Houping 2004 Expedition Logbook


: Hong Kong to Guilin via Guangzhou

Rob Garrett

Buses from Hong Kong to Guangzhou leave regularly throughout the day from a range of locations. It takes about 4 hours and has no baggage restrictions. The typical cost is $100 HKD but the bus from the airport costs $250 HKD. Other departure points include Mong Kong and Hung Hom both near the CTS buildings. CTS have changed their visa issuing policy and you are unlikely to get more than a 1 month visa valid from date of issue.

The buses arrive in Guangzhou at the large/expensive China Hotel with is close (<1km) to the main train and bus station to Guilin. There are about 7 buses a day to Guilin and it takes about 10 hours at 元150 RMB. At the end of April they were holding their annual trade fair which meant a lot of westerners were in town and all the buses from Guangzhou to HK were full. Buses to Guilin were no problem. There is a shortage of cheap eateries near the main bus station and no internet access. However the nearby park is a very pleasant way to pass time waiting for transport. Both the bus and the train station have baggage storage facilities.

1st May 2004: Moving house

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

After 3 years it was finally time to move out of the Institute. We'd arranged for a van driver to meet us at 10am, so woke up at sparrow-fart to start moving out. The highlight was definitely moving "smelly", an old glass-topped desk with some extremely unpleasant liquid under the glass, which ran out and slimed both Duncan + Rob, making them retch from the horrible stench best described as fermented vomit.

Everything packed very compactly into a large van, with just enough left over to fill a smaller van. The whole move cost 350Y (200 for the big van), including transport for the three of us to Yangshuo. Not cheap, but not too bad either. When we arrived in Yangshuo it took us a few minutes to find the flat -- Matt + Apple had moved into a smaller one shortly before moving to Chengdu, and none of us had seen it before. Echo arrived to give us the keys, not even getting off the motorbike before zooming away, which was a wise move on here part, as it was sweaty heavy work moving everything up to the flat. (To be fair, both her freezers had broken + she needed to sort them before her stock spoiled.)

We shoe-horned the 5 cupboards, 2 desks, 2 beds , and a couch into the apartment, turning it into a real caver's pad, with equipment everywhere you looked. All done by 5pm + paralytic in the Karst Cafe shortly afterwards. Good "training" + thank goodness Rob has there to help + it didn't rain.

8th May 2004: Missing the bus

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

After sufficient festering in Yangshuo, we packed up + hauled everything (including duvets, batteries, drill, etc. for Tian Xing 2004) to the bus station just in time to miss the last bus of the day. Stored our bags at Jane's Place and fettled the now-broken trolley wheels, deciding to catch the 6:30 bus the next morning.

Jane was in a state -- her bedroom door had been broken down, presumably by robbers after money from the recent May holiday, when she'd been charging 150Y a night for rooms! We offered to stay in her flat to keep her safe for the night + helped her drown her sorrows, which made the next morning rather painful.

9th May 2004: Liuzhou station

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

Arrived in Liuzhou at 10:30am -- the direct Yangshou to Liuzhou bus could not be called 'express' by any stretch of the imagination. On the plus side, the driver didn't even blink at our 15 bags between three, and even helped us load them in the boot. At 25Y a head, it's definitely the bargain way to get to Liuzhou. Throughout much of the ride we were stuck behind the XX Shan bus, not quite fast enough to overtake. Finally our driver turned off onto the GuiLiu expressway. We returned to the backroads just in time for the XX Shan bus to hurtle past us. Doh.

We'd missed to 10:05 train to Chongqing, but were assured there was one at noon, so hustled to the station in time to find out that neither existed... the schedule had recently changed. Now there are trains at 9pm (240 h. sleeper), 2am (150 h. sleeper), 5:30am and 6:30am. Not wanting to arrive in Chongqing at 8:30pm on the 9pm train, we opted for the 2am train. At first there were no tickets for sleeper or seat, but the woman behind the counter worked some magic + when we enquired again there were 3 berths, no problem.

