Schällbach is a stream on the surface that has its source in the meadows above Breitenbach. It snakes through the woods until it seeps into the ground at several drainage sites a short distance before and after Schällbachponor. The Schällbachponor is a much older, fossilised stream drain. The vanished water can be found at the lowest point of the cave, where it collects in a siphon and reappears in the pipe-spring in Kaltbrunnental (as demonstrated with dye-tracing tests).

Schällbachponor with its length of 170m and a depth of 33m is the deepest cave in this karst area and forms, together with its two end halls, the largest known cavity in this region. In September 1973 blasting made access possible. The second hall was only discovered on 2 July 2002. The entrance area with a diameter of 60x50cm and a length of 8m is a psychological as well as a physiological challenge even for experienced cavers.





Ponor caves


Ponor is the serbo-croat term for a drainage site of a stream (or lake). Usually streams are not present in karst. But as soon as water from neighbouring regions or from areas sealing it off on the surface (e.g. cover from a moraine) reaches the karst below ground, it is swallowed up. Occasionally such stream drains are accessible to man. We call them ponor caves.
They are very different from the random runoff of rainwater or water from melted snow.
In most of the karst areas in Switzerland random drainage is far more common than the spectacular localised disappearance of a stream into a ponor. Ponors are not unusual, but mostly occur in the form of narrow clefts or are blocked up by washed-in debris (clay, rubble, tree branches) making them inaccessible to cavers. (The position of the drainage sites is constantly changing, allowing only short periods of time for the formation of large cavities). Real ponor caves are rare
in Switzerland, especially in the Jura region.







When the weather is uncertain (thunderstorms, rain) a visit to Schällbachponor without proper equipment and without prior experience should not be undertaken. Rescuing a casualty is almost impossible – there is a real danger to life.