The tale begins with the summer '67 issue of the Speleologist which contained a letter from Mike Stanton of the RAF Mountain Rescue Team in Cyprus (the MRT), announcing the survey of a 482ft deep pothole, Pentadactylos Pot. Mike went on to make the suggestion that an expedition by a UK club might be worthwhile. I came across this some time last year and decided to go and gather data for a possible CUCC expedition.
I arrived in Limmasol, Cyprus at the end of June after a fairly uneventful journey by scheduled transport. After contacting the MRT, with whom Mike Stanton had put me in touch, I spent a couple of days in the capital Nicosia, becoming aquainted with the kebab and the locals, who are a hospitable lot. I tried to buy some large scale maps but was unsuccessful. Even the library had nothing later than Kitchener's 1885 survey. I then spent a weekend with the MRT near Pentadactylos Pot.
The route to Pentadactylos follows made-up roads as far as the head of the valley containing the long twisting village of Kythrea. After this the road surface disappeared and the back of the landrover became full of dust and noise. The fact that the MRT are trained to drive fast over this type of road didn't help either. After eight miles of this we arrived at our campsite near Pentadactylos covered from head to toe in white dust which turned to mud as we sweated over the erection of the cooking shelter.
The plan on the caving side that weekend was for a three man overnight trip down Pentadactylos. The MRT tackle was interesting; 35ft of rope ladder, two 120ft climbing ropes and a couple of rucksacks into which all this bulk could be crammed, together with such things as tins of luncheon meat, water and other goodies. My own rucksack had been filled on a strict value for weight basis when I packed it in England, and I had to beg the use of a sit sling, waist length and crab in order to be able to abseil down. John Hinde, our leader, luckily had a bottle opener type descendeur which made life easy. Surprisingly he didn't bat an eyelid when I told him I'd never abseiled before.
We started to descend as the sun set. The pot is in fact a single fault originated rift in the ridge of Pentadactylos peak, containing a lot of jammed boulders. The entrance was found when it was being used as a weapon dump during the troubles. A strong draught emerges from a small hole at the base of a crack. After a horizontal boulder floored entrance series pitches of 30-50 foot appear before the rift finally closes down. Abseiling proved to be quite easy, my only mistake being to drop a rucksack on Chuff Gerard, the third member of the party. The trip was fairly slow, about 8 hours and reached a depth of about 500 ft. We emerged just after sunrise and John Hinde attempted to wake the rest of the camp with thunderflashes, but due to oversight or foresight the camp contained only flares. The weekend ended with a dip in the briny at Kyrenia, a few miles away on the northern coast.
I now spent some time walking round the Pentadactylos area looking for rifts similar to the one on Pentadactylos itself. I also mapped the entrance to Pentadactylos, which is invisible from a distance of a few yards. Thursday saw me in Limmasol again for a wild party given by the MRT. This was held on a jetty over the sea and was in the best aquatic traditions. The next day I searched the MRT logbooks for cave entrances. These gave me some descriptions without locations which didn't help. John lent me some maps and I spent the afternoon swimming with him and his small son at the site of the ancient Amathus. I then returned to Kythrea the following morning, a Saturday. I had better luck over next few days and found a rift type entrance and an interesting dry resurgence as well as some rock shelters.
The following Friday was spent looking round Bellapaix abbey. Then I joined the MRT again at Kornos, the most westerly peak on the island. The main feature here is a large cliff and a little poking around produced an interesting hole behind a thorn bush. On the Sunday I removed the thorn bush and a single boulder and found a short impassable stal slope with a bypass grovel leading to a small upper chamber. Prospects of extension were nil.
While at Limmasol I had learnt that the RAF Luqa CC were coming from Malta during my last week on the island. I now spent a few days as a tourist in Lapithos, swimming, visiting Kyrenia and then in the southern and much larger range of mountains, the Troodos range. These are higher than the Kyrenia range but being gently rolling and covered in conifers are much less interesting than the steep 'gothic' Kyrenia range. I attempted to walk the 6 miles to the nearest village from the youth hostel at Troodos resort but shortly after passing Mount Olympos, the highest point (which is decorated by an RAF radar station), my youth hosteller companion had trouble with his footwear and we turned back.
