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.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Rescue photos

The cavex site: CAVEX has put up some good photos of the rescue operation here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Stretcher on surface!

As of 14.30 GMT, I have been informed that the stretcher bearing the injured caver is at the surface of the cave.

Congratulations to all involved in the rescue effort!!

Injured caver coming out

I received word via Kostas that yesterday, 25 July, the injured caver's stretcher began the ascent to the surface at 1400hrs. A flight by rescue helicopter was authorised today at 0600hrs but adverse weather conditions did not allow for it to approach the campsite. Hopefully by tonight the caver will be back at the surface.

The expedition has returned safely

The team of Greek cavers who went to the Caucasus has returned safely to Greece after a few weeks at Voronya-Krubera. It was not easy to reach the mountain and details of the crossing are not clear. Only three of the four actually went to Ortobalagan in the end.

The three members of the expedition who made it to the mountain surveyed the first ca. 1,000m of the cave spending up to five days at camps inside. They descended to the sump at -1,400m where the sump itself formed a barrier to their continued exploration as the three are not familiar with the cave-diving skills needed to cross through it.

I hope to be presenting more news from the Greek team from SELAS and SPOK caving clubs as I learn it over the next few days, together with some pictures. The three cavers who made it to the mountain are Kostas Adamopoulos, Elias Kazais (SELAS) and Methodios Psomas (SPOK).

On the last few days (22 July 2005), news came of an accident which left a Russian caver wounded after a drop of about 7 to 10 m (broken legs, hips and other injuries). The accident was caused by the absence of a knot at the end of a rope the caver was descending. A camp has been created at the accident spot and efforts were under way to open a narrow passage behind which the accident happened, to allow the rescue team easier access to the caver.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Time is running out

After today's telephone conversation with both Kostas and Nikos it seems that the wait is getting to the expedition of SELAS Caving Club and while the morale of the expedition was originally very high, a sense of disappointment is beginning to set in. "We are trying everything to get across" Kostas told me earlier.

Time is beginning to become an issue as each day lost in Sochi is one day less action on the mountain - in the mountain. There will come a point where this will have to be taken into account by the team.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Better pre-trip photo uploaded

I have recently uploaded the following pic to the photo site.

I have put it up on the front page of the SELAS website, replacing the three-man expedition photo which was there.

From left to right are Elias Kazais, Methodios Psomas, Nikos MItsakis and Kostas Adamopoulos.

Still no joy

I spoke today with the Greek expedition. Spirits are good, especially since it is expected that either today or tomorrow they will be crossing the border. The case of the foreign participants in the mission (those without Russian / CIS passports) has reached presidential level in Abkhazia! Meanwhile, there has been no news coming out of the two Russian language sites which were providing updates: and

Monday, July 04, 2005

Crossing the border - or not crossing the border

So there seems to have been some trouble getting through the border - I received some SMS messages from the expedition on Sunday which said that things were not going to be as easy as they were in January, and the only definite thing one can say about this place is that it is impossible to plan into the future. I have had no more contact since yesterday afternoon.

Expedition has set off

The four Greek cavers who will be taking part in the international expedition to the world's deepest cave, Krubera-Voronya (-2,080), set off on Saturday for the Caucasus, with the kind support of TNT sponsorship. The four taking part are the members of SELAS caving club, Greece:

Kostas Adamopoulos
Elias Kazais
Nikos Mitsakis
and Methodios Psomas (member of SPOK caving club of Crete)

At the airport, the four were bid a good voyage and successful return by the gathered friends and fellow cavers, the President of the Hellenic Federation of Speleology, Mr. Kostas Zoupis, and the members of SELAS caving club: Kostas Iatrou, Olympia Anagnostopoulou, Niki Hatzilia and myself. Before setting off, Kostas Adamopoulos, leader of the Greek participation in the expedition, received a well-wishing message from Yiannis Zenas.

So - the expedition's set off then. In a few hours the feeling of deja-vu will strengthen as the boys are met by their friend Ilias in Moscow before setting off for the Caucasus.

There are some pictures of the departure at the SELAS photo gallery, but the text is in Greek.

Elias weighs his rucksack - the team has an allowance for only 20 Kg each, not a great amount for both personal and team equipment. At least there is no need for winter gear this time round.

Elias, Methodios and Kostas at the club, making the last adjustments to their gear before setting off for the airport.

Packing… each sack is wrapped in industrial strength cling film so nothing important manages to slip out en-route. Elias is wrapping here.

Here Nikos is packing with the help of Kostas Zoupis, President of the Hellenic Federation of Speleology.

Four for the mountain…

Back lit by a huge window - but nevertheless, the four boys look ready to go with the club flag and sponsorship gear. From left to right, Elias Kazais, Methodios Psomas, Nikos Mitsakis and Kostas Adamopoulos.

There go the bags! We'll see them again in Moscow...

Kostas and Nikos a little while before passport control.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The boys leave later today

Later today the three cavers from SELAS will set off for Moscow together with one more caver from SPOK club in Crete.

Some of the team are already on the mountain and have already been equipping the camps in the cave. Both the and sites have almost daily news feeds coming out of them, and a fair number of pictures. This probably means that there is an operational PC up on Ortobalagan somewhere with an internet connection. In an ideal world, the PC up there will also have greek keyboard drivers installed so that the boys could post to the forum at SELAS' site and then I'd take the posts and do them into English.

From what I gather from the posts to the Russian sites, things are going well. Altavista's babelfish translation of the sites is by no means perfect (no doubt things like the lack of the verb 'to be' in the present tense does not help clarity).

Eight more Russians and three Poles arrived today 1 July and the four Greeks are expected to arrive on 3 July. On 30 June Denis Provalov announced that there was much water in the cave, of the icy cold sort that gets under your oversuit at the neck and cuffs. He seems to be enjoying though. There's a whole bunch of pictures here: some of Denis' pictures from 26 June 2005.

As at 26 June, and after three days in the cave, camp 700 has been established, connection to the first camp is secured, the ropes to 1050 have been replaced and three bags of rubbish have been taken to the surface. Meanwhile two twos have become well acclimatized and are carrying out further work in the cave. Much of the rope is right in the water flow and need re-routing or re-rigging with deviations to take it out of the water's stream or waterfalls. Traps have been set in the potential outlets of the cave to check where the water flows. Food in the camps is the modules prepared for the January expedition which were left on the mountain for safekeeping when the expedition came down. The food is still in perfect condition and very tasty.

The aims of the expedition according to a posting of 19 June, are:

1. Search for the deepest underground river of the planet
2. comprehensive studies regarding the precise depth of the cave:
- complete survey
- two more bullets which I could not translate
3. dyeing of the stream of cave with the arrangement of traps at all sources / springs in the Gagrinskeyeo region, including the submarine sources / springs.

I'll try and keep up to the extent that babelfish will allow.