Vertical Čuk in the cave Macola on Kanin plateau

This year, like every year, in the middle of August mass cavers activity took place in Kanin mountains. All Slovenian caving clubs and also some from abroad, which have traditionally been exploring this area, take advantage of the beautiful weather conditions during the long summer days to carry out the camps. There are always many plans, and as a rule the results are not missing. This year’s highlight is certainly the achievement of the Ljubljana Caving Society which connected two thousand meters deep caves, the cave Renejevo brezno and the cave Brezno rumenega maka.

View of the Kanin plateau from the front of Peter Skalar’s cottage

The latter was explored to magical depth in 2017 and besides this one, the cavers from many other societies added two more to the eternal scale of the deepest caves, the cave Brezno Hudi Vršič on the Rombon plateau and the cave Macola (Huevos-Jarak), located near the cavers bivouac. Recent research about these caves has been extensively published in Jamar No.15, 03/2018, where as a rule we do not publish just plain texts. Photos of research are therefore highly recommended, but unfortunately they are often missing, as most researchers do not pay much attention to this. Understandably, the space in the transport bag, and especially the time, is meant for exploration, so any additional weight that also prolongs time, is at the bottom of the priority list.

At the cavers bivouac

Such problems can, of course, be avoided with a photo-oriented caving action. For the Macola article, the available photo material was pretty scant, so I promised to take care of the missing photos with my team. Well, time was running out, we still published an article with existing material, and the photo-oriented action happened only this year, but better late than never. An essential part of the expedition was the photographing of the enormous 450-meter-deep Čuk vertical, which begins shortly after the bivouac at a depth of about 520 meters, anything more that we would be able to do would be just a cherry on the cake. Miha, who sacrificed attending the action in Ledenka, responded to the invitation, and Nina, only as a above surface supporter. We were still numerically weak, we were desperate for some extra help, hoping to be pleasantly surprised on the day we left.

Path to Peter Skalar’s cottage

The journey to Macola began on Friday afternoon from Ljubljana with an overnight stop in Bovec and the hunt for the earliest tram to Kanin. With quite a heavy load we checked in with a large group at Peter Skalar’s cottage and, after a brief stop, under Nina’s leadership, we made our way across the Kanin plateau to the entrance to Macola. Our concern about the extra help was lifted by Matjaž, who we managed to convince to join us, and in the bivouac at -520, where three other interested helpers were waiting for us. So more than enough helpers.

Making arrangements in a bivouac

Until the depth of 300 m, numerous short drops and squeezes follow, that made discoveries difficult for researchers. It took several years for the puzzles of various difficulty continuations to be solved favorably and in 2016 to be able to reach a depth of 450 m. The drops are longer in these parts and the cave opens nicely all the way to the larger Expo Hall where the bivouac is set. We met here with Jerica, younger Benko and Maffi, who were looking for possible continuations lower in Čuk vertical the day before. Maffi, who knew Čuk best, was automatically assigned to our team. While the younger two were struggling in the first meters of the rope towards the exit, we agreed that the best position for the photographer would be less than 100 meters lower, the caver, nearest in the shot would stop at about additional 20 meters, and the caver farther away would stop 100 meters deeper.

All the stages of finding the right place for your camera – clamp, light up, set up. Photo: Matjaz Milharčič.

In principle, everything went according to the plan. Maffi and Miha had to additionally rigg the direction in Čuk, during this time Matjaž and I were studying the lighting of the upper part, and struggling with setting the tripod and positioning the camera. In such an enormous space, communication without radio stations is of course impossible, to hang on the anchorage with all the weight attached and to make useful photo is almost at the limit of possible.

The first 150 meters of the vertical Čuk …

… and the bottom part detail.

After a few tries, corrections, experimentation and finally the final excitement, we ended up with a longer stop in a bivouac and headed towards the exit in the late hours. Maffi was excused from the extra photo activity because of his few days longer enjoying the cave, and the three of us tried to get those extra cherries on a cake during our return trip.

One of the more beautiful verticals in the upper part of the cave.

We left the cave well into Sunday night. Maffi and Matjaz made their way to the nearby cave bivouac, Miha and me had a much longer walk to the hut where well-deserved rest awaited us. A visit to the first 200 meters of the cave Skalarjevo brezno was planned in the morning, but some photographic equipment was still in front of the entrance to Macola. Hand to heart, it was much more enjoyable to end the day by chatting about important caving things, basking in the cozy mountain climate, and relaxed complete the expedition. Of course, it will be time for Skalarjevo brezno again, as early as November.

Once again back to Macola for photographic and other equipment.

Miha Staut, Matjaž MIlharčič and Grega Maffi helped me with photography this time and without them you certainly would not be reading this story. Thank you all!

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