Jama pred Kotlom

Matarsko podolje is considered one of the areas in Slovenia with the largest number of cave visits, and has quite a few from the list of necessary caving destinations. That is probably why more and more foreign cavers have been tackling them lately, or perhaps local cavers have just gotten sick of them. Whatever the reason, because of all the out-of-series specialties, these caves definitely leave memories. The picturesque basin hugs the mountain range of Slavnik from the South, with an antenna on top that cannot be missed. It is accompanied by several lower peaks and landslides, of which the basin Kotel is most important to our story.

The entrance to the Jama pred Kotlom.

The entrance to the Jama pred Kotlom.

At its edge, you can find the entrance to Jama pred Kotlom, which has been known for a long time. It has had at least two visits, but the researchers did not manage to go further than 90 meters. Later on, Claudio and Stojan from JOSPD Trst tackled the cave, found a passage in the window of the abyss and after several trips and searching the continuation of the cave, deepened the cave. But even so, they had to stop in front of riddles that seemed impossible to solve. Later, they managed to solve some final questions with the help of cavers of JD Dimnice, and the cave was finished at the depth of 404 meters after twenty trips. With that, the cave became the deepest in the south-west part of Slovenia and still holds that record today.

The seemingly unsolvable puzzles.

The seemingly unsolvable puzzles.

The interesting fact here is this: despite all these visits, no one managed to take a photo of the cave. Claudio and Franci came closest to that during their return from the depths of the cave. Claudio described it like this: “As per usual, we invited our friend, Franci Malečkar, to visit the cave with us. There were no digital cameras on the horizon back then, Stojan and I never took photos in caves – but Franci was quick on his feet and brought a camera along. The descent went through without any big complications and Franci’s camera was safe and sound at the bottom of a small bag. After a short stop on the bottom of the cave, we started the climb and Franci started photographing, sticking to it patiently. After a good hour of climbing, Franci was still ‘flashing’. He climbed a few meters systematically, shot the photo and continued like that all the way to the exit from the cave. He never changed the film, but he did go way over the 36 shots, which is how much a normal camera could take at the time. When I thought about it, I realized Franci had invented a new way of resting while climbing larger verticals – I also realized the photographs would be a long shot. The new system was great for our muscles, though. Truth be told, we got out of the cave in the middle of the night, but at least we weren’t tired. We’re still waiting for Franci’s photos.”

One of the most attractive views, in an otherwise not very pretty cave.

One of the most attractive views, in an otherwise not very pretty cave.

The cave was solitary up until last year, when Hungarian cavers decided they would rig and research the cave in a quick, weekend-long trip. I thought I could take advantage of their equipment and travel to the bottom with a small team, but the trip was cut short, and they didn’t even reach the bottom. In the beginning of March, I finally got optimistic again, as the Caving Rescue Service organized a rescue practice mission from the depth of 300 meters. They also rigged the last 100 meters and the only task our team had was to gather and finally bring a good photo from the depths of the cave.

Ines in the transition where researchers fought their way into the lowest parts.

Ines in the transition where researchers fought their way into the lowest parts.

Sadly we could only visit the cave on a specific date, as it had to be de-rigged before that. Because of that, Bole and Mojca skipped our trip with an apology, but we had Ines on our team. She finally ventured into the depths of a cave after a long while. Besides Miha, Janez bravely signed up for the trip, and with the extra help of Zdenka and Boni it was clear that the photos would be a sure thing this time around. We left Rok alone, he wanted to get to the bottom of the cave as quickly as possible to get the 100 meters of rope, then get out – and that’s pretty much how it worked out in the end.

The alpine character of the cave.

The alpine character of the cave.

We started Sunday morning with the obligatory coffee in Kozina, and gathered at the hunting cabin at a reasonably normal hour. Had Miha not forgotten the break for the rope – and luckily managed to borrow it from Kristjan from Kozina – we would have gotten inside the cave much earlier. But as we realized later on, we were slowed down by the graduated layers of the cave along with the many re-snaps, which, on the other hand, proved to be great for photographing our way down there. At a depth of about 250 meters, Janez had to drop out after showing signs of sickness, and headed out with Zdenka. The rest of us had a beautifully decorated hall waiting, along with an imposing, albeit muddy tunnel.

Ines among the flashy colored limestone formations.

Ines among the flashy colored limestone formations.

In the hall, the mountain character of the cave finally becomes prettier with the addition of some big limestone formations, which unfortunately aren’t very photogenic due to their intense red coloring. There are some peachy and milky colors along the way, but they end pretty soon and turn into the finally muddy shaft of huge dimensions. The bottom of the cave isn’t very picturesque and is more reminiscent of the conclusion to someone’s digestive tract, but the depth we reached made up for the effort of the researchers. They were already thinking about new research and possible continuations. They are available on almost every crossroads of shaft, all you need is the will to research new depths.

The lowest muddy passage of large dimensions.

The lowest muddy passage of large dimensions.

After a quick refreshment and a short posing session, we dragged ourselves 150 meters higher and photographed our way upwards. Rok was still in a hurry with his rope, so he was the first to leave the scene. Ines and I followed slowly and took a shot every so often. After an arduous fight with the narrow shafts and short levels, we waited for Miha and all of his equipment at the entrance to the cave while Boni took an additional hour due to some problems with equipment.

Ines fighting the ropes.

Ines fighting the ropes.

The end in the nighttime hours wasn’t our usual one. All the pizzerias were closed down, we were all sleepy, so we just said our quick goodbyes and drove back home. But this time around, with some photos to show for our efforts …

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