Sonntag, 21. September 2008

Serious speleological work and a thriller at Dachstein 2008

(By Peter Jeutter)
Traditionally Bad Mitterndorf’s 97 year old club for Speleology (VHO [1]) holds a one-week exploration camp once a year in the surrounding area. Cub members are invited and serious exploration is the focus. The 2008-camp was called “Sub-Glacies”, and held from 23rd to 29th of August on the Dachstein Glacier targeting caves in the higher area of the mountain, caves which might bear potential to connect to the “Dachstein-Südwandhöhle” below. The southern wall of the Dachstein is a more than 800m tall rock wall ending at the edge of the glacier. From here the team abseiled into the wall in order to reach the cave entrances.

Eight people participated and surveyed 1, 271m in eight caves at altitudes between 2, 630m and 2, 800m above sea level. The most important cave explored was “Voodoo-Canyon” just over 1km in length, with a remarkable draught and interesting unexplored leads certainly making it a target for future explorations.

Unfortunately the exploration camp was clouded by almost unimaginable circumstances, criminal circumstances.

It was the first time this area was the focus of speleologists, there were neither reports of former activities nor stories told among the cave-interested people in Ramsau, Schladming or Bad Mitterndorf. So it was quite a surprise for the team to hear from the innkeeper of the Seethaler hut, that a well known alpinist and cave climber had a look into one cave some years ago (Voodoo-Canyon). With this information the team called the person via cell-phone in order to discuss it and get hints. He and the team know each other well from discussions, presentations and exchange around the Südwandhöhle explorations, which were in the 1980s driven by him and from 2001 by the VHO. Since then the VHO is co-ordinating the local speleological activities. Some 10 years before the former Schladming based group [2] had stopped their activities and retired, however this group was also a part of the VHO club.
The surprise was even bigger, when the phone call turned out to be rude and peppered with swear words. He told the team that the cave is not interesting, and that this would be “his” Dachstein, altogether a very strange and unpleasant phone call.

In the following days the team explored the cave then called “Voodoo-Canyon” and discovered very interesting leads. In order to reach the cave entrance one has to abseil for about 130m into the wall, which is at this point approximately 600m tall. Most of the passages visited were previously unexplored, but in one branch forking off at the entrance, there were marks of visits from the 1990s and also a rope.

The third day of the exploration of Voodoo-Canyon was a day with a lazy start. A long and exhausting exploration trip the day before and a sunny morning made the team relax in the high alpine sun rather than go for caving early. This was very fortunate as we now realise.
Overwhelming evidence shows that the guy from the telephone call had tampered with the rope leading down to the cave entrance above the first re-belay. The rope-sling was put around a small stone, then about 30kg of bigger stones (10) were placed on this small stone in a way that it all would have come down as soon as the caver from below would have pulled the rope in order to ascend. A well thought through deadly trap, with no evidence left behind. There are also climbing routes through that part of the wall. The suspect has put up with the fact that in addition to the team further 3rd parties would have been injured or killed. In any case the bad press would have been with the VHO, causing this rock fall.

It was discovered when the team finally wanted to descend at around 15:00 hours. The police were informed. The rock-trap was photo documented and the rocks were collected for securing of evidence.

The suspect had been seen by the team that day on the mountain close to the edge where the rope leads down to the cave and also two days later by the team and the alpine police. The evidence is overwhelming. Authority experts stated that the rock would certainly have been able to kill the people in the wall. The suspect was giving conflicting statements upon arrest and imprisoned on remand where he partly confessed.

The motive for the crime is not quite clear. It is assumed that the success of the recent VHO explorations in Südwandhöhle was not acknowledged by the suspect. He might have thought that this would have made his own achievements in that cave 25 years ago look small. However, no one has ever disputed the success of the man.

[1] Verein für Höhlenkunde in Obersteier, Bad Mitterndorf, Austria
[2] Forschungsgruppe Schladming des Verein für Höhlenkunde in Obersteier

Montag, 8. September 2008

Der Krimi vom Dachstein

Leider gibt es von dieser Forscherwoche nicht nur Erfreuliches zu berichten. Unsere Gruppe wurde von einer Einzelperson sabotiert und enorm gefährdet. Dabei wurden nicht nur Autos zerkratzt, sondern auch eine aus Steinen gebaute Falle errichtet. Gott sei Dank konnte die hinterhältige Konstruktion rechtzeitig entdeckt und entschärft werden. Bei einer Auslösung der Steinfalle wäre eine Steinlawine in unsere Abseilpiste gestürzt. Dabei hätte es auch zu tödlichen Verletzungen von mehreren Expeditionsmitgliedern kommen können.
Erhebungen der Alpinpolizei und der Kriminalabteilung waren erfolgreich. Ein Verdächtiger konnte festgenommen werden.
Da die Medien nun konform des Pressegesetzes von der Polizei informiert wurden, gibt es ab heute auch die ganze Geschichte im Blog nachzulesen.
Die Ergänzungen sind an den jeweiligen Tagen in gelber Schrift hervorgehoben.

Donnerstag, 4. September 2008


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