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Dachstein 1979

by Graham Wilton-Jones.

The results of last year's expedition were published in the BB, vol.32, no.10, Oct. '78, no.366, and vol.33, no.2, Feb '79, no.370.

This year there were'" fourteen of us on the plateau, including eleven cavers - Throstle, Mervyn and Dave of Valley Caving Club, Buckett, Ann and Tina, Stu Lindsay, Chris Smart, Big Jim Watson, Andy Sparrow and friend Dave, Trev Hughes, J-Rat and G. W-J. The main batch of us left Britain on July 20th, Trev on his bike and five of us in Stu's car, loaded with roof rack and trailer.  In the Autobahn traffic jams we amused ourselves cadging beer from passing American servicemen, Stu taking a thousand photographs through the windscreen, and J-Rat, now on the bike, showing off by simultaneously smoking beer swilling and running over a beautiful pair of sunglasses.  On the open road I amused myself by trying to burn out Stu’s gear box - I got it to the clouds of white smoke stage.  Three days later we were firmly installed in Der Glocken, field H.Q. of the B.E.C in Austria a small, comfortable hut next to the Wiesberghaus.  The three V.C.C members were already there, along with an edible dormouse who raided the larder frequently.  Rat and I sensibly ate in the Wiesberghaus.

During the previous five weeks the region had suffered rain almost every day and the plateau was very wet, but it did mean that there was much less snow than last year.  Our first task was to continue the exploration of C19, Maulwurfhohle, below the 10m shaft discovered last year.  Early on Monday Thros, Dave and Merv set off to rig down to and re-bolt Dorisschacht, using the Hilti gear we had acquired from the Himalayan expedition.  To their dismay they found that the threaded portion of the eyebolts was too long. J-Rat and Big Jim entered the cave a little later but Jim found the squeeze in Gargantuagang a little difficult to negotiate and backed out, minus parts of his Enduro suit.  J-Rat went on to the head of Dorisschacht and. dropped 100' of ladder - to the bottom.  Things were not starting out too well, it seemed.

Chris and I rigged a telephone line across 1500m of lapiaz to C19 entrance, and returned to the hut for some more wire (where did Buzby's profits go?) where we met Siegfried Gamsjager. Siegfried is the manager of the Dachstein show cave, an excellent friend and a useful contact.  He came back with us into C19 as we rigged more line through the narrow, twisting Gargantuagang to the head of the first pitch, Platzlschacht.

Stu and Trev spent the beginning of this first full day on the plateau in finding and levelling a place to pitch their tent.  Throughout the expedition, come rain, wind, storm and tempest, their tent stood firm, and empty!  During their search for a suitable, site they had been diverted somewhat upon finding three holes - C33, C34 and C35.  The last two were short shafts but the first went in 63m to a shaft about 10m deep, for which they decided a ladder was required.  Much was their disappointment the following day when they descended the shaft to find a chamber with a cairn.  Underneath was a note indicating that one Siegfried Mittendorfer had explored the cave in 1961.  To cap it all S.M. turned up at the Weisberghous later in the week with his nine year old daughter, and together they descended the cave and both free-climbed down the shaft!

Tuesday was met with low cloud initially but this cleared a little towards the end of the day.  Merv, J-rat and Jim descended C19 and dropped TTFN shaft, left from last year.  The passage continued, high but not wide, to a very narrow and damp 6m pitch almost immediately followed by a bigger pitch.  They returned after a nine hour trip to make their way back across the lapiaz in the dark. This latter became a commonplace occurrence, poor weather keeping us in the hut until late, and lone trips meaning we came out at midnight or after as often as not.

We had been lucky to find a good file among the tools at the Wiesberghaus and were able to cut the bolts shorter, but we then found trouble removing the spent cones from the bolting tool. Clearly we were going to be beset with troubles.  Chris and I descended Platzlschacht with the telephone line but I dropped a bag of gear, including precious and fragile jumars, all the way to the bottom. Thereafter began an inventory of dropped equipment, and it grew impressively long.

