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The Italian Connection 1979

Stan Gee's Italian articles have become a regular feature and so here is the 1979 contributionÂ….

My friends, and I use the term loosely, were greatly amused when in February I sustained a broken ankle as a result of attempting to ski on a pair of antique wooden planks which are laughingly called "Cross Country Ski's".  Of course I was going downhill at the time and the cross country bit became obvious when I ended up literally spread eagled 'across country'.  Anyway this effectively put a stop to any thoughts of serious caving for a few months so' this years Italian trip was basically a walking cum poking about for holes trip.  Holes in the ground you dirty sods.

Starting from Verona we ascended Monte Baldo to the east of Lake Garda.  This mountain is about 7,000 feet high and is, in the main composed of Limestone. It has yet to produce a reasonable size cave, though we saw many interesting sinks and dolines.  The whole mountain is dry, no springs or anything and the experts say that no cave can exist, well; they said the same about Monte Corchia 10 years ago, but more of Monte Corchia later.

With only a few days available we next went on a tourist trip of the low Lessini Alps just below the high Lessini and Spluge della Preta.  Here we had an interesting encounter with Attilio one of the original Spluga explorers and he showed us a gigantic cave entrance near to Campsylvano probably about 150ft high and perhaps a 100 yards or so long.  The cave does not continue, at least it is not possible to continue but strong draughts blowing from cracks suggest that major excavation would reveal something big.  These cold draughts produce a very interesting effect by actually forming clouds within the great entrance.  These clouds form to such an extent that sometimes rain falls whilst outside the sun is shining.

From here we went to the Apuan Alps to search the north face of the Monte Corchia for some caves that we thought we had seen the previous year.  These we found after a long hard thrutch through dense undergrowth which was alive with all sorts of nasties.  The entrances proved to be 3 dry resurgences all requiring excavation. They are nicely positioned for a connection with the Buca del Cacciatorm (Abisso Fighera) and if they do connect I would expect them to become active only in the early spring snow melt.

Monte Corchia as I said before was considered, by the experts, as an impossible site for large caves and was thus largely ignored.  Our discovery in 1974 of the Buca del Arturo and Buca del Mami Dandelanti put paid to this theory and resulted in a lot of activity taking place near the summit.  At the moment of writing 23 caves have been discovered, the biggest being Buca del Cacciatorm with 14 Km of passage and a maximum depth of 850ft.  This year an Italian group discovered yet another cave close to the summit.  This is called, for obscure reasons "Abisso Baeder Meinhof" and at present stands at - 450m.  Thus if we consider that the Autro del Corchia runs beneath this lot as well then to use Arthur Conan Doyle's words.  "If we could strike the ground with some mighty hammers it would resound like a giant drum" (Terror of the Blue John Gap).  Well he said something like that.

The road to the Tavolini Quarry which was destroyed by an avalanche in the winter has been partially repaired and it is again passable to drive with care, to within 700-800ft from the summit.  Near to the summit and adjacent to the entrance to the Cacciatorm now stands the "Cappanina Lusa".  This bivouac built to commemorate the memory of Antonio Lusa is provided with bunks for 8 people and can accommodate up to 12 people.  It is open all the time and is an ideal base for the Cacciatorm, it was built with loving care and hard labour, please take care of it for all our sakes.  If you use it before you leave please clear the place out and also sign the visitorÂ’s book.

Unfortunately the bivouac is positioned so that it just shows on the skyline.  From below, perched on top of the 2,000ft face of Monte orchia it appears as just another rock but this apparently, is offensive to certain Alpinists from Lucca who claim it is an affront to the scenery and a danger to the environment.  I find this difficult to understand as Lucca is some 40 miles away, the villagers of Leurgliani are not complaining and the environment of this face of the Corchia is already destroyed by massive quarrying operations currently taking place.  However the Lucca people are pushing the club Alpino Italiano for the removal of this Bivouac and if they are successful then a very useful base will be lost to the caving world.  I shall be keeping an eye on the situation and if required I will ask for letters of support from British clubs, who visit this area for these are the people who will get most use out of the Bivouac.

A return trip was made to the south side of Pania del la Croee to the aptly named Vall d' Inferno and the Borra del Cinallone.  It is difficult to imagine a more inhospitable place than this with the sun beating down most of the day and temperature in the 90's.  However, something in the region of 150 shafts have been noted in this area mostly at an altitude of about 5,000ft.  We noticed at the head of the Vall d' Inferno a number of entrances and a large area of explored Karst with several deep shafts in it. As I have not been able to obtain any written accounts about this area, I presume that although the entrances have been noted no serious exploration has yet taken place.  There are written accounts of the descent of the Abesso Renella (-300m) and of the work of the P.C.C. on the alpine meadow called Face di Valle.

To reach the area from any point a longish walk is involved, long and uphill all the way.  From Garfangnana a rough road may be used for part of the way but even from this side access to the Vall d' Inferno necessitates an hour long uphill slog.  The area is serviced by a small but very effective Rifugro of the C.A.I. and there is ample space for camping and a good water supply near to the Rifugo.  All supplies for the Rifugro have to be taken up by mule and thus the fare is not as elaborate as some of the lower Rifucro's. However though simple it is adequate and has a plentiful supply of home made cheeses.  The Rifugro is capable of supplying the needs of small parties but any would be explorers intending to go in force are strongly advised to make prior arrangements well beforehand.

Recent discoveries on Monte Tanibura are likely to prove interesting with one cave already at 600m. Tanbura is situated to the north of Corohia and is approached by the village of Resceto.  On the lower slopes and in the adjacent valleys many small but interesting caves are to be found whilst bigger caves are to be found high up.  Here again the main problem is one of access and hard walks of 2-3 hours are not uncommon.  The only accommodation is the Rifugo Aronte, a small bivouac with 12 beds that is quite wrongly situated for any caving activity.

In closing I would like to say that I frequently receive requests by letter, telephone and verbally for information and assistance.  These requests usually open with "Regarding your article in Descent" now this confuses me from the start for I have never written an article for that magazine. I have however, written many article for the B.B. and I presume that some of these have been 'snaffled' by Descent. I'm not objecting to this but it would help if people requiring information could be a little more specific in their requirements.

Stan Gee

P.S. The area in front of the Pania del la Croce is reputed to be the home of wild boar.  So watch it!