Caobo 2003 Project Logbook


7th November 2003: Driving to You Xian

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Huang Bao Jian, Driver Jin

Set off at 8:30am. Sat in car for 12 hours with 1 hour break for lunch and a couple of brief toilet stops. Highlight of the day was a little after night fall, lost on the outskirts of Hengyang, when we reached a bit of road which had a 1 foot wide and deep culvert running across it, which had once been covered by slabs; of these only a few remained intact, and the best ones were underneath a truck which had broken through and got a back wheel stuck. Fifteen minutes were spent with Huang and Jin carefully lining up the car for a daring diagonal crossing made more difficult by the fact the car had to be turned as it crossed in order to avoid a wall. We inched across and made it safely to the other side. 5 minutes later we asked a passerby for directions, and were told we were on the wrong road. The whole performance had to be repeated, this time made more entertaining by lots of traffic milling around on the far side of the ditch and an impatient taxi driver behind us, who nonchalantly sped across once we were out of the way, probably does it ten times a day.

8th November 2003:

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Huang Bao Jian, Driver Jin, Liao Li Ping

The day began with dim sum + a 2 hour drive to Caobo, past a (very low) reservoir that is the area's main tourist attraction. At the company's accommodation we were give Mel's old room and quickly spread caving kit over every available surface. After lunch we went on a tour of the company's 2 remaining tourist sites (they've sold Bailong Dong (designed by Zhanghai) at great profit). The first was Xian Ren Qiao -- Fairy Bridge -- one of the innumerable Xian Ren ...'s in China (we've seen Xian Ren Dong's in San Qiao, Zhongdian, Qu Zong, etc.). The bridge itself was quite nice. 40-50m high, 2-3m wide at its narrowest, and located amongst some nice forest, unfortunately spoilt by a road running nearby. The bridge can be seen from the road, but the company has developed a 2hr tourist route including a boat ride, tomb of an ancient philosopher (w/simplified characters on the inscription ?!?), a 10m long cave (Xian Ren Dong!) and a lot of walking. The paving stones on the path were very nice + it was probably the best-constructed path of its kind we've seen but still you were in sight (and hearing) of the road for much of it, which somewhat detracted. Towards its end the path runs by a small resurgence which has been incorporated into a water-feature. The ticket price for all of this will be 48Y,and it's best reached via the You Xian to Caobo bus.

the second attraction was Tao Yuan Gu (Peach Source Valley) which has a waterfall... but we don't think we actually went there. Instead we went to Yu Wang Tian Keng for a quick look at Yu Wang/Yu Huang Dong, site of an old hydro-power scheme from the 1970's. Now the power station has been decommissioned + the company would like to develop the cave for tourism. It was first surveyed by Zhang Hai, Chen + Shen in June when it was full of water + they needed to swim. Mel + co resurveyed it adding more detail when it was dry in August. A short distance downstream of the Yu Huang resurgence there is a short through cave, after which the water goes into a further doline.

Back at the accommodation we were told that one of our foreign friends had run off with the key to our room (doh!) so after a quick check that we couldnt' just open the door by reaching around from the window-grille, Duncan improvised a door-bypass (through the empty window frame in a bathroom which adjoined ours). No problem.

After dinner a quick meeting to establish objectives (2 shafts, 1 muddy passage) and then to sleep... Brrr... miss Guilin weather.

GPS data all WGS84/UTM
C12-6 Xian Ren Qiao 49R 0772988 3008632 409 epe 11
C12-7 Xian Ren Dong 49R 0773064 3008752 429 epe 13
C12-2 Yu Wang Dong 49R 0779429 3020759 288 epe 13
C12-3 Ai Lin Dong 49R 0779388 3020979 288 epe 10
C12-9 Small Resurgence 49R 0773153 3008891 378 epe 10
Caobo 49R 0775715 3011888 443 epe 10
You Xian 49R 0732447 2989462 79 epe

9th November 2003: Wudi Dong

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis

Woke up at 7.30am for breakfast at 8.00 which was served at 8.30 then at 9.00 we were told the Big Boss was coming and that we should wait for him, but by 10.00 he was still stuck in a traffic jam so we set off. Half-hour drive followed by half-hour walk followed by camera man, photographers and reporters got us to the cave a little after 11, and finally got underground by about half-past; only 4 cameras pointed at Erin while she got changed. Mr. Huang and a few blokes who'd helped carry our kit up the hill sat and waited for us' we said we'd aim to get back by 6-7pm.

