Balcony - The Kraken Wakes

Wed 29 Jun 2016
Anthony Day

[This blog is dated 4 August 2016. /the-kraken-wakes/]

Avid readers of this blog will recall that I spent six weeks of last summer exploring caves in Austria. Near the end of the 2015 expedition, we had found a 5m diameter tube heading down at 30º into the unknown beyond the end of our one remaining rope. When summer 2016 rolled round, it was time for a rematch.

Exploration in this part of the cave was becoming quite arduous due to remoteness (600+m deep), and trips were starting to take quite a long time (typically 15 hours) and were only going to get longer as the exploration front moved steadily further away from the entrance. Fortunately, in 2015 we had spotted a potential site for an underground camp in the large chamber, named Kraken, near the bottom of the cave: there was a nice, flat mud floor in a sheltered corner of the chamber, with a water supply nearby. What more could one wish for?

So it was that I found myself as part of a three-man team charged with establishing the underground camp – something I had never done before. On arrival in Kraken chamber, it turned out that the “flat” mud floor of my memory was not quite so flat in reality. Thus we ended up digging out the mud with sub-Neanderthal excavation tools and building a retaining wall to hold back the spoil to create a flat area for our custom-built tent. We managed to find enough nobbles on the wall from which to suspend the tent, apart from one corner which required a boulder to be rolled up hill (a three-man job) so that we could reach high enough to place an anchor. With that done, “Camp Kraken” was born.


After a remarkably warm and comfortable night in our newly established luxury bivouac, it was time to go exploring. I admit to a certain degree of nervousness at this point. The continuing tube looked very promising, but you never really know what is going to happen. It might lead to untold caverns measureless, but equally it might choke up with boulders just round the next corner, or run into a sump (flooded passage), or disappear up an aven that would require equipment we didn’t have to climb… the possibilities are endless. The only way to find out was to go and have a look.


Off we went with a 100m length of rope – considerably more than we had had at our disposal the previous year. I had the privilege of going first, and set off down the tube. It kept on going down… then down some more… and more, until eventually I reached the end of the rope. By this point, the gradient had slackened off somewhat so I cautiously got off the rope and poked my head around the corner – and there was a 10m round passage heading off.

With a mixture of relief and excitement we went off exploring and clocked up 350m of new passage with half a dozen promising leads before returning to the surface to relay the good news. Subsequent campers who went in found more passages and even more leads. The region was christened Hydra since, for every lead that closed down, another two appeared.


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Survex files on this date:
Wallets on this date:
    2016#03 Fat Man Scoop ['plan2', 'notes2', 'notes1', 'notes3', 'notes4', 'plan1']
    2016#04 Crushed Plumbs ['notes', 'notes-1', 'elv', 'notes-2', 'plan']
Logbook trips on this date:
    Tunnocks - Set up Camp and Living the Dream
    Balkonhöhle - Dig Dug Pitch
    Balcony - The Kraken Wakes