SELAS goes to Voronya

A description of the participation of SELAS Caving Club, Greece, in the CAVEX missions of 2005 (January & July) to the world's deepest cave, recounted by a non-participant writing from the safety of Athens.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


The blog is now up and running again. Please follow the link to the starting page. The blog will remain down for a while - apologies. It will be back as soon as possible.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

More news in Cyrillic, Greek team arrives back in Greece

Over at:Спортсмены-спелеологи попали в авиакатастрофу в Абхазии there is mention of the accident as more news comes out.

The title roughly translates to "Athletic Speleologists run into air disaster in Abkhazia". I am not going to even try to do all the Russian into English. I don't know enough. The article says that there were between 13 and 25 people on board.

Meanwhile, the Greeks touched down in Athens airport, Eleftherios Venizelos, about ten minutes ago. I'll be able to get a fully updated version of their experiences up after meeting them, hopefully later today.

Cyrillic visitors

I have noticed a lot of "hits" from .ru and .ua, people who might be concerned about friends, family, acquaintances. There are updates in Russian at the speleolog site: Зазеркалье 2005. From what my rusty 2 years at night classes a long time ago at the Pushkin Institute can tell, it has details about train times for returning from Adler.

Monday, January 10, 2005


News just in (and I haven't finished translating all the previous posts yet):

The mission has been postponed due to one of the helicopters crashing while attempting a landing in the valley close to the cave's entrance. The helicopter was carrying the mission's leaders and the Czech team. None of the Greeks were harmed, although it is not clear whether any were on board.

(re-posted with fuller translation at 15:15 EET)

The mission to Voronya has been put on hold until July. The first helicopter which was carrying the mission leaders and the Czech team crashed last Thursday during the approach procedure in the valley of Ortobalagan, very close to the entrance of Voronya at an altitude of 2200m. Only yesterday (9 January 2005) did the heavily injured return to our base at Adler and from there leave immediately for Moscow. This morning a different helicopter collected the gear and the last members of the mission from the mountain. All the Greek members of the mission are well and are beginning the return journey tomorrow.

The above is translated from a text message SMS received this morning. Let's hope for a swift healing process for the injured.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

If the weather holds...

A text message was received on the morning of Thursday 7 January 2005 that the weather is good and the ascent would probably be made during the day by helicopter.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Crossing the border! - 5 January message

The following message was posted on 5 January to the SELAS forum:

...We've crossed the borders!!!

...last night at about 12 midnight after a very lengthy process we crossed the borders into Abkhazia!!!

The day was very tiring, seeing as we'd travelled from Moscow to Sochi by air. The situation in Sochi is very diffrent to what we had seen in Moscow. Untidiness and lack of organisation everywhere...

At the airport, Denis Provalov the leader of the mission was waiting for us. We then went by van for food to a village called Khosta, which is on the Black Sea. There we met some Czech speleologist friends. The local food was very good and also quite invigourating. Vodka flowed freely, and the mood was beautiful.

The only member of the team missing was Peter Hartley, a British speleologist living in America. As soon as he joined the group, we all went together to the borders.

The Abkhazians received us very hospitably in an "eyaero", a cavers' refuge with capacity for about 100 people. Oleg Klimchouk, the second in command of the mission was waiting for us there.

The weather was rainy all night, but fortunately this morning the sun made an appearance, an occurance which gives us hope that the flight with the helicopter may take place tomorrow morning (...possibly) .

The day today has so far been given over to relaxed preparations by all the 27 members of the mission. It is impressive to see that there are cavers from all parts of Russia, the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, the UK and naturally, Greece!!!Generally speaking, the mission is dominated by men, with only two Russian lady-cavers.

Will the weather hold? If yes, then tomorrow we will be at the entrance to the cave at a height of about 2200m. Fortunately there will be internet access from the top of the mountain so we'll be able to send our news to the forum (when we are not in the cave itself).

PS.: We'd like to thank Mr. Yianni Zena for his warm wishes.

Arrival in Moscow - 4 January message

The following message was posted on the forum website by Kostas on 4 January:

..So! we finally got to Moscow! We managed not to pay any excess luggage costs at the airport leaving Greece. With us at the airport were the President of the Hellenic Speleological Federation, Kostas Zoupis with his son Asteri. In addition, Niki Hatzilia and Kostas Iatrou were also with us from early on.

At the airport of the frozen and snowed-uder Moscow, we were picked up by Ilia Zharkov who put us up at his house.

He re-confirmed that the team's mission would be the surveying of the cave from -1440m to -2080m and possibly into the old side route which leads to -1710m.

All that troubles us now is the border crossing into George and the weather conditions in the area.

Will everything be OK for us to cross the borders as planned? Will the helicopter be able to fly, or will the weather be bad and we'll get stuck in Sochi.

We're setting off soon for the airport and we'll be leaving beautiful Moscow behind - we're flying for Sochi in 3 hours.

In one or two days, we'll know.

P.S.: We'd like to thank Iakovos Karakostanoglou and Stelios Varipatis for their wishes communicated to us by phone.


The picture is up on the forum website (check the link above and scroll down, until further notice). I am on a boat coming back to Greece and will be in a position to have everything up and running again before Tuesday. The picture was posted on 2 January on the forum with the following text:

This afternoon we got together at SELAS for the final details and to get the gear together. We are enthusiastic and waiting for our departure tomorrow at 13.10 with Aeroflot for Moscow. In Moscow we will meet Ilia Zharkov a member of the CAVEX-Team and we'll be spending the night in Moscow. On Tuesday afternoon we'll be flying to Sochi, on the southern borders of the Russian Federation (borders with Georgia). It is possible that on Wednesday, if the weather is suitably clement, we might board the two helicopters with which to approach the entrance to Voronya. Before saying our goodbyes to the club, we took a photo:

We would like to thank again our sponsor, TNT, and all those who have helped us prepare for the mission.

In the picture left to right are: Kostas Adamopoulos, Ilias Kazais and Nikos Mitsakis.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The boys have set off

There should be a picture here of the three members of the Hellenic Speleological Athletic Club (SELAS) moments before they set off for the airport to go and join the mission to Voronya - currently the deepest cave in the world.

Unfortunately, due to computer snafus, I don't have the picture, which is a pity, as I am sure it shows the newly crafted SELAS flag and a whole bunch of TNT kit, seeing as they are sponspring the SELAS participation.

Given that I am in the middle of the Adriatic, and the boys are probaly on the edge of the Euxine already, that picture will probably have to wait until the 12th.

Apologies to those reading.