We spent our 16 hours in Liuzhou parked under a stairwell, which was surprisingly comfortable + we were not hassled at all. Things worth noting:

  • the bus station + train station are only about a 10 min walk apart.
  • there are several places near the train station offering cheap (8-15Y a bed) accommodation.
  • the Wang Yi supermarket has cold bottles of water for 1Y each.
  • a survey shop on the bus-train road sells dry survey books.
  • there's a bowling alley between the bus + train stations.
  • several net bars in the area, all 2-3Y a hour (may require 10Y deposit).
  • the info desk sells train schedules (1Y).

10th May 2004: Day on the train

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

Boarded the train from the Mother, Baby, Serviceman lounge -- no hassles/lots of ramps + then slept until midday. Rob + Dunks invented new forms of patience to while away the hours, and a fair amount of cave-related bull was spouted. Good platform food at Du Yun around 1:30pm.

11th May 2004: Bus to Wulong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

Caught a bus to ?Jiang from near the CQ train station. 5.5 hours to Wulong, including 2 hours with the bus stopped. Dinner of chuan, chuan. Yum!

12th May 2004: Bus to Houping

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

Selected waypoints on the bus from Wulong to Houping FIXME INSERT CHARACTERS. (note, "Hou" appears on signs w + w/o the radical).



Bus ticket to Houping, or Gouping as they've printed it here -- 'Gou' means dirt or filth!

13th May 2004: Thursday (Ma Wan Dong)

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

A brighter morning as we went for a jaunt down to Er Wang Dòng. First stop was Matt & Duncan's cave which now had a small stream flowing out. The entrance was logged and seemed to continue in 2m diameter tube at the top of a short climb. Next a shaft and connecting (?) culvert entrance were gps'ed. A local farmer said they trundled gently down a long way (or something like that).

A happy meeting at Er Wang Dòng and hearty lunch. Apparently some 20 explorers from Chongqing spent a few days playing around in the doline last year. We were running late by now but still went for a quick survey in Ma Wan Dong -- the giant entrance overlooking the resurgence. It seems tricky to reach but fortunately there was a hidden second entrance down to the left a bit. This we surveyed for about 150m. The end is unpromising but ascending and continuing with a reasonable chance of popping up into the main passage. There's also an interesting passage sloping downwards back under the entrance towards the impressive resurgence. Then it was two hours or so back up the hill in time for tea and beers.

14th May 2004: Confabulation streamway -- Er Wang Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

It was market day. In the night it had pissed it down and everything was wet and overcast. And our packs were heavy, ridiculously so. The slippery short cuts made for heavy going and Erin elected to stick to the road. Duncan and I went ahead before returning to relieve Erin of most of her load.

With limited time a quick trip to The Discombobulator in Er Wang Dong. An interesting pitch down led to a ledge with interesting possibilities over the top. The only problem had been the destruction of all of our cairns and survey stations making it hard to tie in accurately. Continuing down the pitch gained a small streamway "Confabulator", which flowed back under the main passage draining steadily to the south east. The passage was typically 1.5m phreas with mud and popcorn on the side. Lack of time forced us to leave it going although it seems destined for Carmel Squares and drafts enticingly outwards. The journey out was uneventful with a brief photo stop and we were only a little late for supper.

15th May 2004: 2 pitches, no survey tape

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

The day began with a bit of confusion when a man in a smart suit turned up + showed us some paperwork about (Second Dragon Cave) "Er Long Dong". He had the keys to San Wang Dong so it looked like he has some sort of authority. He certainly had enough stamps on his paperwork. I was confused but he seemed to be saying he represented some sort of development or exploration club + said something about exploring it in 2000.

We trooped off to the entrance and were let in with assurances that he'd wait there reading. Needless to say, we got to XXX, started rigging, and discovered we didn't have a survey tape. Rob nipped back to the entrance, which of course was locked with no sign of our man (He'd gone to Tongzhi!) Duncan reported the pitch went to Pocket Full of Mumbles, so he derigged + we went to check out some leads on the west of The Finger. First went to a ramp up, second an oxbow, the third to a going 20m wide horizontal passage, an the fourth to a pitch down to stream passage. Woo, hoo!

16th May 2004: Random Walk Streamway

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

Underground by 10:15 to push the streamway Rob found yesterday. Soon got to a 30m wide chamber with lots of stals, where to our surprise the stream loops round under the chamber and heads off to the east.

A few wiggles later and we were heading north and totally confused -- where the hell was this streamway going?

