by Mike Richardson
An elite group visited Austria this time; team rust (Wadders and Bill in the blue Mini), team speed (Mike M., Planc and John in the Alpine), team smoothies (Wiggy, Brian and Mike T. in the Fiesta), and team momentum (Andy D. and the author in Rover the Rover). Notice, NO WOMEN.... persistent mutterings from Wiggy that he'd have to do some caving this year instead. "I didn't do much caving last year, but I did an awful lot of ****ing".
Outward bound was largely uneventful, except for criticism of Brian's driving abilities before a flat tyre was diagnosed, and the partial disintegration of the Alpine's exhaust. We visited Dachau; full of happy, smiling tourists ("Aw, gee Elmer, the gaz chamber. Ah've just got to take a photograph....."). Still, we all got there, the Staud'nwirt's landlady's eyes coming up schilling signs as Wiggy presented himself. Planc and Wadders immediately availed themselves of the liquid refreshment, and spent a happy evening lobbing sugar into each other's biers. It was later decided to experiment by heating up a tin of sweetcorn on a petrol stove without any water, and the beer tent spent the rest of the trip decorated with bits of corn. Next morning, the group of boy scouts who were camped next to us asked us not to set off fireworks in the middle of the night.
An initial spell of lethargy was interrupted by some caving. Wolfhöhle and Steinschlagschacht were restarted, while Wadders played Pacman (sorry, Snapper) on his Beeb in the Gasthof. Then Andy D. and Planc set of to push Wolfhöhle, while Mikes T. and the author headed for SSSchacht, to be followed later by Bill and John. At about 5 p.m. we decided that we'd just about run out of rope, and anyway could comfortably get back for a bier or four, so we set off out, passing the other two. The weather remained dry until the first was downed.
Around 10 pm, the World War Three rehearsal got under way, Flash, Bang, Zap, Donner und Blitzen. And the gentle patter of torrential rain. Having retreated to the tents, the author got fed up of being dripped on, and retreated to Rover, only to be dripped on from some holes in the roof. Meanwhile, unbeknown to the campsite, Bill and John are stumbling round on the plateau, mostly lost, and soaked to the skin, while Andy and Planc are sitting it out at the bottom of the big pitch, huddled round a gobbler.
Next morning, the rain eased a little, and Bill and John returned looking fraught. The absence of the other two provoked mumblings about possible rescues, but little enthusiasm. However, in the early afternoon, Mike M. (who had been daft enough to bring a wetsuit) and Wadders (an opportunity to get him underground, we thought) were sent off, with promises that rescue parties two and three would follow later. Wiggy and Brian departed a little later, and the rest later still. Up on the plateau we all met up. Team the first had got lost, rediscovered some holes otherwise lost to CUCC, and arrived at Wolfhöhle to discover Andy and Planc coming out, and Wiggy and Brian just arriving.
Apart from a short interlude, it then rained continuously for five days. The author doscovered the joys of a water bed due to an error in pitching his tent in a hollow. The beer tent floor degenerated into a mud bath, and vast quantities of bier were consumed. When the sun finally came out, the foolish amongst us went caving, those with more sense got sunburned by Grundlsee.
The next trip to SSSchacht fortunately bottomed it at about -240m, so Mike T. and the author rapidly derigged most of it to prevent the possibility of any further descents. Meanwhile, Wolfhöhle crept ominously deeper. But of more important things ! Off we went one evening to the local caving group's meeting. Slides were shown, and lots of bier consumed. At about quarter to midnight, the landlord announced a further quarter hour and team can't-take-the-pace (Planc, Wiggy, Brian and John) departed. At two, bier was still flowing when it was decided to call it a day, so team pretty-well-pissed piled into Rover along with Albert, and headed back to Grundlsee, Mike T. doing his best to talk Austrian through a bier haze and against the noise of AC/DC Highway to Hell drowning out the engine.
Having dropped Bill (Team can't-take-quite-this-much-pace) at the campsite, and Albert up above Grundlsee, we set off back down the valley, with an impromptu bop in the back. Wadders is spaced out with a bookshelf sized speaker to each ear. Mike M. and Mike T. are bouncing up and down in the back, and Andy is leaning out of the window pissing. The dance floor jumps up and down on the specially fitted heavy-duty springs, and to a tight foot twitching on the pedal. Back at the campsite Brian questions our taste in music, and we have a long philosophical discussion on sexism, vegetarianism, and vivisection in the beer tent.
Mike M. went off to a garage to get the exhaust fixed, and was forced to explain what we were doing in Austria. "Ah", said the garage man, "many people come to Austria to walk on the mountains; that is normal. Few people come to Austria to walk in the mountains; that is not normal!". He also suggested that Mike might like to buy a new car. More sunshine prompted team ornithologists to go and view the bird-life by the lake, and were rewarded by the sight of many Great and Lesser Tits. Andy D. also bumped into a Blue Tit which had fallen out of its nest (accidentally, he claims) while snorkelling. Said Tit's mate looked set for an altercation, until the Hulk climbed dripping from the water. We resorted to thoughts of bromide lollies, and then decided to go posing round town with Rover's roof off.
Meanwhile, Wadders had discovered that the tappets on the mini were so badly adjusted that the exhaust valves weren't shutting, possibly accounting for their state. Mike M's front brake pads finally committed suicide in protest at the toll road, and a further visit to the garage again suggested that a new car might be a good idea. Various bits of the Fiesta were inverted, much to the owners displeasure.
Andy D, Planc, and Wiggy went and climbed the Dachstein, and Wadders and Wiggy climbed the Trisselwand, the latter resulting in a certain amount of brown perspiration on the 45m unprotected runouts from dubious belay points. Oh, and we went to the fireworks, which were only so-so, but the bier tent stayed open rather late, which was better.
But what of the caving ? The SSSchacht gear was ferried round to Wolfhöhle, and another draughting hole discovered. Despite much persuasion to the contrary, Planc investigated it, and reported that it went. Rats, we thought, it'll have to be looked up. At last, however, there was some good news, Wolfhöhle had stopped at last at a sump, and we all breathed sighs of relief. Brian crashed out in Fritz's from the effort, and had a three-storey house of cards built, photographed and demolished on his back without even noticing. Further investigation of Planc's hole lost the draught in a messy phreatic bit, so Wolfhöhle was derigged, and some token exploration and surveying carried out on the Plateau. The Wolf was recovered, and examined by Gunter, who said it was actually a bear. Unfortunately, due to an administrative error (ie., balls up) it had been promised to the other caving group.
And that finished it. The key broke off in the Alpine's back hatch, resulting in another embarassing visit to the garage, and Rover blew a hole in a core plug. Andy D. and the author set off for Chamonix, Chas, and Mont Blanc; Bill returned to his beloved traction engine and the coal strike; Wadders slipped away early having been caving exactly once; and everyone lived happily ever after. Bye !