Chris and I came out and joined Stu and Trev in a search along the base of Niederer Grunberg near the region of an avalanche of huge, fallen blocks, which we nicknamed the 'Titans'. Stu climbed about on the cliff face and discovered C36, an enlarging bedding plane high up in the cliffs, and C37, a 7m snow plugged shaft, concealed from below by debris.  Down below we found C38, a deep, angled shaft; C39, a horizontal tunnel in the west side of the valley and close to C38; C48, a  m. shaft next to a 3m horizontal hole south of the Titans; and C49, a slope on snow, following the bedding, 100m north west of the Titans. Towards the end of the expedition Stu returned to C38 for a more detailed look and found the shaft to be at least 2 m deep and possibly wet.

Last year we had noticed a large hole in though south east face of the Niederer Grunberg about 100m from the summit and some 250m above the Schladmingerloch.  We considered the possibility of abseiling to the hole from the top of the cliff.  We felt that there was every likelihood that the hole would lead to the top of C19, perhaps into the big aven, Aufartz, above Platzlschacht.  Early on the Wednesday, in beautiful weather, we climbed up through Schladmingerloch and on to the summit of Niederer Grunberg. After admiring and photographing the impressive views, we climbed down an obvious chute between the two summits and, directed by Thros and Chris we were on the scree slopes of Ochsen Kogel opposite, we attempted to reach the hole.  We had tried this communication using walkie-talkies but found that shouting was clearer - we were 600m apart and the acoustics would have blown Wig’s mind. Finding a distinct lack of belays, a lot of very sharp rock ideal for destroying SRT rope and those hanging thereon, and many loose boulders, Stu tried to sweep us all from the face with one the size of the Belfry stove, causing incredible echoes around the Schladmingerloch, I chickened out of the abseil.  Everyone gave sighs of relief and we headed back to the top.

Stu had found an 8m shaft a little below the summit, C40, just too narrow to enter because of boulders at the head.  We descended the hill via the north-west slopes, having to search among the cliffs for a safe route down.  Here we came upon C41, a shaft over 10 m. deep, and a little bellow this was C42, a series of deep rifts curving in under the hill  Halfway between here and the Titans, in the same valley we had been in the previous day, J-Rat found a shaft blocked with boulders at the top.  Using another boulder he demolished this obstruction to reveal a deep, widish rift, C43.  Five other sites had been found or looked at today; C44 is a 10m long 30O slope under a dead tree (there are not many of these) in the valley near the Titans. Its small entrance will probably be difficult to locate in the future; C45, found by Throstle, is a bell shaped 20 m shaft close to the edge of Herrengasse; half way along the north-west face of Ochsem Kogl a 2m by 1.5m entrance leads to 15m of passage heading 45O to the cliff face.  This is C46; C47 close is by.  A 5m high by 3m wide entrance leads past a waterfall to 12m of passage; Trev and Merv had a look at the obvious, large square alcove in the cliffs of Hoher Grunberg, behind Schladmingerloch, but it was snow blocked after only 6m.  It was designated C50.

  On Thursday we were to meet Siegfried for a trip into the further reaches of the Dachsteinmammuthohle.  Once again it was a beautiful day and we set off for the Gjaidalm (ski school and alpine hut) where we sipped beer or tee-mit-citron while we waited for Merv, who had mistakenly headed towards the Simonyhutte. There are two cable cars form near the Gjaidalm – the military seilbahn goes down direct to Obertraun (near Hallsatt lake) while the Dachstein seilbahn goes via Krippenstein and the Dachstaein show caves (our destination).  Taking time over his tea and not knowing the geography of the area, Big Jim got split up from us and went to the military seilbahn.  We would have not worried unduly only he had the 100 m rope required for a big shaft in the Mammuthohle (no-one else wanted to carry it).  He finally arrived in the correct place about an hour late and we set off into the cave.  Most of the section of the Mammuthohle that we traversed consisted of large phreatic tunnels (up to 10 m in diameter) floored with extensive mud fill. Passing through the show cave we followed the draught to the head of Theseusschacht, for which we used the 100m rope.  We climbed out of the shaft just above the bottom, into a tube that is more than half filled with a dry and dusty clay.  Here, on carbide blackened tablets of clay we found signatures, and occasional artistry, of the famous, the not so famous and the infamous.  We added our own and Seigfried wrote his for the nth time - he leaves his mark every time he passes that way.  We now followed the Minotaurusgang, the floor of which is completely covered in mud cracks.  At one point the clay rises nearly to the roof and the wind whips up disturbed dust into one's face.  Beyond the site of a small bivouac a few, ancient, dry stalactites and curtains wriggle down the sloping roof of a phreatic loop and some lumpy stal clings to the walls. Siegfried is of the opinion that many stals may be hidden beneath the mud.  Finally we reached the 'Bock Stalagmit'.  In 1913 Hermann Bock did a solo trip along Minotaurusgang and discovered a solitary stalagmite in a small chamber at one extremity.  Choosing this sole stal, bless his soul, he put his signature and the date at the top - the vandal!  Back at the base of Theseusschacht we made our way up an alternative route Edelweissgang. This is more homely, English passage with easily traversable and climbable rifts, followed by a long, steeply ascending bedding plane, coated with wet mud and peppered with 30 m deep holes to trap the unwary.  Retrieving the rope from the top of the shaft we made our way to the west entrance, just for a look as Sigfried had no key for the gate there.  At the junction between the main cave and the west entrance passage there is an ice lake, overhung by ice drapery.  At the west entrance itself is an icy draught. Returning and passing underneath a roof of loosely packed pebble fill, no doubt thinking about becoming a conglomerate, we quickly made our way out to the East entrance.  Unfortunately the restaurant had closed two hours previously, but when you are guests of the manager…. After a good meal, many beers and a slide show we left six hours after closing time to stay in a hut nearby.

