Houping Exploration history
Houping Exploration history
Since it was first visited by western cavers in June 2001 there have been four Hong Meigui expeditions to Houping. The first two were collaborations with the Guilin Karst Institute as part of a project to study the karst resources of Wulong Karst National Geological Park, which was being developed for tourism by Huibang Corporation. The second two were completely independent, without the aid of translators, guides, etc.
Prof. Zhu's group at the Karst Institute has surveyed several of the tiankeng in Houping. They have published an in-depth treatment of the karst features of the area, including maps from Hong Meigui expeditions, in Chinese.
Thus far work by Hong Meigui has concentrated on entrances near to Er Wang Dong village, a small fraction of the total limestone area. To date over 23km has been mapped, of which 10km are in San Wang Dong and 8km in Er Wang Dong.
The full story
Houping was first visited by western cavers in June 2001 as part of the "Chongqing Mystery Tour", a whirlwind trip to many different karst areas in Chongqing Municipality organized by M. Tan Kinou of the South Yangtze Geological Team. Only 2 days were spent in Houping, during which 2 HMG cavers mapped a total of 5.4km in Er Wang Dong and San Wang Dong. Houping was identified as by far the most speleologically interesting area visited during the Mystery Tour, but the general impression given by scientist on the trip was that Houping was a "closed" area, and it would be difficult or impossible for westerners to return without the aid of the Guilin Karst Insitute.
In December of 2001, it was learned that the Mystery Tour had helped Prof. Zhu Xuewen's group at the Guilin Karst Institute secure a contract to study the karst resources of Wulong Karst National Geological Park, which was being developed by Huibang Corporation. Scientist Huang Baojian and Chen Weihai were to spend the holidays mapping features in several localities in Wulong, including Houping. Sensing a tremendous opportunity, Erin, Duncan, and Claire McElwain cut short their planned trip to Nujiang and arranged to meet Huang and Chen in Wulong during the first week of 2003. This time they stayed in Er Wang Dong village, as opposed to Houping town, which eliminated the need for an hour-long commute each day.
After 4 days at Er Wang Dong, Chen and Huang finished their work there and requested that Duncan, Claire, and Erin go with them to San Qiao. The HMG cavers were reluctant to leave since the caving was going so well. In the end they agreed to map The Most Boring Cave in the World TM (3.5 km of straight, identical passage) only if it would be possible to later return to Er Wang Dong. At this point it was revealed that there was a daily bus from Wulong to Houping, and Mr. Li from Huibang arranged accommodation for them with Mr. Wang in Er Wang Dong village.
After their jolly to San Qiao, Duncan, Erin, and Claire learned why they'd been discouraged from going to Houping on their own: the bus ride was 7 hours of bone-rattling, edge-of-the-seat excitement on icy un-surfaced roads winding along precipitous drops. The group concentrated on completing the survey of the main passageways in San Wang Dong, and following several immature streams in Er Wang Dong in the hope of finding the system's master streamway. Additionally, Zhang Hua, Mr. Wang's nephew, showed them four new entrances. Er Wang Dong 2, Xi Niu Dong, Feng Dong, and Chahu Dong.
In June 2002, Rob Garrett, Erin, and Duncan returned to Houping. Up to this point the vast majority of the passage mapped had been previously explored (and often worked) by locals. But all the time spent earlier cataloging leads paid off, and in just three days the trio pushed virgin passage to the far south-west in San Wang (to towering mud cliffs with the sound of water below), far south in Er Wang (to 8m wide passage heading off in two directions) and far north in San Wang (to30m wide borehole). Each pushing front was left wide open when exploration was cut short after Brian and Matt called over from Tian Xing, requesting more rope and manpower to push Qikeng Dong. In July, Duncan, Erin, and Matt returned for a further 2 weeks of exploration. They pushed Xi Niu Dong to completion, and surveyed over 7km in the area, bringing the total to over 23km, with 10km in San Wang Dong and 8km in Er Wang Dong. Perhaps most exciting was pushing in the far north of San Wang Dong, where over 3km of virgin passage ended in a pitch down to a large chamber, The Old Department Store, which bore signs of mining. Following the draft led to a shaft entrance with the remnants of old bamboo ladders.
To be continued...