This is mini-report about two small expedition in the Studenchesky Cave, which was undertaken by our club in 2008-2009. They have one trait in common. This is cold.
I don’t like fierce heat. But now, I hate cold too.
Nothing to hadn’t invited disaster by the end of January. My elder brother came in Volgograd to a examinations. I work easy, sorted out photos from New Year's expedition and matured targets at May month's holiday. At last brother ringed me at one of Thursday, and suggested that the should go in Basckunchak. I want taken to there him long time ago. I giving this idea up, because outing was crazy actions in this weather. Temperature was lounged about zero, Snow, wind, slush and mud was there. But my opinion was changed in half an hour, difficulties moved away at background. Speleological tremens and thirst for adventure taken my mind. As a result the three of us: I (Scamp), my brother and Imp (She is beginner pot-holer, but she give large hope already) gets to the caves.
We encouraged nearly then we went out from carriage, because there was slightly below zero, there wasn’t muddy in the streets and wind was quite tolerable. But then we worth passed by village and graveyard, three problems arose before us.
There was a fog in the steppe. It was difficult to take bearings on the ground. I can’t found loophole between numerous depots and warehouses and I decided to avoid frontier guards with “big hook” method. It was unnecessary 5 km. of way. And would be all right, because 5 kilometers isn’t very much for hikers with middle-weight rucksacks, but there were other two problems. The first problem was the snow… The snowline was not so high, here and there it was calves-deep and knee-deep. But it was thin crust of ice over snow, which didn’t hold weight and we had broke the ice spending a lot of power for it and feeling the snow filled in boots. Then we get to the steppe at last, the snow became less, but thin crust of ice remained to be thin. We tried get step by step, but third problem prevent it. It was the wind.
Wind was very strong. I don’t know what speed it had, but I have never walked in such windy weather. We could not follow get the forward man step by step, because wind blew away banally. And in addition there was damp and cold wind, it was very coldly, and I come without scarf and I wasn’t seriously warm. While I was walking, heat was keep more or less. But then I was worth to getting stop, in a one minute my teeth began chatter…
In couple hours after we get out from station, and we get round wide
arch all storehouse and custom-house, we come to height road with great
relieved. Here nearly wasn’t snow, and we get to cave in one and a half
hours. Around the cave was wheel-tracks from cars, and we decided spending
the night not in Sleeping Hall, but in small offshoot, which was in
the distance from main passages. Then we sleeps like a log, we climb
in different variations by “cheese” and main gallery, we took a photographs,
we slept again, we eaten and drunk tee, after that we was equip get
at home. In the cave wasn’t nothing extraordinary. About all secluded
corners I was wrote already in past unfolded accounts. In this time
huntsmen didn’t troubled us. It was easy get backwards, because wind
was dropped a little. We reach to the station without any problems and
depart there from night train, we remembering about we was froze and
get over snow-drifts.
But it was founded that this trip was only prelude to real extreme.
The 23 February stolen up somehow imperceptible, and in the ordinary Thursdays from turn of my Thursdays I sudden realized that just about trod 3 rest-days and I must pass away them, in order that it shouldn’t been unbearable pity from ungifted living years latter. The peculiarity of our district is such, that in winter by 3 days we can valuable get only in the Studenchesky Cave nearly the Basckunchak Lake. I’m looked Weather forecast for this days. It promises that temperature should been 10 below zero and the wind would have speed at 4 or 5 m/sec. Of course it be wary coldly, but it should be in the limits of admissibility. I phoned from Imp and we was equipped and get to the way. Then we came to place, we get out from the carriage, we walk along the village and graveyard. Then folly was beginning.
There wasn’t mist. So that I decided not leave out all and everything. Snow near village was roughly so much as in past time, but once we moved away, I understood that something in surround country was wrong... The fact, railway storehouses (partial military purpose) and depots was occupied environs station at many kilometers. All this was blinder lighting in line along the whole length many kilometers too. But in last several years 3 megasearchlightes was notable for all this masses of light, and they was served excellent orienteer for we, because their was obvious from the hills from 25 kilometers at railway junction. But they don’t lighting today. Nevertheless I founded loop-hole between depots, we get in 500 meters from frontier guardian, turned at north-west, that get out to highway and went on the snow… Moon was absent, 3 megalights not shines, was wary dark and all blended in solid dull mass.
And then a delirium was beginning. The delirium was in space and time. I seems that we went not long in this stage, but now, then I analyzed our route, I understanding, what we must went in wrong way at least 1 or 1.5 hours. I get with full confidence that we went by highway. After some time I took compass. Here the surprise waited me – compass showed the North somehow unwillingly, suddenly bubbles turn out to was inside it. This automatic meant nearly full unavailable from liquid compass. In result I continued went more by eye than by compass. It was for nothing.
