Expedition 1979

The first part of the log is traditionally taken up by the journey out.
If this is of no interest, here is a link to the caving!

Friday 27th July

"I drove and I drove
Oh how I drove, etc."

Down to Somerset to collect food and A N Other item. Met Accountant on the way to the pub - confirmed Hovercraft tickets - ate food, drank wine, had last (almost) pint for several weeks - lapsed into fitfully sweaty sleep. Yours sincerely

Tony M.

Saturday 28th July

6.00 am sees

setting off on the great trek south (incorporating second breakdown of Austin Maxi). Hit Chez Ben before 10 & then towards Tony's where we got lost because his map was crappy. Repacked cars - unfair amounts heaped into the Crab while Julian kept his roof-rack hidden. After driving round a roundabout 37 times, Nick eventually found the way to the Hoverport where we arrived after a brief interlude for beer. From the Hoverport we went to ... the ferry ... The super-smooth Griffiths hovercraft booking scheme got us on an enormous hovercraft with a funnel ?! The drive from Calais was smooth until midnight and then ...

Sunday 29th July

Stopped for a brew near Aachen, all five of us, then since the "Crab" needed more petrol we arranged to meet Nick and Julian down somewhere near Mannheim. But nasty noises started coming from the L.H.S. rear wheel and when these developed into heavy clunks and bangs we pulled into a parking place to inspect. Not really understanding what was wrong we drove the car up and down the parking area, peering under the rear to see what was happening. Unfortunately there then appeared a cloud of smoke from the dashboard and the bonnet. This was discovered to be the whole of the electrics shorting and burning the insulation from the dynamo via the regulator and ignition switch to the solenoid. Flames were put out and the battery disconnected. Luckily we managed to borrow a bit of wire and insulating tape and botched it up. This enabled the car to start but did nothing for the rear axle bearing. Left the motorway and arrived in Rheinböllen. Being a Sunday, all the garages were shut. Went to a café and drank lots of beer, ate a meal and saw the two most delicious pair of blonde twins. Such pert little buttocks and nicely developed bumps under sexy white teeshirts, and only about 13 or 14. Managed not to get chucked out of the café for ogling by their father and he found out Fritz's telephone number for us. Slept off the beer next to a stream and decided to move on slowly to Bingen.

Here we asked for a Ford garage at the cop shop, drank some more beer and then set up camp by the Rhein in an orchard. Watched the most superb thunderstorm and drifted off to bed, knackered. Also rang Fritz for the first time.

However, Nick and Julian managed to get safely to Altaussee. They discovered Karl Gaisberger is in Yugoslavia till August 12th.


Monday 30th July

Nick and Julian plus a German dictionary negotiated free access to the plateau. Walked over to 106 and laid a guide line back to the col. Went to Fischers early, spent a while leering at the new waitress and then got pissed.

TEAM TRIALS (+ TRIBULATIONS) left Bingen, hobbled to Mainz to see a man about a rear ... wheel axle bearing. Confused lady in bank with Midland cheque card; drank some beer standing at the bar ! Collected super efficient car, drove towards Altaussee until the battery packed up at Bad Ischl. Tried to telephone the boys at camp - but the jolly rotten fellows failed to find the note. Had some beer, fell asleep in the car. [SEE TUESDAY FOR CONTINUING SAGA] --->

Tuesday 31st July

Woke up in the car (several times) - woke Ben up, who was on the ground outside ?! Daylight (04:40) so we set off to drive to Altaussee. All going well ... up to Potschen ... down again ... into Luppitsch but miss the short cut turning, stall and the Crab is out - no push start this time ! So - walk to Altaussee & welly Nick & Julian out of bed at ten to six. Well, we had brekkers and rescued the car and made a mess in the campsite, then someone mentioned caving and all the parties changed.