We knew the cave had potential to be about 260m deep, so we had 360m of rope, loads of rigging kit, and a drill with us.

The cave was draughting outwards very strongly, and we were feeling optimistic, despite the narrow pitch-head on the 2nd and the constriction just below the 2nd pitch, which was making a deep roaring sound from the wind being forced through it.

Started rigging the 3rd, which has some very cheesy rock indeed at the top, but fortunately one good bit in the ceiling. Rigged a Y-hang and 2 devious deviations to get a lovely hang down with one rebelay part-way down. Only a 38m pitch, but very nice.

Unfortunately, the way on at the bottom was a small horizontal passage. The other two bags of rope were not brought down the pitch. Surveyed along the small passage until after a few legs it seemed to end with a ramp up to a boulder choke. Erin was posted into a small hole at the bottom of the ramp, though, and found it went to a small chamber with a loose climb up, a tight rift and a dig going off.

Much of the draught seemed to be coming from up the climb, so I was sent up to investigate, and found an aven (from which most of the draught came) and a small chute which led to an uninspiring steep, downhill, small, non-draughting tube.

Erin went back to where we'd left the instruments(not wanting to bring them through nasty small stuff if it went nowhere), and I checked out the tight rift; almost certainly goes to the bottom of the nasty tube I hadn't fancied.

By the time I'd extracted myself from the tight rift, Erin had found a draughting dig in cobbles, which is heading in the same direction as the main trend of the cave, but would require a couple of days digging with no guarantee that the passage beyond is big enough.

Surveyed our finds, and nearly managed to get up through a hole in hanging boulders in the aven, where there might be something going off, then surveyed out up the pitches + derigged, particularly enjoying getting the 2 unused bags of rope up through the narrow bits.

Hit the surface to find Huang and our porters sitting round a fire, wishing they had a chicken to roast.

T.U. 9hrs

10th November 2003: Haitang Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Huang Bao Jian, Driver Jin, Liao Li Ping

Lie in until 9:30, the breakfast + paperwork until 11 + asked if we wanted lunch. Yes, please. Crack of noon start for "10" minute walk to cave entrance -- impressively large after yesterday. Stumble along w/disco lights past many side passages (jealous of Chelsea) to climb up over slippy mud. Liao races up, then Dunks goes up + fixes rope for the rest. Liao leads D + E to Southern end; all assume Huang + Jin following closely, but they don't appear. Later it transpires that Jin bailed + waited at bottom while Huang didn't find the right route up the further climbs + had an epic.

In the S chamber there was an impress draft + we tried to find its outlet. Dunks first climbed up a crack to a well-decorated, but blind ledge to the W. To the E there appeared to be a black space near the ceiling so Dunks talked himself into a dodgy 10m climb up + soon heard the howl of a draft. Unfortunately it all too soon ended in a boulder choke, probably related to a choke in a similar position in the lower level. No sign of the speculated daylight connection.

After Dunks reversed his climb, he checked out most of the leads in the S branch of Enlightenment Way. The 10m+ wide passage is an optical illusion + the remainder are pitches down or oxbows.

On the N side of the T-junction Huang was photographing some nice stal, but his 6400RMB camera was poorly matched to its 1600RMB lens, and the lens was causing a big shadow on all of his photos. Erin helped him by firing an external flash while Dunks had a quick look to the north.

On the way out we found a half-frozen Jin, but the brisk walk to the car warmed him up.

The electric cut out at 11:30pm, so only one Ion cell half-charged. doh.

