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SGS is the speleo club of Ekaterinburg, third largest city in Russia, the administrative center of Sverdlovsk region and Ural Federal District, at the edge of western Siberia. Till 1991 it was named Sverdlovsk and hence also the club's name – Sverdlovskaja gorodskaja speleosekcija* (Sverdlovsk City Speleosection) or SGS for short. SGS has around 200 members of which about 50 regularly participate in caving expeditions and other field trips, every year a caving school with attendance of about 30 is also organized. The caving regions where SGS is predominantly active are in the Ural mountains and its eastern neighbourhood, as well as yearly expeditions to Central Asia, especially to the caves of Chulbair massif in Uzbekistan.


It is customary to start the story about the Sverdlovsk city speleosection in the summer of 1961, when three Sverdlovsk «tourists» or better, travel enthusiasts (Jurij Lobanov, Nikolaj Lizunov, Anatolij Vagapov) went on a hike to the Northern Urals. They intended to cross the Ural ridge, and then raft down the Višera river, but instead ended up not far from Severouralsk, in the vicinity of Lake Svetloe. A rock overhang, a ledge and a shaft with a very narrow entrance. Stalactites, the delight of the first descent, serious difficulties at the exit. What followed – the decision to change vocation from ordinary tourists to cave explorers. Speleologists.

Soon every weekend was devoted to underground cavities, and the number of participants in these outings was growing and growing. In the fall of 1961 there was already a fully formed team, which would venture on a ten-day expedition to the Middle Urals. Its task was to find and explore new caves on the Ser'ga River. It was during this expedition that Arakaevskaja and Glinjanaja caves were discovered. The guys already called themselves the Sverdlovsk speleosection (SGS), which was assigned to the city tourist club.

Thus, Sverdlovsk «tourists», a little later than Krasnojarsk and Crimean people, became pioneers of the speleological movement of the USSR. After all, the official speleosection at the Central Council for Tourism and Excursions in Moscow was registered only in the spring of 1962. This happened post factum, so to speak «at the numerous requests of the working people», and most importantly, according to the unwritten rule of the Soviet state: if there is a phenomenon – there must also be an official structure for control and leadership.


In the summer of 1962, the Sverdlovsk guys already pulled two serious events at the same time: a search expedition to the South Urals (the Kyziljarovskaja (Maksimoviča) cave was discovered) and a participation in the first all-Union meeting of speleologists, which took place in the Crimea, on Aj-Petri, where in those years operated Kompleksnaja karst expedition. From that side the work of the meeting was supervised by Viktor Dubljanskij, while the general leadership was carried out by the chairman of the Central Speleological Section Vladimir Iljuhin. 110 speleologists from 14 cities of the USSR took part, there were three from Sverdlovsk. They brought completely new knowledge and skills from the Crimea, and in addition they left a mark on Aj-Petri in the Uralskaja shaft, which they discovered and partially explored during the meeting. By the way, a year later, the Ural guys once again «excelled» in the Crimea: during the instructor's training camp at Karabi, they discovered a cave, which, in their honor, was named Vizovskaja.

Of course, this naming cannot be considered accidental. In the 60s, and over the next decade, it was at the Verh-Isetski plant (VIZ) where most of the SGS caving equipment was produced. Naturally, it was all done unofficially. During the second and even the third work shift, through the «back door» or a hole in the fence, with the help of «our» people. In the 60s, metal stairs were made here. Kilometers of them. After all, the scaling of vertical cave sections was possible only with the presence of wire ladders, which were used for both descent and ascent. In the meantime the Crimean shafts reached a depth of 250 meters. In 1965 on Alek mountain ridge caves were discovered, where the depth increased to 500 meters!