Eislufthöhle 1623/106
Nick & Tony

I got the short straw and ended up in the caving team. (Andy asked me to mention that he carried the Bluewater up to the cave.) I'm writing this in Bar Fischer, looking across at this bird wearing tight white jeans ... phew ! God, I must concentrate. Got underground, rigged the snow slope with a ladder, and belayed the B/W at the top of Plugged Shaft, using last year's bolts. Then unfortunately, the rest of the shaft had totally altered from last year. Despite less snow than ever seen before, it was arranged very differently. The snow platform had disappeared. At least the first two rebelays of last year are buried in about 4' of snow. More rebolting will be needed, and we had no driver or anchors, hence lack of complete penetration (LCP).

Walked off the plateau after a

1 hour
trip. Whilst walking off, Tony noticed the huge phreatic entrance passed on the walk in. Small passage led off from back of above, possible draught, but semi-blocked by boulder - should yield to a hammer and needs looking at.


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After carrying B/W up for above abortion,
walked uphill to the right of the col and found a large rift cave/phreatic tube affair which gave an exciting 50m through trip. Altitude about 1750+m, 200m NE of col ?

[ sketch section ]

Wednesday 1st August

Andy, Tony and Ben

Underground by 11.15 Andy descended to a small hole in the ice where 1978 rebelay was wholly buried, descended to 1977 "Snow Platform" which wasn't, and then back up to place a bolt. This was a pretty nasty job but eventually was done and next rebelay was the obvious next stage - a brief Mars bar gonk to inform Ben and Tony and off - next rebelay easy and good freehang but then... Why does Plugged Shaft insist on comprehensively redesigning itself every year ? Vast amounts of extra snow, and contact made with the opposite wall of the shaft. Soon the next rebelay was needed but god knows where Doug's bolt is hidden - ice everywhere ! At about -30m from the last bolt, large, freehanging crumbling ice-stals adorn the far wall. These will have to be shifted somehow as they look lethal - similar formations on the near wall fall at a touch. A started looking for a good place to put another bolt but all the right places were covered in ice or looked manky rock or both. Other possibilities would cause rubbing further down so the explorer slowly ascended looking for more places to rebelay but found nothing but snow and ice - some of it descending rapidly. Vocal contact with T & B suggested that they exit while A bolted - then lighting failure, an inability to find a good bolt placement, a powerful desire for a crap, a severe pain in the sit harness, low flying ice from Tony's boot and great demoralisation determined A to follow out - More Mars bars - Much Discussion - No Progress - Tony heads for col, Andy for a grike and Ben to have a look at the underground scenery.

"Underground scenery" - I'll see nicer scenery when they put me just 6 feet under in a wooden box ! Went down, took ages passing the first rebelay, got to the second which was a bit taut since Andy had left his tockle bog on the bottom of the rope so I came back out, First impressions pretty bad.

Summary so far: Progress minimal, motivation negligible. A

even Less Coital Penetration

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Thursday 2nd August

Nick Julian

Having camped the previous evening at the col we were underground by 7.00 am. Got about 15m below the last rebelay in Plugged Shaft and placed an airy bolt on the left hand wall - no ledges in sight.

15-20m below this we found one of last year's bolts and so rigged the final section of Plugged Shaft. Thrashed on down, rigging as we went until we reached the top of the 55m pitch. As we wanted to put a bolt in at the bottom, Julian decided that this was a job for someone with a wetsuit, so Nick descended to do the necessary. He rigged the final section of the pitch from the bolt but then couldn't find the natural belay for the Balcony Pitch so he left it. Prusiked out in just under

2 hours
arriving at the surface around about 2.00 pm.

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Friday 3rd August

Nick and Julian
walked into the advance camp with some more supplies after a morning's festering. Had a scenic walk back via Kratzer valley. Several holes giving forth howling very cold draughts were noted. Most had been already numbered or else they quickly became too tight / choked. One particularly inviting one was marked 9  (circle with a dot in it) or something like that. The valley rejoined the conventional walk back on the near side of the 'huts'. Met Tone on the walk back, just fresh out of 106 (see below) and back to the café at the top of the toll road for a beer... and a thunderstorm. Drove down to the campsite to find ... Andy C. waiting for us.