On the Saturday I returned to Kythrea in the hope of meeting Luqa CC. Phone calls had revealed that they had arrived in Limmasol but were held up as their officer had run over a local. This later turned out to be an exaggeration: the 'local' was a goat. I finally found them in camp by Pentadactylos and pitched tent next door. An unexpected difficulty now emerged: their expedition was subject to various types of permission which didn't mention me. This prevented them from letting me underground with them. Luqa, under the caving leadership of John Yarker, were intent on gaining the depth record for Cyprus in Pentadactylos. It was entirely by coincidence that the day they did this (reaching a 590ft, a small increase in depth) I happened to import a gallon of the local wine, price 8/1d. This formed the basis of a very successful evening.
During this period I had a good look at a hole above Pentadactylos Pot which appeared to be in the same rift and gave the prospect of extending the pot upwards by a couple of hundred feet. The Irish Guards, who were climbing in the vicinity, found it first and helpfully told me where it was. A short distance inside the entrance, the floor dropped away in a rubble slope with two holes 30 and 40 foot deep. The rear hole was impassable due to a goat skeleton buried in mud at its head, but the nearer one, about 40ft deep looked quite passable though loose at the head.
I did get on one trip with Luqua on my last day in Cyprus after signing an encyclopaedic indemnity chit. This trip was a derigging party which went about half way down Pentadactylos via an easier route than that taken by the MRT. Tackle was more advanced than the MRT's and included some modern electron ladder owned by the Irish Guards which was excellent except for the fact that many rungs had slipped making the ladder hang at awkward angles. This is the only time I have lost my glasses on a pitch! No harm done fortunately.
I left Cyprus by the same boat I had travelled out on and after a day in Alexandria I arrived in Athens in the early morning. I was supposed to be joining up with the CUCC in northern Yugoslavia in 5 days time. After a tour of the Acropolis I started hitching and I had travelled about 100 km by nightfall. That night I was dropped in the middle of nowhere and slept by the side of the road. The next day was more typical, taking me about 20km north and giving no lifts for the last 5 hours. After this I started to use public transport to keep my Yugoslavia deadline. In Greece trains were more convenient as they ran frequently but in Yugoslavia the buses were very good, costing only about 1d a km and with frequent service on the main roads. Two days continuous travel took me to Belgrade where it started to rain, the first I had seen for several weeks. The next day I reached Postojna and Noel Williams, Ken Gove, and Richard Bowen turned up the following day. They had given up all idea of caving as Ken's car had been overloaded without any tackle.
There were some show caves in the area though and we visited two in the next three days. One, Postojna Jama, is world famous and has a little electric train to carry the tourists around. That night we investigated the local wine thoroughly and also some Austrian rum, nearly losing Noel down a shakehole in the process.
The Postojna show caves act as a magnet to cavers travelling nearby. The 'Epos Chasm World Depth Record Attempt' team passed through the town on their way back from Greece and stopped to visit the cave. The Bradford University PC were found to be staying on our campsite. We met them when we happened to visit the camp's show cave in the same party. These lucky people had found and explored a new pot near the coast. They appeared to get a reasonable degree of support from their university over the year which we could only envy.
The other three CUCC left for the coast soon, after advising me to spend time at Grindelwald, Switzerland, which is near the Eiger. They had stopped there on the outward journey. I hitched to Interlaken with a short pause while the Austrians had a bank holiday and hitching became impossible. I had walked into town one Friday, found the shops all shut as if it were a Sunday, and had to ask one of the townspeople if it wasn't Sunday in case my calendar had gone astray!
In Interlaken I spent a morning in St. Beatus Höhlen, a pleasant show cave. This has an interesting streamway, which I found more enjoyable than the usual acres of stal. That afternoon I hitched the final short distance to Grindelwald and had the luck to be given a lift by Brian Lloyd of the Eldon PC. What is more, he was heading for the same campsite as myself. The Eldon PC were doing some work above St. Beatus Höhlen (which is a resurgence cave) and had found a number of new caves which, however, broke down in a sandstone layer after a short distance. After a few days round the Grindelwald area with Brian, including a visit to Tummelbach, a very impressive gorge, he gave me a lift back to London.
NOTE A 3 sheet handout has been prepared giving the known Cypriot cave entrances and is available from the address on p.1 price 6d + sae.