By Ali Arm-Bar
Gradiŝnica Jama is located in a shake-hole in the middle of some woods in the Karst region of Slovenia. Somewhat reminiscent of Alum Pot, the 65m surface shaft (rigged on a mix of Petzl hangers and good spits) landed atop a 40 boulder slope. I rigged the way down (having a special moment when I forgot about rope stretch..) and sat off to the size on the boulder slope and waited for Alisa, Edd, Little’un Chris and Pointy Tom to follow.
When everyone was safely on top of the slop we made our way down. Now, this is quite a boulder slope.. 40degrees and losing around 60m height by the time you get to the bottom. And what is at the bottom? A sheer drop into a chamber.. So, carefully we all traversed around the slope following the left hand wall as it spiralled slowly downwards, making sure not to kick any rocks down (well.. trying anyway..).
After a bit of confusion 3/4 down the slope about the safest route we arrived at the first spits / bolts to rig the route over the drop and down into the chamber. Initially the placements seemed alright – aside from some nice rub points – but 10 metres down the ramp as it began to get steeper it all changed. It seems that someone got bored of sporadically placing Petzl hangers and the route was left to spits. Trying to find spits to rig off was interesting “oh, this one is split in half..”, “ah, this one is loose..”, “ah, well, it screws in a bit on this one.. but the hanger spins quite nicely..”; all very reassuring.
I managed to pick a route down on the best looking spits, limiting rope rub and spinning hangers until a nice free-hang landed on the top of a small rubble slope in a chamber. I called up to the others to follow down but to “be delicate” on the rebelays and after a few minutes the first of my companions landed next to me. At this point Alisa decided that she needed some bladder relief and proceeded to get completely naked (something tells me someone should have been wearing some kind of upper body garment under the furry suit!).
Everyone got down with no problems so we all turned our lights on max and had a look around. We were in a pretty big chamber. We could see most of the walls around us but on one side there was an opening and blackness.. So we trundled over in that direction. The further we headed the further away the walls moved until eventually we were clambering over big mud dunes in the middle of blackness. Looking all around you no walls could be seen and the roof was also out of sight.
Using my side-light on sun mode you could just make out the walls and roof. A half way on (ish?!) we came to a rope hanging from the ceiling.. How strange. We’d heard about this.. A dive line. This chamber sumps?! I wouldn’t want to be in there when it was! Further along we headed, traversing around the hills until we finally arrived at the end, a sump. But there was something in the sump.. proteuseses!!
Amazing creatures perfectly adapted to life in caves. Looking like salamandery-lizard things they were completely white, almost transparent and were blind. There were quite a few of the swimming around and it was a strange sight indeed.
After some time watching these elusive cave creatures we decided to head back. Over and around the dunes we went, passing the dive line and following a small streamway along. We got to some pretty nice mud formations that looked like little cities and carried on our merry way, arriving at the dive line. What?! Ermm… riiight.. try again! I noticed a bit of a void off to the right so we headed over there instead and eventually we arrived back at the foot of the pitch. Carefully climbing back up the short lower pitches we arrived back at the boulder slope, and slowly up we went.. careful.. careful.. oh crap! “Below..!”. Bounce bounce bounce! The small rock skirted around the boulder slope with no sign of stopping and went sailing off the edge of the lower pitches. Whoops..
We all arrived on the surface unscathed and amazed by the sheer size of the chamber we’d been in. It must have been atleast the size of Wales, if not bigger. Some of you say you’ve probably been in bigger.. well.. f#$k you. This was better! :p