 

In the morning most people wanted to visit the ice cave.  This done we made our way back up to the plateau, taking care not to lose Jim near the military seilbahn again.  In Barengass (Bear Alloy) Stu and I had a look at some of the more obvious holes. Emerging from one I noticed some others that could not be seen from the valley pathway below.  Climbing up an obvious gully I found one entrance, but it seemed a little narrow.  Traversing round a ledge in the cliff, some 25m above the valley floor, I found two more entrances, and asked Stu to bring up a torch for them.  One, running parallel with the cliff, became rather narrow after a short distance, but the other, Stu observed, had a draught strong enough to blow dust out of the entrance.  It was designated C51 and the name is Barengassewindschacht. Collecting some gear from the Weisberghaus, only half an hour away, we returned with Trev and Jim.  The entrance was rather low but the floor was only loose rocks and boulders.  I kicked down some of the smaller ones into the shaft below and then the other three descended the first 6m shaft.  Two ways down followed, joining via a chamber.  Trev descended a further 8m to find a short climb down to the head of another 8m shaft.  On the way out, knowing what a passion Trev has for breaking things, I persuaded him to push the remaining huge boulders down the first shaft.  He was reluctant to do this as they formed the floor on which he lay.  I told him to come out and I would do it.  Actually I had no intention of doing it – I’m not that stupid – but it did the trick. A few Hughesian blows and down plunged half a ton of floor, accompanied by screams.

Silence.

"Are you all right, Trev?"

Silence.

"Trev?"

"Yeeeusss", replied with a mixture of tremble, whisper and wail.

"Well push the others down then.”

Two more tons and one hell of a din were accompanied by banshee howling.  Trevor does not like boulders.  He received no sympathy or concern over this time.  We all retreated to the Weisberghaus for well deserved refreshment.

Saturday dawned wet, with more rain after a night of rain and storms.  Added to yesterday’s showers the plateau was very wet once again. Occasional rumbles of thunder could have easily put us all off caving for the day and sent us scuttling inside for numerous beers and peach cakes but we foolishly steeled ourselves against the elements.  The first group set off into C19 to push the next pitch.  They were followed around midday by another group, whose intention was to re-bolt Dorisschacht, again, but once more they were dogged by bolting tool trouble - the cones could not be removed once used.  Several rungs slipped on the 100 foot ladder being used on part of Dorisschacht just to add to our difficulties.  Chris and I rigged the telephone and line down to the head of the as yet un-named pitch in Many Meetings.  Meanwhile the pushers had found the next pitch, Valley Schacht, to be 1 m to a ledge followed by an 18m drop into a, big, winding rift.  They began to make their way out.  Stu was the first of the expedition to reach the surface, just as a big thunderstorm was brewing.  J-Rat 'phoned Chris at the entrance at the same moment as the lightning struck.  Stu thought there was an avalanche off the big overhang of Grunberg and flattened himself against the cliff.  There was a flash and an instantaneous explosion. Chris and J-Rat, the latter deep underground, were both knocked unconscious.  Thros and I, fettling my carbide at the top of Platzlschacht, saw and heard an explosion beneath our feet (the wire was above our heads) and assumed it to have been a carbide explosion.  We were somewhat surprised at the echoing rumbles from the passages below. Throstle's hand was scorched. Dave, halfway up the rope on Dorisschacht, saw an enormous flash below him but heard no explosion.  Merv at the bottom saw and heard nothing.  Trev, on the ladder below J-Rat and Jim, a little further into the cave, saw and heard nothing but reached the top to find J-Rat in a heap asking what happened and saying, “I know you but I don't know your names.”  Chris and J-Rat's telephone hands were numb for several days afterwards and their ears stung for a long time.  Exit was made successfully, the un-named pitch was christened Blitzschaeht, and Chris was thereafter known as Herr Blitz at the Weisbergerhaus.  Although we had telephone communication from Blitzschacht to the entrance immediately after the incident we never again managed from the Weisbergerhaus to the cave.  When the wire was being cleared from the plateau later Merv discovered a melted and broken section only 300m from the Weisbergerhaus.  Well, Buzby.  How do you avoid that?

