Hidden Earth 2024

The Dachstein Caving Expedition

45 minute Lecture|Andrew Mcleod

The Dachstein Caving Expedition


The Dachstein caving expedition has been exploring the high Alpine plateau of the Dachstein in Austria for over 50 years. It is a primarily British expedition but international expedition with cavers from countries such as Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic etc. We focus on training for new cavers, offering discounts for young cavers and training new-to-expedition cavers before and during the expedition.

The Dachstein has a theoretical depth potential, supported by the hydrology, of more than 2500m. The plateau contains many significant caves; under our area is the mighty Hirlatzhöhle which is 118km long and 1560m deep after the expedition connected one of our high entrances (WUG Pot) to the system in 2018. Most of our shallow caves are cold vertical Alpine caves, but at depth our section of the Hirlatzhöhle is primarily massive muddy phreatic passages safe from flooding.

This year we will have been pushing what we believe is the main upstream continuation of WUG Pot in the hope of finding continuing large passage southwards towards higher entrances. We are also planning on setting up a second camp deep in WUG Pot to explore the area around Austrian Airspace, an enormous chamber which was the connection point between WUG Pot and the Hirlatzhöhle. We are also exploring new higher-altitude (~2300m) caves as the snow and ice recedes due to climate change, and prospecting for new caves. There is still plenty left to explore both in our shallower caves and in WUG Pot.

Will we find kilometers of new upstream passage? Will this year's new cave entrances begin drilling down into the plateau with potential higher entrances to the Hirlatzhöhle? Will we have a good talk written in the two weeks between the end of the expedition and Hidden Earth? Come and find out!

We are grateful for support from the Ghar Parau Foundation both in the form of a grant, which we use to subsidise expedition fees for young cavers, and two Alex Pitcher awards for new young cavers.