T.U. 6hrs

11th November 2003: Enlightenment Extensions

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Huang Bao Jian, Liao Li Ping

The day before Huang had declared an early start: up at 8, breakfast at 8:30, out the door by 9. Well, we managed 10, so not too bad, eh? Dunks + I bought all our Ion cells with us in the hopes that we'd be able to milk enough juice out of them for a sensible length trip. I'd spent breakfast cleaning the contacts on one of mine + now it seemed to be working a bit better.

The S end of Enlightenment Way seemed a total loss in terms of showcave potential, so our objective for the day was the "continuation of main passage via traverse" at the N end. We spent a while carefully following footprints, both to conserve the cave + help us find survey station. I found #3, but #2 eluded us. Eventually we gave up + went for a look at the traverse for which we'd brought a rope, bolting kit (mostly for hacking holds in teh mud) and slings. The traverse looked nasty, but climbing down + back up again was no problem. At the top Dunks found a small dry pool of sparkly white cave pearls, part of a large flow of calcite which began with a 15m+ high, 8m? wide boss. The passage was a comfortable size for 2-man surveying, although there were hits that it could be much winder higher up. After a few legs, there was a nice slope of sparkly grey calcite on the LHS. This went up to a series of stal grilles covered with bat bones -- a veritable bat cemetery -- but no way on. Continuing straight ahead, there were a few largish depressions in the mud floor (not sure if caused by drips or collapse) and and then a ~8m high formation that looked remarkably like the profile of a puppy dog standing on a rock. Immediately beyond we came to the lip of a pitch rocks fell ~3 seconds (most likely to the level of the main passage). At first it looked as though this was the end, but Dunks spied a traverse along the upper edge of a cone of scree (a bit exposed!) which gained a comfortable 6m wide ledge. He trundled along this to the base of a climb which he declared too dodgy, especially considering the exposure. He put a bolt in at the base to protect it, with the intention of coming back some other time with a drill, then decided to just go for it -- daft bugger! At the top he regretted placing that bolt, as it meant he only had one left + protecting the climb down would be interesting. In any event, after ~25m the passage he was in hit another drop. A handy stal belay (dug out a bit at the back) kept Dunks in one piece for the descent + then we gave Mr. Huang + Mr. Liao the grand tour. It was a shame that Huang's camera batteries were dead + he couldn't photo the dog.

Dunks was a bit tired from not having slept the night before, so we decided it was time to head out, but first a quick check to see it it was worth coming back the next day. Dunks scooped the lead at the bottom of the graphite schist ramp for 150m --- a definite winner, so we decided not to derig the handline. We'd arranged to meet Huang + Liao at the jeep + arrived there at 17:50 to find they'd not yet come out of the cave. Driver Jin became increasingly anxious while D + I snoozed in the warm car. Finally, after an excursion to see if we could spot their lights from further along the road, Dunks walked back towards the entrance, only to meet them halfway. Huang + Liao had found a new passage + followed it for 200-300m to a pitch. They'd waited for us for ½ an hour at the bottom of the climb, + then headed out.

Over dinner I asked if they have charcoal pots here -- no luck, but they've given us an extra duvet, which should help a bit. Still Baltic here -- Huang says Guilin is also cold. Sigh.

TU 6hrs

12th November 2003: More Haitang Dong

Erin Lynch, Huang Bao Jian, Liao Li Ping

Duncan'd had another sleepless night, so after letting him snooze until 9:30, Mr. Huang decided we'd go caving w/o him. I was kitted up + in the car by half 10 + then proceed to sit, and sit, and sit... We were waiting for Mr. Liao, but at least the heater was running + I was getting some kip, so no complaints. Soon enough it was time for lunch + then more sitting. I was just suggesting we pick another cave to survey when Liao finally appeared. We were underground by a little after 1pm, having told the driver to pick us up at 8pm since we had ~500m to survey and expected to be quite late.

