Primož Jakopin - Klok
Jurij Andjelić - Yeti
my caves are on Mt. Pršivec

Yeti in Laze, 1980

We both have a considerable mileage, in the same caving society, often in the same caves. How many years will it be?
          It is 53 years now, in 2020. Time is running so fast.
How would you introduce yourself briefly?
          I was born 27 December 1953 in Šentvid pri Ljubljani, Yugoslavia, to father Ðorđe, a naval officer who later worked as a teacher of mechanical engineering and to mother Slava, a seamstress. After elementary school in Šentvid and Technical secondary school in Ljubljana, where I majored in mining, in 1973, I started to study geology at the University of Ljubljana. After the first year I had to leave the study and enter the compulsory military service, for 15 months. At first I served as an artillery scout in Ćuprija, (now) Serbia, from where I was transferred to Belgrade, in the same capacity, this time in the command platoon of the regiment in the (Tito's) Guard Barracks. After the service I took a job at the Geological Survey of Slovenia in Ljubljana, in the beginning at the drilling works, later at the Department of Hydro and Engineering Geology. From 1999 to my retirement in 2015 I worked as a freelancer, doing a variety of different jobs, contributing into the pension fund by myself.
What brought you to caving?
          In the sixth grade of elementary school, in the spring of 1966, our class had a field trip to Rakov Škocjan caving eldorado, where the shafts, natural bridge and the caves completely overwhelmed me. In the seventh grade, in the same year, I asked Metka Planina (the spouse of Tomaž Planina, long-time president of DZRJL, Ljubljana Cave Exploration Society), my teacher of chemistry and biology, how could I join the ranks of cave exploration people. She told me that I am too young and advised me to come again next year. She thought that I will cool off and forget. I certainly did not, in September 1967 I asked her again and there was nothing she could do to stop me. She told me that cavers (DZRJL) have meetings every Tuesday evening at 7 p. m. in the basement of the Faculty of Arts, in the vicinity of the caving equipment depot (later on the meetings were in the lecture hall 232, of the Department for Geography on the second floor). Next Tuesday I took the trolleybus, number 1, to the Faculty of Arts.
          The first caving field trip, to Kristalna jama (Crystal cave) below Mt. Babji zob near Bled, actually did not go well. There were supposed to be five participants, Rene (Renato Verbovšek), (Vid) Gregorač, Palček (Božo Pirc), Velikan (Vladimir Velikanje) and myself. Because of bad weather, it was raining, Rene did not show up and so Gregorač took the lead. The bus brought us to Bohinjska Bela, we crossed the river Sava Bohinjka and proceeded into the steep slope towards Jama pod Babjim zobom cave. As Rene was the only one to know the location of Kristalna jama we changed the destination to a well known old cave (albeit no crystals there) but in the rainy ravines even that target was out of reach, we failed to locate it. The party returned to Ljubljana, all soaking wet.
          The first true field trip was the following weekend to Brezno pod železnico cave. Below the line Logatec - Planina in the railroad cut a shaft opened. It formed as a sequence of three shafts, 36 m deep in all, France (Šušteršič) led the excursion. I grew up fast to become quite tall but there was no strength yet in my arms, roll ladders tired me very much. I must also admit that the cave was not particularly impressive, more hassle than joy. The next cave, Jama za Teglovko, however was a true cave indeed, with large hall, open shaft and everything a caver would ask for. Deeper shafts followed in the summer of 1968, in Sežana karst, preceded by Najdena jama, Jama na meji and Jama na Milah caves - all in the vicinity of the famous village Laze.
Didn't the Ljubljanska jama cave exploration also take place at that time?
          In the autumn of 1969, I actually went to mountain caves for the first time, and that was the Ljubljanska jama cave in the Kamnik Alps. We also visited the cave in the winter, with crampons and an ice axe, we were exploring Sulčev rov passage. Later you also participated, had quite a serious injury in this cave, when we went with Krivček (Primož Krivic) to explore the bypass tunnel around the 50 m abyss. I will never forget how the huge rock in the meander at the top of the abyss began to close the wall against you and how you then fell into the abyss with it. Otherwise I liked Ljubljanska jama because it is true that it lacks stalactites, but there is also no mud.
          The May Day expedition of 1970 to this cave ended very well, we went up in the snow, when we were in the cave it was snowing all the time and when we returned a day earlier than planned, we managed to descend into the valley safely. A day later we would all be buried under a large snow avalanche. In 1969 we were digging a narrow passage in Drugo taborišče (Second Camp) in Križna jama cave, (Marko) Vogrič, Rene, Bogdan (Kovač) and I, you also joined us a few times. Digging in the continuation of the Koralni rov (Coral Passage) of the same cave followed - with Bogdan and Danč (Daniel Rojšek).
How did it go with Pološka jama cave?
          In September 1970, I first took part in an expedition to this cave. For the first time there was a lot of free climbing - France, Vogrič, Ile, Krivček, Jozl (Jože Pirnat) - we reached the Tiha dvorana (Silent Hall) and the Ljubljana siphon. On November 29, 1971, we bypassed the Ljubljana siphon, we came to Čurko waterfall. There were long cave trips, even 16 hours in one go, without any sleep. In January 1971, we bivouacked at the beginning of the Divja dvorana hall: Futr (Miha Mišič), Čurko (Bogdan Jurkošek), Bogdan, Krivček, Jozl, Manč (Marjan Juvan), Ile (Janez Ileršič) and Rene, in hammocks. Rene just installed himself comfortably in a sleeping bag in a hammock held by two pitons on opposite walls in the passage, and he couldn't help but say: F..k how cute it is, no s..t what a good time we are having, and proceeded with: As he said this, the piton pulled itself out of the wall. That very moment it really happened. The piton loosened, fell off the wall and Rene's back slammed to the ground from half a meter height - fortunately his head remained intact. We came out of the cave a few days later, it was Sunday, and a TV crew with top reporter Tomaž Trček was waiting for us in the nearby village, Polog. That evening we were the stars in the main news update on Slovenian TV.
          We continued to explore the Pološka jama cave. In July 1971 we freely climbed a few chimneys and deepened, little by little, the deepest Yugoslavian cave from 538 m to 630 m. At that time it was an achievement on a global scale, Pološka jama even became the cave with the largest height difference (from the bottom up) in the world, before Lamprechtsofen.
Brezno pri gamsovi glavici cave (BPGG) must have followed the Pološka jama?
          True. We have just returned from this cave trip when railway caving people (Jamarski klub Železničar) came to our society's (DZRJL) meeting at Faculty of Arts and asked if anyone would join them in the exploration expedition on Planina Viševnik above Lake Bohinj, in Brezno pri gamsovi glavici, 200 m deep at the time. Two of us were willing to go, Bogdan and I, but Bogdan didn't show up and so I went alone with them. On that expedition we reached the depth of 368 m, the cave continued and we decided to continue the exploration next year. The experience from Pološka jama helped me a great deal in progressing through the meanders, so that I could lead the party. The following year, in August 1972, the same team reached Brezupna dvorana (Hopeless Hall) at -444 m. In September I then led the bottom team of society's (DZRJL) expedition to the end of the Hopeless Hall. I let the other members of this team: Krivček, Jozl, Nace (Sivec), Rado (Smerdu) and Manč to go on and they came to the conclusion that the continuation was not passable. During the derigging of the cave on return we descended into an abyss, where the water flow was disappearing, we found out that there is an open continuation, but we had no time to proceed, we had to return. Through active water passages we came from the bivouac at -280 m to a depth of 330 m. There, while ascending in the abyss, I swung onto a dry ledge, from where a short meander continued with a draught and an impassable squeeze at the bottom. The society (DZRJL) did not go to the cave again, the bottom team canceled their participation, the railway people also gave up, and in 1973 I made the first descent with a single rope technique, only on ropes (without ladders) with Adrian Wilkins, our dear friend from Bristol, UK. We carried 600 m of Edelried dynamic ropes (11 mm and 9 mm) into the cave, they stretched like chewing gum, everything was without intermediate anchorages. We equipped the cave up to -330 m without drilling, all was pure improvisation. We used just ordinary pitons or we installed the rope around the rock outcrops. In one place it was especially wild, from a downward-facing flat rock we installed the rope slightly up, and over the rock edge into a 50 m abyss (from -250 m to -300 m). We put an empty transport bag on the edge so that the rope would not rub. We had to keep the rope tense at all times so that it would not slide from the flat rock. After a series of drops, following the water flow, we came to an impassable vertical crack at -374 m, we were completely soaked. After surveying the newly discovered part, and on our return we also derigged the cave. It was a seemingly never-ending return, carrying more and more weight the higher we were, the cave trip exceeded 20 hours, in one go.




