Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 04 Feb 2019

Expedition details (GPF2019a-004)

Expedition Name (& Club): Overlooked Armenia (Black rose caving club)
Destination country: Armenia
Region: Harjis area
Lat: 39.2607 Long: 46.1323 Elevation: 2409 m
MEF funding: none

Leader: Mr. Alex Ritchie
Total cavers: 4
Cavers ≤25 yrs old: 0
Cavers 25-35 yrs old: 1
UK/nonUK cavers: 4/0
Eligible for grant aid: 0
Alex Pitcher nominations: 0
Expedition dates: 7th Jul 2019 - 21st Jul 2019
Duration (days): 15
Man-days in field: 56 Man-days travelling: 8
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

Our objective is to explore and assess a country that has so far been rather overlooked in terms of speleological exploration. There are several areas of karst in Armenia that we believe have the potential for speleological discovery. Our expedition will focus on the karstic Vorotan Canyon, which has not been previously explored to any great extent. We will use the village of Harzhis as a base.

Our aims are to:
- Map and explore new caves found in this expedition and hope to find caves with ongoing leads.
- Work to build relationships with local cavers.
- Investigate the Vorotan Canyon for a future larger expedition.
- If time permits examine partially explored areas around Mozrov and Goris.
How can the GPF support your Expedition?:

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

We believe our goals match the vision of the GPF to fund new and exciting cave exploration. Although this is primarily a reconnaissance expedition, we intend to explore and survey all the caves that we find. We have survey gear and some rope but we lack a drill, hangers and bolts, to explore and assess the potential of any vertical caves. Additional funding would help us cover the investment in this new equipment. We of course have travel costs to consider, but we will endeavour to keep these down by staying at a local farm house, failing that a cheap B&B.
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.

We aim to assess the area's potential for future exploration with the intention of organising larger expeditions in the future. 

We have already been in contact with local cavers who tell us there are large areas that have yet to be explored but appear to have huge potential, particularly in the Vorotan canyon region. It is in this particular area where we will focus our efforts and spend most of our time. A secondary objective is to look at the partially explored area around Mozrov (See next section for more details of what has already been looked at, near there). Finally we have been told about a cave near Goris that needs re-opening, we plan to spend a day or two there.

More information on what has already been looked at in both areas is detailed in the next section.

Our objective is to assess this area for speleological exploration, make some new discoveries and, we hope, find some ongoing leads. All finds will be surveyed and documented. All data will be shared with the Armenian Speleological Centre (ASC) and we intend to present our findings at next year's Hidden Earth. We will of course write a report of our expedition.

We will be travelling in July, and hiring a 4x4 vehicle to make access to the area much easier. July has been chosen to fit in with the availability of the head of the ASC. Once we have arrived and established a base-camp in a local farm house we will set off to systematically explore the overlooked areas recommended by the ASC. We will do this using a combination of Google Earth features, high quality Soviet maps, local caver knowledge and speaking to local farmers. Team member John's knowledge of the Russian language can help with this as Russian is a lingua franca in Armenia.

As well as Google we will utilise the Soviet maps (which we have found to be as good as the UK OS maps). We will add modern GPS-compatible gridlines for ease of navigation – using John's know-how from previous expeditions: 

A log of events will be taken daily, as well as videos and photos to document the exploration.
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.

Vorotan Canyon:
This area we are led to believe has not really been explored by cavers. To date there is only one known "cave" there deep within the Gorge.

Only other known caves are archaeological discoveries in rock shelters. 

Mozrov area: 
To date there have been some interesting finds in the nearby area, including caves of archaeological importance as well as beautifully decorated caves such as Mozrov Cave (now gated to protect the fine formations) Yet there are large areas still unexplored, mainly due to the Armenian Speleological Centre’s low membership numbers. The president of the ASC, Samvel M. Shahinyan, is very happy to work with us. The ASC runs a conference every year and they have documented some of their past work in the area:

Goris may or may not be Karstic, the locals believe there was a cave there that has since collapsed, but needs a look at, Samvel has asked us to spend a day or two looking at this.

In general: 
The Russians who traditionally explore the caves in the Caucasus have largely passed Middle Armenia by in favour of vast regions in Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Expedition Finances


Travel plans:
We plan to fly out together from Manchester UK to Yerevan in Armenia, where we will meet Samvel, who will have arranged a 4x4 vehicle for us. We will then drive to Arpi.

# from UK: 4 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £1,992 Flight from Manchester to Yerevan £448 return pp (4x 498)

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

Travel total: £1,992 Travel p.p. from UK: £498
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £0


Total: £2,212 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £553 We will be saying 1 night at a local hotel in Yerevan due to the early leaving time (4x £21) = £84 and an early leaving flight
-- Food cost - Underground food and above ground meals we have budgeted for £12 per person per day (12x4x15) = £720
-- Transport cost - Off road vehicle starts at £25 per day, (25x15) = £400 + Excess etc we expect to pay up to £800.
-- We have arranged a farm house in Harjis (Vorotan) £25 for all 4 of us per night, we plan to stay there 9 days (9 x 25) £225
-- For rest


Total: £650 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £163 £100 Through bolts
£200 hangers and mallons.
£0 Rope (We plan to use club rope)
£350 18v Makita drill, batteries and charger.
Exped Total: £4,854 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £1,213
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £0
Mean Exped cost per person: £1,213

Other Funding

Total: £0 Comments:
Total shortfall: £4,854 Mean shortfall per person: £1,213

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. Juan Corrin
Affiliation: friend

Reason: Juan was and still is a major part of the Matienzo expedition and was expedition leader while I was exploring with them, he can vouch for me, Chris and Carol as being capable explorers.

Permission obtained?: Yes
Referee 2: Mr. Dr Joe Mellor
Affiliation: Friend

Reason: Joe is the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association team doctor and knows Alex quite well through working with him on various rescues and practices as part of the rescue team. He also knows John through various events the team puts on.

Permission obtained?: Yes

Expedition report author: Alex Ritchie & Chris Scaife