Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 26 Feb 2014

Expedition details (GPF2014a-006)

Expedition Name (& Club): Moulin Explorers - 2014 (Cardiff University Caving Club (CUCC))
Destination country: Switzerland
Region: Valais, Zermatt & Chamonix
Lat: 46.5608 Long: 7.5877 Elevation: m
MEF funding: none

Leader: Mr Alistair Morgan
Total cavers: 3
Cavers ≤25 yrs old: 3
Cavers 25-35 yrs old: 0
UK/nonUK cavers: 2/1
Eligible for grant aid: 0
Alex Pitcher nominations: 2
Expedition dates: 1st Aug 2014 - 27th Oct 2014
Duration (days): 88
Man-days in field: 34 Man-days travelling: 8
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

To locate, explore, and scientifically define the dynamics of glacial surface drainage systems (Moulins and Glacier Caves) offering insight into their distribution, formation and possible environmental impacts/precursors. This will be on three European Glaciers.

The format of this expedition offers comparisons of such dynamics of glacial cave systems over different regions and seasons. Furthermore, to evaluate how these systems may have changed over time; comparing them to previous expeditions and publications.

The acquired data will be used in the completion of my Masters Thesis at Cardiff University, due 2015.

Leg 1 - Altesch Glacier, Valiais, Switzerland (01/08/2014 to 15/08/2014)
Leg 2 - Gorner Glacier, Zermatt, Switzerland (06/10/2014 to 17/10/2014)
Leg 3 - Mer de Glace Glacier, Charmonix, France (17/10/2014 to 27/10/2014)
How can the GPF support your Expedition?:

Please explain the aspects of the trip which make it eligible for Ghar Parau funding.

The Ghar Parau Foundation has a rich history in providing financial aid for a series of pioneering cave expeditions to the farthest reaches of the globe, assisting cavers whose off-the-wall drive for exploration holds much inspiration to myself.
With the Foundations interests in both raw exploration and cave sciences, I would like to believe that a certain relation would be found in our own goals to explore and understand such a dynamic environment.

Any GPF financial aid will be beneficial in assisting transport to and from the regions for the expedition party, the purchase of specialised food and equipment for glacial travel and speleology, as well as facilitating the rent of specialised scientific, safety and survey equipment.
Detailed description of objectives:

Give a more detailed account of the purpose of the trip, including any particular known caves you intend to visit, specific areas where you will explore for new cave, and scientific experiments you will attempt.

The expedition will be split into three legs, to three different regions in the European Alps.
The reason for this are as follows:

1.To expand the volume and diversity of data allowing observations to be compared regionally.
2.To visit regions where research has been studied in the past to asses any changes in hydrology/morphology. This may be linked to events including glacial wasting with climate change.
3. To study a section of the hydrological system\'s annual cycle over an extended period.
4. To maximise the diversity and possibility of Moulins/glacial caves, offering a guaranteed possibility of dropping, exploring and surveying unexplored systems. The fact that Moulins have a life cycle of about 4-10 years, and annually changing morphologies/hydrological roles, makes this even more intriguing. A glacier cave will never be the same year to year, thus an element of stepping into the unknown is mandatory.

The ultimate aim is to map, explore, and scientifically analyse the dynamics of Moulins and Glacier Caves using adapted SRT, offering insight into their distribution, formation, and possible environmental impacts/precursors. Furthermore, the format is designed to push our skills as mountaineers and cavers to new personal boundaries, doing something a little bit different and committing to a true expedition as a group. The data derived from which will be used in the completion of my masters dissertation at Cardiff University.

The format of this expedition offers comparisons of such dynamics of glacial cave systems over different regions, seasons, and to evaluate how these systems may have changed over time, comparing them to previous expeditions and publications.