The bottom team: Nace, Rado, Krivček, Jozl, Yeti and Manč (clockwise from top left) at the entrance of BPGG, September 1972

          In 1975 I was in the army, but I came on leave and with Jaka Jakofčič we went to explore the meander at -300 m, at the bottom of that abyss. Again just single rope technique. We dug a passage, lowered the rope, crawled under a larger block and descended 10-12 m to the bottom of the meander. The tunnel opened, the cave contnued. As we were about to move on, first a few pebbles flew in from the top where the rope hung, then it thundered loudly and the passage at the top of the abyss was closed - we were walled up alive. After a brief assessment of the situation, we would have to wait for a long time before the rescue team would reach us, and they would have to dig up the passage. We still had some food and ropes - I suggested that we move on. Better that than freezing in place. We progressed along the meander forward, but after only a few meters we came across a pile of waste, old empty cans. Luck in misfortune - we came to the old part, at least the rescue team won't have to dig us out. But my heart commanded me to try more and we tried to freely climb the 25 m abyss back up to the bivouac. I made a free climb 20 m high, then secured Jaka so that he reached me, after which I had 5 m left over a steep muddy slope. I pushed the hammer into the mud, glued myself to the mud, and somehow scrambled over the edge of the abyss, to the bivouac. I also secured Jaka and the first part of the problem was solved. The only nuisance that remained was the fact that the rope was running straight down the abyss, on the other side of it, some 10-15 m away from the bivouac. I climbed 5 m to top of a giant block, to reach the edge of the second part of the abyss. Jaka attached a rope below (it was not possible to attach it on top of the block), it was led over the block and over it down 15 m to the bottom of the abyss, to the place where the rope hung, which we used to get there. I descended to the bottom and noticed with horror that the block, about a ton of it, under which we crawled to get through, sat down and closed the passage completely. Luckily, the rock avalanche didn't pinch the rope, there was a hole, about a fist large, through which I managed to pull the rope back. I ascended on the rope 50 m to the top of the abyss, pulled out the rope and lowered it to the other side of the abyss so that it reached Jaka and he could also return. Thus, the self-rescuing ended successfully. Pure luck. It didn't get completely buried just on that occasion, but the reader will learn about it later.


