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Arctic Norway 1977.

by Graham Wilton-Jones.

This summer I forsook the Pyrenees, and the heat, dust and flies of the South of France, and headed North, for the Arctic.  Was it different?  Was there snow everywhere and were temperatures below freezing?  No!  We had heat, dust and flies, or at least, mosquitoes.  Really it was all a plot to keep an eye on the W.S.G. expedition to Norway, and to prove that the B.E.C. does, indeed, get everywhere.  It was good to be completely out of the organisation side, and be able to just concentrate on the caving.

It was decided to spend a couple of days getting to Newcastle, which proved a wise decision.  After a highly effervescent barrel on Friday July 29th. we packed the vehicles (W.S.G. minibus and one of their member's Cortina estate) on the Saturday morning.  The bus was loaded within limits, but the car's springs were bent the wrong way by the weight.  We stopped beside Ripon race¬course overnight.  On the way north in the morning the Cortina's clutch fell to bits. Fortunately we had two spare clutches with us ( Norway's minor roads have a certain notoriety) and a new one was on in two hours.

The ferry journey was notable for sleepy cavers being moved around from deck to deck in the middle of the night, and being thrown off (the decks, not the ferry) at five in the morning for the washing of decks.  We arrived in Bergen to rain.  I'm told it always rains in Bergen. Night was spent in a lay-by just short of Voss, and the following two days were mainly continuous travelling for thirty two hours.  Over the Sognefiord, deepest in Norway at 1244 metres, we headed across the Jotunheimen range to the E6. The twisting, mountain roads are largely un-metalled, and were quite a surprise for our poor old vehicles.  We reached the top of the Jotunheim just before a storm arrived, and managed to take a few photographs of its impressive ruggedness, emptiness and vastness.  The E6 is a good, fairly fast road, and we reached Mo-i-Rana, just outside the Arctic, late on Wednesday afternoon.  There we stayed in a small 'Rom' - sixteen of us in a place about the size of the old stone Belfry with an upstairs.  Some of us camped, and there was plenty of barn space for drying equipment.

Our first cave was Jordbrugrotten.  A good track led from the E6, close by our base, along the Plurdal (valley of the Plura River).  Some distance along this an underground river cascades from the middle of a cliff and flows into the Plura.  This is the Jordbrugrotten resurgence - the Sprutfossen.  Having found it, we spent much time clambering about through birch, alder and miscellaneous undergrowth to reach the belay directly above, at the cliff top.  We laddered or abseiled, according to choice, down to a wide shelf next to Sprutfossen, and swung into the cave.  Here and O.F.D. size stream flows along a large, whitish marble walled passage, down cascades and under great block and sheets of ice.  Frost shattering is very evident near the surface, close to the resurgence.  Here and there bands of insoluble mica-schist jut out from the walls, much like chert would in Britain.  The walls are mostly very smooth, and the off-white is broken by parallel bands of darker colouring.  A howling, icy draught blows through the system, so it was easy to find the bedding-plane crawl that by-passed the sump.  Beyond, the plunge pools were deeper, and we finally turned back at an awkward climb in a tributary streamway, just above an impressive 9m waterfall where the mainstream enters.  The exit was interesting, swinging off the ledge at Sprutfossen out into the void. Although we had been only a short time underground, by the time we were all back at the Rom it was dark.  It had been getting that way as people were climbing out of the cave, but dusk lasts a long time that far north.  On ladder was dropped off the top of the cliff, and was found some days later several hundred metres downstream, having been washed that distance, including through l00m of stream cave below Sprutfossen, by flooding.

Friday dawned (around 4 a.m.) fine and warm.  Much later we headed north along the Rovasdal for about 10 km.  From a vague point off the track we off-loaded the minibus and walked up a path through the steep forest slopes towards Reingardslivatn (vatn = lake).  Within sight of the lake is Lapphullet, a 1,000m long system on two, sometimes three levels.  The system is largely phreatic, with some areas of breakdown. In many places there are exposures of insoluble mica schist - differential erosion causing these to be left projecting as blades, girders and tubes on the roof or walls of the passage. We spent two hours looking at most of this system, including exploring some virgin territory of bedding planes and muddy passages around the middle of the system.  The ice marked on the survey at the end of Wilf's passage has now retreated leaving a few small icicles in a choke of pebbles and boulders.