            In 1964 SGS recruited candidates for the first caving school and 160 people showed up. «Globus» – the geological circle of the Palace of Pioneers, began to actively participate in the life of the section. In those years it was led by Georgij Vasiljev. His pupils were affectionately called «globusies», they were respected and appreciated for their excellent theoretical training. Many «globusies» later became members of the SGS. In 1965 the speleo section was separated from the city tourist club and obtained its own premises. The formation stage has passed: laws and traditions have appeared, an ideology has been formed, there were leaders and «battle» personnel. The life of the section acquired a certain cyclical nature: February and the summer – search expeditions, May and November – participation in all-Union events; every weekend – workouts and «weekend hikes». September is the birthday of the section. Anniversary. For each Anniversary, the section board and its chairman prepare an Annual Report. And how are you doing? Life in the Soviet Union was an obligation. And even changes, turns in direction, have become traditional, yet not without sarcasm it can be added here – had such a turn been made 40 years earlier – everyone involved would have been jailed.

            Here is a short summary of the 1968 Annual Report:

            In an atmosphere of unrelenting work impulse, vigilantly guarding the gains of socialism, our country is confidently moving towards two significant dates: the 50th anniversary of the Komsomol and the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lenin. Any round date is a crucial moment in people's lives. First of all, because it is time to make an overview of the past.

So what have we achieved? Have we achieved what we wanted to achieve? Yes, we did. And at the same time, no, not yet.

Our goal was to explore caves. Not to look around like speleo tourists, not to pass like speleo climbers, but to explore. That is, we wanted to be speleologists. We have made SGS a speleological section. You can rejoice at this, as not every speleological section is truly speleological.

What have we been able to do in these 7 years? A bit of chronology.

1961. Svetlaja – the first «own» shaft – the beginning of the SGS. After that Družba, Ser'ga.

1962. Two-month tour of the South Urals. Hungry, ragged cavers are storming new large caves Kyzyl-Jar, Suhaja Atja, Šahta-47. In the meantime, in Crimea, our other team is absorbing someone else's experience.

1963. A small team with this new ample experience, serenity and contentment explored the same caves again, respectingly heeding, describing and doing everything else that was needed.

1964 was a harsh year. At the All-Union meeting of speleologists in the Kapovaja cave, our group lost Valerij Nassonov from Ufa, who perished.

1965. SGS hardened: five groups stormed the caves of the Urals and the Caucasus.

1966. Winter expedition to Temirovskaja cave, followed by the summer expedition to Belaja.

1967. Many caves on Belaja, among them the second deepest shaft in the Urals.

1968. We reached as far as Sumgan (in Bashkortostan, one of the largest caves in the Urals).

From Svetlaja to Sumgan in 7 years – dozens of expeditions in the Urals, Caucasus and Crimea. 23 km of surveyed passages and halls, over 1 km of shafts. And many square meters of plans, hundreds of pages of descriptions, many reports, articles, books.

So did we achieve what we wanted? No! In 1961 we set our goal: «From Svetlaja – to 1500!» Not in length, of course, in depth. And what do we have now? The maximum is Sumgan cave. Which isn't even 150 m deep. And, Sumgan is not even really ours, as Ščepetov said.

So, we have not achieved all that we wanted, and there is nothing to think about doing it in the near future. So let «1500» be our dream, like a bright future that we will never have »... (c) J. Lobanov.


By the early 1970s, a contradiction had clearly emerged. There are abysses, there are people who want to conquer them, there is the SGS motto (From Svetlaja cave to -1500 m!). But there are no technical possibilities to get down there. Moreover, this contradiction was typical for the entire speleo world of the USSR, not only for the caving people of the Urals. Both Abalakov's backpacks and canvas tents, and even more the wire ladders, with the help of which we descended into vertical caves, were hopelessly outdated.

