Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. Arrival at the Arabica. Stopover.

From the history of the speleology. 1999 year.

Instead of the long-awaited confluence - a breakthrough in the interior of the array.

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. A view from the Kukushonsky mountain pass.

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. On the way to the Arabica.

In August of 1999 after a long interruption due to the Georgian-Abkhaz military conflict, we came to the Arabica Mountains again. Nine Ukrainian speleologists pitched his camp in the middle of the gorge Orto-Balagan, trying to deepen and grow up the Arabikskaya cave system. Three caves are involved to the Arabikskaya system (depth of 1110m): Kuibyshev, Genrihov's Abyss and Children caves. And one more cave, the entrance to which is located close to the Kuibyshev Cave, was treated as a potential top entrance into the system for many years. This cave is called Kruber-Voronja, and it was explored up to a depth of 340 meters before the expedition in 1999 year, and was 52nd in the ranking of the deepest caves of the CIS.

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. The expedition camp near the Genrihov's Abyss cave.

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. Kasyan in the Genrihov's Abyss cave.

During the expedition it was decided to work consecutive in two directions enhancing amplitude systems up and down. Four-member group was descending through Genrihov's Abyss into the bottom of the cave system and by climbing and searching of lights it was trying to find the round of the bottomed heap. The headed by Alexey Zhdanovich second part of the group had received a task to check all the windows and branches in the Krubera Cave at level of -100 to -300 meters. We held out hope to find a confluence of the caves Krubera and Kuibyshev, in such case it would be an increase of the system amplitude by 70 meters. We were pretty confident in the success of our idea. Numerous reputable speleologists were talking for a long time about the confluence perspective as almost a fait accompli. On the maps and layers all the arrows of an expected cave continuation were targeted from Krubera to Kuibyshev. And only our predecessors searched a continuation of the cave at the level of -340 meters, where explorers were stopped by a narrow watery gap in the cave. We chose a different way. In preparation for the expedition I have long studied caves surveying in which we were working. The start moving directions were clearly been indicated with the dotted lines on the Krubera layer leading away from the main pit shaft. We planned to check these dotted directions marked on the topographical survey, and not passed by our predecessors.

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. All expedition members together

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. Ivanov Yura, Andrei Kovalev, Yuliya Tumoshevskaya.

The first branches in the cave Krubera brought the new discoveries. The arrow meander was successfully reached at the level of -240 meters, that led speleologists into the hall with a copious clay, later called by the pathfinder "Glynyanyj". From the Clay Hall the speleologists reached a meander with the watercourse, and came to the cascade of wells. It seemed that everything was running as planned and the long-awaited confluence is around the corner.

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. Y.Kasyan's filling the expedition diary

In the second half of the expedition the group was reunited (in the Arabikskaya System all pieces of work were finished), and concentrated all forces on a exploration in the Krubera cave, especially that a second front was opened. All the same indefatigable Alex Zhdanovich reached the level of -220 meters in the window well and found another continuation of the cave, rapidly gaining a depth with the cliffed wells (110m and 150m). It started the contest of two new branches of the cave: which of them is going earlier to confluence with the Kuibyshev cave.

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. It was planed to find a confluence of Krubera and Kuibyshev. However everything went haywire) ))

At the beginning the "lower" branch was dominated (the beginning at the level of -240 meters). Speleologists reached the cliff of a huge well at the depth of 400 meters. There it is, a long-awaited confluence, we can only go down into the well, and we are in the Kuibyshev cave. So we thought being near the edge of the tantalising abyss. I had honor of the first to descend into the unknown well. During the descent I had to tie all the ropes, which we took with us. The depth of the well was 105 meters, continuous span without rebelays, and everything in the plumb. There wasn't any traces of human presence in a hall under the well. Water, flowing on the opposite wall of the well, disappeared in a huge-blocked heap. An open continuation wasn't found as well. We had still the hopes that it will be possible to go around this heap, or will be found an entrance on the hall walls, but it was not Kuibyshev cave. The hall and whole this branch was named "Not-Kuybyshev" in honor of this occasion. Further studies of this part were continued only during the summer expedition in 2001. And in 1999 all expedition hopes of caves confluence were directed to the branch with the entrance at the level of -220 meters.

