Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 29 Feb 2016

Expedition details (GPF2016a-005)

Expedition Name (& Club): Cambridge University Caving Club Austria Expedition 2016 (CUCC)
Destination country: Austria
Region: Totes Gerbirge
Lat: 47.6162 Long: 13.8122 Elevation: 698 m
MEF funding: none

Leader: Dr Matthew Watson
Total cavers: 28
Cavers ≤25 yrs old: 15
Cavers 25-35 yrs old: 3
UK/nonUK cavers: 26/2
Eligible for grant aid: 0
Alex Pitcher nominations: 0
Expedition dates: 25th Jun 2016 - 30th Jul 2016
Duration (days): 36
Man-days in field: 474 Man-days travelling: 58
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

This Year marks the 40th anniversary of the Cambridge University Caving Club's expeditions to the Loser Augst-Eck plateau.
We currently have 28 expedition members signed up and are going to divide our resourced between three main objectives:
(1) Setting up a camp in Tunnockshacht to push some promising deep leads that were discovered on the 2015 expedition.
(2) Further exploration in Balkonhoehle. The last couple of years have seen this cave explored to over 7 km in length and connected to the main Schwarzmooskogelhoehle system. There are still lots of promising leads that are easily accessible here.
(3) Exploration of Kaninchenhoehle. We were using Gemshoehle as a short cut to explore some of the leads at the far end end of Kaninchenhoehle; however, a short cut was discovered which means that further exploration this year will take place from the Kaninchenhoehle side (which requires less rope and is easier caving).
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. Over the last few years the expedition has been moving to a more independent (from CUCC) organisational model in order to encourage and provide more opportunities to students/cavers from other clubs and allow us to leave more equipment in Austria, rather than transporting it too and from the UK. The plan is for this to happen over five years, so as not to significantly increase the cost of any one expedition. The money that the GPF provides helps us to do this while keeping the costs down, making the expedition a very affordable way for students to get into expedition caving.

In addition to this, the planned camping in Tunnuckshacht will require a significant amount of extra equipment, and the money provided will help to make this feasible.
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.

This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the CUCC expedition to the Loser Augst-Eck plateau. The last few years have seen a sizable increase in the number of people attending the expedition (especially students since we have been more proactive in inviting other clubs including UBSS and ULSA).

We are expecting at least 28 expedition members (with a few additional people awaiting confirmation of annual leave).

Given the large number of people and the varied ability, ranging from expedition veterans to people coming on their first expedition, we are going to divide our efforts between 3 main projects to provide suitable opportunities for all the members:

(1) Deep camping in Tunnockshacht: Last year’s expedition saw the deep leads in Tunnockshacht, Number of the Beast and Clayton’s Cock-up pushed to just over 600 m and 400 m, respectively. Both were left with extremely promising ongoing leads at the bottom. The commute to the pushing front in the Number of the Beast is becoming a serious undertaking and we feel that we are at the point where camping is necessary to facilitate efficient exploration. We have previously successfully camped in the SMK system and have several connections including the local Austrian Caving group (VHO) and the German caving group exploring in the adjacent region (ARGE Grabenstetten), who have a wealth of experience camping in these conditions. This undertaking will require a significant amount of additional gear, but will hopefully allow us to make much more progress pursuing this lead. In the event that the leads in Number of the Beast are killed off, rather than pulling everything out, the gear will be brought up to the base of string theory and used to rig and push a second deep lead in the area (Clayton's cock-up).

(2) Balkonhoehle: Since initial exploration in 2014, Balkonhoehle has been explored to over 7 km in length and connected to the main SMK system via March of the Penguins in Tunnockshacht. Most of this exploration so far has been along the first phreatic level, there are still several promising leads including a huge number of pitches that need to be dropped – given the presence of three phreatic levels in the rest of the system, if seems likely that some of these will lead into the second level and big new discoveries. All of the leads in this area of the system are easily accessible and provide an ideal opportunity for the less experienced expedition members to make significant new discoveries and contribute to the expedition.

(3) Kaninchenhoehle: There has not been much exploration in 161 in recent years due to many of the promising leads being a 5 hour trip each way from the nearest entrance. However, since the connection of Gemshoehle (107) to Blown Away in 161, we have been using this as a short cut into the far reaches of the system. Significant progress was made last year, with a connection between the Runnlestone area and YAPATE inlet, cutting a significant loop out. 161 requires much less rope and is significantly easier caving than 107 and therefore this year we plan to do further exploration from this end. Again, this is relatively easy caving that should be suitable for all expedition members.

In addition to the 3 main objectives, further surface exploration will be carried out and potential advanced camp sites to the north near the recently re-found Organhoehle will be investigated.
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, 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 Gemshoehle in 2014 and Balkonhoehle last year is now just over 114 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 continue 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.

This year we are hoping to put together an article to mark the 40th Anniversary this year.

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.

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, rather than a per person cost for the whole expedition.

# from UK: 24 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £3,250 Estimated fuel costs and tunnel/ferry costs for 24 people leaving from various places in the UK. Assuming between 2 and 3 people per car and a share of the communal gear. Also including 3 people flying to Salzburg and using public transport to get to Bad Aussee.

# from outside UK: 4 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from outside UK: £1,200 We have expedition members joining us from Norway, Sweden, Germany and Switzerland. the following costs include estimates for: Car travel from Norway and Germany; Flights and public transport from Sweden; public transport from Germany.

Travel total: £4,450 Travel p.p. from UK: £135
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £300


Total: £3,750 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £134 Accommodation (camping and rental of huts at Gasthof Staud´nwirt) - £1750
Food - £1,200
Camping consumables - £250
Local travel - £450
Permissions and fees - £100


Total: £1,480 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £53 Rope and Hangers £600
Bolting Gear £300
Drill (2nd hand Makita) £80
Underground camping gear £ 500
Exped Total: £9,680 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £321
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £486
Mean Exped cost per person: £345

Other Funding

Total: £300 Comments:
Expo regularly receives sponsorship from food and equipment manufacturers, as well as significant discounts, which will hopefully reduce the overall costs.
Total shortfall: £9,380 Mean shortfall per person: £335

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 Wookey
Affiliation: CUCC and ARM

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
Referee 2: 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

Expedition report author: Matthew Watson


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