Meanwhile underground ...
Ben, Tony, Andy

After a wet sleepless night (the thunderstorm, I mean) three of us got underground about 8 am. Rerigged Follow-through Shaft. Tony went out when he'd got to the top of the 15/35m. Ben and Andy continued down. Rigged Balcony with a piece of Marlow. Ladder on Overhanging Boulder Pitch. After this we followed a small stream to the left, traversing above it on very dry muddy ledges. Reached a 15m pitch. Andy put a bolt in which resulted in a superb free hang, just clearing the wall all the way down. At the bottom the place enlarged to a flat floor with a stream cut into it. Upstream it soon became too thrutchy. Downstream we traversed above the stream to reach another pitch. This was Mars Bar paper tested, and thought to be directly above the Gents. Went back and tried to rig the 20m pitch. However, the rope only reached the second bolt so we came back out. Andrew lost his carbide and all his lights went out so I left him.

Time 10½ hrs.


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Saturday 4th August

Festered all day

Sunday 5th August

Nick Julian

Took the attractive route down to the Fiesta Run rigging the 10m pitch into the Gents off a bolt. Put another bolt at the head of the last pitch reached last year and descended a 3m pitch to an obvious traverse level. A 15m traverse led to the head of a broken 15m pitch. A free climb down brought us to the base of an aven with a vadose canyon leading off at the far side. After 30m of traversing. another bolting job was called for. A 5m drop landed on a large ledge. Yet another bolt was placed and we descended 15m to the floor. A very small vadose canyon (2m high, 0.5m wide) was followed for approximately 30m till it broke out in the side of a large aven, about 15m off the floor. The stream, which had been left at the last pitch reached last year, could be heard entering down the aven. Most of the draught went with the stream.

Time taken 9 hrs.
Depth reached approx 400m.

To prevent too many club members blowing neurons in attempting to describe which pitch they have descended, it has been decided by the cretins that be to number the pitches.

Plugged Shaft
Saved Shaft
Follow-through Shaft
P15 & P35
P55 & P5
Balcony Pitch
P10 (Gents' pitch)
Fiesta Run
P35 & P30
P25 & P20

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Sunday 5th August

Prospecting on the Plateau
Tony + Andy C

Ben drove us up the Toll Road before going off to collect Simon + Simon. From there we strode manfully up to the col camp before dumping some gear at the large cave entrance visible on the return from 106 about halfway back to the col. Collected some bits of Tony's gear from 106 and on the return stumbled across a deep sounding shaft just off the marked route about 100 yds from 106. We returned to the large entrance and Tony set to at a rock blocking the previously located passage beyond. After a couple of minutes we broke through and Tony thrutched through in his shorts, T-shirt and carrying his emergency electric light - found chamois skeleton in stooping height phreatic tube which ended in a small cosy chamber after 50 feet. Andy then attacked another entrance further along the cliff face, which was draughting intermittently; dug through some loose rubble to enter a phreatic passage similar to the previous one - but about 3m wide, flat floored and minus the chamois remains. After about 40 feet a boulder fall split the passage. The left hand dropped 3 feet to a boulder-choked depression then led up through a boulder pile in the [looks like 'rough']. which Andy ascended as far as he dared - about 15 feet - some ice in the roof. The R H lead at the boulder fall led to the same boulder pile into the roof, which choked similarly. Emerged with chilly hands after around ten minutes poking around. Tony wisely decided not to enter, either because the entrance was awkward or more probably because it was bloody cold and he wasn't wearing a wetsuit.

We then packed up the gear and trundled off to the promising looking shaft found earlier on near 106. Sun by now blazing down. Andy spent the first 10 minutes bolting the entrance while Tony fiddled around with his chest harness and other bits of ironmongery. Rigged the pitch with a 50m length of Interalp - Tony descended in T-shite and shorts, kicked away some snow about 20 feet down, decided it was a wetsuit job and prusiked out, lacerating knees en route !

Andy then descended to a ledge about 45-50' down, then returned to the surface. Tony, having donned the necessary protective gear abseiled down beyond the ledge through a narrower slit down to the bottom, which had no exit. Prussicked back to above the ledge where a short traverse to the right led to a 25 ft pitch with a possible continuation along the rift. Returned to surface for reappraisal. Andy then descended to the bottom (of what was about a 75 ft shaft) came back up to look at the side passage and returned, considering it not worth pursuing. We thrutched around amongst surface holes for a while before encountering Nick and Julian on their return from 410m of 106.

