For over 50 years, English cavers have been exploring the Dachstein plateau in Austria for an upper entrance to the Hirlatz Cave in Austria.
Over the years the expedition series became an international project and each year 30-40 cavers gather at the plateau for 3 weeks in August/September to explore what’s beneath.
the expeds base camp
is the old cable car hut of the Wiesberghaus, which always supports us strongly. Here we have a material depot and a space to cook and sleep. From there new entrances are searched and known caves are explored in the picturesque landscape.
Besides countless and ongoing projects in the over 100 km long Hirlat, the most crucial one for the connection towards the plateau was the dive through the Oasis Sump in the remote Southwest in 1996. Over several years the dry passages behind the siphon were pushed in up to 25 hours long trips. The end point at that time was Austrian Airspace, a massive chamber that was found in 2012.
Wot U Got Pot (WUG)
First mentioned in 2006, the WUG quickly became the main project of the expedition. Its pitches extend to a depth of 650m below the entrance where it opens into an extensive and spacious horizontal section.
Despite intensive research in very muddy and hostile environment, for a long time no continuation towards Hirlatz Cave could be found.
In 2016, favoured by a resurvey of the entire cave, a squeeze was passed and spacious tunnels were found again. Thus the cave was pushed by two kilometres in two years to a good 8 kilometres total length and 800m depth.
a temporary siphon
In 2017, exploration in WUG was abruptly halted. The current end was an open passage that could not be pushed due to lack of time. When the team returned to the site at the end of the expedition, they found the passage blocked by water. A heavy weather front with snow caused the karst water level to rise several meters, making it impossible to proceed. Measured data showed that Austrian Airspace was less than 150m away.
next year with better weather the passage was further explored. As hoped, a team of 4 long-time explorers were able to follow a crevasse that led into a vast chamber. Only after old ropes and measuring points were found it could be confirmed that the connection to the Hirlatz Cave was made.
So on the 06.08.2018 the two caves were connected in a 27-hour tour (from WUG camp). The Hirlatzhöhle, now over 113 kilometres long and 1560 meters deep, became the 9th deepest and 20th longest cave on earth.
This success could only be accomplished through persistent exploration by countless explorers over well over half a century
But exploration of Hirlatz Cave continues as it is far from having revealed all its secrets…