Emerging from Lapphullet, we went off in search of its neighbour, Larshullet.  The forest here is of small, stunted or dead birch trees, the lumpy karst being overgrown with a riot of bright flowers, especially geraniums. Branches and twigs, both live and dead, lay haphazardly all over the ground making progress very awkward. There are numerous holes in the limestone, mainly small and inaccessible, or requiring digging.  A few of the caves in this region are gated and marked 'FREDET' - protected.  Having found the largest one of these, we confirmed that it was Larshullet using a photograph from the C.R.G. book.

This cave is considerably larger than the previous one, being 2½ km long and 326m deep.  Most of this depth is gained by a steady descent throughout the cave, only a 23m shaft near the bottom requiring tackle.  The entrance passages have impressive, sharply folded (ptygmatic) quartz veins from around which the marble has been corroded. At one point the entire passage is formed in a tube of quartz, from within which the marble has been dissolved, giving a very unnatural appearance.  Further down, where the passage takes on the dimensions of a motorway tunnel, the walls are lined with parallel intrusions of mica schist and quartz, looking remarkably as if someone has carefully lined the gallery with polished, straight grained wood.

While one group went to the head of the 23m shaft, another group took several photographs in the entrance series.  Near the entrance itself there are some ice formations, and a small stream of ice on the floor peters out when the temperature rises just above freezing, some 50m from the entrance.  300m in a small stream flows from the roof and on down to the bottom of the cave. Wet suits are not necessary, and dry grots were sufficient to keep us warm except when hanging around for photos. We were all out within two hours, which indicates how easy the cave is in spite of its considerable depth.

So as not to give us too much of a good thing it rained on Saturday, not too hard but consistently, out of a low cloud.  In the morning we drove out along some of the tracks towards Glomdalen, a major caving area, to make contact with David and Shirley St. Pierre and the Norwegian cavers. On the way the minibus decided to part company with the road (I was not driving at the time!).  Fortunately there were sixteen of us with it at the time, and the road was only soft sand and gravel, so we dug it up, made a ramp, drove the van completely down the bank onto the marsh below and back up the ramp. Apparently it happens all the time in Norway.

Later, much later, we arrived back at Gronligrotten, where it was still raining.  This cave is well known in the area, and is essentially a sporting show cave.  Visitors can either be guided through a small section of the cave by young, pretty Norwegian girls, or can make their own explorations (or maybe both!). Expeditions, like us, go without the guides, but it's free.  There is a dry, sand-floored upper series, joined at certain points by a rather fine, if small, streamway.  The tourist section has occasional gang-planks and short ladders, and some thin, fractured bedding in the roof is held up by ineffective iron girders and a lot of faith.  The way is lit by naked bulbs.

We, of course, explored virtually everywhere, especially the rushing stream¬way, which seemed a lot bigger once YOU were in it.  Differential erosion has produced many sharp shelves in the stream passages so it is fairly easy going.  Several of us finished our explorations long before the photographic team, so we returned to the van for a bite to eat.  There was still no sign of the others when the guides came down and headed for home, leaving an ominous notice (in Norwegian and English) ‘The cave is closed because it is overflowed!’  Later, the photographic team reported that it had been quite exciting in the stream. Anyway, we hadn't really been worried.

In the evening six of us moved up to Svartis Vatnet to camp there overnight.  The following morning we travelled by boat along the lake, saving several hours of difficult walking through steeply sloping birch woods by the side of the lake, and disembarked on the very bare rocks at the other end.  At the turn of the century the Svartisen glacier, second largest in Norway, used to reach right down into the lake, but has retreated well over a kilometre since that time.  The rate of retreat is very variable, but is at present about 30m per year. Paint marks on the rocks indicate the position of the snout of the glacier at different times, all measured in the summer months.  It was particularly interesting to see a paint mark made exactly one year previously. Changes in the shape and size of the glacier are so rapid now that it has been necessary to construct a mile long tunnel underneath the glacier, this tongue of which is called Austerdalsisen, to continually drain the lake beyond.  Some years, ago the glacial lake broke through an ice barrier and destroyed many houses miles away down the valley.  Hopefully, the threat of a recurrence of this has now been averted.

