26 April 2017

Hölloch – Weekend in a Cave

Hölloch is currently the 10th longest cave in the world (it used to be the first). Spending a weekend there was a great experience that I can only recommend. It was also one of the toughest trips I've ever done.


After a short briefing, we left the outer world and entered the underground. My mind wondered about a lot of things:
  • How will we cope with the darkness? Answer from the future: just fine.
  • How will we cope with narrow spaces? Answer from the future: mostly fine.
  • Will we be afraid of getting trapped between rocks? Answer from the future: yes, a few times.
  • Will it be physically demanding? Answer from the future: you bet!
The first 2 hours to the bivouac were easy hiking with occasional ladders and ropes. The corridors were wide and spacious.

First part was exactly like mountain hiking.

Under a the biggest waterfall we've seen in the cave.

We dropped our stuff at the bivouac and went to explore the cave. The corridors were getting smaller and smaller. Up to the bivouac, we were mostly standing upright, but now we appreciated every moment when we could stand up. We crouched, we crawled and everything started to hurt. I've also crashed many times into pointy rocks in the walls.

I didn't have to breathe out to pass through but Dano did.

We saw some of the best cave formations of Hölloch, but it was nothing compared to what you can see in the Slovak public caves.

These get destroyed during floods.

At about 8 PM, our guide asked us if we wanted to continue and I was the only one in the group who said no. Dano later told me that I just said what everyone else was thinking. The guide said that usually only one group per year goes further than us, so we still felt good about our stamina.

In total, we climbed about 1000 altitude meters in 10 hours. When Jakub told me about the trip, I imagined a light cave hiking with an occasional ladder or a rope, but this was some tough shit.

We went to bed but I couldn't fall asleep, because it was too hot. The cave has a stable temperature of 6 degrees Celsius, but it felt too hot in my sleeping bag.

Bivouac with sleeping space, kitchen and eating tables.


We went for a fairly easy walk in the morning, checking out more cave formations.

I was impressed with all the infrastructure they have inside the cave. For example, there is a drinking water system that uses just gravity. Or you can send an SMS from the cave using very very long antennas transmitting long waves that pass through hundreds of meters of rock.

It was time for the local Rutschbahn (slide in German), where you slide on one shoe through a steep corridor. The record for it is around one minute, but we went much slower than that. We still hurt ourselves, though.

Before we exited the cave, we also made a small detour and took a boat over a small lake inside the cave. During rain, the water in the lake can rise up quickly and you can't come back the same way.

At this point I was really tired and really looking forward to the exit. Vladimír was not and he needed to crawl through every little passage that fits a person.

Typical Vladimír.

The end

At home I discovered that I had a lot of bruises on my body and two bleeding wounds on my back. Every one of my muscles hurt, but it was definitely worth it. Caving is hard but beautiful.

Photos album merged from multiple cameras is on Google Photos.