Position was redoubled in the absence of usual reference-points. But farther delirium beginning full in general. We went in certain railway branch-line. I knew that similar branch-line was in our track, but it was disposition near at station, and from it short trains periodically cross from Nizhniy Basckunchak to Verhniy . But this embankment was very high and huge express shot on it on our eyes. All told for that we was in «not there». I again took the compass, turned and spited it, but all not stood clearly. I beginning looking round, all became still more deepens, usual light-orienteer was moved, I as if get in another dimension. I don’t understand how much we went and were we here. Or rather my brain simply not wanted recognize, that we very intense made mistakes, and it very strong attempted attached all facts at habitual country. I decided don’t deserved to rushed about side to side prematurely. We climbed over the branch-line and continue our way. I was puzzled much more. I was sure that to the right from we was Nizhniy Basckunchak and we come to highway. But why it was so long time? We get already more 2 hours by my clock! And what strange lights to the right of us?? It has newer been there such. Suddenly at the left far off droved train… What this branch-line was it? I commencement get mad. In this time we went forward already about half an hour, in front was uncertainty and haze. In the end I understood that happening something radically incorrect, I stand still and beginning considered. At the same time stand was very cold. Wind get up almost force past tour. But it wasn’t near zero! Afterwards it was turned out this night temperature was 15 below zero with strong wind (wind was 8-10 meters per second), it was very coldly, please believe me. Especially if wind was contrary.
I stopped in full prostration. I beginning stupidly drew map by finger at dull snow in nearly pitch darkness… Snow was dim, all around was ash-gray. As though we true chance to find oneself to another world without sounds, colors, with distorted distance and time. Another world, then was only we, gray snow, wind and cold… It was became terrible.
There and then like dam was broke in my brain and I realize, where we are! I simple was able made savage mistakes with direction more that at angle of 90 degrees, and that crossed branch-line was made its way to Urbah, and we went to nowhere… Before we dozens and hundreds of kilometers of empty steppe was lied… And it makes one’s flash creep from understanding this. We turned up back, already we was very tired – it was greatly hardly get and fell trough snow. We went to the rail track and here and we has next shock. Along railway was telegraph-road with dozen wires, and they sounded… I don’t can depict this sounds. Please believe me, in my life I already has time much tested from very different posing of our crazy world, but I was ready listening this sounds for ever. There was all – and iridescent «cicala» of wheels by joint of rails from dozen kilometers from us, and diesel loco howling, and moan of sleepers, which decades lain in nightly desert steppe, and some more hundreds sounds! Till now I don’t understand, what sent for this oscillations. Really it was simply wind? But I never hadn’t heard that wires SO resounded.
Greedily devoured ours bodies coldness took out from stupor. And we get farther so that in ten minutes we came across at abandoned house in the middle of Snow Ocean. So to say it was terrible sight – it was pitch oozy haze, and suddenly you seen on skyline spot. This spot still this haze. This is simply absence, full denial of light. We came up closer, and tremble made one’s way to you. Neglected and twisted house stand before you. This is island of frustration lied in the sea of gray haze. This image standing in my eyes up to now…
In indeterminate distance and time we went to highway, those may found as for back several hours ago. Firstly we cheered up because though distance forward we lain still 7 kilometers, but we didn’t necessary made ones way from drift of snow. But we early was happy. The fact now we gone severely against the wind, which getting harder. In 10 minutes all my past notion about coldness was fade. Wind blew out tears from corners of eyes, and they froze on the cheek at long striped. Several times my eyelids froze together after winking. In half an hour head get cold whole, understanding processes was slow, but we continue walked forward without stopping, because we hasn’t any choice. Imp wound dense scarf round her head. It froze whole from her breath in hour, and it stand unwounded. My hands beginning froze. I displayed this sudden – when I moved a little it, I felt fit of weakness and numbness, and already later realized that they cool down very strong. I started swinging my arms, but I hasn’t anorak, and my jacket blowing through. I worse was to come. When I sensed, that my hands get warm, I was wary terrible, because I here realized that this sensation was false. Soon my eyes beginning had a pain intense. I covered my face to gloves and breathing inside tried warming it, but it became merely worse from moisture.
Only my back was comparatively warmly cause it was cover by rucksack. From here warm blood spread by all my body, blood didn’t giving finally ice over it. In general I can depict all this a long time. So to say if wind should be strongly or temperature lower, we don’t leaves out without loss of health. But fortunately we reach to place. We reach and climbed inside the cave. We beginning drank tea and warmed oneself. Firstly I don’t sensed nothing and my body simply grew numb. Then all started thaw out and hurt. At the same time I understood, how much I hard froze. All my body even headfrom within broke. body even head from within broke.
