Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 28 Feb 2016

Expedition details (GPF2016a-002)

Expedition Name (& Club): Neprehojene poti - "Untraveled paths" (Imperial College Caving Club)
Destination country: Slovenia
Region: Tolminske Ravne, Triglav national park
Lat: 46.2500 Long: 13.7500 Elevation: 1748 m
MEF funding: none

Leader: Mr Benjamin Honan
Total cavers: 34
Cavers ≤25 yrs old: 23
Cavers 25-35 yrs old: 5
UK/nonUK cavers: 26/8
Eligible for grant aid: 0
Alex Pitcher nominations: 2
Expedition dates: 7th Jul 2016 - 7th Aug 2016
Duration (days): 32
Man-days in field: 30 Man-days travelling: 2
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

Resurvey Primadona cave, push leads in Primadona, explore area N for surface leads.

Primadona is a cave entrance on the western edge of the Tolminski Migovec Plateau. We have been working on this plateau with the local JSPDT club for 20 years. Exploration of Primadona has been sporadic and incomplete, as the focus of the summer expeditions has been on System Migovec (1990s) and GW (2000s). The main work in Primadona since 2008 has been pushing shallow horizontal leads towards the main system. In November 2015, the connection was made. The time is right for us to dedicate a whole expedition to this neglected part of the system.

We will emplace a mountain-top base camp as in previous years and rig a surface abseil route down the plateau cliffs to the Primadona entrance

In order to generate a steady supply of surface leads for future years’ exploration, we will set a small camp in a new distant region (area N) to explore several caves located during a winter mountaineering trip.
How can the GPF support your Expedition?:

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

The ICCC has been in collaboration with the JSPDT for on-going cave exploration in Migovec for 21 years. Since 1994, the ICCC has returned nearly every summer, taking the cave to 972 m depth and forming the longest cave system in Slovenia. Every expedition has produced considerable newly explored cave passage. With the financial aid of the GPF, we have made considerable progress year on year.

Every year the ICCC introduces budding new cavers to the system. Most of these are drawn from ICCC's UK student membership, but we are also open to, and regularly take, other IE/UK cavers. Most experience their first cave exploration on these expeditions.

As this cave has not been heavily traversed in recent years, and with the deep cave (> 300 m below the entrance) being entirely unvisited since 2001, we anticipate that we will require a considerable amount of cave rigging equipment. We therefore need to raise funds well beyond those necessary to purchase our usual amount of 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.

In 1999 the JSPDT cavers began exploring a cave named Primadona (a contraction of 'Pri Madonna', 'near the Madonna', a religious shrine on the footpath). The large entrance (alt 1728 m) lies at the foot of a 100m cliff which defines the western limits of the Tolminski Migovec plateau. Our plan is to set up our usual base camp on top of Tolminski Migovec (1862 m) - where we have significant expedition material over wintered below the snow line.

Work since 2007 on the caves of the western plateau was directed into the cave Monatip, connected into Primadona in 2008. Work continued in this combined region of the new system, developing it towards the main System in the East of the plateau. In late 2015 during an Autumn weekend trip, JSPDT made the connection to the main System Migovec.

The main goal of our planned 2016 expedition is to give Primadona the sustained focus of caver attention it has so far missed out on. We will rerig and resurvey Primadona to a high standard and in a systematic fashion. This will enable a quality drawn survey to be produced of the whole, expanded system. By developing a working knowledge of the cave, we will be able to exploit these new regions within Sistem Migovec for the duration of the 'living memory' this will result in.

Our exploration in Vrtnarija has involved the underground camp X-Ray (-550 m) since 2010, from which the majority of leads were accessed. They are now far removed from camp and beyond the reach of our novices. The connection of Primadona to the main system has provided us with the impetus to commit the resources to the western side of the plateau & have a 'year off' for trundling down the same pitch series.

It has always been known that there exists a large quantity of leads in Primadona, but the lack of working knowledge of the system & uncertainty of what's been pushed from the patch work survey has mostly dissuaded serious attention. By concentrating a whole year's expedition on the cave, we will complement our knowledge of the situation in deep-Vrtnarija and ensure the necessary skill set of leaders through to novices is in place for many further deep explorations.

The main passage in Primadona is well to the west of other known passages of similar depth in System Migovec. We anticipate that there is an enormous quantity and complexity of cave between these two areas of the plateau, and that careful exploration of Primadona may provide the key to unlock the next stage of exploration of the longest cave in Slovenia, System Migovec.

Resurveying Primadona:

A main-line survey exists for all passage in Primadona (the Slovenians use Survex and ICCC and JSPDT share all data). A drawn survey has not been completed since 2000. Due to the perpetual 'back burner' nature of exploration in Primadona and the heterogeneous exploration teams over many years, not all data is BCRA Grade 5, and significant uncertainties exist in whether it is correctly tied together. Our first aim will be to set a careful suite of permanent survey stations (PSS).
We will coordinate surveying teams to connect these PSS, and enter and process the data on the mountain top to ensure that it is as blunder free as possible.

