Inverse mountaineering: spelunking in the Nidlenloch

Publiziert von 360 Pro , 13. März 2009 um 15:30.

Region: Welt » Schweiz » Solothurn
Tour Datum: 8 März 2009
Wandern Schwierigkeit: T4 - Alpinwandern
Klettern Schwierigkeit: II (UIAA-Skala)
Geo-Tags: CH-SO 
Zufahrt zum Ausgangspunkt:cff logo Oberdorf SO
cff logo Weissenstein
Zufahrt zum Ankunftspunkt:cff logo Oberdorf SO
cff logo Weissenstein

I am actually not a big fan of caves, but a friend of mine convinced me to visit the Nidlenloch in Solothurn’s home mountain the Weissenstein. The Nidlenloch is a rather famous cave in Switzerland and due to the easy access and the possibility to explore it without a guide, a frequently visited cave (about 5000 per year!).

In order to visit to the cave you have to register at the Gasthaus Hinter Weissenstein (20 minutes walk from the top station of the Weissenstein cable car towards the Hasenmatt). There you have to fill out a form, tell them when you plan to be back (if you’re not, they will send a rescue team!), pay the modest fee (6Fr. for 5 persons) and then you’ll get the key for the gate at the entrance of the cave. For 50 cents you can also use the changing room there.

The gate to the cave is a few hundred meters north of the restaurant, pretty steep up the hill; in the very deep snow it was actually quite tricky. Tricky was also the first few meters into the cave, because close to the exit it is rather steep and there was a lot of ice on the ground (and hanging from the ceiling). This first stretch is equipped with a chain which really helped as an aid. The further we got into the cave the drier and warmer it got.

Except the icy slippery steep first few meters, the beginning of the cave doesn’t really pose any difficulties and it is not very narrow either. At some point there is a little side hall called “Dom” on the right hand side. The first real obstacle is the so-called "Jungfernschlupf", a narrow passage where one only gets through when taking off the backpack and crawling on your stomach, definitely nothing for people who suffer from claustrophobia.

Shortly after comes the so-called “Steinsee”, a rather narrow flowstone passage which is about 70cm high and 5 meters long. At the “Sauschwänzli” you can choose whether you want to go left or right, supposedly its easier to go left on the way in and right on the way out (that would left again for the way out). However, some of us decided to go right on the way in, which requires a little bit of climbing, but not more than the second degree.

The real crux in my opinion is the labyrinth: a confusing system of several dead ends and two (I think) possibilities to get further into the cave. Even the person in our group who has been here and supposedly “knew” the way, got a little confused. He made us search for the right way in. After a while he realized we got to a point where we made it through the labyrinth, but thought we went the wrong way (or at least not the one he knew). It didn’t really make me feel all that comfortable for our way back out…

Anyway, shortly after the labyrinth you get to the “Kienzenbachfall”, where there is a steel rope mounted to help you climb down. You can also choose to not use the steel rope but climb down the “Kienzenbachfall” on a lower level. Again the difficulties are about in the second climbing degree.

The way down the main passage then is straight forward. A first short steel rope ladder is followed by the devil's pitch ("Teufelsschacht") and finally the longest pitch (Forsterschacht 13m) - all of the pitches are equipped with steel rope ladders. The bottom of this pitch is the so-called “Forsterhalle”, where you’ll find one of the cave's log-books. There is also the possibility to go further down into the cave from here, but in order to do so, you will need the equipment for abseiling and of course climb back up again.

For us the “Forsterhalle” was the point of return. It took us about two hours to get here, even though it’s “only” about 560 meters away from the entrance and about 150 meters below it. For the way out one has to get back the same way one came in. In the labyrinth we dead-ended only once. I’m not positive, I would really find my way in and out on my own.

It was an interesting experience for me to go inside a mountain instead of on top of one, and I definitely enjoyed the adventure. However, I still prefer to stand on top of a mountain and have a nice view, instead of being somewhere down in a deep dark hole with almost zero visibility and a queasy feeling whether you’ll ever see daylight again or not...

PS: If you plan to visit this cave, I recommend to either go together with a guide or with somebody who knows the cave. If you decide to explore it on your own I’d recommend buying the Nidlenlochbüchlein, which contains a detailed plan of the cave with lots of pictures.
"Erlebnis Nidlenloch", von W. Heiniger, Basel 1997, AGN und Speleo Projects. ISBN 3-908495-04-0

Tourengänger: 360


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