We went to "Duncan's lead" and after 2 legs Huang let out an exclamation. he + Liao had been here yesterday -- their big pitch as the "traverse" at the beginning of yesterday's survey -- not a pitch at all. Doh! Guess they both hadn't recognized it. The passage was pleasant going with a sandy mud floor + ledges on either side. We soon hit a breakdown chamber which Huang said connected to the Chelsea's survey of Enlightenment Way. Leaving that for later we continued straight ahead. There was some confusion as to whether or not they'd been along the passage before. I'm still not certain. In any event Liao went off to ferret while Huang + I continued the survey. the big passage continued round a bend, but Mr. Huang insisted we first survey a small, steeply sloping side passage (shrug). It went to a pitch which they chucked the obligatory rocks down, and ended up being an oxbow to the main passage. There was another side passage that we didn't have time to survey. Mr. Huang + I closed the lop while Liao had a further scoop -- this time reporting ~200m of well decorated passage, but it was getting late, so best to just finished the job at hand. We surveyed another oxbow (which had another side passage which Liao scooped) which brought us back to the breakdown chamber + then a few more legs connected back into the Chelsea survey. It was fun surveying w/Huang, although miscommunication may have introduced some errors. Some of the station labels are a bit larger than needed, but they were created with the best intentions + there was nothing I could do about it after the fact.

Once the survey was finished, we had a quick stroll to find freshly broken rocks from todays + yesterday's pitch + then out for the jeep at 8pm.

TU 6½hrs

13th November 2003: Tu Ji Yan

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Huang Bao Jian, Liao Li Ping

The Chelsea write-up of this cave mentions a static pool with in-situ condoms. I think that about sums it up. We waited ages for Mr. Liao again, then went to the entrance w/ reporters in tow. Once Dunks had started rigging, we discovered the "40m pitch" was actually 4 short drops w/ some horizontal between them + we might not have enough rope or hangers. Rigged it extra tight + had plenty spare, although 6 hangers was not really enough. At the bottom of the last slope Dunks reported a sump. I went for a further look -- it wasn't conclusive. Dah! Time for a swim. Most unsalubrious. At the constriction the tape wrapped around my leg + I got a mouthful of the foul water. Bollocks! Thankfully after 10 more meters there was a definite sump. No way on. No draft. We're outta here. I jugged up + Dunks derigged -- total TU 45 mins, if that.

On the way back to Caobo Mr. Liao wanted to show us another entrance, but I was super keen to wash off the foul water residue, so Mr. Huang went alone. He later reported the new cave didn't go.

Best bit of the day -- sitting in the sun on the roof. Lovely sunset + an amazing display of wonky bricks + mortar. After dinner we went for a (very short) stroll around town to admire the pink bank, portable petrol station, and other such attractions.

14th November 2003: Wu Di Dong Digging Trip

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch

After a bit of sitting in the sunshine, Mr. Liao arrived and presented us with various digging tools which were either too long, too heavy or too blunt. Suitable modifications were made and off we went to the cave accompanied by a bunch of very noisy 18 year old lads who were waiting at the start of the path; as they carried our bags up we couldnt' really grumble, but they were rather annoying company

Down the cave to the dig site, then we set too. The dig took about an hour, and resulted in the production of a muddy squeeze, which ripped Duncan's boilersuit as he went through.

5m of open passage, then another dig, this time a too-low bedding. 2 hours of digging in very squalid conditions (Especially for Duncan who was half-naked by the end of it due to the steady disintegration of this suit) led to a breakthrough into the base of a small aven, where the way on was blocked by a few projecting rocks which were quickly prised out.

Finally into open passage, but only half an hour to look at it as we'd promised to be out by 6 or so we decided to have a quick look-see and survey tomorrow. nothing spectacular or large, but a descending rift to a very small streamway. At the end it got very tight but it might just be passable. A few other ways on too.

The draughting today was very weak, nothing like the gale last time (much warmer on the surface today.)