From abroad, through the «Iron Curtain», rumors were spreading: they say, in the West, suits and equipment for the cave conquerors are sold directly in stores, and they are produced in factories. Soviet cavers tried to adapt the suits of miners and submariners, items of equipment for parachutists, firefighters and fishermen, to suit their needs. Descenders and clamps for upward movement were invented. They were sewing tents, caving suits and backpacks. They experimented with telephone connections, underground lanterns, and mobile kitchens. Helmets were bought or exchanged from metro builders or miners. Freebies were extremely appreciated – such as an opportunity to find something in large quantities and adapt it to fit your needs, so cavers spent a lot of time in landfills. Landfills of industrial enterprises were especially cherished. Sometimes it worked out a little around the corner. For example, when they managed to get hold of a large amount of paraffin and the underground kitchens were adapted to use this highly smoky type of fuel, or when a metal tape was found and they tried to use it instead of a cable.

In those years, technical thought was in full swing in Sverdlovsk. Life sets a task, and then everything follows as it should: the concept, its development, drawings, the search for material, the manufacture of test samples, testing the product in the field. If the events would have turned out differently, perhaps today there would be no PETZL, but the «Novikov Brothers» or «Golubev and Co.», or maybe «Mezljakov Incorporated».

The brightest inventions of those years:

1. Self-grabber is a clamp that allows you to move up a rope or cable. There were about a dozen different modifications. The self-grabber, consisting of a U-shaped clip, a cam and a cable, has become a cult. The inventors are Jurij and Igor' Novikov.

2. BSU is a safe device for descent. Braking was carried out as a result of the rope getting into a special wedge-shaped hole. Inventor was Sergej Golubev. There were different variations, including a BSU with a roller and a handle, which ensured self-braking, it was possible to adjust the speed of drescent and it also did not twist the rope. In fact, it was the stopper, the most popular descender in the world today.

3. The little coffin is a tent for living in an underground camp. The advantage is its absolute simplicity: fabric + strings. It takes up little space in the transport bag, it is easy to «set up». Initially it was very tiny (hence the name). Inventor: Andrej Merzljakov.

4. Dry fuel cooker. Lightweight, compact and economical. Inventor: Andrej Merzljakov.

In addition, various pedals, throw-back limiters, upper harnesses and gazebos were constantly invented, manufactured and improved (among other things, Jurij Mamaev's «pants»).

They experimented with nutrition systems: someone promoted super-high-calorie diets, someone, on the contrary, promoted maximum restraint and body replenishment with cosmic energy. A separate topic was the tactics and strategy of working in the cave: a long shift with a short nap «under cover»; super-long shift + rest in a comfortable camp; mobile underground camps with hammocks, etc.

In 1975, a small independent speleogroup appeared at the Sverdlovsk Mining Institute, whose members would later join the SGS. Its brightest representatives were Sergej Matrenin, Aleksandr Borič, Aleksandr Bikbaev, Vladimir Sapožnikov. They worked a lot in the Šemaha caves, they were the first to begin search expeditions in the Ufa plateau; Sapožnikov discovered the cave Geologov-2, Bikbaev and Matrenin were participating in many important Asian cave discoveries of the 80s.

In general, the 70s were the time of global expeditions for the SGS. More precisely, the time of participation in foreign global expeditions, camps and training camps. Sverdlovsk people worked in Snežnaja and Krasnaja caves, in the Sumgan-Kutuk cave, in Kievskaja, in Parjaščaja ptica (Soaring bird) cave, and also on the caves of the Alek massif. They carried transport bags, rigged the shafts, made topographic survey, searched (and found!) new sections of the caves. But these expeditions went down in history as all-Union or Moscow ones, and the discoveries made were signed by completely different names.

In one of the Annual Reports of 70s in the USSR the chairman of the SGS Sergej Golubev spoke on this topic as follows:

country is progressing towards its 57th anniversary in giant leaps. Together with everyone else, the Sverdlovsk cavers, without hesitation, every day create material and spiritual achievements during their 8 working hours. But from all the other people, speleologists are distinguished by their drive forward which cannot stop, and they continue to be creative in their field during off-hours, in the evening, at night, on weekends and holidays. <...>


By tradition, we will make a summary in this report. Or, as Ščepetov used to say, «now let's count». What have we achieved this year? We have (or almost have) people to explore the caves; we have more or less what we need to explore them. But do we have something to explore? Before, at the end of each year, we knew where we would be going and what we would be doing next year. Recently, however, we have mostly been catching up with others. We either trained people, we confirmed the skills our instructors, or we were simply on the sidelines. It's good that others can't do without us. But it would be better if they could do without others. The best cave is the one with your name engraved on it. So, our new slogan should be «to SGS – all by SGS». Let us not forget our first slogan: «From Svetlaja to 1500!» Here I meant 1500 by SGS! (c) S. Golubev.


