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Russian gypsum caves
Two weeks ago I was visiting family in Russia and just couldn’t miss Ordinskaya after all those marvellous pictures that have been popping up on forums here and there for a couple of years already. I loved it and want to do some advertising for the sake of the cave and all of us.
The official website of the landowner, diver himself, and an active promoter investing in the diving infrastructure at the site is ordacave.com. His name is Andrey Gorbunov. Many other people have contributed to the exploration, mapping and an extraordinary navigation system in the cave. Some of them can be found on the web as well (Facebook, etc.). They would offer to accompany you from Moscow to the cave in the Perm region, if you needed. Or you can fly from Moscow to Perm or Yekaterinburg and ask Andrey to send a car or a minivan to meet you at the airport.
There are direct flights from Europe to Perm or Yekaterinburg. But, if you are coming from North America to Moscow first, think about landing at and taking the next plane from the same airport and possibly with the same airline to avoid checking in your baggage again, unless you plan to visit the Russia’s Capital too. There are several airports in Moscow, they are all international now and not even that close one to another as in New York.
If you don’t mind 2 more hours in a train or driving from Yekaterinburg instead of Perm, I personally liked much more the former. Yekaterinburg, the old Russian gateway to Siberia and the place of execution of the last Tsar’s family, is a beautiful, clean and well-lit city with restored and rebuilt churches, XIX-century and modern architecture, restaurants, etc. – nice place to take a walk or go to a theatre. If you are in Perm, ask Andrey to take you to Khokhlovka (43 km from Perm). And don’t forget the dry Kungur Cave (30 km from Orda).
At the dive site (2 km from Orda) you will be offered accommodation (please see the website above), local home-made food, all the equipment you could need, fills, sherpa services, and a Russian bath. There are a couple of modest hotels in the village, if you absolutely need a shower (the price of a taxi is only about $3) and several slightly more comfortable places to stay in Kungur.
It is white with some brown rocks (grey, if you surface at the end of a passage), cold, clear, sublime, majestic. Leaves very light, clear feelings.
A good place to test you thickest undergarment and heating devices. The water temperature was 41° F. You get used after several dives in any case and it is still warmer than Saint Lawrence in winter. So, no free-flows for me this time. Think about going there in spring or fall though, when you won’t have to put on your dry suit when it’s + or - 30° C outside.
The water is very clear, greenish in the lights at the entrance pool, hard (2 mg/L I was told; tastes good, but I prefer higher mineralized bottled waters from the Caucasus, ). It leaves a thin film on the regs left overnight in the pool.
The rocks are mainly gypsum and anhydrite. They both may be white, grey, brown or even coloured green, red or orange when contain metals. So I could not distinguish them at sight. They are often impregnated in a harder dolomite with calcite and selenite crystals (think Naica). But, even in a “pure” form, Cristian, that gypsum at Ordinskaya is harder than the soft rock from the Swiss-cheese Pozos de Romeo in Pedernales that I brought to La Romana. I could swear I saw brown dripstones in the Moscow Right passage, but people said they were concretions of less soluble rocks, possibly howlite, on gypsum legs.
Fresh debris and bigger blocks on the line are frequent. But you feel pretty safe in huge halls and large deeper passages (70 ft max., 35 ft was the average of my dives). And, there are short sidemount lateral passages with percolation and white clay siltouts, where you still care more about cave preservation than your own safety. Only the shallow Sverdlovsk passage («Свердловский ход», see the map on the site) scares. When it gets lower, you start thinking about huge blocks above your head and having to swim back a long way around, through Moscow passages. There is a second, emergency exit at the end of the Left passage, but the third, at the end of the Right one, has collapsed and is just another dry room now. If you walk along the river, just above the Sverdlovsk passage, you will find, in approximately 200 meters, a small entrance, too narrow to squeeze in, with ice inside even when it’s +36° C outside in summer. The cave is definitely alive, moving and breathing.
The navigation in the cave is truly extraordinary: all the passages are signed with their full names in Russian and English, distances are marked in hundreds of meters on easily readable plates, jumps are well positioned, short and always visible – you can feel the collaborative spirit of all the teams that worked there.
The company is always great. Obviously, there are more divers on weekends, coming from all over the Russia and Northern Europe. If you are lucky as I was, you will meet people who were first cavers and then learned to dive in order to pass through siphons in the deepest caves in the world in the Caucasus.
Well, you are still not sure, if you want to go there? PM me, I brought a photo album and some video, and, if you are from Quebec or Eastern Ontario and want to take a look, I could bring them to a diving site. Write to Andrey himself (his email is on the website). Or meet him in person in Mexico, where he will be with a group of divers the last week of November – first one of December this year.
And safe diving,
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