message:

Vielen Dank! Ihre Bezahlung wurde erfolgreich durchgeführt!
Die Aufladung Ihrer angegebenen Rufnummer wurde erfolgreich durchgeführt! 
and then receive an email.

Now double-check that it worked by calling *101# and check that the credit on the phone has increased. The credit update is almost instant.

Buying a top-up "bon"

When you buy a top-up "bon" at the post office they'll give you a printed receipt with the code to key in. See below for how to use it.

Other options for buying top-ups we've used were:

You should be given an "aufladecode", which may require scratching off a panel at lower right back of card) or just a long "till-receipt" strip with AUFLADEWERT: EUR 20.00 at the top. If you go to the Post Office there is a separate A.1 counter inside the office and you will get a till-receipt.

Adding credit using a "bon" online

New in 2019 is the option to renew online using
This web address is in the text message which is sent to your phone when you are hearing the initial spiel before it gets to the audio menu.

On the web page select the box (lower right) which says "Mit Bon aufladen" and has this list

Select "Mehr details.." and you will get to this page
In the second section headed "2. Guthaben aufladen" there is a list of options, select the one that says "Online aufladen", it will expand to a line of text and a link which says "Zur Aufladung ›"

This page has fields to type in your phone number and the credit code. Now be extremely careful: if you make a mistake in the phone number you will be paying for credit to someone else's phone and there is no way to recover from this.

If it all works you will get a red tick and "Die Aufladung Ihres Guthaben wird in Kürze durchgeführt" which means you have been successful.

Adding credit using a "bon" with an automated phone call