The answer turned out to be -- down. Suddenly the character of the passage changed and the stream dropped down cascades, which we climbed down to a gravel sump. However, near the top of the climb was a dry route abandoned by the stream and a short pitch got us back to the streamway.

Another climb, this one quite big, and it looked like a sump at the bottom, but on closer inspection the stream did a sharp left and the passage continued once more to a final short pitch to where the stream flows down a tight, sharp rift -- there's a body-sized gap a couple of feet above the water, but very sharp and catchy -- not for boilersuits!

At the top of the final pitch we followed a fossil passage to the left for a few tens of metres to a boulder choke which draughted, and which Erin got a long way into to find a too-tight hole into a black space. Furtled round in some muddy leads trying to bypass the choke, but nothing went.

On the way out, checked out a rift below the 2nd pitch, which goes along a narrow dry rift before branching with several holes down to the sound of water. The survey makes this look like a good bet for bypassing the tight nasty lead at the bottom.

17th May 2004: Xiong Jia Dong and Ma Wan Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

The 'Day of The Big River". We set off to Xiong Jia with the knowledge of a pitch to drop and the promise of a huge river. The sun was shining and we were soon on our way into the cave. Old survey stations were rediscovered and the pitch swiftly rigged albeit a bit drippy. Alas the mythical river of Brigadoon, that mighty flower of Byzantium, the scourge of Babylon, the Great Nourisher of Egypt proved to be no more than a tiny trickle incapable of even flushing a urinal. In the absence of any way on we could only retreat taking photos in our flight and declaring the cave pretty much dead barring local information and the existence of a hitherto unknown route.

As plan B we made our way to Ma Wan Dong. Erin spotted an unlikely passage in the roof which proved really interesting until it connected to the limit of our previous survey and there all hopes floundered in a strongly drafting boulder choke. A few other leads proved equally fruitless and a swift search of the main entrance above revealed another giant boulder choke and the presence of an almost entirely circular draft between the two caves. The main entrance does, however, contain some impressive rock wall defensive structures and the collapse itself looks relatively recent and may even have been artificially induced.

The journey back was briefly punctuated by a visit to the huge resurgence just to confirm that we hadn't imagined it. We hadn't. Then a dashing dash up the hill in time for tea and beer.

18th May 2004: Er Wang Dong -- King's Canyon

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

Went into Er Wang Dong's gorge entrance. The descent of the gorge is not too bad, with just a few slippery bits and plenty of footholds. The entrance at the bottom of the gorge is very large, about 50m high and perhaps 15m wide at its widest. The climb just inside the entrance is a complete sod; although only a couple of metres, it takes 14m of rope to rig and is an awkward couple of moves to get down. It's clear from the blasted-clean rock that in the rainy season large streams pour down from both ends of the gorge to unite as they flow into Er Wang Dong. The impressive initial passage is floored with big, scoured-clean rounded boulders, and it was obvious that whichever passage the stream course follows was likely to be of some interest; this proved to be the case.

Where the surveyed route continues on up a huge boulder slope to join with the rest of Er Wang Dong, the stream course turns right and into the unknown. After a bit of messing around to refind an old survey station, we followed.

With mounting excitement we surveyed down 10m wide, 30 or 40m high passage, with signs of the violent passage of large amounts of water in abundance. We went down a climb, and then a short pitch with smooth, glassy rock, to reach another pitch. That was a little bigger, nearly 20m, and it was more than a little disappointing to reach the bottom to find ourselves at the bottom of a huge bucket, about 10m by 5m with a 4m overhanging climb up to the lip. There was no other way on, so after a few abortive attempts, a human ladder was constructed and Rob climbed up to find a further pitch down on the other side, which looks about 15m deep.

Having no more rope with us, we headed back, ticking off question marks along the way, and Erin having to go back down the pitches to retrieve her spare light.

Erin's feet were hurting, so she set off back to the farmhouse, while Rob & I went to look at the "40m question mark" that overlies a similar qm heading the opposite way. It turned out only to be a 20m question mark and after a few legs we we left it at the foot of a nasty 4m climb up into a 1½ m diameter strongly draughting passage.

On the way out, noted that near the top of the big rubble slope the main passage continues up a blank 4m climb to where there's a big black space, probably heading towards the doline.