Yeti, after he got up from the tent in the morning, close to Brezno pri Gamsovi glavici, September 1972

          In 1976, I slowly recruited a new team with whom we continued the exploration at Gamsova glavica. We found a shortcut past the Harmonica meander and began to widen the narrow vertical passage with good draught in the meander below the bivouac, we later named it Mučilnica (The Torture Chamber). Marko Kraševec constructed a special drilling device, one end was supported by the left wall of a narrow meander, and the other end was a hand operated drill, which received enough pressure over the thread so that it was possible to drill a hole with diameter approx. 14 mm in the opposite wall. While drilling (turning the drill manually) I was hanging upside down in the narrow passage while all the tools, the wrench, the drill parts, were attached to my belt with strings. I filled the 15 cm deep hole with Vitezit 40 plastic explosive, I added an electric detonator and filled the last 5 cm of every hole with clay. I drilled only three holes. We retreated to the bivouac at -280 m and from there we tried to activate the detonators with a 4.5 V flat battery. Nothing happened. After taking into consideration the fact that a telephone wire with steel threads was used, I concluded that the wire's resistance was too big. We telephoned from the bivouac to the surface and asked that someone should be sent to Ljubljana, to the DZRJL depot, to fetch an insulated copper wire. Vojc (Vojko Mahorčič) did the job and returned the same evening with 50 m of such wire. The next day, Ižanc (Anton Brancelj) or maybe Sabla (Janez Sabolek) delivered it to the bivouac, and after replacing the wire, it thundered when I tried again. It was already the last day of the expedition and we were in a hurry to get home, so we left an inspection of what was achieved for the next expedition, for the next year.
          It was an interesting experience in the cave on occasion of the 1976 earthquake in Furlanija (Friuli) in Italy. We were at a depth of about 250 m, above Brezno treh (The Abyss of Three) when heard a muffled thunder. A few smaller rocks were also flew down the abyss, but nothing special. We later learned that this was an autumn earthquake in Friuli.

Yeti during geodetic measurements on Mt. Pršivec, near Botrova jama, August 1987. Photo by Janez Vengar (published with permission)

          In 1977 we managed to get through the narrows at -327 m. During the first cave trip they were only supposed to rig the cave till that depth, but at the initiative of Franc Malečkar they went right through the squeeze, and they got stuck at -418, in the next squeeze. I was there during the next trip, we made a survey and on return discovered a turn-off in the dry passage. In 1978, we continued from there, we discovered a 40 m abyss in dry clay, and arrived to the same water that stopped me and Adrian Wilkins in 1973. It continued in narrow meanders, at the end of which there was an abyss. On one of the later excursions to the cave the team was just Sabla and his girlfriend Andreja (Žagar). Since they didn't contact Ljubljana until the evening, a rescue team left Ljubljana at night and arrived in the early morning hours to the cave entrance, where we met them. They reached a depth of 470 m, from where a larger abyss could be seen through a squeeze. The next time Sabla, Malečkar and I went, at -470 m we hung hammocks in a triangle in a meander and named this bivouac Bermudski trikotnik (Bermuda Triangle). We widened the squeeze and descended over a 50 m abyss in two stages to the next meander, later called Obupni meander (Desperate Meander, narrow and muddy). Malečkar and I surveyed it on return, Sabla continued to rig the abyss, I went back to the bivouac myself, they both continued exploration. After a few short shafts, at the bottom of the last one, they removed some larger rocks of a collapse and found themselves in a larger hall without mud. In the upper direction they came to Masa dvorana (Mass Hall), and going down they reached a lake and returned. Water from the lake flowed into a collapse. On the next action, it was just Sabla and I, we came to a pond, and it turned out that the water was flowing from the collapse. We proceeded around the lake on dry land and reached a larger tunnel, the Triglav tunnel with an active water flow, where we were stopped at a depth of 620 m by the next lake. On the way to the lake there was a turn-off into which the water was disappearing and a larger abyss with a waterfall could be seen. We made a survey, went out, and left further exploration for the next summer. Every time there was no continuation in sight, Malečkar did not come, and whenever there was one, he immediately came along. This is also how the famous winter cave trip took place in January 1979, when Malečkar and Sabla went to the cave in most unfavorable, winter conditions. They only took two ropes, using the so-called Yusar technique, when they left only very slim (probably 3) mm thick ropes in every shaft, with which they lifted one of the two proper (carrying) ropes on their return. They reached another lake (10 m long) and climbed over the collapse into a huge gallery, which led them to a depth of 768 m, where the cave ended in a giant hall with sand on the bottom (Gobi). In the active part of the cave, they crossed all the waterfalls and stopped above an abyss, at a depth of about 735 m. In the summer of 1979, the society organized another large expedition, we set up the camp in Triglavski rov (Triglav tunnel), at a depth of 600 m, we descended into the active parts, also down the abyss, where Sabla and Malečkar stopped. After 15 m, at a depth of 756 m, the cave ended with a siphon.
          In the meantime, in 1979 we discovered the Majska jama (May Cave), a very demanding cave on Pršivec, and until 1984 we explored it to the siphon at -585 m.
          In 1986, after seven years, there was another major expedition to Gamsova glavica, we installed a telephone wire from the entrance to the Triglav tunnel. The camp there rov was washed away by high waters, and the equipment from it was scattered in the lower parts of the cave. A bottle of Havana club rum survived, it got stuck in a crevice and we drank it with joy. We now set up the camp higher, out of reach of the flood, at least we hoped it would be the case. There was also a live broadcast from the bivouac to Val 202, popular program on Radio Ljubljana. Radio technicians (Vili Natlačen and Stane Košmrlj - Šibica) made sure that we went on the air via the transmitter on Mt. Vogel, all was led by Lenča (Alenka Terlep).