On the glacier crampons and ice axes were necessary.  The ice surface was pitted and broken with minute fissures, but was, nevertheless, hard and slippery, and well endowed with crevasses, up to about 25m depth and often too wide to jump.  There was no snow, so all the crevasses were visible from some distance and it was not necessary to rope up.  At first, on the edge of the glacier where the ice was thin, it was dirty with a veneer of mud, black and very wet, but higher up on the tongue the ice was a clean grey-blue.  A couple of heavy showers passed us by, except for a few drops, and most of the day was bright and warm.  The ice glared, reflecting most of the light and much of the heat, though it soon became chilly if clouds covered the sun.  Every¬where around us, and sometimes beneath us, the sound of streams echoed.  Many super-glacial streams ran for some distance before gurgling down into the deep blue-blackness of ice rifts and potholes, while others tumbled down crevasses, gradually enlarging them more and more.

As we made our way towards the ice-fall crevasses became more and more frequent, and we were slowed down considerably, or headed off from our intended course.  Due to this, and to lack of time, we never reached any real seracs, having to turn back just below the main ice-fall.  We returned via the outfall edge of the glacier tongue, where there were some of the largest crevasses.  We had taken full S.R.T. gear and a length of blue water, and so were able to drop one of these.  The intense blue of the ice deep down, the wind scallops on the crevasse walls, and the patterns of little bubbles within the ice were all features new to me, and I found them fascinating.

Beyond the large crevasses the ice was so littered with moraine of all sizes, from fine gravel up to large boulders of various sorts that it was difficult to tell glacier from solid ground.  Here the ice was dirty all the way through, and looked like the surrounding rocks. Below us an impressive river roared out from beneath the glacier.  We eventually dropped off the glacier above an ice cave, which was filled with rushing waters and a deep blue light.  We did not stop long - the sound of ice cracking when you are underneath is not inspiring or inviting.  Returning to a wet camp, we packed up the tents and headed for Mo.

On Monday we loaded up the vehicles again, 100 lbs heavier now with fermenting beer, and headed up into the Arctic.  Around the Arctic Circle, well marked at the E6, with a cafe and souvenir shop, and even white lines across the road, the woods gave way to more tundra like scenery, such as we had seen in the Jotunheimen.  However, a little further north the woods took over once more on the hills, though the mountains looked more rugged and bleak, with larger patches of snow on lower slopes.  At about latitude 68o north we left the main road, to Drag, on the Tysfiord, and then drove up the fiord to Helland, where we bivouacked overnight. Just about everyone took photographs of the sky at midnight, with the sun just below the horizon.  There was a very heavy dew, but the sun rose early (2.30 a.m.) and my sleeping bag had dried off by 5 a.m.

The boat to take us further up the fiord, to Musken, without the vehicles, was due at 7.15, so we were all up at 6.00.  Thus chaos almost reigned when the boat turned up at 6.05 to leave in ten minutes. A very harassed and slightly impatient captain watched, rather helplessly, as we filled the deck of his boat with all manner of nameless and unidentifiable (to him and his fellows) equipment.  Needless to say, in all the rush, one or two things were forgotten.  On arrival in Husken, Big Jim (Cerberus) was dispatched on the returning ferry to collect this, gear. "He should be back on the afternoon ferry," we thought.  The ferry came very late in the evening.  Jim said nothing.

We had travelled this far north in order to do the deepest through trip in Northern Europe - Ragge Javre Raige.  The top entrances are near the top of Musken mountain, and the bottom entrances are down at or near fiord level.  Of the three lower entrances, one is a submerged resurgence, from which the cave's fresh water bubbles up into the salt water of the fiord; another, just above this resurgence, is a cleft which draughts very strongly with a freezing air that can be felt from a boat in the fiord, but a short distance inside the way on divides and becomes narrow; the third, the main exit from the system, is 114m above fiord level.  It emerges from an icy cleft onto a narrow shelf in a cliff face.

Kendal Caving Club did much of the original exploration of Ragge, and concluded by reaching the bottom entrance and making the survey.  Unfortunately they had to go all the way back up through the cave again, de-tackling en route.  Norwegian cavers, who are few but hard, did the first through trip in a time of 17 hours. When they reached the exit they climbed back up the outside of the mountain; which climb they said was considerably harder than the cave itself.  We intended to go one better, by abseiling through the cave and down at the bottom into a boat.  It was therefore fairly important that we locate the bottom exit before the trip, so that our boatman waited in the right place!