Just at the top of the entrance climb, we saw a bizarre 16-legged spider. It appears to be a single animal, not a mating pair, with 8 legs down each side.

19th May 2004: Long Square Roots (copied from a chinese maths book

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett


19th May 2004: Kings' Canyon and Freak Lime

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

We rigged the mill-pool pitch + dropped past a few rubs to a 14m diameter pool + continuing passage which soon came to the head of another pitch. This was rigged off a thread + went over the lip for another scrappy hang in the water. Rob + I went partway down + sheltered on a ledge while Dunks abbed to the bottom. He reported horizontal passage running N-S and that we'd need a drill to rig the pitch safely. It was about 50m deep + seemed more appropriate for Tian Xing than Houping, so we decided to come back in the dry season with more equipment.

Rob + Duncan had observed that the main draft in Canyonlands was coming from a climb into big black space heading towards the doline, so a bit of combined tactics + sketchy climbing later we were up in a high canyon passage trying to sniff out the draft on various traverse levels. Rob out did himself on the sketchy climbs + we did a pull-up with a travelling 14m rope (just long enough) which ended at a proper pitch down into what looked like big passage (unknown) with the sound of water. Interesting, entertaining stuff, but will need a ladder next time as we didn't leave any ropes in-situ.

20th May 2004: Er Wang Dong -- Square Root

Duncan Collis, Rob Garrett

Erin jacked. Went to the lead that needs a handline on the right hand side of Er Wang Dong's main passage. Spent a while trying to refind totally unmarked survey station, but fortunately Rob found footprints on an obscure off-route ledge where the next station ought to have been, and working from that and the old notes we're pretty confident we got the right spot, which we cairned.

The climb needs a very long handline because the belay is a long way back, and the holds on the climb are very crumbly.

At the foot of the climb we found ourselves in a nice large walking passage with a reasonable draught. In the sandy floor we could see a single set of footprints -- clearly not a well-visited part of the cave.

The main passage went for about 300 pleasant metres before ending suddenly at a flowstone blockage. A climb up at the end failed to bypass the blockage.

On the way back we checked out side passages, one of which went for a couple of hundred metres of wriggly passage before passing through a constriction, enlarging, gaining a small stream and then ending abruptly with a wet bodysized tube; another passage went for perhaps 50 metres to a chamber where the draught came from an inaccessible hole in the roof, with a draughtless knobbly crawl continuing.

21st May 2004: Er Wang Dong the continuation south from the doline

Duncan Collis, Rob Garrett

Erin left to check out Tongzhi for the night leaving Duncan and I to visit yet another lead in Er Wang Dong. Things didn't go very smoothly as we inadvertently wandered up a side passage into a decent size sandy phreas which degenerated into a crawl after about 50m. Next we took a wrong turning at the stone circle into a complex area which had us going round in circles for quite some time before we managed to find ourselves again. We then passed several leads along the correct route before finally finding the climb down we were looking for. From here our initial impression by following the far wall left was that our intended lead was blind. In fact, by following the near wall you can enter into the Sea of Holes -- an area of huge precipitous breakdown. After some furtling around Duncan found a sneaky route (via a rat's nest) to descend into ongoing passage. This appeared to be old river washed passage littered with breakdown that went to a 10m pitch. At the start of the pitch a short climb gained a maze of passages where solid wall and breakdown were largely indistinguishable. Eventually an exceedingly unlikely looking technical squirm between boulders was found to gain access to the main continuation, "Blackburn Lancashire". This is a strongly draughting double decker passage with occasional visual connections although the upper level is not easily accessible from this end. We followed the muddy lower passage for about 100m to a chamber with the sound of water. A 10m pitch to the right leads to a deep pool Straight ahead through boulders doubles back up a ramp to gain the upper level. From here a number of lead were not explored and we're not sure where the draught goes.

On the way out we tied the survey in to the stone circle near the doline and only took one wrong turn as we exited performing a neat little circle near the main junction stone circle again. Ho hum.

