Report on the exploration of caves during the period 2010 – 2012 in the area of Mount Radohines, North Albania

Base camp of Radohines caving expedition

Base camp of Radohines caving expedition

Introduction

Peak Radohines (Albanian: Maja e Radohines) is located in the southeastern part of the Albanian Alps, also known as the Prokletije Mountains (Albanian: Bjeshkët e Nemuna), North Albania. Radohines is one of the highest summits in Albania with its height of 2570 m above sea level. The highest point in the Prokletije Mountains is Mount Maja Jezercë, 2694 m high, the highest in the whole Dinaric Alps. Mount Radohines rises between the valleys Shala and Cem i Nikçit. The summit is characteristically dome-shaped, which is typical of many of the high summits of the Albanian Alps, with a narrow ridge and steep walls to the north and south. On the east side, it descends steeply for about 1500 meters towards the valley of the Shala, while the height difference is smaller on the west side. The summit is located inside the Theth National Park.

The mountain is composed mainly of Mesozoic limestone and dolomite of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The summits of the Radohines Group are south of Peak Radohines. A group of summits rises between the Shala Valley and a characteristic cirque valley below Mount Radohines, at about 2313 m above sea level. This part of the karst plateau is also the main field of work for the Bulgarian speleologists. The “Ru” Cave, which was discovered in 2010, is also in this area; it is located at 2225 m above sea level and was explored down to the depth of -546 m in 2012.

Most of the major summits of the Prokletije Mountains can be seen from Peak Radohines, as well as views stretching from the valley of the Theth and Kelmend all the way to Montenegro and Kosovo in the distance. On days with good visibility, can be seen the ridge of the Šar Mountains, Durmitor and the highest mountain in Albania at its border with Macedonia – the Korab Mounatins (highest peak – Mount Korab, Albanian: Maja e Korabit, with a height of 2764 m). The amazingly beautiful Theth Valley is also nearby (southeast of Radohines).

History of exploration of the Ru abyss and the region of Radohines massif

2010

In the period between 22 and 25 September 2010 a small five-member expedition arrived at the foot of Radohines peek (2570), North Albania. The purpose was to search for caves at a higher altitude. The crew consisted of Zhelyazko Mechkov – leader of the expedition, Encho Enchev, Antoniya Vlaykova, Rumyana Yotova from Caving club and speleo-school „Sofia” (CCSS „Sofia”, www.pk-sofia.com) and Zhoro Staychev, Caving Club „Underground”. The speleo team encountered a huge terrace, at about 100 below a peek neighboring Radohines. The surface of the terrace is about 3000 sq. m. and there are at least 20 apparent crevices, which may turn out to be caves. The group starts to probe them by throwing stones in the crevices, to choose those which are the most promising to be explored in the next few days. That is how the group came upon a crevice in which the noise of the stone thrown was just muffled by the time of falling.
The speleologists equipped the cave with some 130 meters of ropes. At about -100 m they made another stone-throwing probe, which continue to fall without reaching the bottom of the pit. The entrance of the abyss is at 2225 altitude. The new cave was named „Ru”, after Rumyana Yotova, who was the first to find it.
Enthusiastic about the discovery, a week after their return to Bulgarian, the speleologist start planning a new expedition to the region, with more ropes. On 4 November 2010 a new expedition to Radohines starts, with the following nine members:
Zhelyazko Mechkov – leader of the expedition, CCSS „Sofia”
Kamen Bonev – geologist, SC „Vertilend”
Pavlin Dimitrov – Papi, CCSS „Sofia”
Zhoro Staychev, SC „Undergruound”
Encho Enchev, CCSS „Sofia”
Diana Stefanova – Du, SC „Akademik”
Kiril Georgiev, SC „Pod Ruba”
Tsvetan Kosturkov, SC „Pod Ruba”
Georgi Kadiyski, CCSS „Sofia”
Aleksander Yanev, SC „Akademik”

The purpose this time is geological research of the cave „Ru” and the region, further exploration of the new cave as well as discovery of new potential caves. During the four days of this expedition the team equipped 330 m. of ropes reaching the maximum depth of -230m. Right underneath, at some 1354 m. below the cave, are the karst springs of Teth, at altitude 860 m in the valley looking eastwards. The explored part of the abyss „Ru” is a vertical pit, which follows the underground structure of one of the faults. It does not have intermediate thresholds and stone blockages. The width of the pit varies between several to 15 m. The expedition could not reach a bottom, and there are no indications that it is within the next few dozens of meters. In some areas of its vertical axis there are interconnections with neighboring pits with similar configuration and orientation.
With regard to these facts the speleologists suppose that they have came across the entrance of an underground drainage system, which can reach deepness of 1350 m. or more, which leads the Radohines surface waters to the karst springs of Teth.