The next day was really beautiful, the way it should be after a storm, and we lazed the morning away, sorting and mending gear, refreshing ourselves in the way the B.E C. knows best, and even having a midday meal in the Wissbergerhaus.  In the afternoon Throstle wandered aimlessly and chased Gemsen (chamois) J-Rat continued to read his book, and Merv and Dave ascended both Niederer and Mittlerer Ochsen Kogel, finding a cave near the summit of one of them.  They returned via the Simonyhutte.  The rest of us went over to Barengassewindschscht where we found the first pitch to be an easy free climb now.  We laddered down the second pitch, neither entrance of which had been obstructed by all the boulders thrown down, and I rigged and descended the third pitch. 10m along a narrow rift I came to a small hole at the top of a wide, 27m pitch.  The rift continued, narrow and low, for a further 5m to curve round to the right to the head of a pitch, possibly part of the 27m.  Jim and Trev prepared for the rigging of the 27m shaft while I made my way out.  Part way down the valley side from the entrance of C51, I had a closer look at an entrance noted previously.  A large boulder blocked the entrance but by removing the scree from around and underneath it I was able to push it to the bottom.  The cave, C52, sloped downwards at 45O but unfortunately it was filled with boulders after only 4m.  Hopes of another entrance to C51 were dashed though no doubt it could be dug at the point where the draught comes up through the boulders. We searched further along the cliffs of Barengasse, but found nothing else of note.

BARRENGASSENWINDSCHACHT (C51) 1543/6

Extended elevation. Sketch Survey BEC 1979     Scale 1:1000

 

The Valley lads went down to Hallstatt on Monday morning, partly to replenish essential supplies - the dormouse had consumed more than its fair share, even having tried human being, until human being tried it!  Their other job was to meet and direct Buckett and family.  Meanwhile, on the hill the rest of us were off into C19 again. Jim and J-Rat went to the big rift at the bottom, Bang Gang.  The climbed up to reach a phreatic bore tube some 30m above the floor.  After 100m, this ended at a pitch, Eric Schacht, which was free climbable to within 6m of the floor.  There was no sign of the stream which had started at TTFN Schacht. At stream level the passage soon became rather narrow so they traversing along the middle level.  The sound of the stream seemed to disappear after about 30m suggesting either that the rift was closed or blocked below, or that the stream had turned into another course, away from Gang Bang.  Up above, Trev and I put in a bolt at the head of the Valley Schacht, solving the problem of removing spent cones by heating the end over a carbide flame.  We returned to Gang bang with Jim later, following the middle level, finding several wider spots in the traverse below us, but decided that tackle was required to descend these.  This would hopefully bypass the narrow section in the streamway.  On the way out we measured, by constant estimation, both the length and the amount of descent of Belfry Avenue.  The length was reckoned to be 150m and the total drop from the bottom of Blitzschacht to the top of the little chock stone ladder above TTFN was 50m.

 

Buckett and Merv were the only two prepared to go down C19 on the Tuesday, the last day of July. Maulwurfhohle was becoming a very wearing trip, much harder than the Berger, for example, according to J-Rat, in spite of its comparative shallowness.  Buckett pushed on at streamway level in Gang Bang and it was still going after 45 to 50m, much in the style of the entrance passage, Gargantuagang.  Buckett objected to being told that he looked like a caver of the 1930’s, with his black fibre helmet and his jumper stretched to around his knees – “But I am a caver of the 30’s” he replied.  (Actually he started caving before Merv was thought of).