Kornati archipelago, once upon a time. Drawing, Vladimir Posypai 2022, after a photo by Janez Vengar: Jana and Petra, Kornati 1987 (published with permission)

Your most ravishing and your most difficult caving experiences?
          What was the worst? There were several such occasions.
          Doza (Andrej Gosar) in Majska jama (May Cave)
          Doza went first, along a horizontal passage which lowered into a small shaft, a little over 2 meters deep. He descended into it, found it was blind, and he wanted to return. But the shape of the space was like a mousetrap. It was easy to descend into it, yet there were no foot holds to help him push up, and the walls were slippery so that friction also could not be used to propel himself upwards. When we (Doza assumes that in addition to Yeti, Miha Praprotnik and Gregor Pintar were also present) dragged him back out, his shoulders and head were already horizontal, but his lower back and legs still hung in the empty space and he was unable to lift his backside high enough because the ceiling was too low. In the lower part of the horizontal meander there was a small hole, which we widened so much, that we could push some larger stones through it. Doza assembled the stones with legs into a small pile so that he could lift himself about 20 cm high, and we were able to pull him out.
          Rebelay in Skalarjevo brezno cave
          While descending towards the bottom, I was on anchor on top of a 100 m shaft, at a depth of 800 m. I was fastened with a short lanyard (umbilical cord), I already had a descender loose when Rile (Dejan Ristič) drove from above to the shelf next to the anchor. We became entangled in a short conversation, during which I forgot that I had not yet attached the descender to the lower rope. I had one foot leaning against the vertical wall, the other hanging in the air over the overhang. With one hand, I grabbed the carabiner at the anchor, pushed off the wall with my foot, and pulled my hand up so I could detach the umbilical cord, I loosened my other arm to put a load on the descender properly, and noticed with horror that it wasn't attached to the rope at all. So hanging on one arm, I pushed my foot off the wall and with explosive power in an instant pulled myself so high that the other arm with the umbilical was able to swing towards the carabiner on the anchor and, to my great luck, also grabbed it successfully.
          When I was buried in Cefizelj cave
          Cefizlova jama cave, rightly also called the Cave with the greatest number of excavated passages, is my last cave on Mt. Pršivec. During one of the advances into its depths (Cile - Rafko Urankar, recalled that it was in the summer of 1987), I searched for a passage forward among the huge collapse blocks. I came to a smaller hall, when it started to rumble behind me. A few large blocks moved and there was no going back. The two or three guys who were above me, for certain there were Franček (Franci Gabrovšek) and Cile, first made an audio check that everything was fine with me. Then the question of how to get me out arose. Along the wall between the ceiling and the collapse, we, by voice, determined the best place for digging. Fortunately there were a few meters of smaller material in the collapse. I was digging from below, triggering the rocks to fall down, Franček and Cile were digging from above. We dug for about an hour, and then first a small slit opened up. We enlarged it, little by little, until it was big enough. After we finished further exploration we all returned through it to the surface. We worked in the cave from about 1988 to 1990, approximately.
          Bina (Martina Bergant) in Renejevo brezno cave
          It was the end of September 2003, there were five of us on the expedition, including Bina, Ivo Sedmak, Rok Stopar and Dušan Tominc. We were in the fossil galleries at the bottom of the cave, at a depth of about 1070 m. The continuation was closed by a narrow and high squeeze, later we named it Bina's slit, in which a flat rock was stuck. Above the rock, slender as she is, she managed, with some help, to get through to top of the abyss above Burek, where she heard water. When she wanted to return, it was a no go. The squeeze was so narrow that she had to go through it sidewise, on the hip, and she managed to pass through because the passage was going slightly downwards. But on the way back it was upwards and there were no footholds. As she pushed up, her caving suit stuck to the rock and end of story. She tried many times, there was no room to help her properly, and I guessed from her voice that she was starting to panic. Panic, however, is never good, especially not in such a case. I pushed the youngs back, and reassured her first that it would go, we just have to proceed nice and easy. I probably had the longest arm of them all and I stretched it as far as I could, and pushed it between the rock and Bina's hip. I told her I would pull her when she starts to push back. We tried, I pulled more lightly, and she screamed, it hurt. It just didn't work. I reached a little further with my hand and told her to push back as much as she could. I counted: One, two, and on three she pushed back, I pulled as hard as I could. This time she didn't scream, but roared in pain, and she was through. We then left the passage alone for the time being. A year later, after five hours of work, Rok and I pulled the rock out, in the autumn of 2004, so that the cave could continue, to -1.114 m.