What an entertaining and pleasant day.


Eislufthöhle 1623/106
Ben + Andy

Due to Julian's late arrival to tell us that there was no tackle at 106, we aborted the evening walk up and chopped the 110m rope in two. 5 am start saw us underground by 8.30 (ugh !). Fairly quick even with 3 tackle bags down to HotGK, then slower as the traversing progressed. Traversing seemed easier than last year to Fiesta Run (very horrible). Then N & J's 3m pitch - obvious that new bolt needed - Ben feeling cool after a few minutes so him to bolt. Andy set off to look for more protectors, bolts etc. on yesterday's route. Down the 5/10 to a large chamber, free climb down to ante-chamber, interesting hole up in left wall. Descending traverse to another pitch - still no tackle in sight so down 5m - aha ! a can and a tackle bag - quick nip down the next 15m for a brief look - uninspiring and then out - very much more strenuous and horrific ascender slip of the top 5m pitch back to Ben - bolt finished - just waiting for hanger. Replaced Marlow by 45m Interalp - rebelay and Ben abseils into the unknown. One small rub, then thrutchy - then - FREE ! 30m in an expanding shaft to a ledge, a few more metres to a second ledge with a cross rift descending for a further 30m ? Rift getting wider to left under a rock bridge and remarkable pinnacle of limestone, Obvious rebelay needed - less obvious best place to put it: far wall to the left best - and most difficult ! Ben ascends, Andy descends for a look ferrying tackle bag / bolting gear down. A couple of stones lobbed suggest a landing in a pool with rift continuing to left - possibly a further drop. A belayed gear and then Tempus Fugit forced exit. Long slog out with lots of ascender slippage including a certain amount of free fall by Andy despite very frequent toothbrush stops. Up to HotGK OK and not too long to get out -

total 11 hr trip
to -385m. Rather dim walk back to col - and quite dark back to café - finally hit Bar Fischer at 10pm in time for four beers.


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Two Simons
7 August

What was to be a showabout trip for SK rapidly turned into a minor derigging operation from the very bottom after a few beers.

Up by 6:30 underground 10 O'Clock after not much breakfast. Down to Fiesta Run. Tried to find J&N's pitches but failed, instead following A&B's pitch to the ledge - very impressive. (Forgetting to mention rerigging the Gents' pitch with new IA).

Slow exit with near fatal [no bullshit] ascender slippage on pitch before the Gents.

Experienced total ascender failure of CMI on way out. Had to continue on botched up Petzl system. Eventually exitted at 9.45 followed by SK one hour later.

Began to shiver and feel nauseous (not nauseating). Managed to crawl back to col and was promptly violently sick after drinking some water. Staggered into tent and fell into a fitful sleep.

Not a very useful trip but slow exit can be justifiably blamed on apallingly slippy ropes and pathological ascenders.

S F--->

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Höhle 99
August 7th
Tony and Andy

Having been informed of the existence of 99 - about 100 yards away from 106 and draughting strongly, reached the plateau at about midday and promptly disappeared - both of us - into the clints for a grande burundi - followed at intervals by other offerings throughout the afternoon.

After a superficial examination, rigged the first 25' or so with a ladder, or two, Andy descended and examined the draughting lead through an icy orifice, followed by Tony who bolted the pitch head and froze up his [???] ! Andy [???]ed the pitch with 50m of IA then descended down a snow slope for about 40', whence the shaft turned slightly - a convenient rebelay at a later date. Continued to the bottom - on first glance choked with boulders and not producing any draught. The draught roared out of a vertical fissure just above the apparent bottom of the pitch - impossible to get through unless you [ four illegible words ]. Emerged into the bright light of day after about ¾ hour. Tony then descended, between clint walking activities, checked the impossibility of penetrating the draughting slot (through which could be seen a 10° slope down from right to left, ice covered) and went down to examine the choke below; dropped a pebble which suggested depth below so removed loose small boulders until only one large block was left perched above what appears to be about 20 ft down to a ledge and a further 20-30 ft beyond. This boulder will be moved, when 106 is empty just in case a connection is possible, in order to pursue this dry old route which may be considered to be draughting.

