Fishgesichthoehle - The Final Push: Perseid Showers

Wed 17 Aug 2022
Becka Lawson

Blog Author: Becka

[Online Blog date 1st Sept, but from BierBook this trip must have been the 17th Aug.]

Expo was winding down when the long-awaited rain hit. We left it 24 hours, but by then time was running out, so the final few cavers had to head up the hill from Base Camp for derigging.


Base Camp entertainment in the rain: Emily lost in TunnelVR, Julian's 3D cave drawing software

Virtual Reality cave surveying -- TunnelVR

Hey folks, I've been working on a cave survey drawing program in VR (after spending the last two decades doing the conventional cave survey drawing program TunnelX: . I think it's a lot more fun to use, and simpler because you're not trying to represent something that is fundamentally 3D in a technical 2D diagram. And you can edit it over the network in real time with other people. There's a release here, which works on the PC (if it doesn't have VR then you can steer it with mouse and keyboard). But if you've got an Oculus Quest (now retailing at £300), it runs pretty well on that. I'm looking for anyone with an interest who wants a demo (it's networked, so I can guide you from within the game).

I was on the final trip into Balkonhoehle - we sorted out the rope that was to be left in for next year and took out the metalwork, etc. Meanwhile, Hannah and Nat went for one last, cheeky push into Fishgesicht to continue the massive shaft, Perseid Showers, that, after two trips, was still only partially descended. However, halfway down the rope, Hannah found it too wet to be safe to descend further, so she returned to Nat (who had chosen the noodle-preparation job rather than the checking-out-the-thundering-abyss-which-definitely-doesn't-need-two-people job) and they came out without having been able to either push or derig.

Unfortunately, this meant that we were now behind schedule and there'd need to be another Fishgesicht trip the next day. Expo energy was waning and, far from fighting over who'd go on this plum exploration-then-derig trip, there was little enthusiasm from the four remaining cavers. Nat said that, if necessary, he'd suck on a wet teabag and force himself to go. Hannah, likewise, was prepared to do it if there was no alternative. In the end, Jono and I volunteered, leaving them to pack up Top Camp.


To our frustration, both Hannah and I caught COVID on Expo and we each had a week stuck, waiting it out, at Base Camp.
Here's Hannah in her COVID-corral (fenced in with our expensive reflective tape, grrr), with Tess on patrol.

Jono hadn't been to Fischgesicht before, so he enjoyed the attractive (mud-free) pitch series interspersed with short rift sections down to the final, impressive 70m hang. Most of the 2022 finds had pushed the extensive horizontal level that fans out from the base of this pitch. Rather oddly, though, nobody had tackled the monster pitch that lurked directly under it. Eventually, Nat began rigging down it, descending 100m with plenty more black space below. We named it Perseid Showers after the tiny shooting stones that rained down from the prussiker above - though the showers could also refer to the many inlets that pour in after rain.

On the second trip to Perseid Showers I'd returned along with Gwen and Dinny. Gwen gamely set off down for her first go at bolting whilst Dinny and I shouted advice from the pitch head. It was a really intimidating place to learn to put in thru-bolts. It starts with a step straight out over a sheer edge and the pitch is not only deep but is also hugely wide, with high avens, multiple, parallel windows and a powerful draft pumping up out of who knows where. Between us, Gwen and I improved Nat's initial rig, then we tried to descend further. Unfortunately, we were largely foiled by there being far less rope than we had expected in the bag at the bottom, so we could only add one more rebelay.

Now, on the third rigging trip to Perseid Showers, Jono and I had the final chance of 2022 to bottom it. We picked up a new rope, drill and rigging gear and cautiously headed down. I've been flooded in Austrian caves several times before and I really didn't want it to happen again, especially with only two other cavers left on Expo. Compared to the peaceful, slow drips of my previous two trips, which had been in drought conditions, the pitch now sounded scary, with multiple inlets feeding in and a fine spray filling the air. However, when we got to where Hannah had turned around the day before, it now looked like I could stay dry by bridging out away from the stream. The ledge below was damp, but the main streamway came in at the far side of the ledge where Gwen and I had, fortunately, re-rigged the next rebelay. We descended another spray-filled couple of rebelays which, nevertheless, remained well away from the main water spout. Finally we got to the Y-hang bolts that I had put in on my last trip with Gwen but that I hadn't had any rope to descend on. I quickly rigged them to let me drop to the big ledge that we'd seen from far above. There were two ways down from here. The right one looked wetter, with chossy rock, so I headed left and put in a short traverse to try to drop inbetween the two streams that were flowing. This got me down to another large ledge and this was just 20m above a bouldery floor - so near - but, argh, the knot at the end of my 70m rope was dangling at least 5m above the floor - game over.

Jono had been gamely insisting that he wasn't cold but he must have been relieved to get the short survey over and done with. The ledge I descended to is ~150m below the pitch head so, with the undescended drop below it, Perseid Showers must be at least 170m deep. If the boulder floor that I could see below me leads immediately to another drop (it looked like it did but I couldn't throw rocks far enough to tell) then it could be substantially deeper. I then derigged the 70m rope and headed up with the drill, etc, whilst Jono derigged the remaining ~200m of rope. Next, we spent a long time prying apart the knots to leave the rope neatly chained at the top. At last we could head up with the metalwork. En route we derigged the few pitches which either had muddy rope or which might get wet. After 14 hours of steady effort, we got ourselves and our four bags out. We decided we'd done our bit for the day and left the gear at the entrance and slogged the 45 minutes back to camp for a 3am curry and bed.


Hannah slaves away, rope-washing in a teeny-tiny bucket, whilst Nat fiddles with one of our many, poorly-sized donkey's dicks

No survex files found for this date.
No wallets files found for this date.
Logbook trips on this date:
    Balkonhöhle - 3 Camping trip at Pitstop pushing Southern & Northern Pitstop
    Balcony - Derig
    Balcony - Derig: scrabble & flail
    Fishgesichthoehle - The Final Push: Perseid Showers