On 14 December 2019, a cave visitor in his middle thirties sustained severe injuries in Ferenc-hegyi Cave. Twenty-seven members of the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service went out to the location and took part in the rescue operation.
After our medical team assessed and provided treatment for the patient on the spot, we managed to bring him into proper condition for transport. We placed him into a drag stretcher designed for special rescue purposes and carried him to the surface. This part of the rescue operation took five hours. Then we handed the injured person into the care of the Hungarian National Ambulance after midnight.
... We are shortly before Christmas, there are many caving tours (cave walks or adventure caving tours open for public) in the caves around Budapest. Our researchers and cavers also descend into caves like the Solymári Ördöglyuk (Devil's Hole at Solymár), the Mátyás-hegyi Cave, the Szemlő-hegyi Cave and the Ferenc-hegyi Cave.
At the beginning of next year, several basic level caving courses will be launched, which will be preceded by caving occasions.
You can register for these open occasions, which offer good opportunity to get acquainted with caves not accessible for the public (not substantially modified as “show-caves”, there are no tourists’ paths paved and equipped with artificial lighting).
Here, qualified tour guides will accompany the applicants to show the beauties of the underground world, hoping that the wonders of this incredible world will captivate a few of them. Someday they will be the cavers of the future. A while ago, most of us - most of the cave rescuers – also started like this, we joined to a team of speleologists as curious amateurs. As we went through the courses, we became cavers, then tour guides, and later cave rescuers.
These caving tours and the basic level caving courses are playing very important role in the nurturing and replenishment of the next generation of cavers.
The man injured in Ferenc-hegyi Cave today was spelunking with a group of seven people and tour guides, in a cave, which is not a “show-cave” and which is - in some places - difficult to walk, also he wasn’t an experienced caver. While climbing up, his leg twisted due to a rock, broke off right under his feet, he suffered shoulder injury when he tumbled. After the accident the tour guides notified the cave rescuers for help.
The accident occurred in the Eastern part of the cave, in the "New Part", in the No. 3 main southeast branch, about 300 meters from the entrance. This section of the cave is a real labyrinth interspersed with narrow corridors and tight crawl spaces, it is a rough terrain, very difficult and slow to walk.
In order to extract the injured person to the surface we had to expand passageways in several parts of the cave.
During the long rescue, we first fixed the shoulder of the injured and then we began the transport beside strong pain relief. The stretcher was passed from hand-to-hand by the rescuers and at some spots we needed to use rope hauling system. Sometimes it was necessary for the rescuers to lie under the stretcher in a pit or in a lower narrow part of a crevice, so that their back could be positioned in line with the ground. By this method, the stretcher could be pulled over on the rescuer’s body.
Meanwhile, the "outposts" of the rescue team were working on the expansion of the corridors in the tightest locations so that the arriving injured on the stretcher could be carried across.
There were narrow passageways where the rescue would have taken hours to expand them properly and their widening would have also resulted in significant harm in the nature protection interests: the mass of no longer active crystals formed over centuries of millennia would have been destroyed by means of demolition.
These circumstances were needed to be evaluated by the rescue coordinators: a few times in short sections the transport required periodic offloading from the stretcher (this operation was only possible because of his legs didn’t got injured) in this way we managed to help him to get across the narrow passageways with the help of a harness.
Overall, this solution proven to be the most efficient way to avoid causing any significant damage to these sections of the cave.
The stretcher was transported stage by stage and several medical examinations were provided at the stops between them as the patient's condition had to be monitored several times along the way, we needed to measure his vital parameters or to give him another dose of painkillers ... the rescue took several hours ...
A few minutes before midnight, after overcoming the most difficult sections, we managed to reach the entrance area of the cave from where the surface was already near.
The Ferenc-hegyi Cave is a highly protected natural preservation area, the visit of which requires the prior permission of the Danube-Ipoly National Park.
The Ferenc-hegyi Cave is a technical type of cave from cavers’ point of view, the routes are mostly difficult to walk, characterized by long crawl spaces and exposed climbs, it is visited mostly by experienced cavers.
The cave has around 500 visitors a year.
Today's rescue is the fifth rescue operation of this year of the Hungarian Cave Rescue Service. Last time, on December 10, we were alerted to a woman who suffered foot injury in the Matthias-hegyi Cave.
Source of the map: Országos barlangnyilvántartás (link)
Photo: Márton Kovács