Matija, Yeti and Lanko (Franc Marušič) on return from Copacabana beach in Renejevo brezno, 15 October 2006, photo by Bojana Fajdiga (published with permission)

          Dular affair, also in Renejevo brezno
          Matej was returning from the cave earlier than the others and he pulled the rope up behind him, as always, at the lowest anchor in Džomba shaft, at -500 m. After rebelaying to the higher rope he lowered the first rope again so that people behind him could reach it, and he did not lower it enough. We could not reach it. We were very lucky that he did not go straight down to the valley, but waited at the entrance for some time. And when we failed to show up, he suspected something was wrong and descended again to -500 m. We had to wait only for three hours.
          With Marko Modic up the waterfall
          The wildest of all that happened to me in caves was definitely the "drowning" with Marko Modic in Brezno pri gamsovi glavici in 1981. After almost a week in the cave, the rest of the team had already set off towards the surface, which took about 8 hours. Mare and I spent a few more hours lazing at the bivouac. On the way back, when we were under the Mučilnica (Torture Chamber) shaft at a depth of about 350 m. I sent Mare forward up the rope. When passing through the narrow part, in addition to the main rope, we also had an approx. 3 meter long hauling rope with a large knot at the end. When passing down, you dropped a transport bag, one or two, along this by rope, and it waited you at the knot below the squeeze. On the way up you hung the transport bag at the knot, you pushed yourself slowly through the squeeze, and lifted the transport bag when you were done. After a long pushing and pulling, Mare shouted that I could climb. I yelled again, just in case, if he was through and he answered yes. As I ascended to the squeeze, I was horrified to find out that Mare was waiting for me just under it, on the auxiliary rope for transport bags, its bearing capacity was not more than about 200 kg. It was clear he was waiting for me to help him through. As I pushed through the squeeze along the rope upwards, a muffled thunder began to echo across the cave, louder from moment to moment.
          At first I didn't know what it was about, but I quickly grasped that a large amount of water suddenly entered the cave. I reassured Mare that the water would start flowing, but that it would go down the middle of the shaft and that it would not be a big deal. Once I had climbed out of the squeeze and also helped Mare to climb out, a small stream began to flow down the meander. At the top of the squeeze is a short meander and behind it a shaft that runs past the Torture Chamber and along which one has to pass on the way out. The entrance to the meander is in the middle of the abyss, it is a large balcony. A very solid waterfall was falling down the shaft. There was no way out. What to do? I knew that there must be a severe storm outside, but that the water flow would sooner or later subside. Either wait for it in the meander and freeze (danger of hypothermia), or take a risk and climb right through the waterfall. Mare, you go first, I decided, for safety's sake. As he swung under the waterfall I heard a horrible roar and then he started to climb. In the thunder of the waterfall, after a while, I heard the mixing of some other sounds, which I understood as if he was already up. I tied his and my transport bag to the end of the rope and swung under the waterfall. It was like someone would be hitting me on the head with a sledge hammer. In an instant, I was too soaking wet, ascending as fast as I could. The shaft is 25 m deep, and the last quarter is not vertical but slightly oblique. I could feel the water aerosol accumulating in my lungs, but I still climbed to the slope, and then it wasn't so bad anymore, because the water was pounding in my chest and no longer on my head. When I climbed out, I couldn't immediately release my arms, they were gripped by cramps. We also managed to pull out the transport bags and climb freely 15 m higher, over the rapids, along which the water foamed. We were more or less safe, but Mare was left without a light (it died out), I gave him my carbide lamp, and I climbed with an electric one - there were no LED lights yet, it was a flat-battery powered Pile Wonder. We managed to reach a depth of 100 m over various jets of water, when my light also died out. I attached myself to the rope and climbed in the dark - I knew all the rebelaying anchors by heart. At first, my headlight was still glowing faintly, soon it was pure darkness. We climbed to the entrance abyss. It was night, it was raining outside and lightning was tearing the sky apart. We climbed out, spent some time in the tent in front of the entrance, later we wrote in the diary: Pobegli grobaru s lopate. (in Serbian, (We) Escaped the gravedigger from the shovel.. In caving suits and all the gear we proceeded to the mountain lodge on Vogar (over an good hour of brisk walking). When we entered the hut dressed like that, there was a considerable pêle-mêle, there was a party going on. Someone called out: Look, firefighters (we had red PVC caving suits). When the lady of the house arrived she recognized me: Oh, Yeti! And I back to her: What day is it today and what time is it? It turned out that it was Saturday and it was one hour past midnight. Then she took care of us, there was hot tea, we changed into dry clothes, and we slept almost until noon.