Trev and Stu headed for the top of the Dachstein.  Unlike us last year; they had a rope and were able to lifeline up the non-existent ‘via ferrata’ and abseil back down.  The top of the mountains were clear early on but rain showers and mist came along in the late morning, and clouds filled up the valleys.  This did not clear until the evening.  Chris and I set off up the Niederer Ochsen Kogel, finding several holes near the eastern corner.  Just as I reached the summit, getting a brief glimpse of the Weisbergerhaus far below, the mist shrouded us.  We gave up the idea of going to the schacht, or schlund, that is marked on the map, and instead turned our attention to some of the holes nearer at hand.  Close to the summit of Niederer Ochsen Kogel there is a large depression at the centre of which there is a snow patch on scree and a couple of deep rifts.  We found another deep, snowy rift on the traverse route that we made down the south west face.  Crossing the cliffs towards Wildkar Kogel the obvious, large, dark hole proved to be only a fairly shallow collapse.  Below Wildkar Kogel there were several holes.  One was a cave at the end of a large snow field, which I followed down as far as I could without a light.  Nearby were deep shafts with snow at the bottom, and above those a phreatic tube, almost filled to the roof with cobbles, C57.  To the east and south of Wildkar Kogel were many other tunnels, shafts and rifts worthy of further investigation.

On Wednesday August 1st we left Buckett and family in peace and headed down to the valley via Herrengasse and the Tiergartenhutte.  Some went to have a quick look at the Waldbach Ursprung, the big resurgence for the area, and then we crossed over the bridge over the Wildbach and walked through the forest to the old salt mines at Salzberg.  The oldest know Celtic community originated here, 4500 years ago, salt being immensely valuable in those far off days.  A very rich, bronze age burial ground has been excavated here.  Hallsatatt is also reckoned to have its origins in the third millennium B.C.  The salt mines themselves, which are still worked today, consist of a complex of adits leading to, via short slopes off to the sides, to large wash out chambers.  The chambers are filled with water and the salt gradually dissolves out of the rock.  The brine is then drawn off, the chamber re-filled with water, and the process starts again.  Highlights of the trip are a slide, as on a banister, down a special wooden slope which the miners seem to use as a quick way down, and a ride on an open train, heads brushing the adit shuttering if you lean too far to one side.  It was too late to look for the Koppenbrullerhohle show cave afterwards, so we spent the late afternoon viewing the village of Hallststt, and unspoilt Cheddar of the Alps.  In the evening we met Hermann and his friend Norbert, who later proved that Austrian cavers get just as legless and stupid as their British counterparts.  If you hear any rumours of that evening’s activities, they are probably true. Trevor in particular, excelled himself.

Early on the morning, after the never to be forgotten night before, we were up, having stayed in an Alpine Club hostel.  The previous afternoon Thros and Trev had dived off the balcony into the lake for a swim, and they chose to do this again to waken themselves.  Ere long we were climbing up the steep slopes of the Achern-Tal, above the Waldbach, to the entrance of the Hirlatzhohle.  This is situated at the base of the 1200m high Hirlatz-Wand and has some 9km of passages.  There are many fixed aids throughout the cave, including wood and wire ladders in various states of decrepitude, and wires for traverses.  A very strong wind howls through the blasted entrance, and makes it very easy to find one’s way through the entrance series, especially in the labyrinth.  Immediately after the entrance the passage spirals up a canyon with potholes in the floor, some of then filled with clear bluish water.  Since one ladder was damaged we took a lower route through the labyrinth which included a damp grovel through a bedding plane, one of the few places where we were not able to stand up.  Eventually we ascended a widened tectonic joint using a ladder, then down the beautifully shaped, phreatic, Gothic Passage and further ladders to enter the main system.  At this point it is a huge, boulder floored, dry streamway.  In one direction we were shown some superb limestone fluting – the Organ Pipes, but were unable to go further as a ladder was required for a 60m pitch.  In the other direction we dropped fairly rapidly down the boulder floor top reach a dark, winding lake with a waterfall entering one end.  Traversing above the lake we soon entered wide, sandy chambers and the site of a bivouac, complete with ancient, rotting bell tent.  From here we began a long but gentle climb, passing at one stage through the Black Chamber, where all the yellow-grey sand is covered under a layer of fine soot.  This is believed to have been caused by a forest fire on the hill above. Further on the passage was nearly filled to the roof with clay, which stopped abruptly forming a wall.  A narrow, vadose rift had been cut through the clay but the sides were too fragile to allow a safe traverse of the rift. Instead we had to climb up the wall using a fixed ladder.  Finally the clay infilling met the roof, and a narrow, vadose canyon brought in an inlet from one side.  We had taken four hours to reach this extremity of the cave, a very good time apparently.  To make the exit we took a mere two hours, but we left Erica behind.  She is a life size, and life like, image of Eric’s sister, or mistress, created in the sand beside the bivouac tent, much to the amazement and amusement of the Austrians.  We did not see much of Eric after that.  Dashing down the hill and round to the Dachstein seilbahn we managed to catch the last cable car back to the Gjaidalm.  After a meal in the hut there we made the Weisbergerhaus in about an hour.