By the end of the 70s, technical contradictions were eliminated. The opportunity to conquer abysses appeared, there were even abysses at hand. The trouble is that these abysses were alien. On Arabika it was all tight, too many cavers, and rather scandalous even without Sverdlovsk people. Fišt, Alek and many other regions already had «masters», they belonged to other groups. It was time to look for our own area. This search, and most importantly its results, became the main achievement of the SGS in the 80s.

As always, we approached the task more than thoroughly: mobile search groups were sent to different regions of the immense USSR. And it was not easy – the elders-commanders poked a finger into the map and the command was given «Ready? ... Set! ... Go!» All available information was studied beforehand. Conclusions were drawn. Tactics and strategy were developed. The approximate formula was as follows – one area / 4 people / 200 rubles / 2 weeks. Only in 1980, there were 6 such searches: in the Džabalinskij national park, in the Kajntaau, on the Peter the First, Turkestanskij, Malguzar and Karatau ridges as well as in the Boraldaj mountains.

The results of 1980 were modest, but in the same year Aleksandr Bikbaev, who worked at the Institute of Geology of the Ural Scientific Center, «dug up» a real gold mine deep in the pages of geological literature, an area that has all the prerequisites to be the home of large and deep caves. The southwestern spurs of the Gissar mountains, where all the ridges have a peculiar structure: a steep, precipituous northeastern slope and a gentle southwestern one, an immense broken plate of limestone. There is also an exact starting point for primary exploration: the Ketmen-Čapta massif, a plateau-like limestone surface of the mountainside with a karst water source at the base. The source is called Močaj. The nearby town is Boysun. A search group led by Aleksandr Ryžkov was sent there in May 1981. The result was the discovery of the cave, which later became known as Urals-Zenkov cave (after Zenkov, who died there) and initially – Zindan or Zindanak, because the local shepherd showed the way to the cave, and the locals call all underground cavities «zindanak». A month later, the cave was explored to -200 m. The SGS was working hard in the Uralskaja cave, at the same time also finds time to participate in «foreign» expeditions (Arabika, Bzyb), but the search for new areas continues.

Chul-Bair mountain ridge, Uzbekistan, with entrance to the cave, named after Aleksandr Višnevskij of SGS (light brown circle, top right). Photo by Petr Jakubson, 15 August 2016.

A new breakthrough occured in 1984, when the Khodja-Gur-Gur-Ata massif karst area was discovered during the next search expedition. Unprecedented. Grandiose. Fantastic. To an extent that it was not even immediately believed. In 1985 a large expedition was sent to Khodja – 24 people. Besides the Sverdlovsk team cavers from Berezniki, Kizel and Magnitogorsk also participated. It was on that occasion that Festivalnaja and Boybuloq caves were discovered.

Soviet Union has not collapsed yet, the SGS is full of working people, money is still at hand. There are enough resources for serious work. Exploration was going on in three places at the same time: in the Khodja-Gur-Gur-Ata massif, in the Boybuloq cave (Surkhan-Tau ridge), while the team of Sergej Valujskij continued to work on the Kirk Tau (Kievskaja and KT-16 caves). And even the Urals caves were not neglected! And there were shafts of Muscovites! There were schools, seminars, conferences and competitions! The SGS was doing well everywhere. Moreover, the practice of search expeditions also continued.