Shades of blue, Julian Alps, September 2010. Photo by J. Andjelić (published with permission)

          And the most gratifying experience? Two events remained in my fondest memory.
          One was the connection of Botrova jama (Godfather's Cave) and Brezno pri gamsovi glavici
          Botrova jama is excellent up to a depth of 380 m, to Blatni dol (Muddy Valley) where the muddy meanders with running water on the floor begin. They include a section where you crawl just above the water, under a low ceiling and stay dry only with a lot of luck. Sabla had the status of a star caver in the society at the time, there was Sabla, nothing for a long time, and then everyone else. We were two and we were negotiating our way to the next shaft, for which we however did not have any spare rope. I drilled a hole and hammered a bolt in it for the next time rope will be available and we headed back through the water squeeze. In the meantime, Sabla descended to us and wanted to move on at all costs. When I told him that it was an hour crawl to the abyss, that we have no rope and that we could not proceed without it, he insisted that he must have a look, if you two couldn't scale that shaft I probably could. In the cold, clinging on footholds just above the water, we waited - also Jana (Bučar, she was my girlfriend at the time), who came with Sabla - the outcome of his venture. He came back in two hours and said: F..k, it's really an hour to get there and you really can't descend into the shaft without a rope. So it is, so it goes. Next time it was Sabla, Aladin (Joc - Jože Žibert) and Rambo (Aleksander Štrukelj). They reached beautiful clean washed parts, after the shaft in the meander, and surveyed the part from the lake to the end, and in the washed parts they found a branch with a draught. Next time after that, on a cold November day in 1987, it was Sabla, Gregor, myself and maybe someone else (Cile assumes it might be Miha). We followed the draught and found a shaft, fixed the rope and when I was the first to descend. I did not have to hit the bottom, on the rope already it was clear to me that we reached Gamsova glavica. The feelings were indescribable.
          Second, even more beautiful event, was the discovery of a gallery which leads to the Copacabana beach in Renejevo brezno cave.
          It was in 2006, the second cave trip after the one, when Matija managed to squeeze through the blocks of the Minotaur's rock garden. We started to widen the squeeze at the collapse in the middle of the tunnel. These trips were long, 50 hours in one go, over the weekend. On Friday afternoon we descended to the bivouac Pr' Gabrčku at -750 m and slept there. This time we were three, also Lanko and Matija. On Saturday we got up early in the morning and continued through the known parts of the cave, Kolektor, to the collapse. There were three large rocks. A caver grabbed the left one, lifted it up a bit and held it in position so that the other caver could lift up the right one, thus relieving the largest rock of the three, which then fell between the two previous ones into the depths, followed immediately of course by the other two rocks. Through the higher parts of the Kolektor (above the water) we moved on, we reached a larger hall, made a free climb about 20 m high, where we encountered the flowing water again. From there the water tunnel continued, descending slowly, with rapids, all was closing with some strange collapsed flat rocks. We chose a point (later it turned out to be at about -1.200 m) from which we would make a survey on the way back. Just before the start I convinced them to climb between the collapse blocks a little higher, about 10-15 m, because I heard an echo from that side. The effort paid off, a huge tunnel opened up that led us to a lake with a sandy beach. Subsequent survey showed a depth of 1.240 m. After an immense excitement, when the passions had subsided a little, we returned to the old point, chosen as a start of survey and measured back to the already known part of the cave. From there we returned to the bivouac, very tired but very happy. This part of the expedition, from bivouac to bivouac, lasted more than 20 hours. We rested a little in sleeping bags and reached the surface five hours later. All together lasted for a total of 50 hours. This discovery was a balm on the wound of disappointment in Gamsova glavica, when the discovery of Yusar was stolen from me by the forced winter expedition of Malečkar and the voluntary sacrifice of Sabolek.

