CUCC Austria 2001 - Mission statement

2001 sees the twenty fifth annual summer expedition to Austria by the Cambridge University Caving Club and the first one of the new Millennium. A number of major goals are set out for this year's expedition, along with a great deal of other work both on new projects and continuing documentation of previous exploration.

Recent History

For thirteen successive summer expeditions, C.U.C.C., and its post-graduate sister club ex-Cambridge Speleologists, have been exploring the Kaninchenhöhle cave system in the Totes Gebirge of Austria (about 80 km east of Salzburg).

To the south of Kaninchenhöhle lies another major cave, the southern Schwarzmooskogel system including the stunningly beautiful ice-cave Schwarzmooskogeleishöhle. Parts of this were explored as long ago as 1938, but the major central part of the cave, Stellerweghöhle, was explored by CUCC in 1980-85, to a depth of 973m and a length of some 7km. Other parts of the cave have been explored by both French and German groups, and the total length of this cave was over 22km in 1999.

In 1997 Kaninchenhöhle was linked with a deep shaft system, Steinschlagschacht, first explored by the club in 1983, giving an increased depth of 507m for the combined system. 1998's small expedition concentrated on a reconnaissance of the nearest points of Schwarzmooskogeleishöhle to the passages in Steinschlagschacht, revealing a few leads, but no connection. Meanwhile Kaninchenhöhle itself went to a new deep point at -534m.

After 1997, the gap between Steinschlagschacht and the Eishöhle was about 130m, in passages at much the same level. The 1999 trip returned to Steinschlagschacht, finding a major way on with surprising ease via a lead overlooked when derigging the Footlights Traverse in 1997.

This area of the cave, Chile, totalled 2½ kilometres with a deep point 440m below Steinschlagschacht, but, amazingly, ran parallel to the known trend of the southern Schwarzmooskogel system, and only narrowed the gap to some 75m, with no immediately obvious likely connection point.

The 2000 expedition again concentrated on the Eishöhle side, narrowing the gap to approximately zero horizontally, in passage now 20m below Kaninchenhöhle, and with avens above, though no obvious leads remained in KH itself above this area.

Work towards linking the two systems has already generated a great deal of tie-up surveying to establish definitive figures for the length and depth of the combined system. Current survey information, both our own and that of our colleagues from Stuttgart working in the Stellerweg part of the cave, suggests that the linked cave would be well over 47 km long and 1056m deep, making it the third or fourth longest cave in Austria. This would also put it among both the fifty or so deepest caves in the world and the fifty or so longest. Few caves make it so far up both the long and deep lists - truly a cave of world significance.

Elsewhere in 1999, a new cave, Steinbrückenhöhle, was found beyond the known extent of Kaninchenhöhle to the north. This shows many similarities to the caves further south, and reached a depth of 226m at the head of a big black pitch. In 2000 this went to a narrow stream outlet at -368m. Other parts of the cave yielded a couple of shaft systems both ending after 100m or so, and some unexpected horizontal development which promises to extend the cave to the north into unknown territory. The total length is now over 2.5 km. There is still great hope that this cave will drop into the same major horizontal development seen in Kaninchenhöhle, and eventually produce an easier route into the remotest parts of the cave.

2001 CUCC Expedition Goals