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Nick + Julian
8th August

Plodded down to last pitch of last year. Julian then went off and derigged the dry route whilst I bolted the rebelay for the twelfth. Descended 30m in damp rift to an 'under over' (go over; the under's wet). Almost immediately occurs a 50m pitch, split once. At the bottom is a 5m free climb as the shaft levels out. Next is a pitch of about 20-25m. The belays are both natural, but the backup is a little near the lip of the pitch (be warned). From the bottom a large platform is the takeoff to a pitch of about 20m. These pitches are a little damp, especially after rain. Total depth ~500m at least.

Time ~ 8 hrs.


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Andy and Tony
8th August

Departed from the surface at about 11.00, starting to rain, with the intention of continuing the survey to grade V (sic) standard, below the bolt in Follow-through shaft, which we reached after about 2 hours, including farting around on rebelays, farting around trying to use the compass - clino - measuring tape, and sundry stinky gonks.

Eventually commenced surveying - measured the drop from the bolt to the false floor at the bottom of Follow-through -10.8 metres, and surveyed the small chamber at the bottom. Clino then packed up, as did enthusiasm and a swift exit was made, J and N pursuing us on the way.

Time ~ 5 hours
- Andy

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Thursday 9th August

Altaussee GösserHöhle
Ben Andy (till 6.00 pm) Simon K Simon F Nick Tony Andy C Julian

Entered just after midday and steadily downed the pot. Some jacking noises were made around 2.00 pm after we had finished two, but the motivation of the more experienced members of the party saw the team through a bad spell. Pausing only to leer at the pretties, the 4th, 5th and 6th were soon finished and at 6.00 pm Andy W and Ben had to exit because of other commitments. The rest of the team forged on down the 7th but had to stop shortly afterwards for a food gonk. Heckling a harassed Austrian waiter produced the necessary results: egg mayonaise, Wiener Schnitzel, ice cream and another beer. By 9.30pm it was clear that some members of the team were feeling the effects of a particularly long and tiring trip: clumsiness, difficulty in focusing and the need to shout to make oneself heard all pointed towards this. The meet leader therefore, wisely decided to exit before terminal symptoms set in: vomiting, inability to raise oneself from a prone position etc. Nearly fell into another pot on the way back. Time taken 10 hours. Depth reached 30 litres. A damn fine trip.

Beats any Reininghaushöhle for pretties.

10th August
Ben + Andy

After retreating after the 6th, Ben and Andy got up to the col as night fell, staggering slightly on the way. It all looked set for a brilliant star studded night. At 1 am, both were awoken by gales and lashing rain. The tent leaked, tried to take off etc. etc. producing a particularly uncomfortable night. Were due to get up at 5 but jacked due to the wind. Eventually got underground at 9 am intending to hit the 600m level. Unfortunately it was a bit wet underground and after reaching the free 15m pitch it was decided the new pitches would be too wet so we jacked. Washed the 15m rope, took out a piece of Marlow and a piece of hawserlaid.

Time 6 hrs

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10th August
Tony, Andy C and Simon K

What a stinking day ! Enthusiasm unfortunately overtook common sense and with Andy lugging 82 metres (yes 82 !) of Interalp we raced up to the plateau to change rather unhappily in low cloud and drizzle. The wetsuits, previously left at 106 to freshen themselves, lived up to their name and caused some discomfort which was accentuated by hanging around in a very cold pot. Tony went down first, happy to get below the draught and snow (into which the end of the rope had frozen pretty solidly) in the hope of moving the obstructive boulder whilst Andy put in another bolt half way down the shaft. Needing a lifeline to be protected against a head first lob Tony sat around waiting for Andy so that we were both frozen by the time progress could be made. The boulder eventually had to be pushed creating a wonderful noise as it dropped 12 feet to a boulder strewn ledge. Tony then free climbed down and eventually calling for Andy's assistance the boulder was pulled back from its position on the top of a longer pitch. Extreme cold led to a return to the surface after the next pitch had been observed to corkscrew cleanly away for at least 30-40 feet. Everybody was feeling miserable though progress looked hopeful and we jacked through more dismal rain.

