Hungary Easter Tour


Arun Paul, Edith Huebner, Ho Yan Jin, Jack Hare, Kenneth Tan, Larry Jiang, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Sam Page, Tanguy Racine

The following is an account of our Easter Tour to Hungary in 2017. A summary, taken from our IC Union report, by Tanguy will be followed by excerpts from the log book we kept whilst in Hungary.

Wednesday 29th March


We flew to Budapest and hired 3 cars then drove to Szilvásvárad and stopped on the way for some food supplies, arriving at the villa in the early evening.


[Useful phrases]

HOL VAN A BARLANGBAN: Where is the cave
TE RESZEG MENJ HAZA: You're drunk, go home


Arrived at house after a decent length drive and stop off at Tesco. A few points to note:

Peter Ganson

[A list of radio call signs]


Thursday 30th March


Baradla Barlang: Arun Paul, Edith Huebner, Ho Yan Jin, Jack Hare, Kenneth Tan, Larry Jiang, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Sam Page, Tanguy Racine

Kenneth loves radishes

We had an early start and drove to Aggtelek National Park which is home to the Baradla show cave. We met with our guide and set off for a 6-8 hour through trip. The entrance and exit were both well lit with some stunning formations. The tour also involved a detour down the Radish Branch, so called because of the many radish shaped formations lining the walls. We were driven back to the entrance in a minibus which was included with the tour.


About to load ourselves into the cars and head to cave #1. V. early but not so late to bed last night. Wine was getting worse as we had more. Odd? Yes.

Peter snored far too close to my face last night so I relocated to a sofa. 9/10 would sleep on again.

Off we go.

Arun Paul - 6.54am

Sam's big one

Gosh, what a day. Early start, 1 hour drive to Aggtelek. Met with stiff bill at the entrance which put me in a bad mood but as we got into the cave it swiftly evaporated. I've never been anywhere so decorated. Some slightly kitsch music shows later we were into the real caves stomping along the horizontal levels. We diverted up into the Radish branch which had some proper caving with ducking and avoiding water.

Rhys took some cool photos and we almost got bored of all the beautiful formations. We emerged back into a show cave with more music and well lit formations. Lovely.

Jack Hare

Just finished watching a slideshow on Tanguy's laptop. It has been a wonderful day that started at 6am when we woke up followed by a very simple breakfast of bread, cheese, butter and tea. We then packed up and left for an hour drive to the show cave. The through trip was supposed to take a total of 8 hours but we did it in less than half of that. There was lots of impressive formations and Rhys avoiding water getting into his boots at the Radish passage. Towards the end of the tour we saw the largest formation and Rhys had Sam jump to be in the picture. At the end we took a minibus back to the car park.

Kenneth Tan - 6.07pm

Classic Arun

Gosh, what a day! We just came back from Baradla Barlang, a cave with many hidden mysteries. We had an early start (6.10am sharp) in order to be at the ticket office early and we made it just before the agreed time. Our guide (George!) opened the gates of this monster 25km system, which sprawls all the way to Slovakia. Along the way we spotted some siphons leading across the frontier - this is good to know in post-Brexit era of European fragmentation.

Anyway we did a thorough trip from the Bavadlas entrance to Josuafo entrance. Below is a sketch of the cave as we saw it.

Tanguy Racine - 6.40pm

Friday 31st March


Beke Barlang: Arun Paul, Edith Huebner, Ho Yan Jin, Jack Hare, Kenneth Tan, Larry Jiang, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Sam Page, Tanguy Racine

Pure wonder

Another early start and we drove to Aggtelek National Park for a morning of cave photography in the Beke cave. The cave was vertical with 300 steps at the entrance. It was a wet cave and involved a few climbs made harder by the slick mud. A significant portion of this trip was spent using three flashes to take photographs of formations. In the afternoon we drove back to Szilvásvárad and some of the group went hiking in the local area.


Stunning and unposed

Gosh, what a day! We got up even earlier and again drove to Aggtalek. I have a horrific sore throat that makes talking painful but of course the silence is even more excruciating to me so I gamely[?] nattered on.

This cave was more legit - our guide even deigned to wear a helmet - but the entrance was still massively over-engineered, a descending concrete staircase of 300 steps blasted through the rock.

The streamway was nice with many decorations and after 1km of storming passage we reached deep, welly flooding water and thick Derbyshire-worth mud. Yan Jin slipped and slid trying to ascend a slick rift but eventually got through using my knees as a step.

On the other side were some ladders leading back to the increasingly deep streamway. I got balls deep on the way out - we turned around at an arbitrary point determined by our ultra-taciturn guide.

