Sistem Migovec, Slovenia
With over 28.5km of passage the Migovec System is the longest in Slovenia, a feat only made possible thanks to a decade of perseverance and commitment that culminated in the connection between the ‘Old System’ and ‘Vrtnarija’ (Gardener’s World) in August 2012.
In 2014 a total of 21 members of Imperial College Caving Club (ICCC) came out to the Migovec Plateau, along with one Irish caver and seven Slovenes. Unfortunately only a handful could make it out for the full span of the exploration, but the shorter their stay the more determined the cavers were to see something done, so that the lack of manpower did not diminish the level of exploration that took place. Four findings in particular deserve special attention.
1. Sic Semper Tyrannis: Left two years ago as a potential lead at the end of the Atlantis passage where two ways on presented themselves. The more obvious one had been pushed and surveyed to a perched sump (Lethe) the year before, but the flat out crawl to its left wasn’t properly examined. The end of Atlantis lies approximately 500m due south of the cubic kilometre of dense tangled network , into completely blank mountain. Although it is mostly stooping or walking passage, it must be stressed how far this lead is from camp, let alone the surface. The first trip of the 2014 expedition into this area of the cave was organised by R. Tyers and T. Racine. In total 400 metres of passage, along with 2 exceptional and 2 solid leads were discovered in that southernmost section of the cave. In later trips, what we believe to be a beech marten was found in a rift. The ‘Creature’ had been spotted the year before deeper in the system and its presence raises the possibility of a nearby lower entrance to the cave system.
2: A Pun Too Far: This lead was found in 2010 by D. Wilson and J. Kirkpatrick by a stroke of luck (fate). Through a boulder choke halfway down Milka Pitch ( 35 minutes from Camp X-Ray ) and then through a window in a wall there began a sandy passage. The passage to the right heading south had been surveyed first and pushed to its completion until a large boulder obstructed the way on. The 100 metre long crawl named Kamikaze ended as a dry little alcove about 1.5 metres high with the tantalising sound of dribbling water beyond.
After four days of pushing, 150 metres of passage were discovered past the now tight-but-passable choke. It followed an active stream and when it was left, the water went splashing down a 7 metres deep circular shaft for want of rope and time. It remains a tantalising lead for the 2015 expedition, one of the few left relatively close to the X-Ray camp.
The new pushing front is now 53 metres deeper and although Kamikaze bent northwards, this one follows a trend of 140° on active streamway. The pushing front trends alarmingly towards Hash, a passage off Lost Miles, famous for being tight and scary, and left unpushed for the same reasons. It is hoped they do not simply connect, but lead to more active streamway, deeper than the Lost Miles passage, for it is almost blank mountain ( for now ).
3. Dwarf Pine, a wet 25m pitch found off Hydrophobia/Cuckoo’s Nest had been descended last year to a ledge with a further 5m pitch continuing. S. Page and W. French bolted down this pitch, and followed the water through a tight rift passage. This was pushed until reaching another 2 metre pitch. Bolting this pitch was difficult as there was not enough space to fully retract the bolting hammer or to lean in to blow air out of the hole being made for the spit. So in the end only a single bolt was used. When the time came to screw it in, it also became apparent there was not enough space to use the end of the bolting hammer to tighten it. As they had not brought a spanner down, a maillon had to be used instead. While breaking the maillon, this was not very effective at tightening the bolt, so it was a rather dubious belay down. Another 40m or so of tight rift led to a 3m free climb down to a pool of water and walking phreatic passage. Sam found a PSS revealing that they were in Highway 32, and thus killing the lead. The passage was named Gravity, in reference to the fact that W. French dropped a number things while bolting.
4. Rock Steady Love, and Aja! Are part of the same active stream development below Pick Your Poison. The lead was pushed down to -967m by two British and two Slovene cavers. It ended in a syphon where a small lake crushed hopes of further passage. This sump is now the fifth in the system, and is believed to be at the water table level.
During the Skozi Zrcalo expedition 1.2 km of new cave passage was found, all of which below 550m, most of which were at least 2 to 3 hours from camp. A new sump was found, as a lead left from last year was pushed to completion. Those figures represent a very high level of achievement for every caver involved, who showed their determination not to quit and more importantly to share the passion with newer members.
A twenty year long cooperation between the two clubs ICCC and JSPDT has thus been crowned with success once more and the need to go back the following year has never been stronger.
Text: Tanguy Racine