PS. Simon K festered coldly on the surface throughout and sensibly resisted the tempting offer of a tourist trip.

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Saturday 11th August


Sunday 12th August


Monday 13th August

Didn't rain, therefore:

Julian, Andy W (taking photos), Ben, Simon F, Nick (pushing team)
with all five of us derigging. Yes, derigging, initially because we thought we were running out of time, and could only afford one more push and, as it turned out, because the pot ended of its own accord.

An early start saw the pushing trio soon reaching the 15th pitch, whilst the other two plodded on down taking piccies at various places. The short rope on the 15th was changed for one that reached, and Nick descended. Trooped off down a very high and wide rift, well supplied with boulders, including some 'deads' in the roof, if you see what I mean.

The floor sloped down gently, with the stream flowing just under the boulder floor. Ominous black mud started to cover the rock. The head of a short pitch was soon reached and the drop tests confirmed with a loud booming splash that a sump was in the offing. Bolted and descended the pitch (5m) to ankle deep mud covering boulders, and a large, long, deep lake of a sump pool - an interesting moment for all concerned. Andy and Julian arrived and photographed the place to pieces (I hope).

All five of us then started to derig. Then as the cold water pounded down the pitches, tackle hauls got tangled, tempers got frayed and the weight of equipment increased, we all began to realise what a shag the derig was going to be.

With each of us earning hero points of doubtful validity, we eventually got all the gear above the Hall of the Greene King, spat over our shoulders and left the place.

Trip times varied between 14 and 16 hours.

Thank god its over. The exhaustion at the time outdid the sense of achievement, but we'll grow to appreciate it.


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Tuesday 14th

Eislufthöhle Derig.
Tony Baroni, Andy C, SKellet

Blatted down to top of HotGK with wierd fantasies about derigging whole lot. Discovered that the tackle bags are f...ing heavy, esp Andy who was dumb enough to carry the huge yellow TB. SK got jammed in over Keg Series and swore mightily, also leaving his knee pads and most of his knees here. Everyone took ages on Plugged, with many slipped ascenders and more swearing. Eventually removed 3 TBs + ammo cans. Got charged by cattle on way back - bravely repelled [???]

Time ~~ 6 hrs

Simon K

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Wednesday 15th August

Nick, Simon F, Ben, Julian, Andy C, Tony

More derigging. Simon F, Ben, Nock straight (?) out with vast amounts of tackle, Julian following derigging. Ben's CMI and light met their respective makers half way up Plugged Shaft accompanied by some very unchristian language and Julian met Tony and Andy C at the second rebelay to help tackle hauling. All over in 6½ hours, then to the serious business of carrying the gear back to the Bergrestaurant. All back by 6.00 pm amd so to the Kitzer Hotel for food and Fischer's for fizzy wine and beer.

Simon K

Only problem, I hear, was removing the rock anchors from the wall. (Who is this man ?)

Previous trip/Guidebook description

Thursday 16th August

The end !
Nick, Andy C and Julian to col to pick up the remaining gear. Rest of day spent swimming, packing, sunbathing and driving home.


Julian Hovercraft
Ben Breakdown
Ben Breakdown
Nick Lack of Penetration
Andrew Lack of Penetration
Not awarded
Not awarded
Not awarded
Not awarded
Simon K Rice chef
Simon F (w)Retched performance
Simon K Ticket
Simon K Travellers cheques
Ben Irresponsive
Not awarded
Not awarded
Simon F (w)Retched performance
Simon K Unbedded, Baa ! look at that Chamois + assorted cock-ups (Primus stove, map, getting stuck, 'sprained' ankle etc. etc.)
Not awarded

At an informal meeting of an ad hoc LCP committee the overall expedition LCP was unanimously awarded to Simon K. Glowing references were made to the high degree of incompetance maintained by this individual and he was presented with a packet of rubbers to ensure his line continues no further. League tables were as follows