CUCC Expo Training Logbook

Rachel Turnbull, Peachey, Martin Green, Anthony Day,Chris Densham, Adam Henry, Mike Butcher, Adam A, Wookey, Cat Henry, Nadia, Haydon Saunders
Expo - CUCC Austria Expedition Training Weekend
Blog Author: RTurnbull

Expedition began in earnest this weekend, where 12 expedition novices ventured to the YSS with a thirst for knowledge among other things, of course. The Helwith was made lively, with a pub full of cavers. Lively tales about the times caving didn't go to plan made up much of the discussion as it usually does. The weekend was attended by CUCC, ULSA, UBSS, NUCC, OUCC, RUCC, MUSC and some others.

Saturday began with Peachey recounting his advice on how not to die in the Alps. A man of many adventures recalled his misadventures and gave a refined kit list to minimise being very sad. The group split off here: expo freshers and expo refreshers.

Martin Green led a session on expedition-specific first aid with the freshers before Anthony Day gave a good introduction to surveying.

Rotating roles in 4 groups, they produced a not half-bad survey of Long Churns. Thanks to Chris Densham, Adam Henry and Mike Butcher for their roles in the resurvey of Alum.

Thanks to Adam for these photos!

Meanwhile Wookey took the refreshers on a whirlwind of survey processing, description writing and updating the expo website, a tool that all the leads for the next year are saved on. 


Martin gave these guys more first aid advice before the freshers returned.

Cat Henry lead the group through "Ah, someone has hurt themselves in this cave-specific way" scenarios outside in the spring sunshine before we ran through the principles of rescue procedures. The first aid advice given by both Cat and Martin at the weekend was great, realising that caves are imperfect environments for eye removal and untensioning lungs.

All in time for dinner! Thanks to Nadia for all the food for the weekend. A brilliant vegetarian and economic menu. The day's surveys were drawn up and compiled and the real expedition training began.

Many a caving game appeared and with a hut full of experienced cavers, the competition was fierce. The true contestants proceeded to increase their alcohol consumption for maximum pain reduction.

On Sunday, in what was a slow start for some, Haydon Saunders took the freshers for a walk to listen to rocks and learn to bolt.
This picture occurred when a rock split perfectly whilst being set.
Needless to say, it was advised that the freshers did not continue to rig off this bolt.

Peachey instructed the refreshers on croll to croll mid rope rescues, hauling procedures and passing rebelays and deviations with casualties in the YSS SRT wall.


The freshers subbed in and learnt to midrope rescue each other with surprising success. The day was rounded up with everyone parting ways with hopefully a good idea of who and what expo will be.
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Expo - CUCC Expo 2018 Mission statement
Blog Author: nobrotson
CUCC Expo 2018 Rope Sponsorship Appeal

Mission statement

CUCC?s summer expedition aims to introduce as many student cavers to safe alpine cave exploration as possible and ensure that the strong tradition of pioneering British cave exploration continues into the future in the SMK system. We will do this by continuing to explore virgin passage across the system in leads small and big, shallow and deep, with the long-term dream of creating an ?alpine super-cave? by connecting SMK system to the neighbouring Schoenberg system. This ?super-cave? would be over 250km long and 1100m deep: no other cave system currently known comes close to such magnitude considering both metrics simultaneously.

This year we have a very big team of explorers with a huge variety of experience, and this means we will have a great chance to pursue a lot of different objectives, building upon our extremely successful expedition last year. However, our ability to achieve the ambitious programme outlined below will require very careful planning and a great deal of resources and dedication.

Aims and objectives for 2018

Continue to push leads from Camp Kraken, Tunnockschacht

We found less cave in the deep part of Tunnocks, known as Hydra, last year than we might perhaps had hoped. The choking up of the big passage at the bottom of Song of the Earth in a massive chamber, Big Lad, quite early on meant we had plenty of time to follow up on lesser objectives from 2016. One of these, explored on the final camping trip of the 2017 expedition, ended with a tantalising echo which took a while to fade away. Named ?Beckoning Silence?, this lead holds high hopes for 2018. Further leads in the area require bolt climbing to access: due to faulty drill batteries and a lack of resources at the necessary times last year these were left unexplored. We also found a very substantial sump, the Loser Lido, which we hope to get some decent photos of after failing to do this last year. There is also a very very muddy phreatic tube that Densham found, proclaiming it to be another ?Tunnocks Master Cave? despite its flow being described as a ?shit-trickle?, which doesn?t sound that impressive. No one seems that keen to return to this for whatever reason... We aim to get as many novice campers down there as possible this year, and we aim to be more productive by camping for longer periods at a time and managing teams more efficiently (glances at the planning whiteboard from last year will reveal the haphazardness of camp planning at times).

Push other mid-depth leads in Tunnocks towards a conclusion

Since 2013, two very interesting mid-level areas of Tunnocks have been intermittently explored: Champagne on Ice, found in 2014 and pushed again in 2016, and Claytons Cock-Up, found in 2013 and explored further in 2015. These areas of the cave still hold a lot of promise, but have often been neglected as they take longer to get to than other parts of the system and are not as easy to find as other parts of the cave. We aim to try and push both of these areas of the cave hard this year, but we will have to be very efficient with rope and gear if we wish to do this as both require a lot of rope and metalware to rig.

