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A Summary of Exploration in the Dachstein ( Austria) 1992 – 1997

By Pete 'Snablet' MacNab


The Dachsteingruppe is a spectacular limestone massif rising to 3000m.  It is located about an hour's drive south east of Salzburg.  We stay in the Wiesberghaus - a pleasant mountain hut with a bar, food and accommodation.  The Wiesberghaus is located on a large limestone plateau; there are caves literally next to it.  The plateau is about 1800-2000m high and completely covered in caves, many of which reach depths of around 700-800m (including BEC/NCC finds: Barengasse-Windschacht, Jager Hohle and Orkan Hohle).  The caves we have spent the last few years looking at are about 1.5 - 2 hours walk away.  We put some tents up near the entrance as an advance camp or emergency camp in bad weather. At valley level, near the picturesque village of Hallstatt, a master cave "Hirlatz" has been explored by the local Hallstatt caving club to over 85km with 1041m depth range, currently 14th longest and 49th deepest in the world.  We are based on the plateau above it.


The Wiesberghaus - photo by Mike 'Quackers' Duck

Summary of going leads left after 1991:

Eisturnen Hohle (GS):

101m deep, a crawl led out of (what was thought to be a terminal) chamber to a passage which led to a pitchhead.

Lumpenkerl Schacht (G7):

166m deep, the cave descended an active shaft series. Exploration was left at the head of an approximately 60m deep un-descended pitch.


Promising entrance in a new area.


Promising entrance in a new area.

Verborgene Hohle (Hidden Cave):

250m deep.  This cave found by the NCC in 1990 was left at a pitch head.  Unfortunately, the cave lives up to its name, and we have been unable to locate the entrance, since.

(ref: BB & Canadian Caver article by Chris Lloyd-1991 British Austrian expedition report).


Eistumen Hohle (GS)

The route that Rich Blake found in '91 proved to be a winner.  The cave was pushed down several pitches where it intercepted an active streamway in a lofty meander.

Lumpenkerl Schacht (G7)

Due to the horrendous nature of Razor Blade Alley, a higher level alternative route was sought.  The route was found, which in turn led to the discovery of a second much bigger shaft series, which turned our focus away from the 91 route.  The second shaft series was partially descended to an airy rock bridge (The ability to swing).  Huge inlets joined the shaft at this point.


Halstatt from the Wiesberghaus. Halstatt in the valley, hidden under clouds. Photo: Anette Becher

Eistumen Hohle (GS)

Exploration continued down the meandering streamway, The cave was starting to produce quite a lot of horizontalish (approx. 45 degrees) development, unusual in recent years of British Dachstein caving.  Lots of short stretches of passage interspersed with short pitches. The exploration of the cave again ended at a pitch-head.

Lumpenkerl Schacht (G7)

Exploration focused on descending G7's second shaft series.  We were successful, but disappointed.   The cave proved to be solidly choked at -304m deep. However the cave contained an extremely impressive and daunting 220m deep (multi-pitched) shaft.  The cave should not be totally written off, as it still contains a number of un-descended pitches, most notably at the bottom of the 91 shaft series.       Although it may just prove to be an inlet to the 92 shaft series, it may on the other hand be another multiple shaft series cave which are so common in Austria (e.g. Orkan Hohle, Kanichen Hohle).  (see BB article, Vince Simmonds caving diary).


Eistumen Hohle (GS)

Exploration continued along and down several pitches following the streamway. The going got tricky through a tight section of rift/meander but continued the other side to another pitch-head. The cave so far has been surveyed to -208m deep and 554m long, the cave has been explored down several more pitches for approximately another 100m depth.  It is still going!


The Griinkogel, peak under which the Hirlatz Hohle lies Photo: Anette Becher

Magnum Hohle

This cave was explored and surveyed down to a lake in 1987 (see BB article: Dachstein 87, Mark Lumley).  After several failed attempts to gain permission to dive the sump at the end of the Wilder Western series in Hirlatz to see if it would head to G5, about a km to the south west, we decided in our best wisdom to have a go at Magnum, as a dress rehearsal for diving the bottom of G5 should we hit a sump.  If G5 is going to connect with Hirlatz we would certainly have to dive the Grnkogel sump at the end of the Wilder Westen series.  So Magnum was duly rigged again, bottles and gear ferried in. Unfortunately much to our dismay the sump had dried up leaving a thick mud choke.  On the bright side Magnum Hohle is now 40 foot deeper.

Other developments in Hirlatz Hohle

The local Hallstatt caving club dived the sump at the end of Wilder Westen series in Hirlatz and discovered large amounts of passage (Sdwesten series) including the largest passage and chambers in the cave.  Since the original trip a sump bypass has been found. This is very significant for the exploration of Eisturnen Hohle (G5).  Hirlatz is now only approximately 250m away horizontally from the surveyed end of G5 and possibly as little as 360m below the actual end of G5.  There is every possibility that G5 is a small stream inlet to the Hirlatz system.