Andy and Dave had arrived on the plateau and spent some time with Buckett looking around Schladmingerloch. Hidden behind a shoulder of rock on the northern slopes of Ochsen Kogel they found a small rift from which issued a cold draught, strong enough to chill the air several metres from the entrance. The entrance passage of Andy’s Roaring gale Hole, C55, led, after a short distance, to a pitch, which was not descended. They also managed to reach the hole in the south east face of Niederer Grunbereg by traversing around ledges and then doing a short abseil, C60 quickly led to a pitch with a draught. Above it and to the right a small, C19 type rift, designated C61, was followed for a few metres but was thought to lead into C60.

Siegfried arrived on the plateau again in the morning and six of us made our way up into the Schladmingerloch, where we spent some time watching a herd of chamois.  These animals seem to feed out on the open screes when there is no-one about, and also play on the snow, making slides. They are very wary, however, and quickly disappear onto the grassy ledges of the cliffs with amazing agility. We could do with a few chamois to reach some of the caves.  I put in a bolt at the head of the pitch in C55, the Gale hole, and Siegfried and I descended it to a depth of about 30m, passing some massive jammed boulders on the way.  The shaft appears to be a widened section of a deep, winding rift.  Over the floor of boulders I squeezed and traversed down a narrow gap to a final choke of gravel and peat with no sign of the draught.  A little way up, though, the rift continued, too narrow, running parallel with the face of Ochsen Kogel.  I climbed straight upwards for about 10m and came upon a widening of the rift through which most of the wind came and beyond which I could see an inviting, black space.  Unfortunately the route is very narrow and I did not like the look of it.  About 8m below the head of the pitch a passage seems to lead over the top of the black space, but an unprotected traverse is required to reach it, perhaps requiring a couple of bolts to negotiate.  Opposite where the entrance passage opens onto the head of the pitch is yet another passage, T-shaped and similar in size to the entrance passage that is about 2m high and varying in width from 30cm to over 1m. In the entrance passage there were some very largo calcite crystals which had grown in layers that had subsequently broken.  The individual crystals were up to 10cm long and several had a hole down the centre. Siegfried said that these were very rare, being known at only three other sites in Austria.

J-Rat, meanwhile, had climbed the cliff ledges across to C60.  A few metres inside he climbed down the pitch and followed about 50m of narrow passage, gradually descending, and suddenly emerged on the cliff face again, some 30m lower down and to the left.  A great disappointment, dashing our hopes of a higher entrance to C19. In the grassy slope above C60, near the abseil point, a tight bedding plane entrance, C54, led to a roomy chamber with two ways on but both were boulder blocked, making the total length about 15m.  Buckett and Andy looked at various holes below Ochsen Kogel.  One of these, C53, has a large entrance but the two ways on inside both lead to crawls, one of them flat out.  There are at least 50m of passage but no draught in either branch.

On our way back from the Schladmingerloch Andy and I had a look at C20, a left over from last year. This year the snow was well clear of the entrance, Andy found that it was possible to squeeze and free climb down, especially with the help of a rope, while I climbed down the 5m pitch where it was wide enough to require a desperate straddle.  Another drop led to the choked bottom of an inclined rift but straight ahead was a fine, cylindrical, phreatic tube, about 70m in diameter.  After about 10m a large chamber with an aven was reached, a rift with breakdown leading straight onwards, while below was a climb down to a short pitch.  Things looked promising, and it was particularly disappointing to find, later on, that all ways soon stopped.