We had borrowed the S.W.C.C. rubber dinghy and an outboard, and spent most of the day transporting gear across the fiord to Segleneset, from which point the easiest route up Nusken mountain runs.  We also scrutinised the edge of the fiord.  The resurgence and the draughting hole were easy to find, but the main exit remained thoroughly concealed in the trees.  Ragge lies in a narrow belt of marble which dips at about 45°.  Bands of marble were sharply defined on the opposite wall of the fiord, but were difficult to spot on our side, from close to - all the rocks appeared very similar in colour.  Our boatman would just have to sit out in the fiord and wait until he saw light or heard our shouts from on high.

On Wednesday morning Paul, a boat owner we had befriended, took 12 of us, plus further equipment, plus the dinghy, over to Seglneset.  This saved at least two slow and overloaded journeys in the dinghy, and very soon we were scrambling our various routes up the steep, wooded mountainside.  500 - 600m up the woods finally gave way to rock with grassy and mossy patches, and over the final climb we looked down on the hanging valley where Ragge begins.  There were several melting snow patches feeding the little stream which trickled over the grassy floor before disappearing into Bumperhullet.  Memories of the photographs in Norsk Grotteblad I made the, location of Ragge a simple task, its two, strongly in-draughting entrances being up on the south east side of the valley.

We had divided into two teams - 7 of us to do the complete through trip and 5 to come as far as the top of the big pitch, de-tackle this and go back down the mountain.  After a brew up of soup we set off into the cave at about 2 p.m.  The floor is sandy and dry at first, and level, but soon drops away, down a series of parallel pitches, towards the stream.  One of these pitches was laddered initially but an awkward free climb was found to avoid this.  So far we had come down about 25m.  The next pitch, the Inclined Rift, dropped down to 102m., taking a large stream with it. We climbed down parallel to the stream and a few metres from it.  The climb was a little awkward at the bottom (we had belayed a rope at the top, but it just ran out at this point) though it was possible to stand up and reach out to the roof in order to traverse down the steep (70o – 80o) slope.  At the bottom we were into a low section with a 'Swildons' in spate' size stream, where we actually got our dry gear wet, up to the knees.  That was the wettest we got.  Round the corner the stream rushes down another inclined rift and into a vertical pot of nearly 150m full of rushing, white water.  We traversed over the top of this via the straight forward 'Wolf Walk', where a rope was handy for the gear, and climbed down a steep, muddy rift to the head of the Big Pitch - Storstupet ¬139m.  This is dry; sloping in several places, and descends next to the wet pot.  While the pitch was being rigged another brew was on the go - very welcome considering the low temperature of the cave (20 - 30 C).

The rigging was hopeless. Instead of someone descending with the main bulk of the rope in a bag, feeding it out as they went, part of it was coiled and then thrown over the edge of the pitch.  150m of rope is a lot and, quite naturally it tangled itself into intricate knots on the way down, and caught itself on just about every projection.  It took 2½ hours to clear this knitting, when the whole pitch should have taken seven of us no more than 15 minutes.  Fortunately we had a telephone with us, which helped morale a great deal during all the hanging about, and once the pitch was properly rigged it was invaluable in communicating from top to bottom.  The rope is rarely away from the wall, and abseiling basically involves walking or running down the wall.  For the first 50m there is a huge rock window through which the wet pitch can be seen. At the bottom the water from this appears again, briefly, but soon vanishes for good underneath the large boulders.  However, the base of the pitch is filled with the noise of water, with spray and with turbulent winds.