TU 6½hrs

15th November 2003: Wudi Dong -- still going

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch

Some days you just have to face facts -- all these banquets + gambei's, big easy caves, chauffeured jeep rides + complimentary porters have turned you soft, soft as toad poo on your harness. Any decent Yorkshire caver would have bottomed Wudi Dong before breakfast ... with a hangover ... twice. But not us. No, we moaned all the way to the cave, moaned our way down the pitches, and when it got to surveying the digs we really started moaning. In Yorkshire we would have been chortling over the breakthough -- a short squalid dig + then literally tens of meters of boulder choke to a crawl in a streamway + then tight rift -- who wouldn't be delighted with such finds? We decided the kindest course of action would be to kill the cave swiftly -- no need to prolong the agony; unfortunately Duncan forgot to tell me which bit was supposed to be "impassably tight" and we missed our best opportunity -- damn + blast! The cave kept going + going until we were perilously close to being late for tea, when finally -- a pitch. The thought of lugging tackle through all the various nasty tight bits was too horrible to contemplate, so we ran away as quickly as possible + decided to destroy all evidence of the strong draft, leads of 2 levels, and potential to hit 4km of big stream passage. We vowed never to return... at least not this week.

TU 7hrs

: Note about maps

Caobo is in 49R, approx at 27°12'08"N 113°46'59.9"E, so it's zone is 49-7 and its full reference is 49-7-36, or in compact notation 49G-C12 so we can assign unique numbers:
C12-1: Hai Tang Dong
C12-2: Yu Huang Dong/Yu Wang Dong
C12-3: Yu Huang Tian Keng through cave
C12-4: Wu di Dong (north of Caobo)
C12-5: Di Ji Yan/Tu Ji Yan/Belly button cave
C12-6: Xian Ren Qiao Dong (cave in arch)
C12-7: Xian Ren Dong (short through cave on tourist path)
C12-8: Wu Di Dong (near Xian Ren Qiao)
C12-9: Small resurgence on tourist path at Xian Ren Qiao
C12-10: Da Hu Li Tiankeng
C12-11: Moon cave
C12-12: Guan jia li shaft
C12-13: San dong Xia Tiankeng E cave
C12-14: San dong Xia Tiankeng W cave
C12-15: Xianhua yan cave
C12-16: Bai Long Dong showcave

16th November 2003: Fairy bridge + another 'bottomless' cave

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Huang Bao Jian, Liao Li Ping

Mr. Huang'd heard a rumour about a tiankeng/shaft near Xian Ren Qiao, so we packed some ropes + a drill + piled into the car for a look-see. All the while Mr. Liao insisted that the only caves near Xian Ren Qiao were those we'd already seen, but he was ignored until we actually arrived at the tourist spot and no one could be found to take us to the cave. It was a beautiful day so no complaints. Instead we were asked to survey the bridge -- quick work with a 50m survey tape, although I think some people were disappointed we didn't rig it. Then we were asked to abseil/climb into the cave in the side of the bridge. We declined on the grounds of high wind and no climbing rope. Mr. Huang seemed keen to have an easy day, so then it was time for a bit of a sit down, after which a guide appeared who knew the way to another Wudi Dong. The walk to the cave took us past some hundred year old trees -- some over a meter in diameter. It was interesting to see the reactions of the non-local Chinese. They were dead impressed. I wonder what they'd make of Sequoia + King's Canyon.

The cave entrance was a small slot with no draft. Our guide assured us 2 men had been down 30m to a ledge then not been able to hear stones hit the bottom of a further drop or see the bottom with their fag lighter. It was my turn to rig, so I used the 27m which was on top + tied a y between some bamboo + a nose of rock, slapped on a tector + rigged a long deviation off the rock our guide was sitting on. Another deviation + a third would have given a free hang to the bottom, but I'd used all the slings so a tector had to suffice. Dead pleased with saving bolts I abbed down to a rubble floor + a further climb down that needed a handline. Shouted up to Dunks to bring more rope + then noticed myself panting rather loudly. I checked out a climb up flowstone that just oxbowed back into the main shaft and then had to take a rest. Dunks rigged the handline + quickly bottomed the cave. We surveyed out huffing + puffing up the pitch -- definitely bad air. On the surface Mr. H explained the first explorers had had problems getting their lighter to work. Ahhh! No wonder we had splitting headaches + good thing the cave didn't go. Now we both know how to say "bad air" in Chinese.

Back in Caobo there was enough water pressure for a luxurious hot shower + then it was time to pack up for a 3 hour ride to Zhu Zhou where we had a morning meeting with "the boss", Mr. Cai, who was coming from Guanzhou.