Storming back up the passage Rhys, Kenneth, Tanguy and I, equipped with 3 radio controlled flashes, had a great time photographing everything. The rest of the group got bored leaving us to enjoy ourselves posing and optimising flash placement.

Back on the surface we picnicked in the sun before the drive back. At the house I had a nap then made vast quantities of goulash which was all devoured with ease. I can't wait for caving tomorrow.

*My new call sign

Jack Hare

Mud. Lots of mud.

Also pregnant cats and plastic covered vegan sausages that taste exactly like frankfurters

A good day.

Rebecca Diss?

Kept smelling meat. Strange. The cave was nice. Rest and prepare for the touch cave tomorrow. Bread cuttery (?) was a bit more difficult than I thought. Nice weather so far.


A good but tiring day. There was a lot of mud and water. I was especially unlucky to take a couple of wrong steps and went waist deep in the water. The coolness felt great for a second before the freezing cold got me. I was also particularly awful at climbing tricky and slippery boulders. After watching (and laughing) me try and fail a few times Jack, Rhys and Kenneth helped me up. I think I win if there's an award for muddiest/wettest.

Outside the cave and changed, we sat down for a picnic and enjoyed our sandwiches. My peanut butter and jam sandwich was damp but I tried my best not to think about it.

A couple of us went for a hike after that. It was more tiring than I expected so I'm hoping I won't ache for tomorrow. We saw nice waterfalls, trout farm, a cave and Rhys' favourite - a children's playground.

We came back to be treated to an amazing dinner. It was a good day.

Yan Jin

Keep left

Whoo whoo! We came back from Beke Cave where we followed a long, lovely, decorated streamway. It started off as a sunny walk (2km) to the artificial(?) entrance to the show cave. It was a long featureless tube with around 300 steps to get to the stream. These were blasted into solid rock which is a major feat of engineering if a little overkill. What is wrong with a simple Y-Hang?

After that we walked through pools of water with a gravelly floor. The stalagmite profusion did not disappoint with white, reds, and ochres in abundance. There was a muddy traverse which gave some of us pause, and cause for fun. After that the water grew balls deep and it was (?). We unfortunately had to turn around before the real fun began. The cave apparently goes on for a long while before the terminal sump. Ah well, those show caves!

On the way back we stopped at a Tesco in Karcinbiska(?), a nice, big, well endowed supermarket to get more bread. Some 11,000 forints were spent there on delicious ice cream and vegan sausages (suspiciously tasting like Frankfurters (?) Diss).

Back in the cottage - we had some solid classical(?) clanies(?) in the car - we had ice cream.

Then we went for a walk - it went like this...

Tanguy Racine

Saturday 1st May


István-lápai Barlang: Arun Paul, Edith Huebner, Ho Yan Jin, Peter Ganson, Rebecca Diss, Rhys Tyers, Sam Page

Szepesi Barlang: Jack Hare, Kenneth Tan, Larry Jiang, Tanguy Racine

Inviting water in István...

We met up with a group of cavers from Budapest to visit caves named Istvan-Lapai and Szepesi in the Bukk mountains. 7 of the group went to Szepesi and the remaining 4 went to Istvan-Lapai. The Szepesi trip involved a descent using a series of ladders, some being 20-30m tall. At the bottom, the cave was vertical and had two passages ending in sumps. Four of the group headed back midway down the second passage and the remaining three continued to the end. This involved lots of free climbing and some muddy squeezes.

István-lápai had a similar start with a descent using ladders but this was much longer (totalling 200m of elevation loss). The cave also featured a 80m tall SRT loop around a large flowstone and several intriguing sumps.


One of many, many ladders

Gosh, what a day. Another too early start but it would prove worthwhile. Plans to drive directly to our meeting spot with the Hungarians were thwarted by a series of rally races. Our attempts to join were thwarted by objections such as "an Opel Corsa is not a rally car" and "please leave".

Arriving in the picturesque town that was our meeting point we then followed the overladen car of the Hungarians, worrying whether they would scrape the floor. Up a surprisingly well tarmacked hairpin road. Changed in the usual separated and stand offish fashion. Came together with our leaders for the day. Me, Sam, Arun, Peter, Edith, Diss, Yan Jin would be led by Lot, Erik, and "Fancy" (a nickname for which I have forgotten the name).

We chatted a little on the walk about Kanin, and our Hungarian counterparts shared knowing smiles at the mention of Gergely. The entrance to the cave is an overly constructed gated pillar boc affair.