*Leg 1 - Altesch Glacier, Valiais, Switzerland (01/08/2014 to 15/08/2014).*
To reduce the amount of pack weight, and to compensate for extra rope/metalwork/science equipment, food caches are in the process of being arranged at three points along the length of the glacier. These sites will also represent the camp locations during the two week stay, allowing a relatively local point of safety for three distinctive survey locations.
Leg 1 is being organised solely by the Moulin Explorers Team and therefore is following a more meticulous plan.

Arriving in Bettmeralp from the UK via car, the party will take the Bettermergrat cable car, allowing a simple traverse across Betmerhorn. From here, following the path down to the Altesch should be relatively simple, setting up the first camp near the Marjelenbach stream/glacial lake.
4-5 days will be spent here as it offers the access to the largest area of the glacier in terms of surveying. The proximity to an annual draining lake also provide easy access to our first caves/moulins to explore during the night, as well as the possibility of diurnal hydrology readings. Access to the glacier terminus is also potentially within reach, allowing opportunities for dye tracing.

The second part of the traverse involves moving to a camp near to the Konkordia hut, where, if all goes to plan, the next 4-5 days of food will be waiting. This second camp provides access to the middle and upper reaches of the ablation (melting zone), as well as the three smaller outlet glaciers that provide mass to the Altesch.

The third and final part of the traverse will take us from the ablation to the accumulation zone, above the snowline, to Jungfraujosh. This marks the end of our scientific objectives but, weather depending, we may choose to follow some mountaineering goals. A food cache is also set to be arranged to this location. We will then exit the Altesch glacier via the Jungfraujosh train to Kleine Scheidegg, taking trains back round the Altesch mountain range, picking up the car in Bettmeralp.

*Leg 2 - Gorner Glacier, Zermatt, Switzerland (17/10/2014 to 06/10/2014).*
*Leg 3 - Mer de Glace Glacier, Charmonix, France (17/10/2014 to 27/10/2014).* (International Glacier Caving Camp).
These legs of the expedition are being organised by word leading glaciologists and cavers with patronage linked to La Venta, Spélé’ice and members of Castleguard 2012. With their resources and expertise it is hoped that moulin exploration and research will be pushed to its limits, taking a much more serious note. For mountaineers and cavers such as ourselves this will prove to be a truly valuable experience.

In terms of science, similar research will be undertaken to that of the Altesch, but with a stronger focus of internal geomorphology and hydrology.
The specific details of this leg are being organised by the larger party, but it is expected that one camp will be made. Surveying will take place during the day and exploration by night.
Previous work in this area:

Give details of any previous work in this area by your own and other teams. Include references to reports and articles published on the area, and the names of any local cavers or academics with whom you have discussed the Expedition.

Due to the obvious complications and dangers of undertaking research within a glacier, previous work and publications are rather limited. From a scientific perspective, the leaders in this line of research currently include Jason Gulley, Doug Benn, William Colgan and Andrew Fountain. Their work has provided significant progress into testing theories of how glacial caves/moulins form, suggesting environmental implications for these systems.

This expedition is also inspired by research that I conducted looking at Moulin distribution on the Llewellyn Glacier, Juneau Icefield, British Columbia (Canada).

As far as a literature and publication review goes, there is NO such record of glacial cave exploration on the Altesch Glacier. This means that, along with the fact that glacial caves change on a year to year basis, the exploration of new cave systems is guaranteed. It is our opinion that discovery, exploration and surveying of these systems would prove valuable both as scientists and cavers.

The Gorner glacier is one of the most extensively studied speliologically by groups including La Venta, lead by Leonardo Piccini and Castleguard, lead by Martin Groves. The focus of the research in 2014 is to explore the drainage system of a seasonally filled lake and to compare surveys/data with that of previous years. Ice loss through climate change is having a significant effect on the glacier, and this can be evaluated by changes of Moulin morphology.

Exploration on Mer de Glace has been fairly limited to those looking for some summer ice climbing, with no such survey or scientific record. Previous exploration has often limited to descending the first pitch only.
The glacier has huge potential for exploration and therefore has become the focus for many glaciologists and cavers in 2015. Being a part of this will therefore provide a huge learning curve.

