27 November 2006

New personal depth record

My new personal best for depth is now -315m, after a good long stint in Propantes. a group of us went up at the weekend with enough rope to rig a good 250 meters beyond the lead we were intending to push, but things (starting with the strength of the rock, but also the morphology of the place) were against us.

The rest of the group - everyone apart from Erato and myself went through the narrows at -315m into the "new sections" of the cave but came to a dead end a little further than they had gone last month. There is still a lot more work to be done.

And of course, the weather was fine while we were entering and while we were inside (although it was raining inside from the drippings of the humidity) and a little before the last man came out, the rain started. It drizzled, then it picked up, then it worsened, then it got better - like this, right up until about two pm the next day - so we packed our tents and got everything together in the rain, and mud everywhere, in the cave, out of the cave, in our hair, in our sleeping bags - mud everywhere.

Anyway - I am not as hampered by excesses of lactic acid as I was during my first wisit to the cave, but I am a little sore here and there and a little bruised from my chest harness.

In all though, the new personal best was worth it, as was the fun to be had all weekend with the other boys and girls.

24 November 2006

Back to Parnon

I spent last weekend up on the Paliochora plateau again, the last weekend of the season. Next year again - and all of winter to complete the write-ups.

This weekend, going back to Parnon, a little further south, this time, to the famous Propantes. Currently at -315m officially, a little more in practice and hopefully, by this time tomorrow, a lot more in practice. I am not making any promises about writing anything about this, as this year has been a difficult one for keeping up to date on the blog or more generally. I have only just managed to put up my report on Paloumba (January 2005)!

17 October 2006

Stuff that’s not been done…

Well, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s not been written about. It’s very hard to balance when the workplace has demands which are logical in their bread-on-table-way, but sometimes irrational in their pressing nature. The most important and pressing of things that’s not been done is a decent write up of the latest adventures at Dersios, where we have been going about once a month since June and where we have been surprised again this year with what we have found.

I have picked up a new survey programme called Therion and I have slowly been transferring the survey data from Dersios over to Therion to make the survey look a little better than it has been looking in the past.

I also owe a proper write up of the Kastelorizo adventure, including the discovery of three vertical caves, two of about 10-15m, one with a surveyed depth of 60 odd which continues. For these I need to finish the survey and then write them up, the sooner the better, especially since the people at the ministry are getting frisky and are phoning me for my report – never known them to do that before! But especially since we are thinking of going back, which means that we have to ask the ministry again, and they will ask me about my report for March and then yadda yadda yadda, you know. For that I have been trying to learn Therion too. Almost there. Almost to the point where we will be able to produce a pencil-less survey (yeah so I use a biro inside the cave).

Anyway – so why the sudden guilt trips and writing splurge?

Well, like I said, things are tough in RL and when things are tough in RL you cling to dreams and dreams are stuff that you think about when you day dream and when you are on the Attiki Odos doing 130 km/h in heavy traffic but your mind is on a mountain underground. Until recently all I have thought about has been Dersios and how the rocks change colour from one part to the other and what things are like at the end of the third sump and dammit when will someone manage to reach the end of the third sump and tell us what lives there?

Recently, though, something else has gotten hold of the imagination and has started sneaking itself into my mind’s eye - somewhere en-route to work after the Kifissias ring road when all the Derios daydream is coming to a close and there it comes, the new, the unknown, the challenge that will keep me busy to get ready and for which I will probably never be physically ready for, try as I might.

There has always been this thing about superlatives – you know – there would not be much point in having them in a language if they did not captivate and motivate. My "Every Boy's Handbook" from the late seventies, just when I was proficient enough to read it, was crammed full of interesting things like semaphore and rank diacritics of uniformed soldiers and whatnot, but it also had page upon page of superlatives: the longest, the tallest, the oldest, the hottest, the coldest – superlatives fascinate boys almost as much as sergeants’ stripes and capital cities.

But to reach the superlatives, one must do a whole lot of training and spend a whole lot of money on gear and kit, and this will be difficult.

We had a first meeting of the team who will be going for it and we set a tentative date in August of next year.

I hope to write about it, as regularly as my mood will take me and as regularly as my work allows. It’s superlative for Greece at –1,208m (about four times deeper than my personal deepest), but only about place 34 on a global scale. Still, the opportunity to cross the km mark will be present, and if I am conscientious enough in my training and if I eat all my greens, maybe I too will be there with the big boys who were gathered last night at the club to begin to plan the attack.

Dreams and superlatives then, but first: work, then clearing the backlog – how very prosaic.

22 September 2006

Palpable excitement

The ninth Panhellenic Speleological Convention starts this evening down in Monemvasia, five hours drive. I will be going down with a bunch of people from the club.

Should be a fun weekend.

17 August 2006

First pitch - Katerina video

26 July 2006

Propantes April 2005

Back here: old post on Propantes I wrote (not at very much length) about going to Propantes in Arkadia.

I have got my act together with youtube now and am happy to present a small video of our adventure that weekend. I hope you enjoy.

07 July 2006

Plans for weekend 15-16 July

Part of the survey showing the deepest explored sections of the sinkhole.

The plans for the weekend of 15-16 July involve diving the sump at top left (true north is up) and creating a better survey of the immediate area. The passage leading south is all underwater and probably needs neoprene. It joins with the end of last year's new exploration through a 70m dive.

05 July 2006

Back to Dersios - 2006 season

Well, some of the other boys and girls have already gone back, some of them starting on their fourth season of exploration at the Dersios Sinkhole. The optimism in the group is high with strong feelings that this year we'll push through to something good.

We are only one step away from potentially virgin passage, although that step is a biggish one involving diving two sumps in succession.

The weekend of 15-16 July will be spent on preparation for the dive, which is expected later on in the season.

04 April 2006

Caving on the edge of Schengenland

I went with some fellow cavers to watch the total solar eclipse of 29 March 2006. The only inhabited place in schengenland to see the eclipse is Kastelorizo / Castelorizon. While there we did some searching and bagged some smaller potholes of about -10m. We also began exploring a deeper cave but ran out of time at -60m. More to follow once all the pictures are properly out. The medley to the left is just a collage of phone-cam shots.

13 January 2006

Back on rope tomorrow

Tomorrow will be my first time on rope since 25 September 2005 - about 110 days. My ankle is usable but not totally healed. It hurts still - even at rest and immobile. Still, the plan is to go to the Sykia pothole in Voula with as many club members as want to come, set up some ropes and games and whatnot and consume some food.

Google Earth image of Southern Hymettus

It's only a 17m drop. Descending and ascending shouldn’t put too much strain on the ankle.