In a search for the route to the 2000 meters depth: The deepest cave in the World in the Arabika Massif, Western Caucasus

Recent explorations in Arabika: breakthrough in the Krubera Cave

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Recent explorations in Arabika: breakthrough in the Krubera Cave

In 1998 the CAVEX team, consisting mainly of Kiev and Moscow cavers, made a breakthrough in the Dzou Cave in the northern part of Arabika, previously explored by Vladimir Kisseljov and the French team from Lyon to -700m. The expeditions of 1998 and 1999 have resulted in discovery of the laterally extensive major trunk river collector at the bottom area and in pushing the cave to -1080m.

In August 1999 the expedition of the Ukrainian Speleological Association (that included cavers from Poltava, Kharkov, Uzhghorod and Dnepropetrovsk) led by Yury Kasjan, has re-started the work in the Ortobalagan trough valley, in the Arabikskaja system and Krubera. In fact, the main target was to find a connection between the Krubera and Kujbyshevskaja caves that would increase the total depth of the system in 60m. In Krubera, the team has checked the two "windows" in the walls of the P43 in the depth range of 220-250m, which remained unexplored since 1980s, and found continuations in both. The lower window has led to a new branch that seemingly headed toward Kujbyshevskaja but eventually missed it and ended up with a chamber (Non-Kujbyshevskaja) at -490m. The upper window has opened to another branch that has been explored to -750m during the 1999 expedition. Alexey Zhdanovich from Uzhghorod has been instrumental in this breakthrough and exploration.

The Ukr.S.A. expedition in 2000 ran in two stages, both led by Yury Kasjan. During the first stage (August), in which cavers from Poltava, Uzhghorod, Kiev, Kotel'va and Novaja Kakhovka participated, the main branch was explored and surveyed to -1215m. On the second stage the MTDE team, composed of six cavers from Spain (Sergio Garsia Dils de la Vega, Vilafranca Javier la Pera, Enrico Ogando Lastra, Juan Alberto Martin Otero, Alfredo Morena Rioxa, Ramos Ignacio de Rafael) and two cavers from France (Bernard Tourte and Olivie Ubiergo) joined Yury Kasjan and Denis Provalov to continue exploration. They have reached the depth of 1410m in a branch piece that seemed to loose air drift and ended with a squeeze. When ascending after the very last trip to the "bottom", Yury Kasjan has found a "window" in the wall of a pit at -1340m, which promised to give a continuation.

There are many aspects, some of which lie beyond the scope of rational thinking, which experienced cavers evaluate when assessing the perspectives for further exploration. In the fall of 2000 we have clearly heard "The Call of an Abyss" and felt a smell of the super depth. In was a mixture of knowledge of general prospects of Arabika, historical aspects, impetus of the recent explorations, excellent team resources at our disposal and other, sometimes mysterious, feelings. Even the coming turn of the centuries took its role. We could not wait until the next summer and decided to organise the next expedition to the Krubera cave in the winter, a severe period in Arabika in terms of an access and conditions at the surface. Among rational reasons for such decision was a fear of sudden flooding at great depths that could be expected in summer if the cave would enter a hypothetical major river passage collector.

A core of the winter expedition, organised under the banner of the Ukrainian Speleological Association, has been composed from the members of CAVEX (Cave Exploration) Association, a strong group of dedicated Kiev and Moscow cavers which have extensive experience of deep caving expeditions in winter conditions.

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