Katataš, Khoja-Gur-Gur-Ata ridge (from left to right, light brown circles mark the entrances to: Festivalnaja, Iževskaja — the leftmost entrance to Dark Star, main entrances to Dark Star cave) Photo by Lidija Konstantinova, 05 August 2016.

But the world as we knew it was going downhill very rapidly. Perestroika was in full swing. Money disappeared. Food was in short supply. But the borders opened, and in July 1989 a Russian-Italian expedition was exploring on Khodja and in Boybuloq. Its results could be measured by the meters of new tunnels passed, but something else became more important – a new look at the caves and the tactics of how to tackle them. It was all obtained from a close contact with colleagues from abroad. The Annual Report of 1989 had this dedication lines on top:

«... People do not understand why we need to organize a universal rise, universal nourishment, universal (almost in drill style) marching forward. After all, Mr. Gordon prefers big hamburger and tea with milk, Monsieur Toussaint prefers pudding with black coffee without sugar, and Comrade Babanin cannot live without buckwheat porridge with meat, but without onions. About which, by the way, the first two (Gordon and Toussaint) politely asked: «Are these not the same grains that are sold for parrot food?»»

They (however, just like us) love comfortable, clean speleology. No, they also know how and do dirty and hard work, but they believe that it should come, in time, to more comfortable work or a time off. You need to move around the cave easily and to work efficiently. They were forever puzzled by the necessity for a multi-day, half-asleep functioning of the team, underground camp which is positioned at 4 hours distance from the entrance. Well, okay, this is our siege tactic to live in a cave until the end of the food, the end of available time, or until the (darn) hole gives up. But this sort of caving requires the transfer of such an amount of cargo, such prolonged labor, that they do not have enough strength left to carry out their own belongings. Kilometers of rusty wire, rotting rope ... From foreigners in the caves, only small plaques remain, indicating the place where a bolt was hammered into the rock. Nothing is burnt or buried. All goes back to the surface. Ashes from carbide lamp, into a bag and up. And afterwards everything with you to the city and to the trash can.

On the upper shafts, where a lot of people would go, there is one rope, but a 13 mm one, deeper 10—11 mm, and where there only two will pass – 8 mm. Descend in Pantjuhinskaja cave with all the ropes up to -500 m and back in 8 hours. The derigging of equipment and taking it out – such, according to our concepts, male operation – is done by an 18-year-old girl Zuzanna. With amazing lightness, even cheerfulness. This is really annoying. Where is the plan? Where is the schedule? Where is the leader's tough hand? An omnipresent throw-away rush, checkmate, swearing?

But never mind – we go our own way. Rather, somewhere close to our way. The most beautiful mountains and caves, the most complex shafts and poverty, garbage, thieves, notoriousness, wretchedness.

«We must learn, we must think, we must count.» (c) Igor Novikov.


For a while, everything went like a well greased machine. International expeditions to Asia: at the beginning there was an expedition to Boybuloq with the cavers from the British Association of Cave Explorers, followed by another one with Italians, and a little later also with Slovaks; at KT-16 – with the British and Swiss cavers, at Khodja-Gur-Gur-Ata with the Italians. New depths, new galleries, new discoveries. In Boybuloq, the elevation difference of 1415 m was reached, the cave became the deepest in Asia. Foreigners perfectly understand everything about PR: who would be the first to publish the new discoveries, that is the absolute priority. Articles about the karst of Central Asia and its brave explorers appear in foreign publications, an excellent book is published about Khodja, a film has been made about the discovery of the Ulugbek cave. But the USSR transformed into CIS – Commonwealth of Independent States. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are now not Union republics, but independent states. And Tajiks and Uzbeks (and even more so Russians) are no longer eternal brothers. The road to Asia got seriously complicated.

