International Congress of speleology

captnemocaptnemo Depth defyingPosts: 166Registered Users Major grins
edited January 15, 2014 in Journeys
The 2013 International Congress of speleology (cave studies) was held in Brno in the Czech republic.
First though an opportunity to visit the caves of the area.

The trip to Brno went smoothly and I had a couple of hours till the bus left for the Moravian Karst camp . Unfortunately I miss interpreted the directions that had been given to us and headed out the wrong way. After wandering around for almost an hour (with a short break to get something to eat) I realized I was supposed to be right back where I got off the bus from Prague! There I found lots of cavers gathering with all their gear ready to head out to the camp.
It was a short bus ride from Brno through a small town and along the lake where the camp was located, The camp consisted of rows of cabins that each housed four people. Nothing fancy but good enough and they even had free WiFi throughout most of the camp. I found my self bunking with another guy named John from the states, a guy from Russia and a guy from Australia. After a great welcome dinner it was time to get some sleep in preparation for caving the next day.
We assembled in the morning after breakfast and went through what would be our routine for the week as those leaving for earlier trips loaded on the bus for its first trip out to the karst areas. I had opted for a more leisurely start and signed up for a trip that didn’t leave till after 9am so I had time to get my camera gear in order. For the first day of caving I signed up to visit Byci Skala Cave. First though we had a trip to a small section of cave that was being used actively for paleological studies. They were both excavating bones for study and leaving bones in situ so that students would have the opportunity to see them as they were discovered. This section was very interesting though we did have to traverse some very muddy trail and climb a couple of ladders which had me worried my camera gear would never come clean again. It was also extremely warm, I had come prepared for the cold European caves everyone warned me about but this was not one. My glasses were continually fogging making it hard to see where I was going. For the rest of my caving during the camp I made sure to put them away in my camera box.
Camp, one of the nicest places I've stayed while caving, A nearby lake and beer, what more could you ask for.


Bones in Byci Skala

After a brief return to the surface it was off again this time to a larger section of cave where we descended to some lovely stream passage. This section was much cooler in temperature and the cold water helped wash off some of the mud that still clung to my boots.
I enjoyed the cave and our guides were very entertaining as was to prove to be the case on all the camp excursions. We returned to camp tired and muddy but we had plenty of time to get washed up for dinner and enjoyed a beer down by the lake which was to become something of an evening ritual.

Sunbeam in Byci Skala cave

For our Second day of caving I had signed up for a simple four hour non vertical dry trip in New Sloupskys corridor.(N.S.C) The cave was not exactly what I imagined from the description. Our guide led us to a culvert and explained that this entrance to this section of cave was dug when a cave diver did not return through a sump to the cave they had originally entered this section from. They did find the diver but by then it was too late. Anyway the culvert had a narrow metal ladder installed in it and as I was anxious to take pictures I jumped on in and began going down. It wasn't long though before I began to doubt my wisdom in going down first the shaft seemed to continue forever . I reached a small ledge where the ladder ended and I had to carefully climb over to another ladder to continue on. From here I could tell I was approaching the bottom and now I was no longer surrounded by the smooth cement shaft. 70meters unbelayed certainly seemed like a long way down. This was only the beginning of the adventure as we reached stream passage were we first waded through water then continued past some deeper sections by balancing on cable strung across the water and then stepping across on rebar spikes driven into the walls. The cave was a very sporting trip and was beautiful to see.

Stream passage N.S.C

Collin in N.S.C


Emily in N.S.C

The next days caving started very similar to the previous days as we headed down another concrete culvert shaft. This time though we only had to to climb down 40 meters of ladder before heading down towards stream passage. We climbed down another ladder past a waterfall. This cave had an even longer section of cable strung across water that we balanced our way across over 20 meters. After exiting we had a short break and then were warned that the next section was a little tight. I opted to leave my pack outside and was glad I did as not only was there a tight squeeze through the entrance section but then we descended down two rope ladders that barely fit through some places. I was relieved to learn this was a through trip so I would not had to ascend those ladders and the exit wasn't a tight squeeze at all.

Just how far down is it????

For Fridays trips I saw that Peter , Philipe and Annie had all signed up to go to New Amateur cave. Since this was sure to mean plenty of stops for photos I joined them. I was not disappointed. After another descent through a concrete shaft down a 50m ladder we were in some beautiful stream passage which did give us some great opportunities to take pictures. I was a little nervous about carrying my camera gear through long stretches in the water but after being assured the water was less then waist deep off I went. Well it may not have been deeper then waist deep but when the ceiling height was less then five feet there wasn't much room to keep my gear dry in. Still somehow I managed. Since Phillipe and Annie had driven their own vehicle to the cave they offered to give us all a ride back if we took some extra time in the cave so we didn't have to hurry to meet the bus. After three or four extra hours in the cave we headed out when we reached the long climb that led to the parking area though our guide had a surprise for us, he headed further down the canyon instead of up. Coming around the bend we found the cable car that brought people down to visit Punkya cave and since he knew the operator they waved us aboard for a ride back to the top. We made it back to camp in plenty of time for dinner.