Yeti, at the entrance to BC4 abyss on Kanin, before the first crossing to Mala Boka cave, 17 December 2005

You have created a beautiful home here in the Tolmin mountains. Was it hard?
          I always wanted to have contact with nature, I felt bad in urban environments and a stagnant society. And in a way, I succeeded. I visited the Banjščice plateau with cavers, I was here also on business, because of the caves and geology, a lot was done also on Lokovška planota plateau. I was inquiring about some real estate and found out that a house is for sale here, in the hamlet of Koren. In the late summer of 1991, the old farmhouse, which also included a barn, had been empty for several years, and the owners had built a new one in Kal nad Kanalom. In addition to the house, there were four hectares of land, meadows, forest, fields. I made the roof first, then I slowly moved on. The water is provided by the rain from the roof, I made the electrical wiring around the house by myself, based on knowledge acquired in the high school - yet everything was still done according to the regulations. In 1999, when I stopped working at the Geological Survey, I moved here from Ljubljana. I am satisfied here, I would find it hard to find a better location and a better way of life than I have here. There is much less pressure here than anywhere else.

View of the house from the south, Yeti, 2020

What about the matters of the heart?
          What can I tell you? There has been a lot of talk about me and all my babes, but I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that all those who meet their chosen one soon and are able to be with her for the rest of their lives are very lucky. Many of us, myself included, have not had that luck.
          We have a son from my first serious relationship, I kept in touch with him, we still understand each other well. However, this relationship could not last, we were not ready for it, and a play of unfavorable circumstances also had its share - the new relatives were very successful in their efforts to remove me. I met the love of my life soon after, but after all I had been through, I wasn't so wise as to really understand the opportunity I had in hand and embrace her fully on time. When I lost her, many relationships came, but my heart was still elsewhere. The women soon found it out, plus my life was slightly off track, and so they left.
          Life went on, years passed, man slowly gets wiser.
          And after the rain, the sun shines again, Nevia and I have been living in this beautiful place for several years now, we love each other and we get along very well.

Nevia and Lenča, Članska vas, 26 May 2018

Where else, except in Slovenia, have you also been caving?
          Except in Slovenia and our former homeland Yugoslavia, I did not go caving anywhere else. However, in 1987 I joined a mountaineering expedition to the Bolivian Andes, to the Cordillera Real. I climbed Bolivia's second highest peak, Illimani (6438 m), and Huayna Potosí (6088 m). The most interesting thing of all was that I only had high hiking boots, Adidas model Super trekking, I put crampons on them and happily scaled both peaks.
          I was also involved in paragliding, in the pioneering times of this sport. And I must admit that I was also quite lucky with it. On one occasion in the winter I was flying from below Mt. Kogel (elevation 2,100 m), in completely unsuitable conditions, the north wind was blowing. When the thermals lifted me to the turbulent streams, my parachute closed and I lost about 50 meters in a free fall, when the parachute opened again. As if I would be driving on a bumpy road, the parachute closed again, for a few moments, opened again, and I sailed into a thick fog of low clouds. I didn't see anything for a few painful minutes, until the outlines of the Kamniška bistrica valley began to appear below me. Under the clouds, the air was completely calm and I finished the flight by landing on the lawn at the "Pri Jurju" inn without any problems. It was even more dramatic on Slivnica, when my parachute also closed, I dived about 100 meters into the forest and after an incredible play of circumstances I landed. Rather hard, that is, my feet left huge footprints in the grassy slope. Many friends had serious accidents at that time - e.g. Rene with Žan's kite on the Bloke plateau in the spring of 1976 or 1977. The wind first lifted him off the ground and then rammed him back down. When he landed on the wing it ended in a complicated fracture of the arm between the elbow and the shoulder. He was on sick leave for half a year.
At the BC4 cave, in December 2005, you had very nice hiking boots and crampons. You said they were from Namche Bazar. On what occasion did it happen?
          It was in 1986 when we went to the Everest trek. We had a good time, I was there for the first time, the organizer canceled his participation at the last minute and we had to go by ourselves, but we did manage quite well.
          In 1990 we went to the Annapurna trek and on this occasion Franci Klun and I went to the Kang guru (7,000 m). A member of our team, who was supposed to help carry us the equipment up to 6,000 m, didn't go. So we only got to 6,000 on our own, a little further, but we realized that it was too much, that it was a smarter decision not to go. We returned to the tent, slept and the next day descended to the valley, to the village of Nargaun, which is 10 km from the Chinese border and where tourists rarely showed up. The village was more like a typical Tibetan village from 300 years ago, we slept in the village twice and then descended over the saddle along the glacier to the village of Manang between Annapurna and Chulu East (6,584 m).

Ama Dablam, 6,812 m, view from the southwest. 1986, photo by J. Andjelić (published with permission)