The entrance series, it seems, is 150m vertically down on ladders through mostly quite uninteresting narrow shaft. The bottom has two ways on. Lot led us confidently the "long" way first and a series of entertaining climbs through a cornucopia of calcite and above crystal clear pools quickly brought us to the big sump. It was stunning, you could see a long way underwater. Lot apologised as he had accidentally brought us the "short" way. He had last been here 6 years ago so no wonder his memory was a bit rusty.

Back the way we came and then into the narrow rift from the ladder chamber. Climbs, so many climbs. The Hungarians were confident. Us, less so.

After many sketchy traverses above big drops and deep pools half of our party decided to head out. Peter, Edith and I continued with Lot and Fancy. A few more climbs brought us to a sandy crawl with an entertaining squeeze. The end of the cave was a gravelly sump in a low crawl.

I took some photos on the way out and we bombed up the ladders, out into the sunshine.

Rhys Tyers

Today is definitely going to be the best cave I do in Hungary. The overhanging ladders surprised me when first encountered it. Though the number of formations was not as much as the caves we have been to in the past few days it was one of the most spectacular we have ever seen. The attempt at depicting the cave by drawing failed.


Today was scary. Lots of sketchy climbs with big drops / scary holes to fall in. Also ladders are not okay. Very pretty and some parts were fun though. We left before the end of the long route but the short one was great fun and some fun formations etc.

Our group got changes in the sun a [grade] -1 change according to Rhys meaning we want to take clothes off rather than put them on. Hmm.

The ride back in what almost sleeping(?) and then shopping at two disappointing Lidls/Aldis which didn't have peanut butter. Wine was more expensive than Tesco but they did sell 1l bottles which semi made up for it. Getting back to the house was great - I really needed to pee.

Somehow we forgot the keys so we ended up waiting outside - my bladder was not happy. Ended up being great for us as we lit the fire outside and shared bread, pickled peppers and wine/beer.

I will not be caving tomorrow. These Hungarian caves are nuts.

All in all not too bad a day.

Rebecca Diss

Hey ho! We came back after a long day in the fine field below the Bukk mountains. István-lápai was found by the side of a doline below the car park. The car park was found at the end of a winding road. The road was found in the middle of the Bukk mountains, which are in NE Hungary.

Still, 1 1/2 hours walk from the car parking spot we entered the cave proper, a feat of engineering to stabilise the volcanic ash near the entrance. Then, the interminable ladders to the cave itself. Muddy, horizontal passage to start off with, then flowstone ascents and descents and finally the walk down through Sump III, and over sump II and down to sumps I and IV.

The streamway there is really something where the water has carved deep potholes and rock protrusions shaped in fantastical shapes, among them a duck's head and a heart; the heart of the cave! There was a lot of huffing and puffing due to the high CO2 levels (2.2%, not enough to get drunk on!) but we managed climbing back up a gazillion ladders without too much difficulty.


An awkward wriggle

Interesting and not completely awful day.

Early enough start, diverted drive, 4 Hungarians.

Peter, Diss, Edith, Yan Jin, Rhys, Sam and Myself were doing the shorter trip of the two.

On the way down the unprotected ladder climbs were fun and scary enough to keep me sharp and tense. A short crawl crawl through a pool that smelt like something died in it (a bat apparently).

1 40m ladder descent took us to the horizontal passages at the bottom. There was a beautiful sump with clear, blue water unlike anything I had ever seen before. Rhys took photos, featuring Diss holding Edith by the hook of her oversuit as she posed diving into the sump.

It turns out we had done the short rather than the long route at the bottom so we turned around to clamber through the long route. This started off very fun with lots of careful maneuvers over water and across muddied formations but quickly became un-enjoyable for me.

I have developed an aversion to traverses over rifts/drops without protection and along this passage there were plenty of climbs/traverse that really, really freaked me out. Enough that they had my heart beating at some ridiculous rate and my arms and legs shaking - not pleasant when I am using them to prop myself in a rift with no traction above a 5m drop.

Myself, Sam, Diss and Yan Jin headed back before the sump. Yan Jin had one/two uncontrolled falls, Diss a little freaked also. We headed out reversing the maneuvers from before and helping each other out as we slipped and slid and thrutched our return. Having had my confidence broken I appreciated having my cowstails along. They provided protection on the ladders.

The way up was fine, unpleasant perhaps due to tiring bodies. Several times Diss stood on my shoulders in an attempt to gain some purchase on the slick millenial(?) rock.

Upon exit to serene forest the others caught up and we all left together. Stopped at Aldi and Lidl to buy food.