21st May 2004 - 22nd May 2004: Erin's trip to Tongzhi

Erin Lynch

The walk to Tongzhi takes more like 3-4 hours than 2 and is mostly uphill. In one place the road has not been built at all, leaving a gap of ~100m and in another the road has been washed away, leaving a 1m wide strip where a motorbike can be pushed along ... so it'll be a while yet before there's regular traffic along it. The road cuts deeply into several valleys. One had some small caves/shelters in it, but they were housing a work crew, so I didn't investigate closely. Further on there was a small resurgence (just a trickle) at the base of the limestone. About 2m away there was a strongly drafting dry entrance which may be too tight. On the gravel-surfaced road near Tongzhi there are 2 entrances (one partially hidden behind a building), and on the road to Yuezi from Tongzhi there is at least one shaft. Villagers in Tongzhi report many caves in that area.

For the last part of my journey to Tongzhi I got a lift on a beer truck full of empties. Exciting ride over bumpy roads. Found a nice hotel in Tongzhi -- 10Y a night, 24hr hot water, a bathtub with plug, and clean rooms w/36 channels of TV (no English) -- Jin (Gold) ... ... near the major appliances shop.

22nd May 2004: Footprints

Duncan Collis, Rob Garrett

Went into Er Wang Dong to survey the stuff we got lost in yesterday. First of all went up the slope up to the right just before the major junction which contains a stone circle and station #95.

This passage starts nice and big, but then degenerates into a crawl before enlarging again and ending at an aven, where the draught presumably comes from.

From the stone circle we went straight ahead and then followed the left wall, which led us back to the stone circle via a short resurvey of part of the route to the travelling ladder pitches.

To avoid doing any more resurvey, we spent some time finding the way to the ladder pitches, and were delighted to discover that the route didn't involved the big sandy-floored passage we'd seen heading off southwest. Noted that the wooded ladder has rotted quite badly, and has reached the stage where the rungs can be easily broken with one finger.

Set off surveying our nice big passage which has several pitches down from it into another level perhaps 30m below, which looks like a good bet to connect to the big passage Kings' Canyon drops into

After a while the pitches down got so wide that further horizontal progress was not possible, but fortunately there was another passage off to the left here, so we went that way.

Nice big sandy floored passage, just what we like. At a ninety-degree bend right there was a slope up on the left into an alcove, where we found a unexpected pitch down, and behind it an even more unexpected hundred-odd metres of 3m wide 4m high passage. Mr. Footprints had been there before us, but no-one else. We don't know the identity of Mr. Footprints, but he has been into nearly all of the obscure parts of the cave before us, leaving his solitary track of footprints. He wears farmer's plimsolls, and judging by the fact that he's able to leave footprints in 2 foot high crawls, is of fairly short stature.

Back in the main passage, we surveyed merrily onwards. The floor was deep carpet of fine white dust, which our feet sank deeply into, and to our surprise the passage at first seemed to be virgin, but closer inspection showed faint traces of footprints which had almost been obliterated by the dust re-settling over a presumably long period of time.

At the next junction, we found an old sandal on top of a rock. It had been woven from plant fibres, and despite its obvious age, was quite intact. We have never seen anybody wearing shoes of this type.

A little further on, we met another surprising sight, in the form of some very odd footprints. They were about 6 cm long and 3 cm wide, with a pointed heel and three short but pointed toes: FIXME INSERT SKETCH

Whatever left these prints appeared to have been taking strides nearly a metre long, but was light enough that its prints hardly made an indentation in the fine sand.

We started to wonder quite why nobody had been along this passage for such a long time, but eventually Rob came up with a plausible explanation -- cave crickets. The theory is that when they hop, the arse and legs of the cricket make the 'toe' marks, while the body makes the 'heel'. Well, at least we hope so.

After passing a huge nitrate pit, the passage degenerated into a crawl and then ended at a dust choke.

We headed back to 'Jesus Boot Junction' where we'd found the sandal, and found that the other passage here was a crawl. In the crawl we found fragments of another sandal and lots of thread. On the ceiling there were soot marks, a little bit of writing, and several areas which had been covered with parallel scratch marks, probably by somebody using a stone. Th scratches were about 10cm long and about half a centimetre apart.

Finally we surveyed what we'd come to survey, and did a circuit of the chamber with the travelling ladder in it, which turns out to contain a few question marks.

23rd May 2004: Fester

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

While Rob toiled on the cave descriptions, Dunks + Erin relocated + photographed Feng Dong's entrance. Very impressive draught blowing out of it this time of year. The plan was first to go on a proper trip, subsequently revised to digging in Feng Dong, + then postponed indefinitely in favour of drinking beer.