Peter in New Amature Cave

New Amature cave

For my final day of caving before heading to the congress in Brno I decided to take it easy and signed up for a cave with no long climb to enter, so this time I was heading to Old amateur. Once more I was caving with Phillipe and Annie and so we took plenty of photo stops though there were plenty of other people on the trip so we tried not to hold the group up too much.The large stream passage we were walking through did make for some great pictures. Then it was time to head back to camp.
Annie at the entrance

Stream passage after the water

During camp we'd enjoyed wonderful meals though folks did comment on the fact that the breakfasts were a little different then people were used too. For one we had a pair of large smoked sausages. They were tasty but that was a lot of sausage first thing in the morning. The next morning we had four jelly filled doughnuts each, quite the contrast. I think my favorites were the bread and cheeses. The highlight of the meals though was when the local cavers got together after dinner to host a bbq, with appetizers, grilled trout and steak and lots of local beer and wine.They even had an accordion player and someone on guitar to play us some traditional songs.
An important lesson was learned one night during camp after we retired for the evening. One of our cabin mates began shouting random words that didn't make sense. We assumed he was sleep talking and asked him to wake up. Pretty soon he was really hollering so the caver in the bunk above him tried to nudge him awake. He became combative and jumped across the room nearly hitting me. We became really concerned when he tried hitting the door which had a glass window as he might easily have injured himself. We grabbed him and sat him on his bunk. He wouldn't respond to questions so I quickly walked to the hut where our organists were staying. I nearly panicked when they weren't there, but a passing caver informed me they were having a meeting in the nearby building so I ran over and found the main guy Petr who called an ambulance. By the time the ambulance arrived we had found out from other cavers that the victim was diabetic and sure enough he had medication stashed in a jacket pocket under his bunk. The ambulance medics gave him some soda and shortly he was fine. Thinking it over though I realize how risky it could have been to have something like that happen in a cave. So I suppose the important lesson here when staying with people you haven't met before and especially if you're going caving with them, ask them if they have any serious medical conditions and let people know if you have any.

It was a wonderful camp overall and I was sad to leave but still looking forward to the Congress in Brno.
sunset by the lake


  • David_S85David_S85 Spotter of Dgrin Spam and Oddities ChicagolandPosts: 12,284Administrators moderator
    edited January 5, 2014
    Fantastic Journey post! Love the light in the Stream passage after the water shot, near the end.
    My Smugmug
    "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take" - Wayne Gretzky
  • captnemocaptnemo Depth defying Posts: 166Registered Users Major grins
    edited January 12, 2014
    After caving in the Moravian Karst it was back to the city of Brno for the actual Congress.

    IMG_7944-S.jpgDowntown Brno

    IMG_8087-S.jpg 16th international congress of speleology

    We arrived in the morning as the day was starting to get pretty warm. Then I found out just how large the setting for the congress was. Trudging across the fairgrounds to get to registration with my heavy bags it seemed really big. I wasn't particularly pleased to learn the "nearby" dormitory I was staying in was nearly 1/2mile away and uphill. At least the registration lady offered to watch one of my bags so I didn't have to try hauling them all up the hill at once. The dorm itself was pretty decent. I didn't even have to share the room which had two beds, bathroom and even a small kitchen with hotplate and fridge. No air conditioning but I had a balcony which made drying my wet cave gear easy. That night there was a welcome party at the Congress grounds with lots of food, beer and traditional dancers and musicians.
    IMG_7883-S.jpg colorful traditional costumes
    IMG_7888-S.jpg Delicious food

    The following day I wandered around the congress checking out the vendors and looking at the schedule for the rest of the week. I stopped by the vendors from Britain as I had torn holes in both my boots and my coveralls while caving in Moravia. They had some excellent rubber caving boots that laced up so I bought a pair and some of the classic red coveralls.

    IMG_8365-S.jpg Cordelia tried on some but they didnt have a good fit for her :(

    Since I didn't see any session I had to attend that first day I bought myself a ticket for the local transit and rode a train into downtown to pick up some supplies for the week. I had checked with information at the congress and knew I would need a ticket for the train from Ternopil (not to be confused with Chernobyl, they sound similar)back to Budapest after the caving in the Ukraine. This was an overnight trip so not only did I need a regular ticket, I also needed a reservation for a sleeper. There are only so many of these in each train so its best to book as soon as possible. I wandered around downtown till I found the train station then headed inside to buy a ticket. The first window I went up to was apparently for local tickets only as the lady at the window brusquely pointed down the hall. I managed to find another ticket window and here the lady set to work on her computer. Apparently European train schedules are fairly complex as it took awhile for her to pull up one that went from Ternopil to Budapest on my return dates but she persisted and finally I had a set of tickets that I tucked away safely. I also took the opportunity to do some sight seeing since I bought a 24 hour pass for the transit. I made it back in time to meet up with several cavers for drinks and dinner at a small cafe near the dormitories though. In the warm weather I particularly enjoyed the cold mug of beer they served.

