Oldest Unfound Geocache in Europe… Found! (12 years later)

DeepButi on the hunt for caches.

The geocacher who found the oldest unfound geocache in Europe on a thin ridge line of one of Europe’s most imposing mountains, doesn’t even like climbing. In fact, DeepButi doesn’t like caves either, but when the prize at the end of the adventure is a First to Find (FTF) after 12 years, 1 month, and 3 days…well, there’s no stopping him then.

The Traditional Geocache, ‘Puppet Theatre stash on the Mont Blanc’ (GC89FF) sat undisturbed among frigid slabs of rock and shifting snowdrifts for years. Several intrepid geocachers had attempted the search—and some came very close—but none had laid eyes on the geocache itself.

DeepButi says, “One day, I found myself wondering why what seems like a reasonably accessible cache had not been found for almost eleven years.”

That’s right—”Puppet Theatre stash on the Mont Blanc” (GC89FF) was hidden on Mont Blanc by an Estonian team of geocachers (Tarmo Männard, Kaido Pähn, Üllar Rosenfeldt, Anu Audse ja Vilja Heinmets) on July 2nd, 2002. At 4074 meters (13,400ft) above sea level, the contents of the geocache were well protected. They included 9 chocolate medallions, 14 candies, 3 bags of Lipton tea, 3 boxes of matches, 10 whole-family tickets to the Estonian Puppet Theatre, a paper and a pen, and a geocaching letter in Estonian and in English.

This is the story of DeepButi’s FTF.

What a view.
A geocache is hidden here… somewhere

He says, “I love mountains. Hiking for hours just for the sake of it, probably getting a fantastic reward at the peak with astonishing 360º views. And then there was THAT geocache, a normal one I didn’t need any special tools for.

“And one day, I found myself wondering why what seems a reasonably accessible cache had never been found for almost eleven years. After having “Puppet Theater stash on the Mont Blanc” on my watchlist for years just as a curiosity, a find in Canada switched something in my mind. If “4.5lb Walleye” was already found, why not give GC89FF, oldest unfound in Europe, a chance? So I did.

“It was not going to be a simple cache hunt, nor a long hike or a complex cache hunt. From the very first minute, the planning and logistics made the ‘it’s the journey’ concept the key element of the whole adventure.”

A little bit of research showed that the team who’d hidden the cache had formed a normal hiking expedition up Mont Blanc. They were not climbing experts carrying special equipment. This reassured DeepButi; with correct planning, the geocache was reasonably accessible, but sometimes the mountain decides whether or not you find a geocache.

DeepButi says, “Three months later, on Sep 2013 I went there. A full five day alpine hiking experience. Some great caches. But weather, and specifically avalanche risk, makes its own decisions. We had to cancel the attempt at the very last minute as the route was not safe. Instead, we summited Mont Blanc…not bad as a substitute.

“Summer 2014 in central and Southern Europe has been, in weather terms, a disaster. Without the normal anticyclonic periods, finding a day for a second attempt was delayed week after week until we decided to try a small window on July 23-25. After a terrific hike from refugio Torino crossing the Vallee Blanche we arrived at Cosmiques, the logical starting point for the hunt, on 24th.

A perfect image of my mood.
Weather delays the hunt

“The noise of small avalanches surprised us at the East side of Maudit-Tacul creating some incredible moments I will keep forever. But it was not our day. The guard at Cosmiques told us of a recent avalanche and more expected. No way to go up for several days. At 4,000m high you don’t play with this kind of advice and I returned home in quite a bad mood.”

Finally, a window of good weather opened up a week in August, and DeepButi knew it had to be then. He arrived at Cosmiques with his guide, Fabio Levi, and the forecast was perfect.

He says, “And there we went. At 6:15am we started a hard hike up Mont Tacul. You need to be there to know what it is like, every meter of its iced slopes deserves the T5 [Terrain 5] rating.

“It took us almost three hours to move the GPS distance [from the geocache coordinates] from 1,600m to 500m…at that distance only a soft slope down remained and the objective was pretty clear: a group of rocks at the East edge of Col Maudit. An incredible vision. All my efforts at sight for the first time. White snow and black rocks. I love it.

“Once there, laminated photos of the cache location proved to be helpful. They allowed us to confirm the GPS arrow and directed us to the northern group of rocks. Fabio crossed the last aerial meters and found exactly what was on the images. He said, ‘I have something. A broken plastic box.’

Fabio, one second after making history: Found!
Fabio, one second after making history: Found!

“The best words I could imagine. I knew at once that “broken plastic box” could only mean one thing: the original box! Aha! Nobody was there to see two adults shouting and jumping like children at 4,000m meters high. It was an incredible end to a 14-month obsession, full of hope, despair, deception, and positive energy.

“Honestly speaking, the cache itself is not that difficult a find—a 7 hour hike is nothing special and the final spot is quite accessible. But you must plan to go there as only a geocacher can do, with a specific goal on your mind. And you have to convince yourself that, after 12 years there was no single reason to suspect it would not be there. And yes it was.

So, we did it. Because we knew we could do it.”

The NUKU Puppet Theatre confirmed the tickets are still valid and will be forever. One of the original geocache-placers still works there, and DeepButi is already planning his trip. Another one of the geocache owners is going to bring DeepButi some “fresh” candies the next time he visits Spain.

DeepButi was also FTF on the long unfound cache in Spain, and has some of the highest peaks under his belt. His next adventure?

He says, “I’m already thinking on my next “incredible one”…but it will have to wait sometime.

The geocache
The geocache

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Alex is a Community Volunteer Support Coordinator at Geocaching HQ. When things get crazy, she sends in the big puns.