Bela griža 1
The big ice cave in Paradana is probably the most famous cave of the Trnovo forest. At the end of the 19th century, it was used to cut the ice and export it to the capitals of Austro-Hungary. For caving enthusiasts, it became interesting towards the end of WWI with the contribution of famous slovene explorers Michler and Kunaver, while deeper levels were explored by the members of JD Logatec in different periods from 1977 to the end of the nineties, when they reached a depth of 650 meters. By the year 2013, cavers had deepened the cave to 858 meters, but even so, the cave does not reach the largest depth on this area. It is beaten by the less famous cave Bela griža 1 (Bela: white, griža: bare rocky surface, means also Dysentery) with 884 meters of depth – a difference of only 26 meters.
The research of this cave has been going on for a while. The first visits happened in 2002, but the entrance to the cave was found after 5 years systematic research of the Trnovo forest. In this time, they registered more than 50 more caves, which usually ended in ice or a rockfall. They were luckier to the north of village Otlica, where they found an entrance to a promising cave with a huge draft on an area called Bela griža by the locals.
After the initial 70 meter drop, the cave finally showed its true face and transitioned from an easily accessible shaft to a narrow meander. This meander became almost intransient in several places, and a lot of resourcefulness was needed to find the continuations. Transitions from such meanders are not possible only in a downwards direction, but also upwards and forward – in any place where it is wide enough and where the meander follows the way of the cave. Quite a few expeditions followed, but they never bore results. The last time, they stopped before a 20 centimeter wide narrow shaft, behind which there was a promise of a larger space – yet they only managed to make their way 10 meters forward.
The will for further expeditions with a small success rate was dying a slow death, but luckily, Božo and Robert invited Stojan and Claudio from JOSPD Trst to contribute. Amazed by the draft and difficulty of the meander at the entrance, they widened the shafts and paved the way for new researchers. Two years after discovering the entrance, they finally came into a 160 meter vertical named Trst je naš (Trieste is ours) with a large oval hall at the bottom, measuring 50 x 65 meters. In a few expeditions, they managed to arrive at a crossroads of two shafts by passing new levels and beating the rock fall. There is a relatively dry part of the cave named Cunami, and a water part, which follows some narrow meanders into a 230 deep vertical Paradana Čau. After new levels, muddy shafts and narrow meanders, they finally managed to reach the bottom of the cave in 2006. It ends with a syphon at the depth of 884 meters. The researchers were joined by cavers from several Slovenian caving societies, and many tales and adventures were born here during exploration of this difficult cave.
During all these years of research, explorers mainly focused on the cave. Very rarely, a quick action photograph was shot. Eventually, the idea of a more wholesome photographing session was born, but as per usual, something always happened to put a stop to it. There was a great opportunity to make it happen before the start of a rescuing practice mission, which took place last weekend in the cave. They had planned on pulling the injured party from the bottom of Cunami at -620 meters, so the cave was overly rigged in some parts, while some narrow passages were widened.
And so it was that we gathered on a Saturday morning and, despite the early morning, realized that the project wouldn’t be a fast one. Adding up the drive to the parking lot, gathering equipment, changing into caving clothes and then walking towards the cave made the clock move to 11 a.m., which is when we started entering the cave. The entrance drop let us know that it wouldn’t be a dry day. Snow was melting outside due to the high temperatures, and of course, given such circumstances, the water runs into the cave. Which is all fine and dandy when it’s hot, but a bit less fun when it’s 4 degrees Celsius inside.
We split into three groups and scattered around the meander. The first group went towards the bottom parts to over rigged some levels, the second group was trying to take as many photos as possible, and the third was responsible for widening some annoying passages for easier transportation of the stretcher. We left the varied meander hours later, after finding some passages which turned into pretty drops decorated with waterfalls and shiny walls.
And then, finally big drop, as per usual with these caves. The geometrically planned entrance to the 160 meters drop of Trst je naš was promising, and only a few meters deeper, we were hanging in the black darkness of a large space. With a strong light, you could barely manage to light up the walls, while the buddy underneath you was long gone in the darkness. The descend would be even better had the running water not worsened the visibility in the cave, but still, a few shots of the bottom part of the cave were born.
The hall took its toll on us. We were hoping the bottom team would not finish too fast with their task, but the fear was pointless. We met a few shafts later, where they were still rigging, and widening as well. Well, if we were impressed by the fastness of our own work, we now had to check our watches nervously due to the hold-up. Time was passing faster than ever and we still had Cunami and a stunning small pothole (with an explicit demand to be photographed by Robert) left over.
And so we began the descend after a short stop, and also started searching for the specialty of this cave. We only realized at the bottom that we must’ve missed it, as we were at the top of Cunami. Cunami would probably take another hour of our precious time, so instead we just turned around at -500 meters and found what we were looking for. A small, but precisely cut pothole is located above the entrance to the watery meander Krvava griža (Bloody twinge), which leads to the gigantic Paradana Čau. This was planned before the expedition, but de-rigged a while ago.
We took advantage on the way back and took some more shots. The group of returning cavers was quite big, especially in the large Trst je naš, where we checked out the small lights from the bottom and listened to the loud communication between the climbers. During the return we made some short photo sessions, and finally caught up to the last member of the previous crew under the entrance drop. Well, if water running all over you was acceptable during the way down, it was much more annoying on the way up. You’re obviously quite tired then and standing still will make you much colder. Starting up such a machine was quite a bit more difficult.
We peeked into the dark night after twelve hours. We dragged ourselves to our cars, took off the wet clothes, put on dry ones and, without a reward in the shape of a pizza or a drink, drove the two-hour way back home. This time’s expedition would not be complete without fantastic Bole and Andrej, who took great care posing and lighting up the scenes.