Interview #7 – Werner Zagler, Germany

“Interview” is caving club “Pod RB” initiative dedicated to discussions with cavers from all around the world. What they share about their life above and under the ground, their caving experience, stories, dreams and future plans you can find in the following lines…

Tell us something about yourself in terms of caving experience. You may also wish to include role in your organization, function, personal features, activities, etc.

I’m a caver for 37 years. I’m exploring horizontal and vertical caves in the northern part of the Alps. In my club ( Verein für Höhlenkunde in München; I’m responsible for collecting all the cave-surveys. I’ll do cave-rescue for over 30 years now. Since 20 years I’m in the mountain-rescue and in the cave-rescue. In ECRA, I’m the coordinator for the „passage enlargement committee“. 

What made you start exploring caves and why you are still doing it?        

I began at school with a teacher going into caves. That was fascinating me. So I came to the cave-club and started exploring caves. I’m still doing it because I like it very much. Caves are my life!

To which club/organization you feel you belong? Tell us something more about this group of people or organization, something about the main drive behind your activities and projects.

I’m in the „Munich Cave Club“, so called „Verein für Höhlenkunde in München e.V.“ The club actually has over 200 members and is one of the biggest in Germany. I like going into caves because I’m interested in finding new passages but also going into areas which are new for me. Caving combines alpine techniques, science, technic, biology, geology etc. There is always something new to see.

What about your favourite cave, area of exploration or region:

  • Brief history, when and how you discovered this cave, region, etc.
    My favourite caving-area are the Alps at Berchetsgaden in the South of Germany. I started exploring a cave called „Hacklschacht“ together with my former girl-friend (now wife). Actually -580m deep.
  • Most existing period or moments from the exploration
    There are different exciting moments: Each time when you reach a bottom of a pitch or you pass a narrow passage and the cave continues there. This is always a „magic moment“.
  • The cave/region in numbers – depth, length, potential, etc.
    In the area of Berchtesgaden there are over 1000 caves there. The deepest is -800m. Nearby is the „Untersberg“. There is the deepest cave of Germany: about -1100m, called „Riesending Schachthöhle“ were in 2014 there was an accident which took 12 days to bring the caver out.
  • Cave features (if applicable) – narrow/spacious, cold/comfortable temperature, rivers, waterfalls, pits, etc.
    In the area but also in „Hacklschacht“ there are very narrow passages were you have to put the SRT-equipment away but also large-passages. The temperatures generally in this area are about 4°C when the entrance is about 1800m sea level. There are also caves with ice and then the temperature is about 0°C. Many of the caves there are vertical caves so you have waterfalls specially when it’s raining but rivers are rare.
  • Any major incidents during your exploration there
    I never had an accident on my own but was involved in rescue-operations because I’m doing cave-rescue.
  • Future plans and ideas
    As long as I’m able to crawl I’ll go caving. Special interests are cave-photography and logging of parameters as temperatures, wind, air-pressure, water-levels etc.

What you have learned (in general about yourself, friends, life, etc.) through caving?

To explore caves you need to be technically fit but also mentally fit. There could be situations were you have to stay calm. Specially water-ingress when there is rain or the danger of falling rocks in bolder-blocked areas. You are sometimes alone in a cave so you have to trust yourself. When you are with other guys you have to trust each-other to 100% . When you ave managed a delicate situation together with others you know, which is a friend for lifetime or maybe not.

If you have experience with cave incidents would you share with other speleologists, so we can all learn from your experience. What would be your advice in case of incident

Each cave-explorer must have a knowledge of first-aid and how to rescue a comrade. In the best case, you go by 3 or 4 persons. In case of an incident there is „man-power“. In the worst-case, one is calling for help and 1 or 2 is staying at the victim. In our caves it is very important that the victim does not get cold. So as a minimum each caver has to carry a rescue-foil and a first-aid-kit. And as told before each has to be mentally stable to survive such a situation.

What is your approach toward cave courses for new cavers, i.e. how you attract new cavers, how long the course lasts, on what you put an emphasis, etc.?

We do not make courses at our club but we show interested people how to work with SRT-equipment and we go caving with them. We make picture-presentations so that interested people could see what is fascinating when going caving.

If there is something more you feel like sharing with us for us it will be pleasure to hear more.

I would like to have your homepage in english so I could read it and learn more about your club. It seems that you have nice caves.

And another importand thing: Cavers all over the world are more or less the same. They are a special type of persons: Interested in nature and enjoying life also in extreme siuations. So we should not fight against each other but go caving together! Specially here in Europe we need a common sense and maybe cavers are a good example how to work together.

Werner Zagler

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