The Boegan system

The exploration of the Boegan system (2008-2017) – (Gortani Team, Italy, Canin plateau)

Pubblicato sul n. 64 di PROGRESSIONE

PREZ-ET5-BOEGAN plan and suface

Preface (introduction): About the summer and winter explorations on Canin (1993-2006)

The Hungarian cavers were first introduced to Canin – a karstland with features that are unique all around the world – in the Abisso Michelle Gortani during the winter of 1993. In 1994, they returned specifically to continue the explorations in the “By-Pass” chimney at the depth of -720 m. Reaching the top after a 200 m dome-climb, a fascinating exploration began, and continued for 13 years, when it has come to temporary stop. Though these years 19 km were discovered, doubling the length of the Gortani system to 38,2 km. This exploration has been published in the 51st issue of the Progressione.

The morphology of the area: The location of the Camosci Valley between the two great systems.

After the Gortani expedition we shifter our attention towards the upper parts of the karst plateau of the Camosci Valley between two great cave systems that were discovered in the meantime. Under the depression sloping downward to the north between the now about 50 km long Col delle Erbe system and the 20 km long Foran del Muss system, in the ‘70, several significant caves were found by Italian cavers (Abisso Eugenio Boegan, ET5, Abisso Cesare Prez, S20, S3, Abisso Paolo Picciola), alongside dozens of other, smaller caves in the area. However, the distance between the two bigger systems remained 300-600 m, which makes further explorations especially thrilling. Even back in 2008, based on the cadastral maps and the data on height levels one could already suspect the existence of a connection between the Boegan’s syphon and the deeper sections of the ET5, which suspected system could also possibly intersect the Abisso Cesare Prez.

From the first summer Boegan Camp in 2008 to 2017

Ab. Prez, upper way-down

One of our prior goals, finding a significantly shorter passage to the bivuak at the “X” point of Gortani, was reached in 2001 when we found the Magyar Cave (Hungarian Cave).

In 2008 the Summer Camp was moved from Bila Peč to the Boegan Trough. We took the caves that were discovered in the last years by the hard work of the Italian cavers and rigged them in hope of new explorations, however we didn’t discover any significant new passages in either the S20 or in the Boegan caves. Exploring the squeezes of smaller caves didn’t result in significant success either. During these years we started to secure the draughty entrance of the Abisso Cesare Prez against snow and ice, and widened two squeezes in the first 150 m long section (in 2009 and 2010).

New camp on the “Concrete Plateau”

After these unsuccessful endeavours we moved the Expedition Camp to the more distant Blasic Valley. In 2012 the Camp was further advanced to the plateau between the Marussich House and the Prokopiu House.  Back in the SB3 Cave of the Blasic Valley reaching the top of a beautiful chimney offered some success, however, it unfortunately later connected back to some sections of the cave that were already discovered by Italian explorers, and the more distant end points didn’t give in here either. Due to a change in the rock, the passage narrowed down and we couldn’t work our ways any further. We further pursued some exploration works in the upper sections of the Abisso degli Increduli leading to some smaller new finds.

Back to the Abisso Cesare Prez

A change in temperature allowed us to reprise our work in the previously ice-covered Abisso Cesare Prez. From 2013 our goal was to investigate the windows and fissures marked on our maps. From this time on, more and more energy was spent on re-exploring the cave.

Summer of 2013. Perhaps something will succeed.

Around the depth of -250 m, at the top of the 70 m pit we traversed through a long and narrow fissure and descended in a parallel pit to the “-320” meander to the top of Lake Pit (“Pozzo del Laghetto”) called the ”Italian bivuak” (first discovered by the Italian explorers).

Summer of 2014. Parallel relations.

Ab. Prez, big Tihany chamber from down

Climbing upwards from the Italian Bivuak, we rigged another 20 m of traverse line, and climbed sideways parallel with the Lake Pit (“Pozzo del Laghetto”). At the depth of ca. -350 m, we found a crawl, without any air circulation, that narrowed down completely after 70 m. Descending deeper to around -370 m, we arrived to a stabile fissure filling (false bottom) heading 20 m East. After a brief rest, we finally sensed airflow! (Follow the wind for it always takes you to the right place!) After an hour hard work it widened up and we could enter a 15 m deep, 0.5×2 m wide fissure, where the sound of the stream in the Lake Pit faded away. It was clear that this was a more ancient passage, as besides the dissolved and eroded formations, we could also see stalactites and loam. We suspect that these sections did not see any water in a long while. Moving forward in the fissure to the East, our discovery ended after ca. 60 m (here the fissure was too narrow). We could hear promising sounds from the distance, but we had neither the time nor the equipment to continue pushing forward, as the great amounts of water and rain forced us to turn back.