Merv and Dave had gone to the top of the Dachstein for the day, and the remainder of the expedition went to push Darengassewindschacht.  They descended the 27m pitch to find what they described as a 'Swildon's type streamway dropping in steps for 16 or 17m to the head of a very large pitch.  The exaggerated claims of stones dropping free for six seconds (170m) were gradually whittled down to a more reasonable ‘two seconds free followed by several seconds of clattering', which later proved to be correct.

We prepared to do C19 the next day but, after a clear early morning, cloud and mist came up, followed by rain accompanied by occasional thunder.  The rain continued until three in the afternoon so we occupied ourselves in the Weisbergerhaus, gradually become more and more crushed by ill equipped hordes from a church youth club, who arrived through the chill drizzle in various states of exposure and exhaustion.  By 1630 the skies had cleared but C19 was out of the question so Stu, Trev, Thros, Buckett and I went over to Barengasse and C51.  I put in a bolt at the head of the next pitch, after many problems and descended, feeding the 100m rope from the bag as I did so. Having passed several ledges, two of them substantial, without using rope protectors (very bad practice, but then so is abseiling of one bolt) I asked Buckett to join me, and I continued down a slope and a further pitch, using 63m of rope from the bolt.  The rope now hung over some particularly vicious flakes, some of which had been broken by the rope.  I felt the rope bag and there seemed to be little rope left (in fact there was still 37m) and I could not be sure if the last person to use it had put a knot in the end (as it turned out they had not).  I was becoming wet and cold from the constant drip in this pot, and quickly decided to forego the pleasures of the next, inviting looking pitch and make for the surface.  In short, I chickened out.  We de-tackled the whole system and made exit in about five and a half hours.

Our final push into C19 began early on Sunday.  As the youth club gathered together for an outside mass, Merv, J-Rat, Jim and Andy set off to the cave to push beyond the bottom of Eric Schacht, survey out and begin de-tackling'.  Merv turned back after a short while as he did not feel up to the trip, so he busied himself clearing telephone line from the plateau.  The other three reached the bottom without difficulty and descended Eric Schacht to find a boulder floor with no sign or sound of the stream. High up on the far side of the phreatic tube could be seen continuing, but a hairy, exposed and difficult climb or a bolt traverse are the only means of reaching it.  The rift continues, tight and awkward.  They decided to finish exploration at that point and began to survey out along Bang Gang.  Buckett and I set off down the cave in the afternoon, having said our fond farewells to Trevor, and we all met up at the top of TTFN Schacht.  We chain ganged the tackle, enormous amounts of it, along Belfry Avenue, surprising ourselves at the number of ledges available for stacking the gear. Also, surprisingly, we lost none of it down deep rifts, from which retrieval would have proved impossible. At Many Meetings the three pushers, very tired, rather dispirited at not finding an easier route to deep cave, but very relieved about not having to negotiate the avenue again, made their way out after thirteen hours or so of particularly gruelling caving.   Buckett and I stayed to raise the tackle up Dorisschacht and to de-tackle this.  We finally emerged around 2am and made our way back to the hut across the now very familiar terrain.  Thanks to Stu for cooking us a spag. bol., to Jim for staying up to keep it hot, and to J-Rat, whose Irish Cream we half-inched.  Needless to say we did absolutely nothing on Monday.

Sparrow and Co and the Valley lads had returned home leaving six of us to remove the remainder of the gear from C19, which we did early on Tuesday.  The expedition was over.  As I write this, early September, the temperature at the Weisbergerhaus has dropped to -3OC and the snow is already down to 300m below the hut.  We have not achieved what we had expected or hoped for this year, although we still have good cause to return in 1980. Barengassewindschacht (C51) has better potential for striking an old, horizontal system of large phreatic tunnels than anything else discovered, and is the most likely possibility so far of reaching the main drain.  Maulwurfhohle (C19) is most certainly not played out and a hard, super enthusiastic team including a good climber could do something with it yet.  Most of the new sites found were not explored this year due to lack of time, and there are still some holes left unexplored from last year.  C29, an ice cave, is one of these.  It lies in an ideal position to enter C19 beyond Eric Schacht.

Insofar as we enjoyed ourselves this year the expedition was a success - we do after all do it for fun, or so I am led to believe.  Much greater success in terns of length or depth could well be in the offing for next year.