2011

Following the discoveries of 2010 and the geological explorations for the potential for new discoveries in the region new large scale expedition was planned for the autumn of 2011. Again it was organized by CCSS „Sofia”. The main goal of the new expedition was to explore the depth of the „Ru” abyss. Along with that, the region was thoroughly explored in search for other cave entrances, probing some of them and collecting samples of the cave flora and fauna. A new depth of „Ru” abyss was reached circa -500 m. New discoveries were made every day, including the very last one, when an 80 m. long meander was traversed (and named „Hope for all”) and yet new parts were reached adding another 50 m to the overall depth. Yet the abyss continues. It is fully mapped down to -456 m. (beginning of “Hope for all”). Measured by the map, the „Ru” abyss was the third deepest cave in Albania, next to „BB30” (-610 m.) and „Silicocata” (-505 m.)
From the biospeleological samples two are of probably brand new species Hirudinea Indet, collected from a pond at -420 m in the cave, which were send for study in Slovenia. Other important invertebrates are the Macrochaetosoma troglomontanum, which is endemic for the region and has been found also in the cave Maja Arapit. Larva of Colembolla, (genus Onychiurus) were found crawling on the walls of the first 100 meters, and also a representative of the insects – Family Curculionidae Indet, which was probably accidentally there. The biospeleological explorations are due to continue during the future expeditions.
During the expedition another 11 caves in the Radohines peak area were discovered, marked and studied. Their depth is between 20 and 50 meters and in nine of them the bottom (an ice cap or rock block) was reached. One of them – Ledenata (The Icy) was explored down to -130 meters, yet no bottom was reached. Its exploration will be the goal of next expeditions.

2012

The next expedition for exploration of the Radohines area, by now traditionally organized by CCSS „Sofia” each year, took place between 25 August and 15 September 2012. The expedition continued the earlier work – exploration of the depth of „Ru” abyss, exploration of the new promising cave discovered in 2011 – „Ledenata” abyss from the same massif as well as thorough search of the area to identify new promising crevices and mark them on the map for further exploration. Further to this, the maps and technical description of the discovered caves were made and new biospeleological samples were collected.
As results of the exploration of „Ru”, a number of meanders at the current bottom were traversed. The cave seems to continue horizontally. This expedition also has not reached a bottom. There are a total of 867 m. of galleries mapped so far, down to -546 m., which already makes „Ru” the second deepest in Albania. Measures of the temperatures in „Ru” were made at -140 m, -240 m, -360 m, -400 m, -480 m. The temperature varies between 5 and 6 degrees centigrade. A telephone cable was installed from the cave entrance down to -480 m. The Ledenata abyss was explored down to -207 m., where it continues with a narrow meander. A strong current of air can be felt there and a noise of running water is audible.
In conclusion: 21 people from 7 caving clubs from Bulgaria participated expedition, including a guest from Germany. Participating Clubs: CCSC „Sofia”, SC „Underground”, SC „Academic”, SC „Iskar”, SC „Pod raba”, SC „NEPIAST”, SC „Cheren vrah”.

Explored caves at Radohines area

Ru – RB1, depth: -546 m; length: 867 m

GPS coordinates: N 42° 24′ 765″ E 19° 43′ 917″
Elevation: 2225 m
Surveying by: Encho Enchev, Antoniya Vlaykova, Igor Runiashki, Alexnder Yanev, Todor Karakiev