We met the guys who are stringing phone lines in Zhong Ling Cun -- lots of changes here lately. There is a new concrete building + masses of concrete pylons just waiting to be stepped. The same is happening all along the road to Tongzhi. I sent text messages to Matt + Echo -- this is the first year Er Wang Dong's had cell phone coverage. I expect by the fall we'll be able to send email from the village -- it certainly is getting less remote by leaps + bounds.

24th May 2004: San Wang Dong -- Sleight of Hand

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

Went into San Wang Dong to descend the pitch at the big corner at the start of Crusty Duvets, via a couple of stops to take bulb shots along the way.

Rob rigged the pitch off one of the huge stals near the edge, with a sneaky deviation to get over the lip and a rebelay using a very long sling part way down.

At the bottom was a bouldery chamber with a promising looking lead sloping down, which didn't go and an unpromising one sloping up, which did.

Initially trending north west before turning south west, the passage was 5 to 10 metres wide and up to 30m high , and seems to be getting bigger as it goes on. Left the passage open but with the way on partially blocked by boulders -- should be just a few short legs to get into the black space beyond. From the limit it took about 2½ hours to get back to the entrance.

25th May 2004: Er Wang Dong -- '72 Minutes'

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

Mercifully close to the entrance this 8m pitch did indeed require a bolt as our notes had promised. This gave Duncan and I something to do while Erin was returning to the surface to fetch her camera. It took a while to relocate the survey station and then we were off. Ignoring a small gnarly streamway we climbed up to a high level continuation which promptly ended after about 30m. Back to the streamway which was every bit as gnarly as first appearances promised. (An attractive high level lead was inaccessible.)

Approximately every 2m in the streamway a fresh constriction or awkward climb would present itself as the soft slimy rock contorted around making surveying rather slow. After a couple of hours we stopped in a space nearly big enough for all of us to have some grub and concluded that we must be very close to connecting to Caramel Squares so we should probably press on. In reality we were merely passing 20m over Caramel Squares into the unknown. A little relief was offered when the water sank into an impenetrable hole so that the way on was a little drier, apart from the damp mud on the walls and the frequent puddles.

After another hour or so the passage mercifully ended at a stal blockage with a clear continuation beyond. From here it just took 72 minutes to return to the pitch with only the briefest of photographic stops.

At the top of the pitch Erin and Duncan started out while I derigged. I had just finished packing away the rope when Duncan came rushing back calling out not to pack the rope as Erin had left her camera at the bottom of the pitch, which was duly rerigged. Finally we all made it out in time for a slightly late dinner and a double ration of beer.

26th May 2004: Windy digging

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch

Late start + Rob decided to spend the day drawing up (good effort!) so D + E went for a little dig just to get out of the house. E vaguely remembered a boulder choke in Feng Dong, but it was actually a moderate sized passage mostly full of mud. Crowbar in hand, Dunks pushed a dug-open drafting phreatic tube for some distance, while Erin investigated the damp mud slope through a slot to the right + soon came to 3 strongly drafting digs, all next to one another at the top of the mud slope. D's find would be tedious to survey, so the pair had a bit of a dig. It was easy going through the dry, clumpy mud + the two downward digs were soon united to form a squeeze which Erin just barely fit through. She popped out at the head of a slimy climb down, so while she dug from the bottom, Duncan excavated from the top until a large rock came loose + clattered down the climb/pitch with a series of impressive booms, making the squeeze spacious enough for Duncan to come through + have a look. He went down the climb + reported 3m wide passage going to a handline climb + further spacious passage. Woo, hoo! The squeeze was further enlarged so it's now barely a constriction at all + a return w/survey gear was planned for the morrow.

27th May 2004: Survey Feng Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

For our final trip of the expedition (Part I) we needed about 500m in the book to break 5km survey tally. 200m were needed to beat Yunnan 2002. Rather than visit one of our still unpushed alpha quality leads (which require around 2 hours caving to get to) we decided to take a gamble on the howling draft of Feng Dong. Erin and Duncan had left it at a handline climb down into 3m wide passage.

