05 December 2008

What I did at the 2nd BSRC - VIII - Saturday

Saturday 21 June - Chionotrypa (snow-hole)

On Saturday, we had the opportunity to visit the vertical cave "Hionotrypa" - snow-cave - together with a group of cavers from Bulgaria. While making our visit, some of the team collected samples from various positions in the ice to send it for testing and hopefully to get some climatological information.

"Hionotrypa" is up at an altitude of about 2.000m on Mount Falakro - "the bald mountain" of Drama. The cave begins as a doline with year-round ice at the base and a continuation which extends as a steep chamber branching off the floor of the doline. The descent to the base of the doline is easy as the gradient is shallow and it is possible to have your feet on the wall at all times. After this not-quite-vertical descent of about 50m, the snow starts. To approach the hole which enters the cave through the covering ice one needs to be a little careful as the ice is slippery. To enter the cave itself the hole in the ice is about 60cm wide and leads the caver vertically in between the rock and the ice plug to an ice-slide about 30m long and 50-odd m wide which leads down to the back wall of the cave. There, a further hole in between the ice and the rock has been rigged leading to the lower chamber and the deepest yet explored section of the cave. At various points in the cave, wherever there was a steady drip from the ceiling, deep but narrow shafts have been excavated from the ice which although beautiful, nevertheless pose a danger for the careless visitor.

All week we had heard of a team of Bulgarians who had been going up to Hionotrypa every day to dig at the bottom at a place with plenty of air blowing which would no doubt give the most amazing continuation - but unfortunately, I did not have the chance to see the dig site and left it for another day. The Bulgarians come down frequently for prospecting to Mount Falakro - it's only 3 hours from Sofia and there is no active club on the Greek side of the border prospecting the area. While we were in Hionotrypa, some of our Bulgarian friends had gone off on foot to the north to dig in the base of a dline they had spotted earlier in the week - one of the many on Mount Falakro.

While we were inside the cave, Geroge Lazaridis was with us to collect ice samples from a number of different locations on the ice face, following a very specific methodology. Lambros Makrostergios collected some invertebrates in a film canister but we were there for the ice. The ice samples are to be sent to the lab at Demokritos and it is likely we're (they're) going to learn a lot about long-term climate changes in the region. The relative abundance of two different isotopes of oxygen in the ice cores will tell us (well, them, really) what the air temperature was like when the bubbles were trapped in the ice.

The Entrance from a distance
Annika on the ice before descending into the darkness
The first chamber, looking towards the holes in the ice, above

One thing that struck me as noteworthy about our friends from Bulgaria (in this case a group from Akademik club) was the impression the size of the chamber made on them. They asked whether this sort of size is common in Greece as in Bulgaria there are no such chambers. We talked and shared opinions on a whole bunch of other things as well, like: equipment, training, rescue, etc.

Brief video of our excursion.

The trip to the Hionotrypa was the perfect close to a very full and enjoyable weekend. The next morning we set out for the return, took down the posters from the town and headed for the motorway. We had met a lot of people, we had seen what sort of cavers our neighbours are, we had mixed with them socially, worked with them on the rescue drill and visited caves together.

Next meeting: Turkey 2009!

1 comment:

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