Alas, we had to eat and drink round a fire

Alas we had no door key. The old man was kind and attempted to help us in but we had to wait for Jack, Tanguy, Kenneth and Larry to return with the key.

We ate bread and pickled peppers, shared a few beers around a fire for ~45 minutes before the return of the keys.

Cook, eat, tidy, photo sesh, bed!

The cave was impressive and novel. I wish my experience were not marred by my fear.

Arun Paul

[Moved to previous day for chronologicalisation]

Gosh, what a two days. I was so exhausted last night I failed to write log entry, but now I shall put to paper a true and faithful account of what occurred.

How to describe István-lápai? There are so many things to recall. Cleaning Kenneth's ear with my pinky. The time Larry almost died. Feeding Tanguy, Kenneth and LArry like a mother bird*? The epic canyon downstream? the other time Larry almost died? [Get on with it...] The high CO2 causing me to gasp like a (?) fish? The other time Larry almost died? So many images and memories tessellate together like infinite refractions in the kaleidoscope of the mind [It's like transcribing one of Tetleys' sensitive underground log book entries].

One of many, many free climbs

The descent was tough ~240m on fixed iron ladders through a narrow rift. I sweated profusely removing my merino layer at the bottom. The tension traverse was impressive and the effort to emplace the ladders even more so. We began to climb a loop of SRT over one pristine flowstone. It was pretty enough but not that incredible. At the apogee we explained at length to Larry that letting go of the rope from his descender was a bad idea but being a practical sort he insisted on testing this idea. Fortunately for him the shitty rigging left the rope so tight it was almost impossible to descend anyway.

Down at the bottom we were reunited with the streamway and we went upstream towards sump II. Sump II was bypassed on big ladders, and sump III had drained leaving thick viscous mud in an almost flat out crawl at the bottom. On each side was a descending epi-phreatic passage around 45 degrees.

*To clarify I merely fed them hand to mouth, rather than pre-digesting their food and regurgitating it directly into their mouths. It was a simile, no an exact analogy.

On the other side the mud was slippery and Larry asked if he could use a black cable as a handline. We'd just been told this was for gathering scientific data so we suggested not. In a fit of pique, Larry shot down planting a mud encrusted welly firmly on Kenneth's left ear, filling it with mud.

On Kenneth's request I attemp to remove the mud with my (relatively clean) pinky, his own hands being filthy*. I succeed in pushing mud deep into his ear.

*Kenneth insists the cats stole his gloves. The rest of us laugh at him for this and he glowers at us.

From Sump II we slid down a few more slopes to the beautiful blue Sump IV surrounded by a circular passage with huge scallops and a floor of coarse sand. This sand apparently makes cave diving impossible.

There Bab (sp?) fed us delicious Hungarian pastries filled with onions and pork and topped with sunflower seeds. I had the clean hands in the group so fed the others. Another odd experience after cleaning Kenneth's ear.

We went back downstream, heading to Sump I which was full. The river cut down creating a canyoning like experience with plunge pools and plentiful falls. The free climbing was fun though Larry had to be reminded to keep close to the ground.

Then came the crux of the trip. The Climb out. My lungs burnt and my heart beat so hard and fast that my ribs ached as I climbed ladder after endless ladder. I genuinely felt I couldn't go on several times only to find that the others were waiting for me and I could get some rest. Larry was disappointingly speedy leaving me struggling to keep up.

After an eternity and a half we were there spilling into the setting sun. We drove back, arriving just after the others who had gone shopping. We cooked, ate, and then I slept, preparing for a 6am start today. A very tough day but it's a great cave! TBC.

Jack Hare

Sunday 2nd May


Szepesi Barlang: Edith Huebner, Ho Yan Jin, Peter Ganson, Rhys Tyers

István-lápai Barlang: Jack Hare, Kenneth Tan, Larry Jiang, Tanguy Racine

We met up with the Hungarian cavers again and visited the same caves but the groups switched so those that went to Istvan-Lapai on Saturday went to Szepesi and vice versa. Three of the group decided not to go to Istvan-Lapai and instead went hiking in the surrounding forest.


Beautiful formation or obstacle?

Today was a good day! Definitely less terrifying and I didn't fear for my life as much. I woke up at 5.30am and spent a good half an hour contemplating whether to cave or hike. Ultimately I thought that I didn't ache as much and why not right? So I caved!

There were many ladders and steps to climb but definitely less tricky than the free climbs from yesterdays cave. I feel pretty good to be out of the cave alive, but am starting to feel the aches. Oh and the tension traverse bridge and crawling through the 3rd sump was really fun.

