KATAPHYGI SELINITSAS - The Last Refuge
a journey to the underworld and a return after a quarter of a century
Katafygi Selinitsas - Warm Passages
I would like to thank my friends and companions for sharing
this adventure with me :
Tommy Nawratil for showing me the entrance of the cave in summer 1978. In addition Tommy was fearlessly guiding me through the underwater entrance of the nearby grotto - skin-diving into a dark cave entrance, 3m below sea surface without scuba-gear or torches.
”Alfie” Helmut Schütz for accompanying me in this labyrinth so many times - sometimes under really weird conditions - and for his great photos he made in 1980, 1989 and at his return to Katafygi in 2002. Most of Alfie's original slides got lost in mysterious circumstances for more than 2 decades but were recently rediscovered. Thanks for hints to find the entrance of Katafygi Vatsinidi in 2006. Very special thanks Alfie for guiding me through the "Thin Wall" and beyond it in September 2006 and for your patience to take photos or be photographed at very uncomfortable places.
Andreas Eichinger for teaching us to appreciate the cave environment, the stalactites, stalagmites and the helictites. Andi supported us with a kind of professionyl touch with his cave-equipment. Andi is an official certified cave-guide here in Austria. In the last few years he has guided us - Alfie and me - to and into great caves like the big caves in the "Ötscher"-mountain, "Trockenes Loch", "Nasses Loch" or through"Frauenmauerhöhle". Many thanks Andi for guiding me through the narrow and labyrinthic Warm Passages of Katafygi Selinitsas in 2007 and 2010, into the "Great Hall of Rocks" in 2009 and for supporting our blue-eyed advance to the abyss at the cave-river in 2010, for your endurance and success in our almost never ending search for Katafygi Trachilas and for providing of so many excellent photos - your very professional slides you made together with Alfie in 1989 and all the great digital images shot in the last years.
Thomas Zwach for accompanying us persistently like Alexander von Humboldt at several attempts to find the entrance of Katafygi Trachilas under weird conditions and through and over hostile terrain. Thanks for your unparalleled photos that you took at on our great adventures in Katafygi Vatsinidi and the closeby sea caves and at Katafygi Selinitsas "Great Hall of Rocks", for your endurance and fearless companionship on so many caving adventures during the last years including our bath within Drakos (2011) and our photosession inside the Warm Passages (2013).
Ulli Zwach for adjusting our pace at discovery journeys into the underworld. This leads to the discovery of the "Ulligang" with its untouched calcareous sinter in 2012 and to realize numerous other cave treasures that we have overseen for so many years .
In memory of Lutz Kneisl. Fearless Lutz explored the underground river located under the labyrinthian parts somewhere in the middle of Katafygi. After a spiderlike descent through a narrow cleft he swam naked in these lightless ponds of crystal clear water. Close to that he discovered the entrance to the "Secret Chamber".
Stefan Meutzner for accompanying me on my return to Katafygi after 24 years on September 22, 2004. I met him first the day before under strange circumstances. Within half an hour I lured him into a short exploration of the "White Table". Surprisingly he trusted me, for him a stranger he'd never met before. Next day we entered Katafygi again. After 3 hours we reached almost the very end of the cave. We both did not really know before, how strenuous it is to get there: Stefan did not know at all, because it was the first time in his life he'd visited a cave - and I had forgotten in the last 24 years all the exhausting crawling, climbing and the effort it takes, to navigate this labyrinthian underworld to find a reasonably safe way. In addition I had forgotten all the dirt and very fine dust, we had to crawl through, all the slippery rocks like the "Stone Bridge" just before the "Big Sandcastle" and the shallow pool of water just at the bottom of the "Narrow Gate", a extremly narrow pass leading from the "Treasury" to the very last part of Katafygi. Without a fearless, physically and mentally fit and able companion like Stefan it would have been impossible for me to return to the "Treasury" and beyond. Thank you very much Stefan !
It was very interesting for me to return after a long period of time. In most parts of Katafygi I could not see big changes - but my memory might be too vague. We noticed broken stalactites until to the very last part of the cave - what a pity, caused by rude cave-vandals. On the other hand we found really fast cave-activity had been generating shiny white crystals. A good example can be found close to the "White Table", where our schoolmate "Winston" Reinhard Maurer in his youthful abandon wrote his nickname on the wall in 1979. Now, in 2004, it is almost unreadable covered with white crystals. Note the dates on the following webpages to compare similar photos.
Exploring Katafygi Selinitsas from 1978 to 1980 was one of the greatest adventures in my life, which I had almost lost, due to falling rocks in the cave in 1980. Big rocks coming down from the ceiling missed me just for a few centimetres. On my return in 2004 Stefan and I avoided these unstable parts of Katafygi. Not until 2010 - together with Andi and Thomas - I dared to return to this places. Getting to the "Treasury" and beyond is still a big adventure !
My companions and I decided not to publish the exact location of the entrance or a map of the cave. This is primarily to prevent vandalism, which was already a serious problem when we first entered the cave in the late 70s. It is a sad fact, that vandalism is still continuing. Secondly - besides the danger of slipping and falling into a deep cleft or getting lost in one of the labyrinthic parts of the cave - there are regions with a really unstable rock-environment, where, as I mentioned above, it is very likely to newcomers in speleology to have fatal accidents.
However the location of the entrance and maps can be retrieved from internet by now.
To every inexperienced would-be-speleologist who find the entrance, a SERIOUS WARNING : Never enter Katafygi further than to the "White table" - appox. 40m from the entrance - without a experienced companion. Even exploring that short distance can be dangerous if there are any problems with your light source, you might bang your head on the ceiling or you might slip and fall at the steep and slippery entrance. And don't forget - mobile phones do not function in caves. As far as I know there is no guide to Katafygi available. But if there is a chance to join experienced cave-explorers one should take into account, that your physical condition (lots of crawling and climbing, sometimes in a slippery environment over deep clefts) and mental condition (narrow, dark and labyrinthian place) must be up to the demands of this strenuous and dangerous route into the underworld, to master it and return safely. For all those interested in caves and without professional guidance, equipment or the above mentioned personal abilities, I would personally recommend visiting the caves of Dyros close to Areopolis. There, at the river "Glyfada" or "Vlychada" - one of the most beautiful rivers on, or more precisely, under the earth, you can explore millions of stalactites, mighty stalagmites and numerous helictites. Electric light brightens your path and big halls too. Most of the underground journey - more than 1 km - is effortless in small boats with experienced boatmen and cave guides.
created : 25.7.2000 - updated : 2.2.2014 - © Th.Gramanitsch - © photos: Andreas Eichinger, Thomas Gramanitsch, Helmut Schütz, Thomas Zwach
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