CUCC Expedition Handbook
This is far from a complete checklist. However, it is a series of notes
outlining some expo jobs and giving a vague timetable. It needs to be
kept up to date!
In order to make sure that various necessary jobs get done, it is
always best to assign tasks to specific people, since otherwise everyone
thinks that someone else will be doing it. Define responsibilities early!
- Overall coordinator and motivator.
- Collects deposits to fund gear-buying. Keep track of accounts and
sends out expo bills a month or two after expo returns. Provides expo
bire and sesh books. See the explicit treasurer's checklist and guide.
- If you are going to pursue sponsorship, start early (you will be
competing with many similar groups and most potential sponsors will
be more impressed by an air of efficient organisation than one of last
- This covers more than just rope and hangers. The club and expo
dear orders are usually combined, so will need to liaise
closely with sponsorship officer and club Tackle Master.
- The logistics of getting 20 or so cavers and half a tonne of miscellaneous
gear out to Austria, on a shoestring budget with a limited number of
cars, and people coming-from/going-to various places are
daunting. The job mostly involves collating info and badering people
regularly. Starting early saves everyone money. See the explicit transport checklist and guide.
- Survey marshalling and Kataster chief
- If the previous expo's survey marshal did a good job then this can be straightforward, otherwise finding and recording the records needed to make sure that survey is in a fit state to support future exploratipon can be heartbreaking and frsutrating. The non-survey data archiving also needs doing carefully, such as curating the list of equipment left at top camp and ensuring that the logbook entries are all typed up and parsed into the expo server.
- Caving Priorities
- This should be the fun bit, but thee is a long grind in getting the previous years' survey data and QMs sorted out - the previous years expoers will need a lot of chivvying.
- Project officers
- If there is a special project which has its own special needs (radios,
aerial photos or whatever), it may be best to have one person specifically
- Previous expo members can help a great deal, even if they are not going.
Don't be afraid to ask questions, solicit suggestions, or ask for help with
equipment or training. Keeping older members involved will also make it
more likely that they will return to expo in the future. This is particularly
useful in view of the amount of information which is still not written down
adequately, like where to find cave XYZ etc.
Every expedition depends on the work of previous expos. The first priority
is to make sure that all the work of last year's expo is finished (but
don't let these tasks block time-sensitive tasks for this year).
This should be the job of last year's expo
committee, of course (especially as this work needs to be started well
before the next expo starts to become organised), but the current
year's leadership needs to check that everything has been done as soon
as they start organising.
The next priority is the vital jobs with deadlines
- GPF Feedback report sent (within One month of return)
- All survey data from field notes to survey folder
- Survey notes scanned and uploaded.
- Logbook scanned and typed up.
- Passage descriptions written
- Question mark lists compiled
- Surveys drawn up
- List of Equipment left in Austria up to date and online
- If sponsors asked for reports on their products or photos of them in
use: get them done promptly, before the main report
- Report written for Sponsors
- Report written for Descent/Speleology (basically same report
but a rather different emphasis)
- Filled in forms for new cave numbers given (or sent) to Robert TWC.
There are two time-critical external tasks that must happen, otherwise
expo might not happen.
- Send off permission request to camp and cave in the National Park
- Deadline: End February. Do it at the same time as the GPF application.
Address (since 2013):
Amt der Steiermärkischen Landesregierung
Abteilung 13 - Naturschutz
We have been late before on this in 2013 and 2014 so it's important to do it on time. Not doing so
jeapordises the whole expedition.
- Apply for Ghar Parau Foundation funding.
- Deadline: last day of Feb. Applications are done
- Check expo VfHÖ members are paying subscriptions
- Deadline: end of December. In 2018 we had 9 people paying €30 to
be members of this local cave club. This is for very basic underground insurance cover.
This is life membership with annual renewal, so an additional €30 each is due in January. If this is not paid by the individual then
expo will almost certainly have to pay it to maintain goodwill.So in early December these people need to decide if they want to cancel
their membership and do that by the end of December.
- Get some people interested ! Don't intimidate your novices by making
them think that expo is compulsory and hard, but do hold it up as one of
the main aims of the club and well worth getting competent for. A few expo
pictures in any squash presentation are always worth while.
- Start motivating your core of experienced cavers by New Year - you
will need to start assigning jobs to people by then, and an idea of the
size of the expedition is essential when looking for sponsorship or applying
- Establish some goals. Last year's members will know whether there are
major projects to do or lots of smaller ones, or just prospecting. Knowing
the main goals establishes the style of the expedition. Its no use hoping
to tackle promising leads far from an entrance with a small expo of
relative novices, nor can you keep a large crew of hard cavers happy with
B-leads near the entrance. The potential personnel help to define the goals
- A budget ! If you have some goals, you can estimate what gear is needed,
and therefore how much you will need to buy it. Having clear accounts from
previous expo treasurers will help.
- Get an idea of numbers - get a deposit off people to provide a float.
First deposit should be refundable on cancellation so you can get some
finance without forcing people to commit. You are looking for the experienced
cavers at this stage, but you should be able to make a guess at how many
new expo-goers you will get from the general state of the club.
Once you have an idea of the size and style of expo
- Get grant applications in early - keep copies of all correspondence so
that you know what has actually been applied for!
- Ghar Parau / Sports Council: the main grant to expo as a whole
- College travel grants: motivate individuals to apply, make sure deadlines
- Alex Pitcher Award: any motivated new expo-goer can apply for this award
(admin by Ghar Parau committee). Usually a job for whichever of this year's
novices seems the keenest: if this individual then does not actually go, we
have to return the money (obviously), and our chances of getting it in future
years decrease sharply.
