miercuri, 12 decembrie 2018

Kreuzhohle 2018 cave exploring expedition

Between 22nd and 29th of September 2018 I was involved again in deep cave exploration: six days and three hours down below in Kreuzhohle, Austria.

It's almost the same each year for me. September became the cave exploring month of the year. After two full weeks spent in the Grind Caving Camp 2018 I had only 3 days to get ready for this new exploration expedition in Austria.
The big change this year for me was the update at my caving lamp from Petzl, the Duo S that I aquired just before Grind expedition. I have to thank Dan for this !
Being the second big expedition with this lamp, I can write in the near future an in depth review of it.
So, going back to Kreuzhohle story of this year: I had to spend 25 hours in a bus to travel from Bucharest to Salzburg. The news are that all Eurolines buses are now Flixbus, so I travelled green :).
I started at 3:45 on 20th of September and I arrived at about 4 a.m. in Salzburg South on 21st of September. I started walking till Salzburger Hauptbahnhof on the empty streets. I was still sleeping and didn't know how much I have to walk so I made the most comfortable thing that I could do: took a taxi :). In 6 minutes I was on land that I know well for a price of a dinner ! Went for a coffee of course and I had to kill the time till the bus from Salzburg to Lofer came, at 8:26. An empty railway station and a 25Kg backpack were the things that remains in my head from that morning... .
The bus needed 1h 40 minutes to travel from Salzburg to Lofer.
The weather was just gorgeous. No clouds at all. I went to the guesthouse where I had the reservation made by the boss of expedition, Oli. Never stayed there before so I had to use the GPS a little. After checking in, I went to salute again this beautiful village with the traditional breakfast at Cafe Dankl.
I spent the afternoon walking around and enjoying the early autumn that arrived in Saalach Valley. I went also to a small hike up on the "Alm" where the ski resort is. Is something special with these colors...this green and this blue sky. I wanted to fix them in my mind for later.
Late in the evening, the guys arrived: Oli, Mark and Tom. I was sleeping so deep that I could barely salute them. Just in the morning at breakfast we finally rebuild the connection between us. This is the Kreuzhohle madness team. We will miss Petr this year, for sure. Marvin, our support "team" was already up on the mountain.
Like always, at 9 a.m. we started from guest house to the parking lot from where we have to move everything up. There are 1350m to climb on just 4,5 Km distance. Pretty ! After that, a small lunch break and continue to climb 150m till the cave entrance. The last segment we rigged in the past years to avoid any "headache" caused by the exposed climb. On our back we had at least 24 Kg, each. Welcome to remote caving !

I reached the hut in less than 5 hours and I had a small lunch beside the traditional coke and coffee.
Loaded the backpack with half of the stuff to carry up at cave entrance and we started to climb up. The sun was going down and on the plateau where we fixed the Cave Link system was cold. At least this year was no snow. The landscape here is from the moon. So much limestone eroded. You are walking on the bottom of an ancient ocean.
We left half of our gear in plastic bags at Kreuzhohle and went back with empty backpacks for a big dinner at the hut.
The next day, we slowly got in the mood to move the other half of our gear up to the cave. A big breakfast in the comfort of the hut combined with lots of coffee. Fortunately, there was a pretour in Kreuzhohle two months ago and the guys bring for us inside the cave 8 kitbags already. This year the plan was to move and split the bivouac from where it is now (-380) to two different bivouacs: one at -700 in Hall Of Dreams, and one at -600 somewhere at the bottom of Western Shaft. The first night in the cave we will stay all 4 in "the Ruins" Hall I, at -380m.
We took the usual picture before the entrance together with Marvin, our support team. He is the one taking care that the Cave Link antenna is working and, combined with GSM router, that we could communicate from bivouacs to our homes. He was responsible also for forecast updates.
We entered divided in two teams: Tom went with Mark and I went with Oli.
We reunite in the old bivouac place at -175m from where we collect the first kit bags that were bring here by the pretour guys. We also installed a full backup stove with some aliments "just in case". Then we continue down. After the faraonic block we collected other kit bags so the fun part begun. 4 kit bags hanging all around me.
It took us 7 hours to push all the kitbags in our bivouac in just one round. A very good time indeed considering that we had to carry 4 kitbags each of us from -200m.
The first evening we sorted things out. Meals, sleeping places and CaveLink was ready to go. I cook a big pot with pasta and meat balls. We completed our dinner with a lot of tea. As usually getting in the sleeping bag was the nice part. Getting warm and comfortable is refreshing. You start to feel what it hurts you after the road from surface till here.
In the morning we had to split, according to the plan. Oli and Mark were preparing their packs for -700 bivouac. Me and Tom had to survey what we explored in 2017 and look for a bivouac place somewhere near the new passages of West Shaft. So we took only ropes, bolts, hangers and carabiners. And the survey kit of course. We will keep in touch with the others with Cave Link.
Going down to exploration place was like getting in mood for it. Is the 4th year we cross these segments...Hall 3, meander, Shaft, Hall 5, 6 and 7. Then West meander and finally West Shaft.
Last year we left it unexplored because the ropes ended. Now we came with 100 m of Beal Spelenium Unicore of 8,5mm to carry less. We had 100m more in Hall 1 bivouac just for us. But first we had to see what's going on and where we should build a new bivouac.

