Freesteel Blog » Austria Summer 2004


Austria — Summer 2004

I’ve been slack at writing the summer trip up. So all I can do now is throw together a few pictures. You don’t want to read anything anyway. Right now we’re days away from another trip to Norway, but it’s with lots of other people this time, so I probably won’t write much about that either. Strangely, the more people you’re with, the less you think. The less you think, the less you need to write. Or maybe you get it all out by having conversations at the time.

Austria 2004 was more of the same usual caving expedition. We do it so many times that the routine is set and reliable. We always go to the same campsite, drink the same beer, eat the same food, camp in the same place, and explore a bit more of the same cave.

custard spoon
solar platsunset
Where there are caves, there are holes in the ground. While enjoying our fine selection of thick, powdered, hot water drinking products (custard or chocolate) please do not drop your spoon.
Since the invention of the low-power white LED light expedition caving has abandoned carbide and gone electric. It’s important to shift the solar panels throughout the day to account for the fact that the earth moves.

There was plenty of caving. I did about three trips down to the bottom I was prepared to go to (not to the bottom I was not prepared to go to: a different route to a different place called Razor Dance). I don’t like big pitches, and there was a big pitch on the way, which I hated every single time I went up or down it, swearing never to go back again.

hippoe bracketb
cloud dbat
Weird scenes inside the Gaffered series. These are all in the newly discovered areas 300 metres down. In clockwise order from top left: Hippo Hollows, Bracket Fungus Passage, a dead bat (still with fur on), and an unexplained polystyrene like puffy mineral growth on the wall. It’s not salt, I tasted it to find out. Anyway, salt doesn’t grow like that. I didn’t taste the bat.

My non-caving activities have regressed since earlier days. I’ve done hang-gliding, diving in the lake, and wind-surfing. They now have lots of parking metres all around the lake, so we don’t go there too often. Also, the camp beside the cave (the Stone Bridge) is so comfortable that you can stay there for weeks without becoming miserable. With less time at base camp, there’s less time to get bored of drinking beer and driven to do other things. When I arrived, Becka didn’t come down the hill for five days and it felt like she had forgotten me.

I’ve pretty much covered the canyonning repertoire in the area, but now other people can learn to do it without me, which is a cool thing. Maybe they’ll find ones I don’t know about and take me down.

spudhut totheriver
Basecamp days. This is the potato hut, and this is all the room there is in it. You’re allowed to use computers as long as you don’t mind it getting covered with beer. I spent my off days programming Tunnel, my unpatented cave drawing program.
The expedition leader traditionally goes to the river for a wash after the traditional expedition dinner.

aqcow aqcowclose
A new canyon in a nearby place. This year I discovered an on-line database of Austrian canyons, and ticked several off that I’d heard about but never found. This one is called Aqua Cowboy, just on the edge of Bad Ischl. If you look very carefully on the closeup image you can see Frank in the water. I don’t think you’re supposed to do it when it’s this wet.

On the last day, Frank and I did a canyon called Dragon’s Mouth, near Hallstadt. It’s wasn’t the best, but we ran into and joined a pair of Belgians on their way back from Slovenia from a canyonning instructor course (they were the instructors instructing the student instructors). They taught us a few tricks, and didn’t laugh at how badly prepared all our gear was. They were carrying far too much with them because they said if they got caught out and didn’t have something people said they could have needed, they would be in a serious embarrassment.

The technique I like, which could work for pull-throughs in caves rigged with those P-hangers is to lock off a figure of 8 descender on the up side of the rope (the rope threads through the P-hanger and you abseil on that downside of the rope). Then, if the rope is too short or a victim gets stuck, you can unlock it and lower them down.

Becka having a lie-in at the stone bridge. She’d carried a cheap heavy air mattress up this time to soften the bed, but it lasted one day before it got punctured. People who do use these ridiculous camper mattresses find they have to put as much padding underneath to protect them that you might as well not bother with the mattress. The food hangs from hammocks attached to bolts in the bare rock ceiling to stop the mice getting to it.

And then we packed the car and drove home. Not much more intrepid than a long weekend in Yorkshire, really.


Julian Todd 2005-01-23