Roam the Wild West

Last year something happened which hadn?t happened since we found Balkonhohle (for the 4th time) in 2014: two completely new caves were found and are still going very strong. These caves, Fisch Gesicht Hohle and Glucklich Schmetterlinger Hohle (GSH), are exciting for reasons beyond having silly names (?Fisch Gesicht? refers to Luke waking me up after a heavy night by slapping me in the face with a herring). They have gone very deep very quickly, they are extremely cold, they draught like hell and they are in the middle of nowhere on the West of the plateau. We hope to be able to connect the caves this year (they lie less than 200m apart) and we expect to be able to connect them into the system reasonably soon. This Western area of the plateau is also a key area to push for possible ways closer to the Schoenberg.


New expo-goers Corin, Adam and Radost having a break in the sun before fishing for new cave in Fisch Gesicht. Photo credit: Alice Shackley aka 'Shacktivities'

Go deep in Balkonhohle

Balkonhohle has for the last 4 years been a sort of ?training ground? for cavers new to the expedition due to the friendly and accessible nature of the leads there. This characteristic of the cave has started to slip away in the last two years, with the discovery of a number of much deeper shafts which have been quite cold and wet. We anticipate returning to at least two of these areas of the cave this year, Sloppy Seconds and Cathedral Kazam,  and we hope that persistence with the deeper areas of Balkony will provide a compelling challenge for newer members of the expedition.


Left, Adam bolting in Balkonhohle. After doing only 6 SRT trips before coming out on the expedition, he was by the end of it exploring virgin passage at a safe and independent level, though his surveying leaves a bit to be desired. Luke, right, has to take over this tedious duty, motivated to continue only by caramel wafers kindly donated by Tunnocks. Photo credit: Kristian Brook

Further prospecting to the North near to Organhohle

To connect to the Schoenberg we require more cave to be found to the North of the plateau. We thought that a cave explored in the 90?s by UBSS might be a good place to start, but the team who went there found that this cave hadn?t much to offer that had not already been looked at. However, the area has a lot of prospecting potential, so will offer a place for people to head to for something slightly different, even if that is just drinking Whisky Gold?

Conduct preliminary investigations for performing tracer testing work in Hydra

We are more than a little curious about the hydrology of this deep area of the cave, as there is more water here, in both sumps (Loser Lido) and active streamways (Song of the Earth), than has been found almost anywhere else in the cave. We are working with local Austrian cavers to design tracer tests to determine the fate of water in this part of the cave, for which we will need the relevant permissions set up and also to do a recce of all possible resurgences. We will not be able to perform the tests this year, but by next year we aim to have everything in place to carry out the work and hopefully collaborate with Austrian cavers to understand the drainage of the plateau?s caves in a more quantitative sense.


Where we're at with the SMK system so far, in elevation view.

Why do we need more rope?

You might think that, after last years much-appreciated haul of rope from UKC and Spanset, that we would be able to rig our caves twice over. After careful calculation, we have produced the following chart, which shows our rope requirements to rig all the leads we hope to explore, and you will see that it is quite substantial. On top of this we will need pushing rope, and also surplus to replace rope retired this year (the ropes down to camp have been mostly left in, so we expect them to be pretty shagged at the end of this years expo). We really appreciated the addition to our rope stash from this cause last year and we feel no differently going into this year.


Pie chart showing the rope required to rig leads in Tunnockschacht (TS), Balkonhohle (BH) and the Wild West.

What can expo offer in return for the rope?

As we demonstrated last year, we really enjoyed updating forum users on the progress of the expedition and are able to do so very easily with a huge variety of contributions from different members of the expedition. We feel that our expedition offers something very unique to the caving world and we really want to share this with you all again. We aim to take a lot more photos underground this year which will hopefully result in a great digital representation of how special the SMK system is to explore. 

We are working hard to get everything ready for when the expedition kicks off in July, and we will update this page as we go. We will be caving around Bull Pot Farm next weekend so newer members of the expedition get to do as much caving as possible before heading out, and we have several other social media outlets that we will be updating as we go as well, so watch this space!



K Brook admires the Braunenzinkel and the Dachstein en route back to the Loser hutte carpark during one of many amazing sunsets. Photo credit: Shacktivities
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Rachel Turnbull, Sophie
Expo - Second 2018 Training Weekend
Blog Author: RTurnbull
CUCC's Second 2018 Training Weekend

It?s important that, once you?ve gotten off the train in Bad Aussee, you know that your enormous and heavy bag is full of useful things. For example, useful things include hand jammers (a mistake I made in 2015) and unuseful things include a wetsuit, two bottles of port and a good book (a nod to 2017). Then, you need to know you have the fitness to carry it all up the hill to camp with two cement bags of smash. With this in mind, we met at Bull Pot Farm for a weekend I termed, ?generally getting better at caving?. For some people, this meant learning to rig, navigate or even rebelays! See the post above for our ?expedition specific training? weekend.