Two of us went on to rig the next pitch for rappel, but could find no convenient belay for this. The top section was easily free-climbable, being the sloping base of an enormous vertical aven, but the last section was awkward.  We all used the rope for this except the last man, who let down the rope and free-climbed the whole pitch, albeit gingerly.  The small trickle that had been with us since the base of Storstupet went down a hale in the floor the but, for the moment, we continued straight ahead along a passage with a virgin dusty-dry floor.  We arrived at the head of a l00+m pitch with an aven disappearing into the blackness above.  The passage we had 'explored' was, in fact on the survey.  I guess that in winter heavy drip obliterates any foot-prints up and in summer the cold, but powerful draught dries out the mud completely.  We found no drip anywhere in the cave.  We returned to the hole in the floor - Razor Passage.  This descends extremely steeply (I used a lifeline on one section) through the marble. Elsewhere in the cave the marble has been worn entirely away, but here the walls, roof and floor are of marble, and the walls consist of parallel lines of sharp, projecting bands where the layers of rock are of varying hardness and have been differentially eroded. We then reached the Litlstupet, which is the lower part of the l00+m. pitch mentioned above.  Norwegian tethers were still in place here, and were in good condition, so decided to use them for the rappel belays.  The first bit of this pitch is 13m to a broad, sloping ledge, and was soon over.  The second part, also with a Norwegian belay, is 39m and free-hanging - a really nice pitch. We should have taken more notice of the Norwegian comment, that it is difficult to retrieve the rope from this pitch after rappel, because it was.  Even with three of us hanging on one end it would not budge, and eventually someone had to prusik back up, sort out the jam, and descend keeping the two lines apart to prevent them from tangling.

The landing from this pitch is among large boulders, of the loose and the way on is following the draught down through a long, loose, but easy boulder choke.  Someone kicked some particularly large and vicious ones at me, but I escaped to tell you this thrilling tale.  The end of the cave became a little confusing.  It drops down to a final depth of 575m but the exit is a 523m.  We met with some large ice blocks (the first ice we have seen in the cave) which had fallen from an alcove where further ice blocks were precariously perched.  The draught seemed to be diminished, but I followed it on downwards until it blew up a smooth walled aven.  The route onwards was, in fact, up into the alcove and into a concealed passage behind or around an enormous block.  The ice formations increased with an ice floor and ice pillars, and suddenly we were out, seven of us perched on a narrow lodge overlooking the fiord.  It was half past midnight, and twilight, but becoming lighter, but becoming lighter all the time. Using trees as belays we rappelled down the fiord slope through the trees.  Soon after the dinghy arrived, but our boatman took a lot or persuading to keep away from the cliff, until boulders bounced down the slope into the depths of the fiord, all around him.  One of these boulders was a helmet and carbide light, while another was a knapsack full of fairly valuable equipment.  Though the former was recovered from an underwater shelf using a fishing line later that day, the knapsack must have gone to greater depths. Once we had all rappelled into the dinghy - very close to the resurgence and the draughting cleft as it so happened, we headed back to camp.  It had been a long day.

The rest of the day, after a short sleep, was spent exploring the locality.  The following day we fished in the fiord, unsuccessfully, and packed up the gear ready for the ferry in the evening.  Once back at Helland we quickly packed the vehicles and set off for Bodo, where we bivouacked in the Gildeskal ferry car-park.  We crossed to the islands of the Gildeskal area, just to the north of the Arctic Circle, in the morning, and drove to Inndyr where we met up with the Norwegian cavers, et al. We joined in their mini-symposium at the local school, and exchanged ideas and information.  We were to stay in the school overnight, so we opened up one of the five gallon containers of beer, but it still wasn't ready.  In the evening many of the locals turned up on invitation, to hear what caving was all about, and what was going on in the area. Good for public relations, thought I.

We moved out of the school in the morning, and set up a base camp a few kilometres away, not far from the road and beside a stream, below the Cave of the Lost Waters.  This is now known as Greftkjelen, since David Heap's name for it translated as cave of the loose waters.  The cave is near the end of a beautifully situated hanging valley, from the lip of which there are expansive views, even as far ss the Lofoten Islands, over 160km away.  Further up the same valley is Greftsprekl, while beyond this is a sink and then a substantial lake.  All these are hydrologically one system, but the mysteries thereof have not yet been unravelled.  Most of the Norwegians had set up their camp by the lake previously, and both caves were already partially rigged.  While one group set off to carry out some exploration of Greftkjelen, from which a link up with Greftsprekl is immanent, some of us decided to attack the resurgence. This, we were told, was obvious, it draughted strongly, and a way on could be seen through the boulders, which needed a little digging.  We found the resurgence by a scree slope of thousands of tons of various sizes and types of boulders, created by road¬ building works.  We easily moved a couple of boulders and were in, but among more loose boulders.  After much probing and prevaricating we began to wonder if these loose boulders were also the products of road making.  Investigating up above the road I found a small sink in the sands and gravels. Could this be the same water as our resurgence?  We searched further a field down below the road.  Sure enough, there was a second resurgence, and soon after we found yet a third.  Confused, we temporarily gave up.