Map of cave Ru

Description:
The entrance to the cave is located at about 1.5 km distance in direction S-SE from Radohines peak, with an elevation of 2225 meters above the sea level. It is situated at a large terraced platform under a group of mountains, which are surrounding a distinctive karst valley from the south. To approach the cave Ru as a starting point we use a small artificial pond. It is in the lower part of the valley and is used by the local people for watering cattle. From the pond in direction E-SE is a large scree area, formed under the mountains at the south site of Radohines. The path (if it can be noted as one) goes through the scree and in the upper part keeps left, where it bends along the hillside of one of the surrounding mountains.
Getting at the saddle between the approached peak and the neighboring one* a landscape view is outspreaded towards the valley of village Teth. Clearly visible is also a large terraced platform which is transected by a system of sub-parallel, contemporary faults. The faults are from extensional type and are stretching in direction NNW- SSE. Along the length of every one of them are numerous cave entrances, part of them are filled with snow through out the whole year and some are fully or partly blocked by scree. At the end of the platform is located the entrance of „Ru”. The most easy and convenient way to find the cave is to use a GPS devise. The time required to come up from the pond to the entrance (no heavily loaded backpacks) is about one hour and a half.
The abyss has developed in thick-layered-to-massive limestones, part of the Malesia and Madhe sub-zone in the Albanian Alps zone. The limestones have platform origin. In the explored area they occur in an uninterrupted sequence, whose thickness exceeds 2000m. The age of the sequence is Upper Triassic, Jurassic to Cretaceous [Meço and Aliaj, 2000].
The entrance itself is a vertical crevice. Significant erosion had cracked its surface and the falling rocks almost have blocked the entrance. In the very beginning, the cave enters into the fault zone and goes along one of the fault lines. Close to the main entrance are two minor entrances, which also can be used to get inside the main fault.
The entrance passage drops into a vertical shaft, with hardly any karst features. In few meters the shaft sinks directly into the underground configuration of the fault. At -120 meters depth is a small slopping ledge covered by rocks where can be stepped on. There from follows the widest part of the drop until -170 meters, where the passage reaches a second small and sloping rock ledge. It is very distinct place because right after the ledge is a big wedged boulder, called „Trabantcheto (The Trabant)”. It splits the hall at two parts.
After „The Trabant” down to -310 meters the fault slightly changes its direction, starts narrowing and inclining to its vertical axis. At -240 meters is a third steep ledge floored with gravel. The shape of the dropping passage resembles a crack, approximately 1 by 8 meters. At -310 meters the passage narrows significantly at place called „Ventilatora (The Fan)”. After it, down to -360 meters depth the rock changes its texture into thin layers with dark and light sequence. This section is called „Roshavoto (The shaggy)”.
On the walls water is floating in small drips which gradually combine and the cave becomes wet. At -360 meters is the first artificial extension of the cave passage and the resting place before ascending up to the entrance. It could be assumed that this section is the end of the entrance drop. The following section is called „TT (three narrow passages)”. The narrow passages are vertical but they can be passed when abseiling with equipment. The drop opens into a larger pit where all the water coming from „The Fan” vanishes.
The pit can be traversed and then the passage opens into a dry horizontal gallery, about 10 meters long. At the beginning of the gallery at -456 meters, a standing pond of water could be found. The floor and part of the walls are covered by significant amounts of mud. The gallery ends with two parallel drops. One is 15 meters deep, ending into a gravel -floored pit, in the upper part of this pit is visible the opening of an ascending meander. The other parallel dropping passage is 35 meters deep.
The 35 meters deep drop leads to the first meander, named „Nadejda za vsichki (Hope for everyone)”. The meander starts at -456 meters. There is running water with debit of 1 liter/sec floating down into the meander. The source of the water is a small vertical slit at 5 meters height from the floor. The total length of the meander is 80 meters. It is a relatively narrow passage and requires passing of the gear bags between the cavers. The meander drops down in 18 meters deep pit, there starts the second meander which is particularly narrow and requires personal decision of the most suitable body position and way to go trough.
The passage drops again for 15 meters in a pit, where the running water coming from the meander „Hope for everyone” combines with water floating from another ascending meander close by. In the middle of the pit opens a third meander: dry and going downwards. This is actually the bottom of the cave, reached at 2011. This place is called „Kolektora (The collector)”. The possible way ahead is to go into the dry meander, moving through its highest part. At some locations the passage is very wide and deep, up to 15 meters. The total length of the meander so far is 100 meters and it contains several areas of cave formations.
In the beginning of the meander are some suitable places for building an underground camp. It ends with a small chamber, formed in the basis of a fissure, which marks the beginning of the next meander. On the left side of the chamber water comes out with a relatively small flow and underneath is formed a small pond. The passage continues in direction of the floating water. The walls are very rough and there are very sharp edges, which can damage the equipment and rip up the clothing. This section is 90 meters long and drops 25 meters into a pit about 7 by 3 meters. Halfway down is a small ledge with vertical fissure, where the water floats in. There is a strong airflow and it appears to be blowing into the fissure. This is the deepest point (-546 m.) reached at 2012.

* The peaks don’t have names and are all part of the Radohines massif.

Ledenata (The Icy) – RB 2, depth: -207 m

Surveying by: Todor Karakiev, Tzvetan Ostromsky, Antoniya Vlaykova, Delcho Topalov and Ivo Buserski

Map of cave Ledenata (The Icy)

Description:
The first part of „Ledenata – The Icy” is a weathered blockage, a little narrow, but not too much. A zone of ice and snow follows. At -25 m there is a narrow slanted rib, approximately 40 cm wide. It is passed without detaching oneself from the rope. A wider part follows, the true „Ledena” (hence the name) – heavily ice-covered walls with beautiful shapes, and a large amount of snow; one has to wade in the snow here and there. A hanging snow blockage follows at -55 m. Its location is just above the continuing in depth abyss. After another about 60 m of snow and ice there is a spacious well; its configuration is similar to that of neighboring cave Ru. When there are high temperatures on the surface, water from the melting snow trickles down the walls of the cave. At the bottom of the well, there is a narrowing in which the water gets lost. About 2 m from the bottom, the cave continues as a narrow horizontal meander developing towards the north (10 grads). The sound of falling water was clearly audible from the place we last reached.

