The 1623/142 entrance lies in thick pine-scrub above the Stogerweg (path 201) roughly halfway between Windloch (32) and Stellerweghöhle (41). It takes about ten minutes to climb/fight/thrash through the bunde to get to it from the path. The entrance is labelled "P132" in red paint because the 1982 expedition used cave numbers which had been allocated to a german team. Thus, caves described in "Cambridge Underground 1983" as 131 and 132 have been renamed as 141 and 142. Cave 142 is the one with the Big Chamber in it, "half the size of Gaping Gill" according to last year's grade 1 survey. In fact, it is about 90m by 30m, and 40m high.
142 was originally explored by Phil Townsend, Doug Florence and Mike Thomas in 1982, and almost caused Mike and Doug to call out a rescue for each other when they got separated in its intestinal complexities. This year Wiggie found a 20m pitch near the entrance which he nearly lobbed off (which didn't go anywhere). Gail and Philip had great difficulty finding the Big Chamber (3rd time lucky) but found a dripping shaft with caravan-sized jammed boulders in it instead. This was later pushed by Julian and pronounced to be very reminiscent of the German Series in Stellerweg (41), but smaller and more miserable. Later that same trip Julian, with Philip and Naomi, found the connection with 41 along the Rodent Runway; named after a nondescript skeleton with big teeth found in the connection chamber at the bottom of the first pitch in 41. This party had set out to find the connection but had given up after pushing innumerable 45 degree rifts to their conclusions and were looking for a pitch-less way to the Big Chamber when they found themselves in Stellerweg.
Apart from the entrance grovel, a few active drips, the shaft pushed by Julian and the Big Chamber, the entire 142 system is a dusty abandoned series of hading chambers formed phreatically on a set of joints at 45° to the horizontal, parallel to the very similar Stellerweghohle entrance series. The joints run almost precisely NE-SW and are tilted such that the chambers all slope down to the SE. The bedding is not obvious in the cave, but in two widely separated locations it also appeared to lie at 45° to the horizontal, but at right angles to the joints such that it dipped to the NW. Surface features in the area of the caves, the south end of the Schwarzmooskogel, supported this observation.
Traversing across the tops of the 45° ramps was generally easier in 142 than in 41 and so this new discovery provides a slightly easier way in to this part of the Stellerweghohle-Schnellzughöhlensystem. (However, it is extremely dry and dusty and cannot be recommended for contact lens wearers). The chamber where the routes to the Big Chamber and the connection diverge was pretty thoroughly investigated, as were all leads from there back to Wiggie's pitch near the entrance, but there are lots of leads in Rodent Runway itself that have not been followed and the ways out of the Big Chamber have not been entirely exhausted. There is plenty of scope for more discovery in this cave which is not only close to the path, but requires very little tackle.
At the end of the 1982 exploration, it was thought that 141 (aka 131) would connect with the 41-115 system. The 1983 expedition actually connected 142 instead, 141 being found to get too small quite rapidly. This connection is not a very significant discovery and added nothing to the depth of the system. However, the perched phreatic tube found in 144 by Pete and Chas is a very much more interesting possibility: it is at the same altitude as the Big Chamber in 142 and the confused series of passages at the head of the Big Pitch in 41 (see area survey), and is only 150m away from either of these horizontally. If we could push a connection to 144 next year from the 41-142 leads, we would not only add 74m to the total depth of the system (making a possible total of 972m) but we would have found our own highest entrance to the system so that it would become a cucc/EXCS discovery from top to bottom. In these circumstances we should perhaps take care with the name we give to 144. We couldn't have our biggest and best discovery go down in history under its interim description: "Tony's-secondhöhlen-system"!