There were 29 expedition members from Cambridge, Leeds, Bristol, Nottingham, Manchester and Sheffield, showing off different SRT kit configurations and modifications made to make expedition-style caving easier. Such as adding gear loops to harnesses to attach hammers, drills and at least four tackle bags at all times. The average age of participants was 23, filled with a strong group of expedition goers.

The caving trips were chosen for their expedition attributes. Saturday morning saw a group head to the classic Juniper Gulf on the Allotment. It's a cave similar to the Balkonhöhle, with a long free hanging pitch towards the bottom of the cave, in a wide diameter shaft, coupled with exposed traverses.


Sophie, rigging for the first time underground in Lancaster Hole.

An experienced group took to Quaking Pot, to practise being truly miserable, although I will wait to ?learn on the job?. A group in Petersons to Pipikin expected more discomfort than was in fact experienced, and ran through the cave in good time.

Other groups, practised rigging in Pool Sink, mimicking (although much smaller) the multipitch setting found in Tunnockschacht. This is useful for being ready to ascend when you hear the ?pitch free? and not bumbling around tightening chest harnesses, vital in 2-4 ?C Alpine caves.


Paul, first time expedition caver, in Easegill.

Another group joined a party from Combined Services Caving Association for a tour of Lancaster hole, learning SRT on the way down and another from the group learning how to derig on exit. Many thanks to Paul, Lee, Chris and Matt.


General faff was rehearsed, ready for the big event in Austria.

Saturday night was notably a much quieter affair, suggesting, much to my hope, there was a challenge for everyone that day.

After an Alpine start on Sunday morning, the cavers grouped and fled underground. Once almost everyone left on the Sunday, we fought back the midges (visitors to the farm beware) and took some group shots.


A group photo

Cheers to everyone who attended, cooked, cleaned and led groups. Just a month to go!
There are more photos of the event on:
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Rob Watson, Wookey, Julian, Anthony Day, Becka, George, Thom, Julian
Expo - Nerding: the Art, the Science, the Truth
Blog Author: nobrotson

It is no secret that we on the CUCC exped (well, some of us) love geeky things like plots, maps, DATA and coding. We find that having a (semi)-consistent approach to organising and presenting cave survey data goes a long way in helping find new cave passage. Rather than trying to stab in the dark at where to find new cave, and the hows and whats that come with that (How do I get there? What kit will I need to push a lead?), having up-to-date records of what has been explored and what is a good prospect really makes exploring new cave efficiently much easier. Last year, however, we really let our guard down with this, which seems to have some correlation with the number of high-level nerds and survey wizards present (Arch-Mage Wookey and old hand Anthony Day were both absent).

With this in mind, we really had to turn it around this year, not least because all the easy leads have been explored now. We have therefore been conducting online 'Nerding Sessions' at convinient times, with operatives in Cambridge, Liverpool and Dublin all getting a slice of the action. I'll run through a little of what we have been doing, hopefully without boring the utter piss out of you all.

The Great Battle of the Platforms

In the old days, when internet was slow and 'This Corrosion' was not a song that cast dread into the eyes of expo-goers, there was a general consensus that an offline, centralised server with a repository of data that could be pushed to a web-based repository (the expo website) using a distributed revision control system (we use Mercurial) was the way forward, and this still serves us well today (pardon the pun). However, recently we have been using github to collaborate on updating things, and this has worked well mainly because some of us are thick and like user interfaces with nice pressy buttons. There is a scheduled battle to decide what the way forward will be for after this years expo, where Wookey and Julian will have numerous competitions such as 'who can commit the most files to the server in one minute' and 'what is the longest you can sit hunched over a tiny laptop in a camping chair under a gazibo in the rain coding when you could be caving?'


Example of user interface for collaborating on survey data fixing on GitHub. Who will win the Great Battle?

What needs doing - Drawing, Tunneling, Pulling, GUSing, Migrating, Crying...

We have recently been trying to get the survey in good shape so that we can actually use it to find things when we are caving (rather than just have a pretty picture - I know this is more important for some). This means it needs drawing up from the survey notes taken in the cave, then scanning back in, then tracing over in Julian's vector graphic cave mapping software called Tunnel (recently George and Thom have been very obedient Tunnel bitches). All the individual bits of the survey are then collated into a full survey in GIS software and bingo!



The processing workflow for drawing up a survey: locate the relevant survex file and print out; draw up survey data in 3D from centre-line; digitise the drawing using Tunnel; collate many Tunnel drawings to form a coherent survey. Note that these images do not all represent the same bit of cave passage!

In addition to this, I have been scouring the database for QMs in order to form a QM list of leads to be pushed this year, which will hopefully allow our newer members who do not know the cave system as well to be more independent in their exploration. We are also hoping to produce a full prospecting map with surface and subsurface data present. Watch this space!


The Liverpool team pleased with progress at the Hackspace.
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