The country was getting much divided, but the cavers of the Urals, on the contrary, were consolidating their ranks. The Association of Cavers of the Urals (ACU) was created, and in 1993 a large-scale event was held: a camp at the 2nd year of caving school on the Alek ridge. 120 participants from 18 cities (in addition to the Urals there were cavers from Irkutsk, Krasnojarsk, Kirov, Samara and Saratov). There are two goals – the transition to the single rope technique (SRT) and the getting together of a new generation of cavers. The event was led by Aleksandr Plastinin, a man of amazing charisma and an excellent organizer. It was after «Alek-93» that the wire-ladders-rope technique in the Urals finally became a thing of the past. Huge schools and expeditions organized by the resources of one club also started to happen. Urals caving people are increasingly traveling together, because it was almost impossible to make it on your own. There was no money, food was scarce, there was work, but it was not paid. The renowned generation of cavers of the 1980s, almost without exception, were leaving the caving ranks to build capitalism, no more 8-hours work shifts in state enterprise but round the clock struggle in a private company, fighting for the well-being of their families.

However, even in the most difficult years, all significant events were still held as usual: all-Urals ACU conferences, Champioships of the cities of the Urals and, of course, Anniversaries were all taking place. The SGS also held caving school every year. Of course, 200 people no longer came, but it is also not possible to say that the section was left completely without «young blood».

The most productive explorations in the 90s was the work in the Tëmnaja (Dark) cave, one of the most important caves in the Perm region. A new branch of the cave was discovered, topographic survey was made. The works were supervised by Dmitrij Bajanov, while speleologists from Perm, Čusovoj, Pervouralsk and Nižnij Tagil made a great contribution.

Towards the end of the decade (and the millenium), there was a temporary stabilization of the political and economic situation. The SGS decides it was time to return to Asia. In July 1998 an expedition to Boybuloq started, and in August – to Festivalnaja. The start of the latter took place in circumstances, best described as close to critical. Until «Black Thursday» – the famous default (on August 17, 1998 Russia defaulted on short-term bonds) – in a matter of days the ruble to dollar exchange rate was inexorably creeping up. Only thanks to the prompt action of the head of the expedition, A. Plastinin, a banker by profession, the doomed rubles were exchanged to dollars on time.

The expedition to Boybuloq was a success: an ascent had been made in the Russian tunnel, new meanders have been discovered, which the explorers did not even have time to pass. The work in Festivalnaja ended with a rescue operation. There was no loss of life, but the work had to be interrupted at the most interesting place. As usual, it seemed that next year we will certainly catch up. But, as usual, life made its own adjustments. It was possible to return to Boybuloq only after 9 years, to Festivalnaja 12 years later.


It was a new cycle of the SGS development, and, at the same time, it was also a great turn. The SGS, without departing from its basic achievements and principles, reached a new level. Depth records are now of the world scale, sports achievements are of an international standard, but the most important fact is the return to Svetlaja (or more precisely, to the north of the Sverdlovsk region) and, certainly, a new era on Asian stage.

The school of life for cavers of the new century has largely become the Morija (Džentu) cave, where our colleagues from Perm gladly took us. The youth of the SGS gained cave experience, learned to work in a team, and most importantly – «tasted the art of discovery». The successful digging of the passage in Perm metro tunnel of the cave, where most of the female half of the SGS was truly tested; opening of the area, quite rightly called the Fairy Tale; diving of a siphon; cave climbing; topographic survey of new sites ... Ekaterinburg people took an active part in all this. And their worldview was formed: caving not for sports, but for exploration.

However, in the SGS, sports and speleology often coexist in perfect harmony, in the same people. A good example is Sergej Vasil'evič Valujskij, who in the late 90s, after a break, returned to active speleo life. The 2000s became the years of the sporting triumph of the SGS team. Since the beginning of the millenium, Iljuhin's Helmet, the top prize of the Ural Cities Games (since 1976) only once did not go to Ekaterinburg. Much credit goes to the SGS «coach» and its permanent captain Valujskij. During his sports career (1982-2011), Valujskij, as part of the SGS team, was the prize-winner of all-Russian competitions five times, and twenty times the prize-winner of the Ural Cities Games. «Long-liver» he was not only in athletics. 2010 marked the 40th anniversary of Valujskij's speleological activity, which included the Ural caves, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. The last serious expedition he participated in was «Baysun-Tau 2011».

