An international team of speleologists is on the right track in Upper Austria - the deepest cave in Europe. Again and again they go into the depths of the Dachstein mountains. Especially here, where the trail leads vertically down and can be extremely cold, clammy, slippery and wet, secure rope fixings are vital.
“Twelve people have already been on the moon. But there are spots on our planet that nobody has ever stepped onto,” explains Alex Hack, speleologist. What is underneath the surface of the earth in caves can‘t be measured and observed by satellites. Axel Hack and his colleagues again and again make their way to this unknown territory and bring to light what is hidden here. An area of research that is also called speleology.
Since 2012, he has been a member of the Dachstein Caving Expedition, which has been exploring and mapping the caves on the plateau of the Dachstein Mountains in Upper Austria for more than 40 years. “More than 850m under the surface, far away from any help, we make our way through the narrowest passages and deep shafts,“ Axel Hack continues to describe. “We fight against coldness, hard rock, flash floods and liquid clay.” Numerous vertical lines were interspersed with former river loops that had dug deep into the rock, Axel Hack adds. Crossing these so-called meanders was a power-consuming business. Not to mention the many steep walls, which the speleologists had to climb again and again.
“Especially here, where the up and down trails are so vertical and slippery, the cave ropes must be securely anchored. Here, we rely on fischer steel anchors,“ says Axel Hack. Therefore, thousands of fischer bolt anchors have already been installed on the expeditions to fix ropes in the caves, such as the FBN II and the FAZ with 8mm in diameter.
The breakthrough came in early September 2018 - after more than ten years of research in, the explorers discovered a new passageway to the Hirlatz Cave. As a result, the explored total length of the underground labyrinth grew by 7.2km to over 11km. That makes the Hirlatz Cave the 20th longest cave in the world. In depth, she ranks ninth with a difference of 1,560m in altitude.
Having joined the magazine in 2012, Claire developed her knowledge of the industry through the numerous company visits, exhibitions and conferences she attended both in the UK and abroad.
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