Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 28 Feb 2022


Expedition details (GPF2022a-008)

Expedition Name (& Club): CUCC Totes Gebirge Expedition 2022 (CUCC)
Destination country: Austria
Region: Loser Plateau
Lat: 47.7075 Long: 13.7987 Elevation: 1755 m
MEF funding: none

Leader: Mr. Nat Dalton
Total cavers: 28
Cavers ≤25 yrs old: 12
Cavers 25-35 yrs old: 8
UK/nonUK cavers: 23/5
Eligible for grant aid: 25
Alex Pitcher nominations: 2
Expedition dates: 18th Jul 2022 - 21st Aug 2022
Duration (days): 35
Man-days in field: 420 Man-days travelling: 56
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

The 2022 CUCC expedition to the Loser Plateau will continue to explore and extend the Schwarzmooskogel (SMK) system (figure 1, see attached figures) which is currently 131.8 km long and 1122 m deep. Also on the plateau is the Schoenberg-Hohlenen system (SH), Austria’s longest cave. Connecting the SMK and SH systems would form one of the world’s longest, deepest caves.

As the expedition has not run for several years COVID-19, the expedition aims and this application are broadly unchanged from the 2021/2022 expeditions.

Continue exploration in Balkonhoehle (figure 2, 264), Fischgesicht (figure 3, 290) and Schmetterlingerhoehle (figure 3, 291).
Establish a second top camp at Garlic Cave to push further west enabling continued exploration of Homecoming Hole (figure 3, 359) and prospecting between the SMK and SH systems.
Train and spread caving expertise throughout many student caving clubs.
Reduce the expedition's carbon emissions by travelling via public transport where possible .
How can the GPF support your Expedition?:

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

The expedition is transitioning from a CUCC led expedition to a multi-student club expedition, with students attending from many different clubs (both student and non-student). Consequently, the expedition can not rely on funding from Cambridge University and our gear will be independent from CUCC’s.

The grant from GPF will benefit cash-strapped students, through subsidising their costs. This will allow them to make travel choices based on minimising their carbon footprint, instead of cost, funding carbon offsetting where necessary.

This year the expedition is making the switch from HKD flush anchors to through bolts, as this bolting technique will be transferable to other expeditions. This expense means gear cost will be higher than in previous years. The expedition will also continue to transition to paperless surveying techniques including recording passage with photography and novel 3D mapping.
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.

Mentoring and Training: Training and inspiring students has always been at the centre of this expedition. This is even more important this year, with COVID-19 causing lost years for student clubs. The experience shortage has the potential to impact student clubs and the wider community for years to come. To address this the main focus of this expedition will be to train current students, from across the country, who will then share their experience within their respective clubs.

Environment: This year, the expedition is taking further steps to reduce its environmental impact, both locally whilst camping on the Loser plateau by minimising the top camp impact on the local environment, and globally by reducing the carbon emission of our transport. We aim to travel by train, bus or multi-passenger cars. Flying will be a last resort where no other option is available. The CO2 produced by the expedition will be calculated and offset, thereby being carbon neutral.

Balkonhoehle (264): many promising leads at multiple levels, allowing for meaningful exploration to be done by cavers of varying abilities. Medusa’s Maze is a particularly exciting lead taking the SMK system into an area not traditionally explored by this expedition. Additionally, the system connects the previously explored Tunnocks system at convenient points to push leads remaining there, allowing us to explore unfinished areas of Tunnocks without rigging the previous route, which was flood-prone.

Fischgesicht (290): The entrance was blocked by snow in 2019 and could not be excavated. Leads from 2018 are still yet to be explored including a 20x20 m large phreatic tunnel with strong draught leading in direction of the rest of SMK left unexplored at the opposite side of a 40 m pitch. It is also likely to connect to another significant find from 2017, Glucklich Schmetterlingerhoehle (‘Happy Butterfly Cave’; 291,), adding length to the system.

Second Camp: An objective for this year is to establish a second top camp known as "Garlic Cave'', which is located further west than Stone bridge, as a base for those exploring Homecoming Hole and Fischgesicht.

Homecoming Hole (359): discovered in 2018 at the western extent of our current area. This is planned to be the focus of further expeditions, but if resources allow this cave will be pushed in 2022.