In general, the 2000s were generous with various achievements:

2005, Krubera-Voronja Cave: Georgij Sapožnikov and Larisa Pozdnjakova descended to a depth of -2040 m. And not just descended, but they also performed a complete hydro-leveling of the cave, with the exception of the very last (at that time) shaft, as it was flooded.

2006, First Caving World Games – Seville, Spain, 15 – 17 September. Larisa Pozdnjakova of SGS won gold medal in category Circuit (Rebelay).

2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 – – members of the SGS (Georgij Sapožnikov, Olga Čerepanova, Radik Sitdikov, Sergej Terehin, Aleksandr Paromov, Vasilij Lobašov) work in Snežnaja, at the time the second deepest cave in the world (-1753 m). During the first two years, the developed a passage through the Iljuzija entrance. The descent to the bottom takes 13 days.

In 2007 SGS managed to return to Asia, at first to Boybuloq, and in 2010 to Festivalnaja cave. There is a new leader – Vadim Loginov, who diplomatically and very respectfully listened to older comrades before making decisions of his own. Though the first Asian generation at SGS assured us that experiments with access route to the caves were inappropriate and the optimal route was Kairak – archa – Khodja, Loginov took the responsibility for exploring new access direction. With positive result – in 2011, the time from the last village accessible by truck to the Big Overhang in Festivalnaja entrance was cut in half – to only two days walk (from four days before 2011). This way the work on the plateau above the caves became possible, previously it was always believed that the only way to get there is a helicopter ride. Moreover, the new access to the cave is from the bottom of the mountain wall: to make it possible, the wall was rigged with ropes in three places. New equipment, new people, new techniques, new speeds.

The result was a major breakthrough in 2011. The Dark Star, R-21 (Iževsk) caves and several unnamed entrances, also located on the same mountain wall, were joined into a single system. About 4 km of passages were surveyed, another kilometer was only explored. The amplitude of the system, which was named the Central karst system of Khoja-Gur-Gur-Ata, exceeded 300 m. And it is clearly just the beginning!

Polnolunie [Full Moon] hall in Ice, with Anastasija Buharova; Dark Star cave, Uzbekistan, 17 August 2012, photo by Alekseja Kuznecova.

The fallout from the 2011 Asian events could be far-reaching. Until now, Asia has always been an alternative region for Russian speleology. Firstly, it is very far away, and secondly – «the east is a delicate matter» and too much is being done there just on personal contacts. The whole main happening of Soviet and Russian caving was in the Caucasus, for several decades, the main regions being Arabika and Bzyb. The Urals at the time did not even dream of being a piece of this pie, and as a result – dropped out of the mainstream, and also became, more or less, «an alternative caving region». In the Caucasus, the strongest teams of the post-Soviet space, plus many foreigners attracted by world record, have been brewing in a single pot for many years. The vast experience of Soviet speleology, its great human resources were multiplied by European equipment and European methods of work. What followed were not only the most serious results, but also great changes in the mentality of cavers. The Urals can now be considered one of the few remaining reserve areas of the traditional Soviet speleology. Together with its patriotism, continuity of generations, team spirit and almost complete absence of a commercial component ...

And yet, though it is true that the proximity of record depths in Asia is most exhilarating, a promise of great prospects and changes, it is unlikely that it will completely overshadow the events that have unfolded in recent years in the north of the Sverdlovsk region. Home, sweet home.

Most of the Sverdlovsk (and even more so Ekaterinburg) speleologists did not perceive the north of the region as a promising speleo area. The shaft Svetlaja has long been an abstract concept, part of the motto, or rather – part of the first caving toast of the SGS. The situation changed in 2007—2008, thanks to the play of circumstances and the inexhaustible research drive of Evgenij Curihin. He became the main ideologist and initiator of work in the area of the Vižaj and Loz'va rivers. The SGS enthusiastically supported this impulse. And the north of the region gave in. Discoveries followed like from a horn of plenty: 4 years of work and about 55 caves! Not overhangs, not «Ural holes», but large and serious underground cavities with vertical sections, beautiful galleries and underground lakes.