I joined the new rope in the rebelay where Petr stopped last year. I could see the bottom of the shaft so 50m of rope was enough. I planted 5 more bolts to rigg the passage in a way that avoid the waterfall in the shaft and went down. Tom came and we also surveyed the thing on the way down.
The shaft ends in a horizontal segment that is closed on one side, where the waterfall is flowing and continues on the other side till a dry and silence dead end that was perfect for a bivouac. We started to level the ground with rocks. The place was enough for one person so we had to work a lil' to make it flat for two. The big question was: we need this or the cave ends here ?
We went back in bivouac from Hall 1 late, after 9 hours. We found our camp in complete silence. We realized that the others moved and that there are only us two here from now. Was a strange feeling.
In CaveLink we found a message from them. They had to take almost all the kit bags available so we actually couldn't move the bivouac because of the lack of kitbags. Oli and Mark traveled with 8 kitbags from -380 to -700 ! We had only 3 left in the main camp. So, problem solved: we will travel every day from -380m to -600m and back.
We had a late dinner with a lot of meat. It's the main and most important meal in these expeditions. You try to refuel your body with all what you can.
We went to a deep sleep and we decided to get up at 8:30 because we came back later than planed.
The next day, after a full breakfast with musli, powder milk, coffee, cheese, salami and black bred, we realized that the sound of the waterfall was louder than before. The explanation came from Marvin in our Cave Link terminal: outside snowed 10 cm and during the day it melted. The sms that I sent home took some time to be delivered due to the fact that the outside antenna collapsed. Marvin had to fix it.
We went back to our journey againg through Hall 2, 4, 3 and 5 where we wanted to have another look in Chrystal meander that we explored and survey two years ago. We let our harnesses after the technical passage so we could move easier through the squeezes. Tom went first in the known end of the meander and he managed to pass the narrow segment climbing higher that he tried in 2016. I went after him and we continue on the meander just a few more meter before a big surprise: a new shaft awaits us where the Chrystal Meander ends. The shaft looks completed dry and is about -20m deep. The deal here is how was developed: from the right side another meander is coming and together with the one that we were in, made possible the collapse that is actually the new shaft. On the opposite wall we could see the continuation of our meander. So we will need a traverse line to reach that continuation. Shocking is how close the other meander is. I think less than 1meter is separating these two big cracks.
Because we let our gear in Hall V, we couln't do anything  but look around and wonder ourselves how did we miss this part last years.

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After reaching the daylight again and dancing, we went straight up on the ridge to actually get some sun on our cold bodies because in the entrance of the cave was only shadow.
There is nothing to say about the feeling of being outside under a blue sky again:

We reached the penetration of Loferer Schacht depth which is it's bigger neighbor to South, so now we have to keep fingers crossed that we can go deeper because Kreuzhohle development is different.
It is impossible to describe what your mental have to endure down there, let asside the physical effort.
We managed to  push further the development of the cave which now have a lenght of 4025 meters.
Team 1 (Oli and Mark) reached -774 meters depth unde the "Hall of Dreams".
Team 2 (Radu and Tom) rached -700 meters in Westen Shaft and found a new 3D system, "The labyrinth". They also found the continuation of the Chrystal Meander.
So, there are a lot of other playground for future expeditions !

I have to thank the person that stays near me and support my dreams, Roxana. And I have to thank to all the people who believe in explorations and especially to Dan which offer me the oportunity to own the new 2018 caving lamp from Petzl, the Duo S.

Just a small preview of the 3D map that is coming:

Equipment that I used underground:
Helmet Edelrid Ultralight Junior
Main light PETZL Duo S
Secondary light Petzl Tikka 2017
Undersuit Steinberg Alladino
Oversuit Aventure Verticale Holloch Confort
Socks 1 x Lorpen TETA, 1 x Lorpen T2 Hunting Extreme Overcalf
"second skin" Fjord Nansen Are
Cap Edelrid skullcap
Fleece Vaude polartec 200
Jacket Synthetic lining 150 g/m2 Quechua Arpenaz 50
Vest Synthetic lining 150 g/m2 Quechua Arpenaz 50
Gloves (caving) 2 x Ansell Marigold Multiplus 40
Skin gloves Quechua
Gloves Quechua Forclaz 20
Boots EtcheSecurite Clark
Harness Aventure Verticale Muruck
Chest harness Petzl torse
Jumar Petzl Ascension
Chest ascender Edelrid Wind Up (2016 model)
Descender PETZL stop
Cowtails Singing Rock Storm 9,8mm
Cowtails carabiners Edelrid Pure
Descender carabiner Petzl OK triact
Braking carabiner Edelrid bulletproof
Harness maillon Peguet 10mm steel
Footloop Petzl footcord + handcrafted double footloop with Mammut tubular sling
Tackle bags Meander
Auxiliary carabiners Mammut Wall keylock
Sleeping bag Vaude Ice Peak Basic 220 (-3 comfort)
Bivouac bag Vaude Biwak I

Equipment that I used on surface:
Jacket Simond Alpinist Light
Pants Simond Alpinist Light Windshell
T-shirts cotton Simond BeDifferent + Grind 2018
Technical T-shirts Quechua Tech Fresh 50
Socks Simond Alpinism + treking Fjord Nansen
Fleece polar Quechua Forclaz 200
Gloves polar Quechua Forclaz 20
Buff  Maraton Apuseni
Cap Salomon XA CAP
Boots Quechua Forclaz 700
Backpack Fjord Nansen Nanga Parbat
Cap Edelrid Rope Beanie Light
Sunglass Orao SG 500

Tablet Lenovo TAB2A7-10 Adam
Video GoPro Hero 2018
Photo Sony Alpha 5000
Power Bank Hama Pipe power pack 10400mah + Promate 13200mah
Distance metering DistoX 2 (leica X310 modified)
Cables 1xUSB, 1 x USB C