Leads in Primadona:

Primadona was originally (2000,2001) pushed for depth (to -645 m, with a lead ongoing). Recent exploration efforts were the successful horizontal development at modest depths culminating in a connection with the greater Migovec system. A lot of both vertical and horizontal leads at all depths remained unexplored - only large passages heading East have been pushed recently. The bottom of the cave is a going lead, and from our estimates of where the water table is within the mountain, we predict a depth potential of a further 250 m.
In tandem with our plan to systematically resurvey the known passage, we aim to explore both known about and new leads.

Area N:

All caves currently part of the Migovec System have started from the Tolminski Migovec plateau. The cave passage now extends to the north, under Tolminski Kuk, a 2049 m peak. To the north of Kuk is a high plateau region, where surface leads were logged by GPS during a winter mountaineering trip in Dec 2009. This area is known as Area N, and there are several promising cave entrances. These all have considerable depth potential (>900 m), with a possibility to connect to the main system. No serious work has gone into exploring caves in this region. Most promising amongst these is N9, which has been pushed to circa. 40 m depth. As this area is a three hour walk from our mountain base camp with no available water, the logistics have prohibited using being able to give these caves serious attention during the 2010-2015 expeditions. Via the local JSPDT club, we will seek the permission of the Triglav National park for a small group to camp in this region while exploring the surface caves there.
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.

We have run expeditions to this area in: 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 00, 01, 03, 04, 05, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and smaller recces in Easter 95, Autumn 06, Winter 09.

Vrtnarija (Gardener’s World) was discovered in 2000, and extended on every expedition since then, being connected into Sistem Migovec in 2012, making the longest cave in Slovenia.

Primadona was connected to Sistem Migovec in October 2015.

Exploration on the Migovec Plateau began in 1974.

Main exploration info 1974--2006 presented in The Hollow Mountain (2007, available as free PDF). (

Expedition Finances


Travel plans:
Advance party flies out (via Ryanair / Trieste) the week before to setup water collection tarpaulins. A nine-seater roof-racked transit minibus will be hired from Imperial College Union, filled with cavers and gear and driven via Calais - Benelux - Germany - Austria - Slovenia (to avoid toll roads) over 24 hrs non-stop.

Additional expedition members fly out. Minibus is used for 'shuttle service' from Tolmin to Tolminske Ravne (912m) from where gear is portered to Tolminski Migovec (1882m).

# from UK: 34 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £5,100 ~£2000 minibus hire (the student union has significantly increased the hire costs)+ £700 fuel.

--- Flights --- 15 people (some people from the list of personnel probably won't make it, this is likely to be a small number though. 15 people is realistic.)
Flights (London -> Trieste inc. return) ~ £130
Bus (Trieste -> Tolmin inc. return) ~ £20
15 * (£130 + £20) = £2250

Ferry from Dover to Calais ~ £75 to and £75 return

Flights + bus costs: £2250
Minibus hire and fuel : £2700
Ferry: £150

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

Travel total: £5,100 Travel p.p. from UK: £150
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £0


Total: £1,650 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £49 Food bought prior to expedition ~ £1100, mainly from ASDA, LIDL and Makro. Non perishable food left in barrels on the mountaintop - eaten during first half of expedition while caving gear is prioritised for carrying, restocked towards ends of expedition. Collective meals cooked on Coleman petrol stoves.

Camping by special permission in the Triglav National Park.

Petrol for Coleman stoves ~ 50l ~ £50

Surface items (spare tent poles, repair kit, WD40, gaffer tape etc.) spent around £500 last ye


Total: £3,840 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £113 Bolting and rigging:

Rope : 10mm: 700m ~ £750

Maillons: 150 maillons ~ £150

Tape: 30m ~ £30


We have ~ 50 spits, cones, bolts, and hangers on the mountain. Need to buy 50 more to be able to make ~ 100 anchors ~ £220

100 steel rawl bolts for drill ~ £100


~75AA and AAA batteries ~ £200

30 flat cells ~ £80

Personal gear for those who haven’t bought it yet (60L frame rucksack, warm sleeping bag, wear-and-tear to personal caving equipment, etc.) ~ 7*£200 per person (estima
Exped Total: £10,590 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £311
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £0
Mean Exped cost per person: £311

Other Funding

Total: £0 Comments:
No additional funding.
Total shortfall: £10,590 Mean shortfall per person: £311

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 Mike Rogerson
Affiliation: Senior Lecturer in Earth Scien

Reason: Ex ICCC, has performed significant geological analysis of the region.

Permission obtained?: Yes
Referee 2: Mr Tony Seddon
Affiliation: Active expeditionary caver

Reason: Friend of ICCC, provides constant assistance and is well versed on the expedition.

Permission obtained?: Yes

Expedition report author: Tanguy Racine