The tradition of publishing a new book with the results of the club's work has evolved by itself. Every five years, for the club anniversary, we collect chronicles of work, achievements and expeditions. Therefore, all stages of the development of the SGS were divided into «five-year plans». Life from 2011 to 2016 is described in detail in the book «SGS in the Spotlight» and is characterized by the following main events:

  • • After the successful 2011 expedition to Asia, interest in this region has sharply increased both among the cavers of the club and among our Russian and foreign colleagues. It was the impetus for organizing and conducting annual international expeditions to this part of the world, including cavers from Italy, Germany, China, England, USA, Israel and Spain. On the Khoja-Gur-Gur-Ata ridge, exploration of the Festivalnaja (16200 m, -625 m), Dark Star (17400 m, -908 m) and Ulugbek (2100 m, -240 m) caves were continued. On the Chulbair massif, exploration of the Boybuloq cave (14800 m, -1415 m) also continued, and a new cave named after Aleksandr Višnevskij was discovered near the top of the ridge, high above Boybuloq, and explored to a depth of 284 m. (insert a link to the history of the exploration of the Višnevskij cave)

  • • Northern Urals in the area of the Vižaj River has seen regular expeditions of the SGS, at least 4—5 times a year, which have become traditional. Each such expedition brought discovery of new caves, including diving explorations.

It was during these years that the club again actively participated in international projects, preparing publications for serious speleoprojects. A documentary film «Asia Forever» was made — and it was very well received. The presentation of the field trip results in the form of films, media reports, screen presentations and press articles started to accompany our work on regular basis.


became the main project of SGS. In 2016 serious prospects opened up, to connect it with the Boybuloq cave. So in 2017, the work on the Khoja-Gur-Gur-Ata ridge had been mothballed and all forces were directed to Chulbair. As a result, by 2019, the Višnevskij cave reached a depth of -1151 m and its total length was pushed to 8004 m. The cave steadfastly continues towards Boybuloq, and in case of connection, the amplitude of the karst system would be over 2,000 m. Estimated distance between the lowest point of the Višnevskij cave and the New branch of the Boybuloq is 50 m vertically and 200 m horizontally. Assumptions about the existence of a high-mountain, complex and unified karst system on the Chulbair ridge were confirmed.


The COVID-19 pandemic has put our plans for 2020 on hold. The border with Uzbekistan is closed and we had to postpone the most intriguing expedition in SGS existence until 2021. To be or not to be, to surpass the -1500 m mark is now the main issue for the 60th anniversary of the SGS!?!



          Jurij Evgen'evič Lobanov            1961 — 1964
          Aleksandr Filippovič Ryžkov         1964 — 1966
          Jurij Evgen'evič Lobanov            1966 — 1971
          Sergej Ivanovič Golubev             1972 — 1978
          Vladimir Sergeevič Ageev            1978 — 1980
          Igor' Sergeevič Novikov             1980 — 1985
          Aleksandr Aleksandrovič Babanin     1985 — 1989
          Aleksandr Vladislavovič Plastinin   1989 — 1993
          Andrej Aleksandrovič Karpov         1993 — 1997
          Dmitrij Olegovič Bajanov            1997 — 1999
          Georgij Borisovič Sapožnikov        1999 — 2003
          Dmitrij Nikolaevič Žuravlev         2003 — 2008
          Vadim Leonidovič Loginov            since 2008

*For greater accuracy Cyrillic names on this page are romanized according to scientific transliteration of Cyrillic. An example is the family name Вишневский, romanized as Višnevskij, not as Vishnevsky, which could also mean Вишневски (Višnevski).

Translated and adapted by Primož Jakopin in November and December 2020, supervised by Vadim Loginov.

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