Balkonhöhle - First and last of the 2022 Balkon camps – Part 2b
Blog Author: h_collings [Blog post dated 30th August]
The next day [16th], after a slightly slow start, we set off down Northern Pitstop for the pushing front beyond Tartarus, which was now turning into a considerable commute from camp. Since my last trip, two camp trips had been down Balkon and Ichthyes (one of the new sections found beyond Tartarus) had some promising leads, so this was where we headed. A little confusion was had finding the pushing front, in which Charlotte, as the smallest person, was sent first down a swiftly narrowing rift; a climb up out of the rift revealed the much roomier way on. At the pushing front a very pretty area of formations was reached with a high wall of popcorned stals. To begin with we followed the passage straight on, which quickly led to an awkward and unappealing thrutch up a boulder climb, opening onto a pitch head.
Feeling uninspired we retreated to an A lead, which was a 7m climb up on our left. Jono volunteered to tackle this as a bolt climb, as it would’ve been an exposed free climb. I expressed some concern for this plan as it was his first time bolting but success was had, and Charlotte and I were able to follow up. Horizontal passage was reached above the pitch, with two pools in the floor and the sound of water nearby. Once again, Charlotte and I surveyed with the Disto whilst Jono did 3D scanning.
The passage was intersected by a trench with a large passage above off to the right; this would be a potentially challenging traverse to pursue so we continued straight ahead, following the draught. Further on we reached a junction with lower and higher passages both leading into the same rift, and with a good draught this presented a promising way on. However, aware that we had to derig Tartarus on our way out, we ended our day here and returned to camp, leaving this as a promising lead for next year. This new passage above the up pitch was named Cerberus, once again continuing the Greek theme. On our way back Jono fettled his earlier rigging after some constructive criticism from the group.
Left: Area of formations at beginning of Cerberus. Right: Bolting lesson at bottom of bolt climb.
Back at camp we made a strong effort to eat as much camp food as possible to reduce the amount to be carried out, including a struggle to consume a vast quantity of smash. The next day a reasonably early start was had to pack up camp, and despite another meal of mass smash consumption we failed to finish all supplies and resigned ourselves to carrying the remaining food out.
With camp packed up, we started the long, muddy slog up Mongol Rally, weighed down with camping kit. We met the first wave of the de-rig team at the top of Mongol Rally and the second wave shortly after, at which point came the very welcome offer of help with bag carrying. We made it out just in time to catch the last light of the day, which was very welcome after two nights underground.