- Other grants, bursaries, awards etc.: always keep a look-out for new
sources of cash - perhaps for some unique piece of gear that this year's
expo will need, or maybe some existing scheme has a different emphasis
this year and caving might qualify.
- Start pursuing sponsorship. The first step is to work out what equipment
and supplies the expedition needs. It is always best to approach a sponsor for
some specific item rather than a generic plea for help. If you can convince
them that you think their particular piece of gear or food is the best the expo
could get, all the better.
- Other equipment: make sure you know what gear we have, and what we need.
Some stuff will have been left in Austria, and there should be a list. Some
stuff will have been binned (rope, especially) and will need replacing.
New members will probably need new personal gear for expo (tents, for
example). Get contract price lists for people like Field and Trek or
Cotswold. Bigger orders tend to get bigger discounts, so coordination helps
everyone save money.
- Survey gear may need servicing. Books, pencils etc. need replacing.
Remember to buy envelopes for saving loose sheets of field notes.
Getting people committed
By Easter you should have broken the back of the administration, but
you will still be surrounded by people who haven't decided / haven't paid.
Organising transport is one of the biggest nightmares and the sooner you
know who is going and when, the easier this gets. Getting a second (non-
refundable) deposit off people helps to tie them down.
- Names, dates, deposits, commitments. Names for expo caving insurance.
- Find the best ferry/tunnel deals. This may mean booking in advance,
so where possible do so.
- Tell the Austrians when we are coming. Make sure we have permission
for top camp. Have any serious political developments occurred since last
- Tell Karin Wilpernig when we are coming.
- Make sure people are competent. This is mainly for new people, as those who
have been before will know what to expect. SRT training sessions (or some good
serious trips), surveying practice on the surface or underground in the UK.
- Motivate people to read the website so that they know what is being
talked about and might form their own ideas of which projects will interest
- A pre-expo Yorkshire meet should be arranged, to provide training
for people new to expedition caving, and as an opportunity to meet
people not based in Cambridge, before getting to Austria.
There should be nothing left to the last minute (ho ho !).
But unless you are an amazing organiser with unbelievably cooperative
expo members of exceptional competence and self-reliance, there will be
a panic for the last couple of weeks at least.
- Passports ! Yes, people do forget them. You need them to get out of
the UK, after which they are (mostly) superfluous.
- Expo computer - up to date with all the documentation and survey data.
- Expo handbook - printed versions of the various how-to-do-it guides
and the list of known and missing entrances. A list of projects with an
idea of the work involved in each might also be useful (based on the expo
goals file and various QM lists).
- Next of Kin ("the death-list"), contact numbers for parents or whatever.
Usually resides in the:
- Bier book, which should be properly produced and bound; if it falls to bits
and has to be reconstructed from the sweepings of the potato hut floor, the
expo treasurer's job will be almost completely impossible.
- Remember to book good weather for the full five weeks - this gets
forgotten nearly every year :-)
Have fun, don't push so hard that it gets dangerous, the caves will still
be there next year.
- Call-out book - make sure everyone uses it, and notes actual TU after
trip (zero if trip failed to happen).
- Log Book - get people to write trips up as soon as possible. If passage
names are decided later, go back and write them in, as it makes the log a
lot more usable.
- Survey calibration - make sure people do it, or at least record which
instruments they used.
- Survey 'guidebook' writeup - as soon as surveyors are at base camp, get this written
up - don't let anyone go home without writing up their survey or it'll
never get done!!!
- In recent expos we have used the logbook for this and have not had a separate survey book.
- Notes written on paper and inserted into the survey wallet are also acceptable.
- Best is to update the cave description online.
- Also do a rigging guide if the cave requires it
- Photos - make sure some are taken, preferably underground in new finds.
If sponsors asked for photos, take relevant ones, eg. photos of their
products in use. Two or three photos of all the sponsorship stuff together is not adequate.
Before going home
- DERIG !! - sorry folks, but this is essential :-)
- OK, some fixed ropes may be left in. Make sure you know what has been
left (when left, age; length; diameter and type of rope, what is it
belayed to). This info needs to be used to update the
Fixed Aids list. Remember to record any fixed
aids which were derigged, too!
- New Caves or old ones documented - fill in forms and give to Robert
(or leave at Staud'nwirt for him - don't bring them home!) to get kataster
number. Keep copies to bring back to UK.
Back in the UK
It's easy to relax when you get home, and then meet up at the BCRA
conference in a state of panic because there are no slides, no-one to do
the talk, no surveys etc. Timescales are short and expo members are dotted
around the country. Not everyone will come to BCRA. But the quality of the
talk affects the size of next year's expo grant since the people who
administer the cash will all be there and good impressions do count.
- Photos - make sure they are developed promptly and that whoever is
doing the BCRA talk gets them in advance.
- BCRA talk - ensure person who is doing it is briefed about things that
went on when he/she wasn't present on expo.
- Surveys - should have been processed in Austria. Get surveys of
significant new finds drawn up. Go through the survey books and produce
a Question Mark list while things are still fresh in memory (unlike 1998
- Sponsors - keep sponsors interested if you want stuff next year.
Send a preliminary report and any photos of their products (especially if
they specifically asked for any). Make sure the webmaster has a list of
sponsors so the relevant web page is up to date (unlike 1998 expo).
- Archive everything with CUCC Librarian and Webmasters. Latter, in
particular, want copies of all files changed or added on expo machine,
copies of Log Book, Call-out Book, TU tally from the beer book, KH and not-KH
survey books (preferably after QM numbers written in but before BCRA),
Top Camp log book (if there was one) and any cave description forms given to
the Austrian Cavers to get new kataster numbers.
- Update this page with ideas/suggestions of what was missing ;-)
- Go back to "Have we finished ?" and start again