-Benn, D., Gulley, J., Luckman A., Adamek, A., Glowacki, P., 20091. Englacial drainage systems formed by hydrologically driven crevasse propagation. Journal of Glaciology, Vol. 55, No. 191.
-Colgan, W., Steffen, K., 2009. Modelling the spatial distribution of moulins near Jakobshavn, Greenland. Earth and Environmental Science, 6.
-Fountain, A. G., 1998. Water Flow through Temperate Glaciers. Reviews of Geophysics, 36, August 1998. pp. 299–328.
-Gulley, J., Benn, D., Screaton, E., Martin, J., 20092. Mechanisms of englacial conduit formation and their implications for subglacial recharge. Quaternary Science Reviews, 28.
-Holmlund, P., 1988. Internal geometry and evolution of Moulin’s, Storglaciaren, Sweden. Journal of Glaciology, 34 (117), 242–248.
-Piccini, L., Badino, G.,1999. Moulins and marginal contact caves in the Gornergletscher, Switzerland. Specile Glacier Caves, Nimbus 23-24.

Expedition Finances


Travel plans:
Leg 1;
-Meet in Cardiff, UK, driving to Bettmeralp, Switzerland (1-2 days).
-Take cable car onto Betmerhorn, allowing passage down to the Altesch Glacier.
-At the end of the traverse, take the Jungfraujosh train off the glacier to Kleine Scheidegg. Train services then connect to collect the car back in Betmerhorn.
-Return to UK.

Legs 2 and 3;
-Cardiff, UK driving to Zermatt/Charmonix to meet group.
-Trains/cable cars may be necessary to get to destinations more easily.

# from UK: 3 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £1,200 -Estimated total fuel costs (car at ~30 MPG), RndTr; £900
-Costs for group train/bus/cable car tickets, RndTr; £300

# from outside UK: 0 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from outside UK: £0

Travel total: £1,200 Travel p.p. from UK: £400
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £0


Total: £450 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £150 35 days of Expedition food (2000 cal per day) p.p;
-Freeze dried mains.
-Energy/chocolate bars snack.
-Dried meat (summer sausage).
-Trail mix (Nuts, raisins, M & Ms).

= £4.30 p.p, per day.


Total: £1,350 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £450 Rigging;
-Ice screws (various sizes) x15 = £660
-Abalakov hook; £15
-Mallions/crabs x10 = £30
-Static Rope (150m) = £155
-Slings x9 = £40

Glacial travel;
-Dynamic rope (50m); £115
-Deadman; £35
-Crevasse rescue kit; £100

-3 Man tent; £300

Special 1

Total: £300 Comments:
Special 1 p.p.: £100 Rent of specialised equipment; (Sat Phone, GPS, survey/science equipment ect).

Special 2

Total: £300 Comments:
Special 2 p.p.: £100 Expedition Health Insurance.
Exped Total: £3,600 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £1,200
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £0
Mean Exped cost per person: £1,200

Other Funding

Total: £0 Comments:
Total shortfall: £3,600 Mean shortfall per person: £1,200

Referees and Report

Please give the names, addresses and phone numbers of two suitably qualified people whom the Committee can contact. You should ensure that they are aware of the objectives of your trip, and that you have their permission for the Committee to contact them.

Referee 1: Mr Chris Jones
Affiliation: Member of Cardiff University C

Reason: Lead the Lyngen Alps Expedition of 2013, has been to the Dachstein (Austria) and Hirlatz caving expeditions and various other expeditions. Very experienced caver and mountaineer.

Permission obtained?: Yes
Referee 2: Mr Jamie Windsor
Affiliation: Member of Cardiff University C

Reason: Is also a very experienced caver and mountaineer, and also has been to the Dachstein, and a wealth of other expeditions. Was also a main member of South Wales Cave Rescue.

Permission obtained?: Yes

Expedition report author: Alistair Morgan