You and Mič (Anton Simonič) also rowed quite a lot along the Adriatic.
          After a severe shoulder injury in a bicycle accident in 2009, the doctor told me that he would put me back on track, but that I would never climb and go caving again. Of course it wasn't that bad, I'm still going to the caves now, I managed to descend to -1,200 meters after that. As for rowing: I knew Mitch likes paddling a lot so I told him I would like to give it a try myself. In 2010 we went rowing to Istria peninsula a few times for a day or two, but later it all got more real. In 2012 we rowed from Korčula to Piran, in 2013 from Dubrovnik to Rijeka, and in 2014 there was a failed trip to Vis - we started in Srim near Vodice, but due to bad weather we could get no further than Pakleni otoci (Hell Islands) near Hvar. In 2015 we took the same route again, this time successfully, in 2016 we rowed from Punta Križa on Cres island to the south around Dugi otok and back, from Silba straight to Punta Križa in one go, in 2017 we rowed from Ston to Mljet and on to Lastovo and along Pelješac back to Ston, in 2018 from Montenegro to Portorož, in 2019 from Šibenik to Rijeka. It was, as our South Slavic brothers would put it so pictorially, svega i svačega, everything and anything, and a few times, it happened that, as we say in Slovenian, mi je kuzla v rit skakala - literally bitch was jumping in my ass, could be translated as I was in a very deep trouble. Or to put it nicer, it was adrenaline pumping. When we rowed from the island Biševo back to Komiža on Vis island (2015) we were caught by a strong wind and there were such waves that sailboats would lie flat on the water (on their sides). We rolled over the water hills and valleys towards Vis. It was only then that I just realized what adrenaline tastes like, I had my mouth full of it. I had to be completely focused all the time, watching closely every wave. To be overturned by kayak at that time was not an option, I do not even dare to imagine how all this could end. The distance from Biševo to Komiža is about two miles, but we went with the wind and waves across the entire Komiža Bay, and at the very end we managed to reach the mainland diagonally. It was a voyage of over 5 miles.
          I would rather not discuss how we spent the nights, we just had to find a way to do it, many a good soul helped us with this. To avoid problems with coast guard we also made an effort when sailing to look as serious as possible, even from afar. We always had life jackets on, we had hats for sun protection, we paddled at the same pace, calmly, steady in the same course.

Yeti, at the end of the rowing marathon from Molunat at the Montenegrin border to Portorož (over 300 nautical miles), 21 July, 2018

What advice would you give to all the caving newbies?
          No matter what you do, what you are up to, it is also true for caving that you have to tackle the matter with your heart, soul and body. For me, caving has been a true passion from the start on, an adventure into the unknown. And when, after a long hard effort, or by a happy coincidence, you get somewhere where no human has yet set foot, the feeling is truly indescribable, for many it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The harder the path to there, the sweeter the feeling.
          To be honest, when I was about to decide whether to go caving or not, I was very impressed by the book One thousand Metres Down (Jean Cadoux and others, One thousand Metres Down / A Journey to the Starless River, 1957, translated into Slovenian by Henrieta Kunaver in 1963, 158 pages, Globus collection, No. 32, note PJ).
This book, about exploring the world's first cave, deeper than 1,000 m, the Gouffre Berger abyss in the French Alps, I too will never forget. Most of all, a quote from this book, when the team was returning home after one of the cave trips: The way home was another of those deadly rides, when the driver drove with only one eye and slept soundly with the other ...
          I can add something here, too. When we came from Renejevo brezno cave, once again at night, around the year 2000, it was not possible to sleep at the entrance, so we went straight to the valley instead of going somewhere else to sleep. It was foggy, we also got a little lost along the way and got to the cars at the cable car B station towards the morning. It was Lanko, Bina and me, maybe there was someone else. I had my first car, a Škoda Felicia station wagon, I was alone in the car. I managed somehow to stay awake down the unpaved road from Gozdec to Bovec. Once I hit the asphalt, however, it didn't go any further than a few hundred meters - I woke up when it started to rumble, the car was already halfway in the ditch. I slowly maneuvered it back onto the road. Front left wheel was completely destroyed, the wheel rim and the tire, the left rear wheel was also affected, but it was still in (slow) driving condition. I came home with the spare wheel.


Primož Jakopin: In the window of a cave passage / Nude in pink and turquoise, color composition, 2020, after a motif from 2006 (here presented as a raster reproduction, 900 x 676 pixels).

At the end two a little less caving questions. Your favorite music?
          Pink Floyd in general, the song Shine On You Crazy Diamond in particular.
And your favorite color?
          Turquoise. Light blue with a shade of green. The color of the Soča river.

Related posts:

  Stojan Sancin - Santa from Boljunec (Bagnoli della Rosandra), October 2020   Kudrat Poënovič Radžabov, Dehibolo elder, December 2021  

This page, text and images by Primož Jakopin - Klok, except where noted otherwise below the picture - in such case the copyright belongs to the photographer, who gave permission for publication on this page. The page was ameliorated by remarks, clarifications and opinions by Franc Marušič - Lanko, Bojana Fajdiga, Vitalij Martynenko, Janez Vengar - član Giovanni, who also agreed with a drawing of Vladimir Posypai based on his photograph, Rafko Urankar - Cile, Andrej Gosar - Doza, Matija Perne, Tomi Lajovic, Joc Žibret - Aladin and Aleksander Štrukelj - Rambo. Adrian Wilkins checked the translation and his remarks improved the text considerably, Katarina Kosič - Ficco clarified the translation of Slovenian term "luska". Send inquiries and comments to primoz jakopin guest arnes si (insert dots and at sign as appropriate).
Page in Slovenian was initiated on May 13, 2020. Translation into English was made in May and November 2020, date of last change: September 7, 2022.