We was found resources of waters in secluded corner, take hot tea, crept in sleeping-bags and quickly fell asleep in affectionate. We seemed, than all this dreaming, and we get mad by cold and indeed now we were in the middle of steppe lies in our bags and slow froze to dead.
As a result in this time we nearly not walked along cave. But drank tea and slept always. Drank tea and slept always… We went backward incomparably warm. And I decided firm decision to bought GPS-receiver, because savage hiking is nice, but I would like live though… There and then I giving digger Imp her due, which stable suffered all privations and even she felt experience pleasure in this. It was supposed for"real violents".
In conclusion I want adduced selected spots from unpublished account from 2007 January, about trip in he same place.
When we waited then cashier come, we paid attention to queer personality. Three men walked on the hall, looking to the time-table, peeping in windows, and behaved some nervous. We took tickets to train and looked in next waiting-room. All was clear more or less. There were 8 or 10 persons, on the whole they was students’ age. They was exceedingly dirty, especially footwear, bottom of trousers and rucksacks. Somebody has helmets at the side. I came up to one boy, which clear scared at sight to me… I asked him: "Did you come back from Studenchesky?". Boy’s eyes rounded off, and he blurted out: "No, we didn’t. We was in Basckunchak Lake"..After this we left they for some reason. To tell the truth I wasn’t able comprehend why, I need stay on and made inquiries who it was, and where from… But we for some reason get away. Probably I however not be very adequate at time.
We get out and walked. The dirt was everywhere, it was incredible dirt. Once I already led group to caves at night, and any problems to find route wasn’t arose. But problem was only toward ending, then I entangled reference-points, and wheel rounded by the same ravines about one hour, and I found non-existent entry. But in this time problem arose at once after we crossed railway track, even before we crossed last of them. I had phoned to Glaz in the middle of the night several time and made more exact course. The situation was this road was very nice saw in summer, but in off-season (This winter impossible named differently like off-season) route laying stood not trivial work at cloudy night. High and low was slush. On the whole road wasn’t in sight. Hardly visible ruts skirt at all sides to the steppe at any railway crossing, and we can chose every. In addition some more heavy fog was prevent. After straying we went to plate with home-made legends «CAVES» after sometime. Then I took rough azimuth and come straight to the steppe, because we haven’t another going out. The highway beginning stood out after 50 meters, and we pushed off to it.
It was terrible. We generally couldn’t walked to main road. The slush was up to us knees. We could went to off-road a little better, could went only to the embankment of highway more or less. But and here was very thick layer of dirt, clay stuck to the boots, and we went with difficult. The half-thaw snow-drifts come across periodical. We squeezed our way from they. It was horror. All saturated to water after 500 meters. Wet was squelch in shoes. All inside and outside of our organisms was damp. Each two steps forward arrived one step to back or sideways. In general somebody leave for road embankment after every 200 meters.
The cold wind instantly froze wet bodies in halt. Because w couldn’t intense rested. Moreover we hasn’t place to take a seat, often we hasn’t place to put our rucksacks. Dense fog did intensive our impression. We didn’t seen any lights at all. Visibility was in 20 meters before and behind of highway only. Oh but it was barely. I had create an illusion, that we don’t moved and stood still..
Two hours elapsed. We didn’t see orienteer as concrete block, because left side of highway was muddier. When I already very nearly despaired totally, and beginning understood dumbfound men in station, I set my head against the plate with legend about nature reserve… The fog didn’t intend dissipated, we walked some time and at that time got tired very savage. I decided took a rest for the last time, walked some more 400-500 meters and turned to the left at suppose entry. We was stopped. Here some small light blinked to the left of road, it seemed to me. I took a good look, but a nothing wasn’t seen in fog. I decided verified this, and warmed by walking a little at one. Pell-mell I swam across highway, and deepened to the fog. It was dreadful. Before long the road disappeared from view. I hadn’t any referent-points on the whole. Also I get to meet white silence and twinkle will-o’-the-wisps. And here I stumbled across to footprints. I preferred think about it was tracing those men, which we met in the station. Footprints were very much, it told about a compact group to 10 persons walked along. They has walking very worse, that we, they stuck in the mud and tripped. Footprints get out of the steppe, made a small detour, and again get in the steppe, aside to the station in general. It was horror! I already was going to turn backward, but something beckoned me father as if. I was surprised my own sensation and get forward. Then I was dumbfounded. The small post was visible in fog before me. This post stood for what the entrance to caves was at hundred meters to me. Such mystic wonders was here.
Òranslation by Uho.