Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 28 Feb 2015

Expedition details (GPF2015a-008)

Expedition Name (& Club): Cambridge University Caving Club Austria Expedition (CUCC)
Destination country: Austria
Region: Loser-AugstEck plateau, Totes Gebirge
Lat: 47.6162 Long: 13.8122 Elevation: 698 m
MEF funding: none

Leader: Dr Matthew Watson
Total cavers: 24
Cavers ≤25 yrs old: 15
Cavers 25-35 yrs old: 2
UK/nonUK cavers: 22/2
Eligible for grant aid: 0
Alex Pitcher nominations: 0
Expedition dates: 4th Jul 2015 - 14th Aug 2015
Duration (days): 42
Man-days in field: 437 Man-days travelling: 46
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

We have a larger than average expedition this year and have therefore decided to divide our resources between three main objectives:

Exploration of Balkonhoehle - A new cave first explored in 2014, with dozens of promising leads
Deep Pushing in Tunnockshacht - Number of the Beast is an extremely promising lead that was pushed last year to -485 m
Re-exploration of Organhoehle - Originally discovered and explored by UBBS in the late 80s and early 90s and recently re-found by CUCC

Additionally, we have been developing a methodology for sampling cave sediments for DNA extraction, but were not ready in time for Expo lest year. Therefore sampling will be carried out on the 2015 expedition.
How can the GPF support your Expedition?:

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

The GPF is the primary source of UK expedition funding. The Expedition is moving to a more independent (from CUCC) organisational model in order to encourage and provide more opportunities to students/cavers from other clubs. Therefore we are gradually increasing the amount of gear expo owns. The money we receive from the GPF helps to ensure that the additional costs incurred are not passed on to students, so that Expo remains an affordable way for people to get into expedition caving. Many of these people use the skills learned in Austria in other caving projects around the world (Mulu, Picos, China), so the expo is a valuable asset to the caving community in general, training young enthusiastic cavers the skills needed for expedition caving.
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.

With 24 people and a 6 week expedition this year we will devide our resources between three objectives.

(1) Balkonhoehle was the big find of the 2014 expedition. After several years of surface prospecting and mapping smaller caves, one finally went. There are dozens of promising leads here that can be explored by cavers of all abilities, as the entrance series and the caving is relatively easy. The main developments seem to be heading of NE into \"blank space\" and SW towards Tunnockshacht.

(2) An extremely promising lead at the bottom of Tunnockshact (Number of the Beast) was pushed by a couple of teams last year to -485 m. There is a huge draft here and several possibilities where horizontal development might be found. It would be interesting to see if there is a third phreatic level in Tunockshacht, as has been found elsewhere in the Schwartzmooskoge (SMK) l master system.

(3) Organhoehle was originally discovered and explored in the late 80s and early 90s by UBSS and recently re-found by CUCC. This cave is very interesting - Despite much prospecting by various groups in the area north of Tunnockshacht, to date this is one of the only significant caves discovered, and one of the few with significant horizontal development. Finding significant cave under this area would raise the possibility that there may be a connection to the Schonberg-Hoehlensystem (currently the longest system in Austria) Though that would be many years off...

Additionally, the plateau cave (107) that we connected in to the SMK system in 2014 has several promising leads near the entrance that were left in our bid for the big connection. Having proved that the big systems are not just restricted to the Schwartzmooskogel/Augst-Eck ridge, there is renewed interest in the plateau. This might be useful for busy weeks as we have limited capacity at our stone bridge bivy site and there are some good camping spots near the 107 entrance (it is also possible to explore from our base camp). This would provide a useful back up objective should one or more of the primary objectives prove to be unfesible.

Finally, we would like to take cave sediment samples in order to assess the feasibility of extracting DNA. This was described in last year\'s application, but it took longer than expected to design and test the sterile sampling equipment; therefore we would like to return this year to take the samples for analysis back in Cambridge.
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.

Cambridge University Caving Club, CUCC, have been exploring and mapping cave systems on the Loser-Augst Eck plateau in Austria since 1976. Several major connections over the last few years have led to the Schwarzmooskogelhoehle master system, which with the connection of 107 last year, is now 104.9 km in length (making it the second longest system in Austria) and just over 1km deep.

Over the years, we have fostered good relationships with the other caving groups exploring the area, for example, The ARGE Grabenstetten from Germany who hold regular expeditions in the adjoining kataster area on the Loser plateau, and the local Austrian caving group VHO (who several of our members go caving with each year).

CUCC maintains a huge website detailing this exploration: And our data is also submitted to the Austrian cave database (kataster). Members of the club continues to work on better software for maintaining such project cave databases via the troggle project and the UIS informatics commission.

We present the data from our expeditions annually at Hidden Earth, and regularly publish accounts in various journals including

Last year\'s Hidden Earth presentation:
2013/2014 VFHO article:

A detailed list of our past publications, including several cave science projects undertaken on expo can be found at:

Expedition Finances


Travel plans:
Majority of people and equipment will be transported to and from the UK to the Loser Plateau by road using personal cars and vans. a few people will be traveling from elsewhere in Europe (Norway, Switzerland and Germany) using their own transport. 2 members will be flying to Austria from New Zealand.

N.B. communal costs on Expo are worked out on a per-person-per-day split as the majority of people do not attend the whole expedition, father than a per person cost.

# from UK: 17 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £2,000 Estimated from 2014 Austria Expedition.

# from outside UK: 7 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from outside UK: £2,500 2 people flights from New Zealand
Travel of individuals from Norway, Switzerland and Germany using own transport (fuel ferry and tolls)

Travel total: £4,500 Travel p.p. from UK: £117
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £357


Total: £4,400 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £183 Estimated from 2014 Expedition accounts (adjusted for number of people and extra week of expo)

Accommodation (camping and rental of huts at Gasthof Staud´nwirt) - £2000
Food - £1500
Camping consumables - £300
Local travel - £500
Permissions and fees - £100


Total: £1,200 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £50 Rope and Hangers £600
Tacklesacs £100
Bolting Gear £300
New Tarps for bivy £100
Drill (2nd hand Makita) £100
Exped Total: £10,100 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £350
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £590
Mean Exped cost per person: £420

Other Funding

Total: £400 Comments:
Expo regularly receives sponsorship from food and equipment manufacturers, as well as significant discounts, which will hopefully reduce the overall costs.
Total shortfall: £9,700 Mean shortfall per person: £404

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: Dr James Hickson
Affiliation: University of Cambridge

Reason: James has been a caver for many years and is the longstanding senior treasurer of Cambridge University Caving Club and can vouch for people on the expedition.

Permission obtained?: Yes
Referee 2: Mr Wookey

Reason: Wookey has been caving with CUCC since the 80s, has been on 18 Austria expeditions and does alot of the work maintaining our cave data.

Permission obtained?: Yes

Expedition report author: Matthew Watson