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. The Ortho Balagan Valley.

We had only two days to the end of the expedition. In the "upper" branch, after the rapid depth raise in wells of 110 and 150 meters from a depth of 530 meters, began a long tortuous meander, later called "Sinusoid". Sinusoid was interrupted by a small scarps, then was narrowed and gradually was gained a depth. Cave continued...

Early morning we organized a military council in the camp. Time was drawing on, all expedition members were already tired, some were sick or had been injured. But the cave is not ended and the confluence prospect to Kuibyshev, as the main task of the expedition, still remained. What is to be done? Decide on the final assault or relax, lick wounds and make preparations for a leaving? After debates around the current situation, the majority decided going to storm!

It was decided that Yuriy Kasyan and Alexei Zhdanovich will be assaulters. The task was to go as deep as possible and further. We took the 200-meter ropes, pitons, carabiners and other equipment on the safe side. Next to assaulters followed a Surveying group: Julia Timoshevskaya and Andrei Kovalev, they have to do the topographical survey of a new part and help the assaulters with an equipment (in 1999 we hadn't still organized a stationary hinge and therefore removed almost all hinged equipment). Combat-capable part of a rest of the group helped with the hinge on the last 200 meters. This, at the time, was the most difficult cave site for the climbing and transportation of the goods. Three narrows at different depths seriously complicate our lives. In order to overcome two lower narrows we should even remove our vertical equipment.

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. Dmitry Liman – a participant from Kharkov.

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. Alex Zhdanovich in Tsandripsh after the "death match" with the local football team.

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. Alpine beggary is a holy cause. Andrei Kovalev's repairing overalls using the transport bags found in a cave.

The Sinusoid has fallen out on the cascade of wells at a depth of 580 meters. Changing each other, assaulters have gone soon down to the landslide hall under a 70 meter well. A mass of rock overlooks in the middle of the hall as steeple-roofed peak. There was a wish to call this hall Pti-Drew for some reason (the name of well-known peak in the Alps).

The search of the way out of the hall was crowned with success. We crawled on a stream under a block avalanche and we have left to the next ledge. The cave proceeds, we move forward! Ledges, cascades, waterfalls, tinajas. The rope ended much faster, than our enthusiasm. Pathfinding has taken a little more than two hours. Together with Alexey we were standing on a small ledge in the middle of the next well. There is no rope any more, all has left to the staking. Under us is the attracting darkness and uncertainty. We are excited and intrigued. We estimated the reached depth at 750 meters and realized that we have slipped potentially possible gathering with Kuibyshev and our cave leaves independently deep into the massif! Later, the topographical survey, of course, has confirmed it.

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. Having a dinner at the stone table

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Picture by Yuliya Tumoshevskaya. Exhausted Andrei Kovalev....

We were like squeezed oranges. We came to a surface only next day at daybreak, storm lasted 16 hours. We haven't got in Kuibyshev, but to be upset there were no reasons. The cave of Krubera-Voronya proceeded, and we were pretty sure, that we were able to overcome in this cave and a kilometer boundary…

The location plan of the deepest caves of the Orto-Balagan Valley existed till the August 1999. The plan clearly explains the fact why speleologists had not enough motivation to continue the study of the Krubera cave. One authoritative speleologist finished drawing at its pleasure a dotted line with an arrow and the research in the cave were suspended for many years to come. Why waste the time, if we would reach the known part...

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

On the cave's topographical survey in the well P59 it can be clearly seen the branches from the main pit shaft. Discoveries waited for us definitely in these branches in 1999. At this moment the branch, that is higher and goes to the left, has been discovered to a depth of 2196 meters and the branch, that is lower and goes to the right, to a depth of 1697 meters.

Ukrainian Speleological Association expedition to the caves of the valley Orto-Balagan, Arabica, Abkhazia

Yuri Kasian

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