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Why Turkey? Expeditions to
the Toros Daglari

Krzysztof Adamek
Speleoklub Czestochowa

Scheme of Turkey

Exotic, oriental country, the existence of great virgin karstified mountains, and our aspirations to explore new regions these were the main reasons of our involvement in Turkey. In the 1980s and 1990s the members of Speleoklub Czestochowa organized several trips to this country, all to the Toros Daglari, a huge mountain region some 1500 km long, bordering the Anatolian and Armenian highlands from the south. Initially we acted in the Dedegol Daglari range in the eastern part of the Toros; the range was known for its Pinargozu cave, then one of the greatest caves in Turkey. Successively, in the years 1988-90, a large part of this area has been explored. Short reconnaissance trips in the Palaiz Geyik near Akseki, the Manavgat Valley and the Koprulu canyon should also be mentioned. Unfortunately, despite the significant resources invested, no major successes were achieved. Of the many entrances and shafts discovered, none has led to a remarkable depth. Plugs of snow and ice, melting only late in the summer (and not every year) were a common obstacle. Perhaps we were too fixedly attached to the Dedegol range, too firmly believing in our success there? Leaving the familiar spots we were also leaving friends whom we managed to make there. We came back to the Toros in 1995. Basing on the news from other expeditions, British and French ones, their achievements and failures, and on the information on other areas of exploration, we decided to direct our efforts to the nearly virgin Bolkar range in the central part of the Toros Daglari. This range, similarly as Dedegol, is about 80 km long and 25 km wide. A difficult problem, as usual, was to get detailed maps of the area. Fortunately, we obtained a fairly detailed topographic map of this area and, more importantly, a geomorphological map of the area from the Warsaw University. We were especially interested in the cirques on the northern side of the ridge and an enormous polje on the southern side, near the Yildiz peak (3134 m). We decided to begin the exploration on the northern side, in the vicinity of the highest peak in this part of the Torosthe Megedsiz, about 3600 m in altitude. We quickly managed to set a camp in the interesting area, quite high, at about 2350 m. It was situated near one of the cirques above the end of an enormous V-shaped valley. The abundance of entrances and shafts was a pleasant surprise. The leads found during the first outings provided us with work for the following days. In the close vicinity of the camp we found ten promising entrances. In PL 10/95, after passing several tens of meters our team found themselves on the bottom of a vast chimney. Its height was difficult to estimate, as even combined lights of several headlamps did not get to the ceiling. All at sudden we realized that our team of seven will not be able to realize as extensive an exploration as we had planned. We decided to concentrate our efforts in PL-3 and PL5, postponing further surface penetration, which has proven wrong later on. Both caves were down-going ones, and we were gaining depth fast in pitches of 15 to 45 meters. In PL-3 it took us a long time to clean the entrance section from hanging boulders and scree. But with increasing depth it was looking better and better. Especially impressive was a meander with snowwhite calcitic walls, which we encountered at the depth of about 160 meters. Eventually we attained 190 m in PL-3 and 90 m in PL-5. Stones tossed into the next pitches were the last stage of our exploration there. Actually we even did not investigate the locations which looked promising after our study of the geomorphological map. The formal problems, legendary with all cavers coming to Turkey, hit us too. To our astonishment, this time it was not the matter of permits for the prospection and exploration, but the alleged terrorist activity of PKK (Kurdistan Worker's Party) in the area, and the concern of the authorities about us and our safety. Of course we did not feel in danger, but the events of the following months have shown that similar incidents are becoming, unfortunately, more and more common. Anyway, we were very kindly but firmly asked to leave the area and move to more civilized parts of this beautiful country. Even with strong feeling of unfulfillment, I think that the expedition proved to be a useful reconnaissance. To sum up, the scarce literature, the few maps and our own experience indicate that the mountains of Turkey are a fascinating, though difficult area to explore for caves. Any activity there requires numerous permits. These may be obtained through the embassy after submitting many documents and forms, but it needs waiting for a year and one has no warranty of a positive outcome. The problem with cavers is that for an average bureaucrat the exploration of cave links with archaeology or simply search for treasures or other precious remains left by the many ancient cultures.

The Taurus Mts., photo W. W. Wisniewski
The Taurus Mts., ph. W. W. Wisniewski

This is what they are extremely sensitive about. There are practically no caving clubs* in Turkey, and cooperation with universities and other institutions (such was our experience) rarely succeeds because their areas of interest do not match the ours. To this one must add the problems with private ownership of land and the most recent problem with terrorism. A special attention must be paid to safety, as there are no trained mountain rescue services in Turkey. All these difficulties can not obscure the beauty of these areas and the exciting conscience that each valley may hide a virgin and possibly deepest cave. Against all difficulties we are thus thinking of the fall expedition BOLKAR 97.

* Firstly, your remark of that “There are practically no caving clubs in Turkey” is the proof of your biased opinion about the country. There are at least 20 caving clubs in Turkey, some were established 30-40 years ago. If you were keen enough to check any caving links like you may find web pages of at least some of them. Secondly, at or you may find world’s deepest cave listings, in which # 14 and # 31 (or #32) belongs to the same club, BUMAK. A simple, small university caving club of Turkey . By the way, I could not able to find your club’s name in the same list. Thirdly, if you were able to have a close contact with any of the clubs in Turkey, you would receive a detailed documentation about the areas that you are interested, including the previous explorations. So, you would learn that several caving trips had been made to the area, including SCM and SCP between 1965 and 1984. Also, Medetsiz Range explored by MAD (another Turkish caving club) for long years, with several deep results, some exceeding –800 meters. As a result, during your next visits to the area, please be careful about the old bolts in the entrances or, better, inform any Turkish caving club about your visit, so that we will know to which area we’ll send a rescue team. A last remark; as a cartographic expert, it was a pleasure for me to learn from your article that Toros Mountains are “...bordering the Anatolian and Armenian highlands from the south”. Armenian highland is between Van, Erzurum and Muţ and has no relation with Middle Turkey.
Regards: Ali Yamac
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