    IMG_9312-S.jpgMmm ribs, I made the mistake of ordering potatoes since these came al la carte, but really that was a ton of food. Oh and delicious beer.

    IMG_7962-S.jpg Colorful market, Downtown Brno

    IMG_8106-S.jpg We ate dinner here one night- the food took awhile but it gave us time to sample the beer :)

    The second day of the congress I spent mostly attending various sessions. I particularly enjoyed exploration talks and a great video that showed a 3d model of the cave systems that lie beneath Budapest. The video even overlay-ed the map with a 3d model of the city, making for a very impressive display. As the evening neared it was time to cool off with some more cold beer this time at the speleobar right there on the convention grounds.

    For Wednesday I had signed up for the Punkva cave trip. This was the tour cave that we had gone past during the Moravian karst caving as it was in the same canyon as some of the other caves I had already visited. This one was set up for commercial tours with a trail and lighting. It was a beautiful cave with numerous formations that made it well worth a visit but what really interested me was the second part of the trip were after passing through the large collapse opening referred to as the Machoca abys, its walls are over 138meters high so just that was impressive, but after that you descend back into the cave down to the water level were a river flows underground through the cave and here we boarded boats for the rest of our cave tour. It felt a little like being on a ride at Disney land as we drifted through sections of fantastic formations followed by tunnels carved into the rock to allow the boats to fit. My only complaint was that it was over all to soon. Then we got to ride the cable car up to the top where we had dinner and a delicious cold beer.

    IMG_8138-S.jpg Punkva cave

    IMG_8211-S.jpg Machoca abyss

    I had seen most of the sights downtown, the famed Brno dragon (a stuffed crocodile) the market, townhall etc but had not found the ossuary. While wondering around downtown I ran into Jenny from SFBC and Johnny from Puerto Rico who were going to see it so I tagged along. Turned out the reason I missed it was there was no sign. I had walked right past. It was just a set of steps going into the basement beneath a church where for years they had stored human bones. The common practice was to bury someone for 7 to 10 years then dig up the remains and store them here thus freeing up limited cemetery space for the next person.

    IMG_8837-S.jpgEntrance, see how clearly marked it is? How could I miss it? The entrance is those stairs you can just see behind the wall.

    IMG_8853-S.jpg Ossuary

    Thursday it was back to sessions and I once more sat in on the exploration section for a bit, then headed over to watch some of the speleolympics, they had set up some impressive courses which cavers were tackling with enthusiasm. After watching that I felt tiered enough I decided to go watch some of the multimedia presentations.There were some great cave videos , though one of my favorites was outside a cave were they were setting up a huge tyrolean that was several hundred meters across.After a full day of wandering the congress and attending sessions it was time to find some dinner, Mary Rose joined me for the train ride downtown where we found an excellent Indian restaurant. Then we wandered through town checking out some of the sights.


    Friday was another morning of sessions and I was eagerly awaiting the afternoon when the 3d video and slideshows were to be presented. I was not disappointed this years presentations had some very impressive HD video shot in 3d as well as fantastic slideshows. I enjoyed it so much I mad an effort to return on Saturday to watch some of them again. That night was the banquet dinner which was impressive just for the number of tables they had to have set up let alone the amounts of food. Unfortunately the ventilation was able to keep the building cool with that many people in there, so we had to have more cold beer, and then some more. After dinner and the presentation of awards there was a brief interlude where we all went outside to watch a very impressive fireworks display. Then it was back inside for a night of dancing.

    IMG_9208-S.jpgLate night dancing

    This was a fantastic Congress and I had a great time, I was sad that it was coming to an end but at least I had another adventure to look forward to as on Sunday morning I would be boarding a train to the Ukraine.
  • captnemocaptnemo Depth defying Posts: 166Registered Users Major grins
    edited January 12, 2014
    David_S85 wrote: »
    Fantastic Journey post! Love the light in the Stream passage after the water shot, near the end.
    Thanks I felt really lucky to get so many opportunities to shoot in some great caves.
  • ian408ian408 More wag. Less Bark. Posts: 21,301Administrators moderator
    edited January 15, 2014
    Took me a couple of days to read the whole thing. Love the pictures and it looks like a great experience. I've only been to a few caves and only those you might consider more touristy.
    Moderator Journeys/Sports/Big Picture :: Need some help with dgrin?
  • captnemocaptnemo Depth defying Posts: 166Registered Users Major grins
    edited January 15, 2014
    ian408 wrote: »
    Took me a couple of days to read the whole thing. Love the pictures and it looks like a great experience. I've only been to a few caves and only those you might consider more touristy.
    Yes it was a fantastic time, too bad the international is only every 4 years I can't wait for the next one.
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