Prozoreca (The Window) – RB 3
Depth: -16m
GPS coordinates: N 42° 24′ 48,5″ E 19° 43′ 53,9″
Elevation: 2187 m
Date: 04.09.2012
Surveying by: D. Topalov, A. Yanev

Description:
The entrance to the cave is egg-shaped, approximately 4.3 by 2 meters, with an azimuth of 70 grad. The rope work starts with an approaching pitch secured with hexcentric No 9. After about 2 meters is the primary anchor point located on a rock hump, which can be rigged by a sling. About 5 meters below is a big rock bridge. At its northern site is a 5 meters long gravel- floored ledge. At the opposite site is a natural rock loop, used for a primary belay by a sling. Next drop is leading into a big hall, it ends in a long and narrow fissure, which is impossible to go trough. From the south site of the bridge starts a funnel shaped drop. After its narrow passage is a rock hump suitable for a sling. The passage opens in the upper side of the big hall.

Equipment:
Rope: 10 m
Karabiners: 10 p.
Slings: 3 p.
Hexcentrics: 1 p. (No 9)

RB 4
Depth: -14 m
GPS coordinates: N 42° 24′ 48,4″ E 19° 43′ 54,3″
Date: 04.09.2012
Surveying by: T. Karakiev, Y. Zvetanov

Strashnata (The Scary) – RB 5
Depth: -28. 5 m
GPS coordinates: N 42° 24′ 48,3″ E 19° 45′ 54,5″
Elevation: 2213 m
Date: 04.09.2012
Surveying by: D. Topalov, A. Yanev

RB 6
Depth: -21 m
GPS coordinates: N 42° 24′ 49,9″ E 19° 43′ 53,8
Date: 04.09.2012
Surveying by: T. Karakiev, Y. Cvetanov

RB 7
Depth: -24 m
GPS coordinates: N 42° 24′ 51,9″ E 19° 43′ 54,2″
Elevation: 2215 m.
Date: 04.09.2012
Surveying by: D. Topalov, A Yanev

RB 8
Depth: -21 m
GPS coordinates: N 42° 24′ 51,7″ E 19° 43′ 54,3″
Elevation: 2215 m.
Date: 04.09.2012
Surveying by: T. Karakiev, Y. Cvetanov

Iztrupnalata (The numbly) – RB 9
Depth: -27 m
GPS coordinates: N 42° 24′ 50,3″ E 19° 43′ 57,4″
Elevation: 2215 m.
Date: 04.09.2012
Surveying by: T. Karakiev, Y. Cvetanov

Lazhlivata (The misleading) – RB 10
Depth: -14.5 m
GPS coordinates N 42° 24′ 46″ E 19° 43′ 55,5″
Elevation: 2219 m.
Date: 04.09.2012
Surveying by: D. Topalov, A. Yanev

Zagore – RB 14
Depth: -20 m
GPS coordinates N 42° 24′ 36,7″ E 19° 43′ 23,8″
Date: 07.09.2012
Surveying by: Y. Ioveva, Y. Cvetanov

Hvoinata (The Juniper) – RB 15
Depth: -32 m.
GPS coordinates: N 42° 24′ 30,4″ E 19° 43′ 20,0″
Date: 07.09.2012
Surveying by: D.Fotev, E. Enchev

Ochilarkata (The Specky) – RB 16
Depth: -26 m.
GPS coordinates: N 42° 24′ 29,2″ E 19° 43′ 20,3″
Date: 07.09.2012
Surveying by: Y. Ioveva, Y. Cvetanov

RB 17
Depth: -9.5 m.
GPS coordinates N 42° 24′ 59,6″ E 19° 43′ 17,9″
Date: 06.09.2012
Surveying by: P. Dimitrov, K. Karpacheva

RB 18
Depth: -23 m.
GPS coordinates N 42° 24′ 55,0″ E 19° 43′ 23,3″
Date: 05.09.2012
Surveying by: C. Ostromski, V. Zjeliyazkov

Ah, Vanya – RB 18
Depth: -31 m.
GPS coordinates N 42° 24′ 26,8″ E 19° 43′ 22,1″
Date: 08.09.2012
Surveying by: C. Ostromski, A. Vlajkova

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