Summer of 2015.

The end of the fissure found last year at the depth of -400 m proved to be suitable to establish a bivuak with tent.

It seemed to be a tranquil place and had access to water only a few meters away.  Reaching it from the entrance takes an about 3.5-4 hours descent and returning takes 4-5 hours. In our silent and peaceful “home”, cavers are sometimes shaken up by a great noise and drought, caused by rain falls on the surface. All these promising signs reassured us to continue our explorations in this location. We chose our bivuak site so well, that the rope leading to the ending point starts just next to our tent. Only after 15 m of ascent and another 15 m of uncomfortable traversing through a fissure (still to the East) we found the reason behind the noise and the wind. We found ourselves at the 30mx20m wide bottom of a pit covered in gigantic blocks, that we at the time believed to be 50 m high. In case of too much water, getting back to the bivuak from here would be quite risky. We named it Tihany Chamber, with a little joke with Hungary in mind (Tihany is famous about the water and the echo in Hungary).

ET5, old italian pitons, the big ET5 pit in the background
Ab. Prez, meander to the Et5








We found the way forward from the Chamber on one side downward through a narrow fissure filled with some loose blocks. Keeping to the East, being uncomfortably wet, we descended 25 m into a wider fissure, where we decided not to go any further. We had to settle for this much for now, return to the surface and wait for dryer days for it is constantly pouring outside.

During the summer we also prepared a polygon of the cave from the entrance to the new sections over the bivuak.

Summer of 2016. All we need to do is go.

Last year’s rainy weather forced us to be more careful. Just above our tent in the bivuak we climbed 10-15 m up and 10 m horizontally in a fissure to reach Tihany Chamber with a tight squeeze. We fixed a tighter and a looser rope section from another, higher point of the Chamber above the sharp-edged boulders towards the squeeze as an emergency way back to the bivuak in case of the waterfall suddenly grows stronger and blocks the original passage.

“Modor is climbing in the Tihany Chamber… 5-10 m of exposed traversing in a fissure (and the blocks stuck in it), then the drill and a special etrier (bolting platform) gets into use. I try to belay him from down here, there’s a bit of a chaos with the ropes. Dini is resting sitting attached to the rebelay, warming himself with a carbide lamp. After 2-2.5 hours and 25-30 m of climbing Modor reaches a stable place to the East. We are in fact in the upper section of the enormous fissure that goes to the East from Tihany. (Last year we descended 25-30 m into a fissure form Tihany and found ourselves in a fissure heading East). Not far from here there is a window above us, the one we aimed at originally, but as it seems, the cave goes this way… so this is where we continue. We’re in a fissure that’s about 5 m wide, and we move on 40-50 m slightly downwards, with two, 5-7 m high, horrifying escarpments, and rigging in “explo” style. The fissure narrows down and we reach something that looks like the top of a pit, it seems pretty deep. We descend about 35-40 m to find our bags that we left at the bottom of the fissure last year. Modor turns a bit sad. We’ve been here before, this is where we turned around last year due to lack of time. But now we have time, let’s continue! After 20 m to the East at the bottom of the fissure we descend 5-7 m in a narrow passage, then, after 10 m we spot an interesting window at 10 m height… Dini climbs towards it traversing and drilling and we soon find ourselves in a loamy fossil.

Ab. Prez, climbing in the Tihany chamber

(We found something similar last year when we descended into this gigantic fissure… 50-60 m back, but around the same height. There the fill is much more solid and there’s no draught). Here we have airflow! Crawling comfortably, climbing up and down a bit we reach a small chamber after 20-25 m. Dini waits for us here and says that he sees footprints! He thinks that they might be the traces of the old explorers of ET5!

Et5, climbing at the end of the windy meander to the side, in the ET5 big pit

From here to the SouthEast direction the fossil leads us downhill, we arrive at a nicely dissolved pit after 10 minutes. The draught is strong and cold. We find an old rebelay. Based on the footprints it seems that those, who were here many years ago didn’t have the time to appropriately look around. Great many places are worth a bit of attention, a bit of work. Even a bivuak could be established here, though it’s a bit draughty. Looking down into the pit I think that we could also look for windows here… maybe next time! On our way back to the bivuak we pack and leave our gear with next year’s expedition of in mind.” Erik

It is also worth mentioning, that this year we have been to the Abisso degli Increduli as well, where we discovered some short, new passages in the upper section of the cave.

Et5, climbing from the Et5 big pit to the east, towards the helictites part and the SzH chamber

Summer of 2017. Always to the East.

Impatiently waiting for the summer, we returned with a small group to the plateau. The Camp was moved back to the Boegan Trough, as from there the Abisso Prez is easier to reach.

