Croatian Adventures Part 1 – Muda Labudova cave

The Muda cave expedition group consists of five Croatians (Lovel, Dino, Mishur, Luka, Tin) and five Bulgarians (Ani, Niki, Papi, Monkata, and myself, Dancheto). We are divided into four groups, respectively. Papi and Niki, together with Dino and Luca, are set to enter the cave on Saturday at noon, while the rest of us stay to help carry the expedition gear and supplies to the camp at the Vietrova pit. After everything has been transported, the rest of us head to the entrance of Muda.

Shortly before dark, Lovel and Tin are the first to enter the cave, progressing to the “Druzh gache” camp at around -500m. Monkata and I are scheduled to spend the night at the camp at -300m, while Ani and Mishur continue to the “Bela Sluzhba” camp at -600m. The next day there is a change of plans. Monkata and I team up with Lovel to work at a rather muddy, wet and cold spot at -700m. After descending and meeting with him, we proceed towards “Liburnija”. Naturally, it turns out that we have forgotten the Disto, each one of us assuming the other had it. After a bit of profanity, Lovel tackles a traverse about 30 meters from the meander’s base to check out a gallery visible at a certain height. Shortly after, Monkata climbs up to collect the gear after him, while I carefully observe from an alcove that is relatively well sheltered from the water and wind. Upon reaching the gallery’s entrance, they let down a rope and signal me to join. Unfortunately, 5 minutes later, they tell me to wait instead, as the gallery ends with a sump. We dub it “Shkembe chorba” and return to the camp at -500m. 

In the meantime, Papi and Niki’s initial aim is to traverse the “Pakala,” a 150-meter drop with a diameter of 20-30 meters and two vertical branches, in order to reach its opposite side, where a huge ascending tunnel is visible. Unfortunately, they are forced to abandon the idea due to poor rock conditions. They redirect their efforts to a branch at -400m called “Devojki u letnim halinami”, climbing a 10-meter chimney. However, the gallery soon ends with a narrow calcified blockage. Meanwhile, Ani and Mishur also keep themselves busy with various climbing activities, discovering a bat graveyard. Unfortunately, a rope had to be left behind permanently as it got stuck in the mud during derigging.

The following day, Luka and Tin leave, as the cave has tired them out quite a bit. We rearrange the teams. I and Dino take on the task to lay the telephone cable that is meant to reach the new camp in the Avangarda at around -560m. Meanwhile, Lovel and Monkata are helping Ani and Mishur with their bags and gear, as they have to pack up the camp at -600m and come join us. Shortly before embarking on our respective tasks, we hear the ever so roaring Papi above our heads. Having continued to work on the meander from yesterday, together with Niki, they have already achieved results, successfully connecting “Devojki u letnim halinami” and “Druzh gache”. Having exhausted the perforator’s battery, they return to the camp at -300m, in order to wait for the group of Croatians  that are to supply us with food and batteries.

Dino and I quickly run the cable, testing it to make sure that it works, and then we go on to lend a helping hand with the carrying of the bags. We meet with the others, who are ecstatic that they will get to carry only two bags each, instead of three. We all gather at the site for the new camp and disperse into the vast tunnels of the Avangarda. Dino and I go on to finish a climb he had started previously. Ani and Mishur are also climbing, about 5 minutes from our location. A little farther back, Monkata and Lovel are climbing around another spot with potential. After running out of machine power and inventory, we gather to set up the new camp. Luckily for me and Dino, the others  have already set up the Steinberg, having finished with their activities earlier. Four people remain at the new camp (Ani, Monkata, Dino and I), while Lovel, Mishur, Papi and Niki have already gathered at -500m.

Last day of work: I, Monkata and Niki return to -700m to survey “Shkembe Chorba” and derig, before traversing a part of the “Trakija” section. We arrive and survey, but Monkata is hesitant to derig, as he has the impression that the sump might be drying out and there might be a continuation. The traverse in “Trakija” turns out to be a not so long narrow meander called “Kolkina u Muda”. After Monkata and Niki survey and collect the inventory, I take their battery and go to Ani and Dino who have been climbing at yesterday’s spot. I seem to arrive at precisely the right time, as they have just run out of rope and batteries.  Dino is like a child on Christmas with the new battery. There is also a new rope that makes it possible to finish the climb, after which we enter into a meander, which has several continuations. While I and Ani are surveying, Dino is climbing one of the chimneys. Shortly after, Niki and Monkata arrive in a typical Bulgarian fashion, i.e. making an awful lot of noise. After receiving a proper scolding, they are instructed to go back to the camp, where they won’t be in the way. Ani and I find a relatively small beautiful sump and a meander with dried up mud, which seems to be quite deep.  After surveying it, we continue after Dino into the chimney, which ends up going over a deep drop. At that point we stop because the rope ends and it becomes too dangerous to traverse without belay.

Meanwhile, Lovel and Papi continue the climbing from the previous day. After an 8-meter threshold, they come across a fork with two more. The one on the right is 5 meters high, followed by a wide channel, about 20 meters in length. After a right turn, there is a 10-meter drop, ending with a narrow passage. Continuing on the right, after around 10 meters, they see a chimney, from which wind could be felt blowing. Further ahead, the channel makes a left turn and after about 10 meters they reach the edge of a shaft into which water is pouring from above. Due to lack of inventory, they go back to the fork at the top of the first threshold. After a 5-meter climb and a 2-meter descent, there is another fork. On the left, there is another threshold of 10 meters. After climbing it solo, they reach a short meander and a new chimney of 20 meters with a very strong draft. They go back to the fork and continue on the right, passing through a wide channel and reaching the edge of a big hall. They traverse it and find themselves in the hall, which is 50 meters long, with a height and width of 20 meters. At the end of it there is a huge and dense blockage. In the middle of the hall is a 10-meter chimney, again with a very strong draft. Alas, there is no more inventory. They begin to survey, but after ten sections, the Chinese Disto decides to play chimney, marking the end of the survey part of this expedition.

The next day we get up, pack everything and head for the exit. In less than five hours everybody is out and around the campfire at Vietrova pit.

All in al, the expedition is a true classic. We resolved quite a few question marks, while opening space for new ones that remain to be addressed next year. We surveyed 490 meters of new sections, building a new camp along the way, while also managing to break the equipment – the Bulgarian element is not to be missed in all of this. Luckily for us, our Croatian friends invited us again, for which we are very thankful.

Text: Yordanka Donkova, Nikolay Naydenov & Pavlin Dimitrov-Papi

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