Wandering back to camp we chanced upon one of our number coming down the hill, carrying lots of little bottles.  He was to take some samples from the resurgence when some dye came through from the sink, to be put there by one the Norwegians.  I hurried back to camp to check which was the correct resurgence. Much later, waiting for dye to emerge, I had a long chat with a local farmer.  At least, he spoke Norwegian and I spoke English, but we managed.  It transpired that, in his youth he used to fish for trout in the now non-existent pools of the resurgence, when the water was half a metre higher and a wind used to blow outwards.  It seems the road-building upset everything.

On Monday four of us climbed up to the hanging valley to do Greftkjelen, while another group went into Greftsprekl.  The Kendal C.C. survey of the former shows a long slope of snow stretching to nearly l00m deep into the cave.  However, this has been rapidly melting in recent years (perhaps, we thought, because of the stopping of the draught by the road-building) so that now there is a short, earthy slope, a snow slope where a hand line is useful, 25m pitch, a further short snow slope and a 30m pitch.  The passage then continues as a roomy, winding rift under a roof of snow, then down a short pitch into further, larger passage with a small stream. Where it becomes low we climbed out of the stream passage into a dry, often sandy-floored series.  Still the passages were large (Lapphullet was the only cave with a fair amount of hands-and-knees work, most of the others being dominated by at least walking size passage.  However, I think this was because we only did some of the larger systems) and the sandy floors are generally unspoilt by the passage of cavers. We were, in fact, only the third party to go to the bottom of Groftkjelen.  About half way down we negotiated the BOULDER CHOKE – a half a dozen boulders lodged in a rift which we descended.  In this region is a beautiful horizontal, but inclined in section, rift, with a hardly disturbed veneer of fine sand on the wall/floor.  Also here, and at the base of the final pitch, are some very fine stalactite formations, resembling a cross between helictites and splash globule formations, some looking like little trees and bushes. Near the present end of the cave the passage size diminishes a little, and there are even one or two roomy crawls. Big pools appear on the floor (we did not have wet-suits, and some of the pools were deep and difficult to avoid) a rushing inlet comes in from the roof, and the resultant stream disappears under a boulder choke.  A black space had been seen beyond this, and we were suitably armed with lump hammer and jemmy.  I sat back awhile for others to remove quantities of stones and boulders, and then forced one of the tightest squeezes I have ever been in.  Unfortunately, after only a further 30m, having joined up with the water once again, the passage narrowed and lowered, and the water disappeared down an impassable slot.  We estimated the total depth of the system to be in the region of 250m, rather than Heap's 300+m.  On the way out we met up with various other people, so together we photographed and de-tackled as far as the big pitches by the snow.  Various members of the party had been underground for between 10 and 12 hours.  The journey back down to camp, along a ridge and down through the now familiar scenery of birch scrub with bilberry and cloudberry undergrowth, took only 30 minutes, even though we went wrong in the dim light.

Tuesday saw a couple of us back at Greftkjelen to complete the de-tackling, while another party were doing the same job in Greftsprekl.  We had laddered and self-lifelined on all the pitches, so there was a large amount of tackle to be brought out, including some Norwegian tackle we had christened 'Elephant ladder' for obvious reasons.  One or two of the piton belays disarmingly almost fell out, but the 'dead-boy' back up in the snow slope had been excellent.  Working on the snow slope was hard, cold and tiring, and I was glad to be back on the surface after a couple of hours.

I thought it would be a good idea to lower the tackle from the top directly down to the woods just above the road, so we took a substantial amount of gear from the two cave entrances to the lip of the hanging valley, and I abseiled down a gulley in the cliffs.  A five minute scramble down through the woods and I was on the road.  I walked up to the camp, and drove the minibus down meet the others descending.  At camp the other five gallon container of beer had been opened, and it was good, and so was the evening that followed.