After dinner we gathered by the fore playing werewolf while roasting marshmallows/drinking wine/eating crisps. I survived the first two round but got killed for the next few. Sad times =(

[A little while later on the same page]

As I am writing this (3/4/17 00:42) Arun is dead smashed lying on the floor (pretty scary that his eyes aren't completely closed) with a mountain of shoes piled on him; Rhys' head is a bit off (but surprisingly still functioning); Rebecca's still going strong on wine; Sam's making himself comfortable; Kenneths' stoning a little and eating. A rather interesting night.

Yan Jin - 7.13pm

What a good day! Obviously the (?) closed off all the raods to get to Lillafued so we had to make a huge detour again. I am sick of Miskolc now. I want to do the rally road. Hopefully tomorrow.

Szepesi was a good cave though,where the downclimbs were really steep between the ladder sections. The free-climbing was quite good - entertaining - fun - scary. We had to get back in "climbing" shape but it didn't take too long to get to the sump both upstream and downstream which were not too (?) blue but still impressive. Anyway we had a good jolly up and down the cascades, (?) and rifts.

Tanguy Racine 7.50pm

Woke up just find out all my body is aching but I went caving anyway. Which is not odd at all since I like and did do crazy things. The climb down and the bottom of the cave has been great. After all the fun I found out that I need to ascend 150 meters of tough caves I saw on the way down. I made it at last. The caves in Hungary are great.


Peter drank the Rose then went to sleep in the toilet.


Monday 3rd May


The group went hiking up Tor-Kö and Haram-Kö and then spent the evening cooking food over the fire to round off the Tour.


Dare ye approach the floaty tree

After 4 days of caving and getting up at 6-7am, we had rather relaxing day of hiking. I'm pretty surprised that everyone got up by 8am. Tanguy made really good eggy bread that made the whole caving trip seem complete, because what's a trip without any bit of an English breakfast?

The hike up was tiring but at least it felt fine going down. We stopped at the top at some meadow, enjoying the sun, the view, the food and of course the company. Memorable bits of the day include Rhys putting the chips bag over his mouth (my description does no justice to this), Rhys and Arun presenting dodgy facts like ants having a colony for some nuclear bunker and seeing a floaty tree.

We were treated to a great BBQ for dinner. Our hearts sank a bit each time food fell though the frill into the fire =( The roasted sweet potatoes and mashed beans with paprika, lime, and garlic were my favourite. We played Werewolf. As fun as the game was, having smoke in our eyes and the wind was enough and we moved into the house.

I can't believe the last few days past so fast. I don't want it to end and I don't want to face the reality of work piling up and the imminent exams. Oh well.

Yan Jin

Tuesday 4th May


We split into two groups with two cars spending the day driving through the mountains with a stop at Eger to see the castle and one car going to Budapest to see the sights. We met up at around 4pm to return the cars and the flight left Budapest around 8pm.


Well here we are, at the end of the tour. After that, memories (?). There has been a lot of enthusiasm and some great teamwork which enabled this venture to happen.

It is funny to think that this originated from a simple message to on of our Hungarian contacts and slowly evolved into something more than just a small idea. I really enjoyed the food and the gentle landscapes which were very different from the previous years' Easter tour. Now thoughts turn towards wait... I mean thoughts turn towards exams of some kind, and revision during our long Easter break.

So that's it, farewell Hungary and thanks to all for a brilliant tour.

Tanguy Racine - 10.45pm

It's been a good trip. To finish things off we took the scenic route back to the airport through the stunning scenery - the brown trees actually had leaves on. Stopped off in Eger to look at the castle which was very cannon-filled.* Rhys got told off for opening windows and we all crawled through some cannon holes and got very chalky/dusty which was fun.

Flight went quickly and now we are waiting for the bus, our numbers down to 5.

It's been swell.

*Don't forget the (?) game in the castle museum.

Rebecca Diss

A very different landscape

It feels like just yesterday that we set off for Easter tour. Frankly I'm not sure why I signed up for it (caving excites yet terrifies me) but I'm really glad I did. We managed to explore caves that were memorable for different reasons - the one with Radish branch for the extensive rock formations; Beke for the clear sump and muddy slides; Szepesi for the tricky free climbs and narrow squeezes; and István for the sumps and high CO2 level. Today Jack, Sam and I headed to Budapest to sightsee, while the rest went to a castle along the motorway.

As I sit here at Gatwick, watching person after person bid farewell - first Larry and Edit at Budapest then Rhys and Jack and Arun and Peter at Gatwick, there's a sense of sadness and realness that the tour has ended and life goes on.

Yan Jin