Scientific Objectives:
Those that have read our 2020 application will know there’s an extensive list of possible scientific objectives, including undertaking survey accuracy checks, hydrogeological assessment of the drainage system, and geomorphological mapping of cave and surface features to understand landscape evolution. These projects will be dependent on certain personnel attending, but of a particular focus will be the recording of features/passage morphology, using a combination of photography and 3D scanning.
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.

The CUCC expedition to Austria was established in 1976, and this represents the 43rd expedition made since then. The continual increase each year in the scope and achievements of the expeditions is testimony to this extraordinary area’s potential for the discovery of new caves.

As described above, one of our aims as a student-led expedition has also been building for the long-term future of this and other expeditions by continually encouraging and training new expedition-goers. The success of this can be seen in both the number of student cavers planning to attend this year following COVID-19, and the number of ex-student cavers who have gone on to be vital to the expedition’s continuation. We have also greatly benefited from, and are very grateful for the enthusiastic support of Robert Seebacher, a prolific local caver and manager of the VHO.

In the past few years, with a strong group of cavers, over 6 km was surveyed, more than 5 km of which was in the SMK system, placing it in the top 10 longest caves in the world (and fourth in Europe). We are optimistic that we can continue this success.

The CUCC Austria Expo website has been continually updated to provide surveys, accounts, logbooks and reports, as well as providing considerable information about the previous exploration by both the club and other local cave-explorers. It remains the most comprehensive source for the individual discoveries from previous expeditions. It can be found at http://expo.survex.com/

Following the expedition of 2019, presentations were made at Hidden Earth, CHECC and within individual clubs.

Expedition Finances

Travel

Travel plans:
Most of the people and equipment will be driven in personal cars and vans to and from the UK to the Loser Plateau (necessitating the cost of ferry-crossings or via the channel tunnel also). A few people will be travelling from elsewhere in Europe (Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Norway and Ireland) using their own or public transport. In-country transport will be via the aforementioned personal cars or vans. Please note that communal costs on the expedition are worked out on a per-person-per-day split rather than a per-person cost for the whole expedition, since the majority of people do not attend for the entire length of the expedition.


# from UK: 25 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £6,200 Per car:
£420 fuel (estimated)
£200 ferry (estimated)
total/car = £620

Assuming 2.5 people per car means total travel cost of £6200

# from outside UK: 3 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from outside UK: £0 As travel cost of expo-goers from outside the UK varies massively, this hasn't been considered in-scope for this submission.

Travel total: £6,200 Travel p.p. from UK: £248
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £0

Subsistence

Total: £9,000 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £321 This cost is dependent on the amount of time individual members
spend on expo, and whether at top camp or basecamp (which is also
variable according to weather and other factors). The very rough breakdown of this cost based on previous years is:
Accommodation (camping and rental of huts at Gasthof Staud
´nwirt, the "base camp") - £4,000
Food - £4,000
Toll road and fuel at base camp - £500
Camping consumables - £400
Permissions and fees - £100

Gear

Total: £6,810 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £243 Rope (2000m) - £3000
Through Bolts (300) - £750
Drill bits (10) - £10
Hangers (300) - £900
Maillons (300) - £1200
Carabiners (50) - £450
Tackle bags (10) - £500

Special 1

Total: £700 Comments:
Special 1 p.p.: £25 Camping supplies and Emergency response kits for a second top camp set up.

Special 2

Total: £600 Comments:
Special 2 p.p.: £21 2x Photography equipment (e.g. second hand tough camera) - £400
2x Tablet/phone for data capture - £200
Exped Total: £23,310 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £859
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £611
Mean Exped cost per person: £832

Other Funding

Total: £150 Comments:
Older members of the expedition subsides students.
Total shortfall: £23,160 Mean shortfall per person: £827

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: Ms. Becka Lawson
Affiliation: RRCPC, CUCC

Reason: Rebecca Lawson is a hugely active and well respected expedition-goer from the uk and has taken part in cave exploration expeditions across the world. A long history with CUCC has provided many years of familiarity with the Loser Plateau and SMK cave system

Permission obtained?: Yes
Referee 2: Mr. Wookey
Affiliation: CUCC

Reason: Wookey has made many innovations in cave surveying and is a highly noted and well-respected expedition caver with experience from across the world and over forty years of expeditionary caving adventures.

Permission obtained?: Yes

Expedition report author: Nathanael Dalton