Round about midnight two people were dispatched to the top yet again, to gather up the rest of the gear from the cave entrances, bring it to the lip the valley, and lower it down. A little later on I went out with another group to show them where the end of the rope was.  Once there we waited and waited but there was no sign of the lowering party on the top, so I climbed up the cliffs (rather hairy) to find no people but lots of tackle.  Using the rope pulled up a telephone line and telephone, explained the situation, and re¬sited the rope to a better lowering position.  Meanwhile, back at the bottom the lowering party appeared.  They had met somebody coming down, they said, and there was no gear left on the top.  No, I thought, looking around me at the life-size images of 200m of ladder, 600m of rope, pitons, krabs, ammo boxes, etc., etc.  Nothing left at all!  Having lowered it all down, using the very useful telephone link with the bottom, I was informed that there was definitely nothing left at the cave entrances, so I went to have a look.  Hare life-size images - about as many as before, plus wet-suits and S.R.T. gear, and a HUGE tent.  I swore quietly, and began carting some of it to the edge.  I swore into the telephone and lowered the extra gear down.  I then rappelled down myself, my spirits slowly rising with the early morning sun.

It was not worth trying to get any sleep, as we had a series of ferries to catch through the islands and fiords down the coast.  We therefore began to pack up camp, waking everyone else up around six.  Travelling by ferry along the Norwegian coast is a beautiful way to spend the end of an expedition: relaxing among the magnificent scenery, and driving only short distances between boats.  We relaxed while we could.  Beyond the ferries we till had 1000 miles of driving to do.

Altogether it had been a very enjoyable and successful expedition.  Like most trips of this kind, plans had had to be altered, and we did not manage to do everything we might have hoped, but the main objectives were achieved.

The trips into Ragge Javre Raige and the Greftkjelen-Greftsprekl system been particularly noteworthy and memorable. I hope that, one say, shall be going there again.


1.         C.R.G.  Transactions, vol. 11, No. 1, March 1969, p. 57.

2.         C.R.G.  Transactions, vol. 11, No. 1, March 1969, p. 17 ff.

3.         C.R.G.  Transactions, vol. 11, No. 1, March 1969, p. 17 ff.

4.         C.R.G.  Transactions, vol. 11, No. 1, March 1969, p. 12 ff.

5.         Norsk Grotteblad 1, 1976.

Atlas des Grands Gouffres du Monde, P. Courbon, 1972

Descent No., 1

S.W.E.T.C.C.C. also have some excellent publications on caves of Norway.




Occasional Publication No. 4, 1977, Ed.  T. Faulkner & S. St. Pierre.

Published by SWETC Caving Club, North East London Polytechnic. £0.40.

Knowing the experience that SWETC Caving Club have of Norwegian caves, and the at publications and articles by various of their members, this sizable and meaty work comes as no surprise.  So much have SWETC C.C. become an authority on Norway that this publication, with their others, forms a standard reference work for anyon¬e contemplating visiting Norwegian caving regions.

Of the 70 pages of A4, no less than 41 are surveys and maps, and 31 are detailed descriptions of caves and caving areas.  There is also a brief supplement concerning the 1976 expedition.  In our copy at least, the quality of the printing does not always match the quality of the consents, one of the faults of farming out the production to different people over the space of three years. Occasional references within the text have been omitted or confused, for the same reason.

Considering that only ten days were spent in actual exploration, SWETC C.C. have managed to be commendably thorough.  All sites listed have grid reference locations (longitudes are measured from Oslo - see the important note on p. 4) altitudes, lengths and depths.  There are brief geological and geomorphological descriptions where these are relevant, together with general, put more thorough descriptions for the caver. Occasionally the description for finding a particular cave is under the heading for the previous cave, with which it may be associated, but if using this publication in the field one would no doubt read a whole section on one area together, thus avoiding this confusion. At the beginning of each section there is a description of the area involved, including geology, geomorphology and hydrology, where these are known.

The maps scattered throughout are invaluable.  Caves in Norway are equally well scattered, and could otherwise be impossible to locate – SWETC C.C. could not even re-find one of their own discoveries.

Having used the SWETC C.C. publications before in Norway, I shall not hesitate to add this to the list of essential books for any future expedition, if the Wig allows it out of the library!