Despite the success of the previous years, now the main focus was on sketching maps, so that the new connection can be documented, and also to rerig the new routes for more safety. The measurements were taken with a Disto starting from the meeting point of the ET5 and the Prez to see the differences and to be able to insert the new sections into the already known system.

While one half of the group was busy with the mapping, the rest continued to climb. One goal was to reach the top of the Tihany Chamber, but after 20-25 m and a lot of equipment used we once again moved on from this climb. Our bolting platform awaits high up at 40-50 m for the climb to be continued next year…

Our most promising task seemed to be the fissure that goes up towards East – NorthEast from the side of the big pit of the ET5. Here, after climbing about 40-50 m we arrived to a meander above it. We realised with happiness, not knowing the traditional route of the previous Italian explorers, that we weren’t in the decades ago already discovered parts of the cave. Saving on the equipment we traversed uncomfortably above one smaller pit and already crawled in the new passages…

“We could see many stalactites and helictites, which are rare treasure around here. We move slowly not to break them off. The passage flattens down, smooth, powder-like clay covers the bottom; the width varies, at some points it’s between 1-2 m. After this a chamber follows, which got named after those, about whom nobody wants to talk about. SzH Chamber, standing for “szarháziak” (Hungarian for a**holes), which we will no longer say out loud. Its height is still unknown, but the laser never showed more than 35 m; it’s between 5-20 m wide and it is about 25 m long.

Et5, helictites between the big ET5 pit and SzH chamber

The side of the chamber where we entered left us assuming that hasn’t been an active water flow here for a very long time. There are stalagmites, loam, and vulnerable, tiny little white crystals. The other side of the chamber, however, shows a completely different picture. The wall has dissolved and eroded shapes. There’s no water yet, though its sound can be strongly heard from far away! From the chamber, flat passages go to three different directions. In one of them one can definitely sense the movement of the air. This time we had no time to spend on these. We looked for and followed the direction of sound of the water. In the middle of the chamber a fissure leads us down and after crossing a section with loose blocks we’re climbing in another narrow fissure. It isn’t too tight and at the bottom water runs towards us. After about 20 m we once again find footprints, where the fissure widens up to a small chamber. The width is 4-5, the length is 10-12 and the height is around 20 m, and on the other side there is the waterfall! Footprints, chocolate papers and it seem as if somebody had made a place to lie down on the ledge. But who and when? We look up our maps and try to guess where we could be. The watch says we are at the height of 1330 m. There’s no other explanation! This could only be the Abisso Eugenio Boegan! We can once again experience what few others can, the joy of discovery and success. Again, teamwork proved to be fruitful! Returning to the bivuak we only have time to prepare a polygon, but not to draw a map.  That remains for next year, since tomorrow we’ll have to return to the surface.” Modor

Ab. Prez, old italian rope ladder

Respect to the predecessors.

It is hard to even imagine, how much work could be behind this one success. Decades before us the Italian explorers chased by the very same desire searched for the so wished discoveries, overcoming all hardship. We think of them now with great respect and gratitude, as they once, unlike today’s modern equipment, opened up these depths to us using only heavy rope ladders and pitons. It worth thinking about it sometimes, how easy a job we have today. Thank you for that!

Plans and perspectives

We cannot be unsatisfied with the results, as thanks to the stamina of a handful of people we were able to find the “key” we’ve been constantly searching for since 2008.

The connection that we found between these three, even individually significant and emblematic caves brings new opportunities to the north in the exploration of the Camosci Valley towards the Raccolana Valley. The reached height of 1300-1400 m matches that of the horizontal system of the Gortani’s Galeria del Ventó and Davanzó. Today the distance is still great, 600-700 m, but the future’s explorations, offer a good chance to discover the whole system. Furthermore, we have to mention that the caves S3 and S20 that are really close to the ET5 are also the parts of the system, as it is certain that the same water runs to the Goriuda Spring. There is a chance that it will intersect the aisles of the Davanzo, therefore connecting into the Coll dell Erbe System as well.

Participating in the exploration of the system and the connections:

Et5, exploration team in the SzH chamber in 2017

László Szegedi (Modor), Dénes Pataki (Dini), Erik Gordos, Ádám Pucz, László Egri (Lac), Botond Kun, Zoltán Füzy, Csaba Gergely, Fanni Matuszka, Gergely Ambrus, and many others…


Text: Gortani Team – Péter Börcsök, László Szegedi (Modor), Erik Gordos

Photos: László Szegedi (Modor), Erik Gordos

Maps: László Egri (Lacc), Fanni Matuszka, Botond Kun

Translator (HUN-ENG): Dénes Nagy, Eszter Varga