Chris Jones swaps the openess he enjoyed on the Patagonia Expedition Race last February for the Austrian depths.
This month 35 cavers from 8 countries will descend upon the Austrian Alps for the Dachstein Caving Expedition 2012. A stalwart of the cave exploration scene it is as renowned for its deep, tourtous and hard alpine cave systems as the Austrians are for lederhousen and beer. The high point of the area is 2995m giving us a possible depth of 2500m to the water table below and in its 43rd year were getting very close to that potential.
Passage bottom of WOT U GOT
For the fit & keen there will be the opportunity to take part in the exploration of the mighty Wot-U-Got Pot (800m+ deep and 6km long) which requires camping underground for 4 days at a time. This is a dangerous, cold, flood-prone pothole that demands skill, ability, bloody-mindedness & a twisted sense of humour. It is this cave which gives us hope of breaking into the massive Hirlatzahohle mastercave (100km+) beneath us, over the past three years we have shortened the distance between these to under 500m. If the connection is made the journey from top to bottom could well be the ultimate adventure sports challenge involving winter mountaineering, abseiling, caving and cave diving taking several days to complete!
We're also going to begin the re-investigation of PL2, a 600m deep cave that was explored by the Polish many years ago that ends very close to Wot-U-Got Pot having the potential to add significant depth to our own cave. We don't know a much about this but it terminates in the largest chamber under the mountains which is likely to be the upstream end of Wot-U-Got. This would initially be suitable for all levels of ability until the deeper parts are reached & would potentially be an ideal training ground for aspiring riggers & explorers.
Typical Dachstein Passage
Finally 'rest days' will be spent roaming the mountains and prospecting for new caves. Or sampling the local scnapps....
So by the time you read this I will be out in our cushty wee camp 800m below the surface, with a very big bag and a real sense of adventure.
Before that though, I've got to pack!
Chris will be setting up camp decked out with some lovely lightweight alpkit camping equipment Airo 180 sleeping mat, titanium MytiPo and PipeDream sleeping bags.
Camp in WOT U GOT