Overnight it had rained with little respite and much vigour and the morning was misty and unimpressive. A hasty (but tasty) breakfast of oily rice and lots of garlic set us up for the venture which was my first visit to Feng Dong. First impressions are dominated the impressive draft howling out of a muddy grovel 1m wide and 30cm high which shakes the trees across the path. Once inside there are two possible ways on. To the left Duncan had pushed a small tube with no obvious conclusion. To the right was the main lead which had been enhanced by their digging yesterday. The overnight rain had turned everything very squalid but the survey made steady progress to the handline climb. Below this we ran into virgin cave. However it was not very friendly. The rock was sharp and brittle and the small inlet trickles which entered quickly disappeared into a barely penetrable and entirely unexciting slot. The draught also had disappeared.

A touch nonplussed we retraced our steps with the prospect of surveying in Duncan's little tube looming every closer. Back atop the handline climb we pondered the draught which we felt must continue on at roof level ...

By reengineering a few perched boulders I was able to enter a crawl in a sort of roof level bedding plane which descended to a rift well above the stream. It was not a brilliant lead but at least the rock was smoother. I wasn't sure if it draughted but called the others to join me. In the meantime I checked out an obscure hole heading back up the bedding. To my surprise it went to a little draughty chamber. Even more surprising was the walking size rift passage that sloped away at a a steady angle into the unknown. This would do as a beginning.

Eagerly the three of us surveyed our way down this new sneaky route. After a while the floor dropped away but it was easy to traverse and a powerful draught beckoned us on. Soon a wide bedding appeared around us replete with possible leads but the draught led us steadily east.

When the floor trench and roof tube separated we were faced with several possible ways on which, it transpired, quickly reconverged into a draughting chamber that needed a handline to access. From here the way on was in a cavery rift with curious golden brown crust flaking off the walls and ceiling.

With an average survey leg length so far of about 5m we weren't making progress quickly enough to reach our survey target and the cave wasn't helping us. Then the sound of water in the distance raised our hopes.

To our surprise the water turned out to have crept up on us from behind as well, flowing silently along the floor of our rift which began to get small and a little awkward as the draught intensified. Then another chamber and a dry inlet was followed by easier going except for some deep pools which needed traversing. Onwards and the floor flattened and widened and progress quickened. Was this the elusive mainstream? -- presumably not given the predictably small size of our stream.. Onwards and some tiny inlets then another as large as our stream. The passage grew again but it still draughted noticeably. It was time to turn round but we still lacked 100m of survey total and the tally was coming fast and furious. A few legs later and we were in 10m high passage with the largest stream (albeit still small) of the system thus far discovered and it was still draughting noticeably. Curiously it was now heading like an arrow straight to the north into blank mountain but directly away from the resurgence ...

At last, after 80 legs and more than 600m we concluded our survey and thus our exploration for the expedition. The cave was ongoing up a steep mud slope, perhaps to a fossil level although water could be heard ahead. The stream seemed to be diverging to the right and a third major passage bisected the two. The trip had been a success. A possible third system had been opened up as blank space in a blank mountain beckoned tauntingly. Next time. We will be back. Once again Houping has proved a real winner.

28th May 2004: Return to Houping

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

A reasonably early start and we were more or less packed up and ready to go by 10 o'clock. Our three porters were ready but on seeing our pile of gear a fourth was recruited. On the walk up we tested the 2-way radios. Near perfect walking weather (just a touch humid) was followed by a slap up feast and a few ganbeis. When the farmers left we carried on drinking cold beer until it was time for an early night (and well-earned hot shower). Our bus was leaving at 6:30am the next morning.

29th May 2004: Arrival back in Wulong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett

From our shampoo bottle:

The takes the natural plant essence, and
can validate to do away with the scurf,
head the, nourishment to moisten to show
the humidity and nutrient of the hair,
equilibrium hair silk, let the hair of
your show more the jet black and bright,
easily comb. and imply the composition
of various nourishments, let you times feel
the the nature, absolute being clear dry.

Can't wait to see their website: http://www.chwfin.com

Arrived in Wulong, sorted shit, carried one pile to the Guang Ming reception house and the other pile to the Hui Bang offices only to find that they're shut for the weekend, so we can't access our gear store until monday (day after tomorrow).

Met Mr. Li. He's got married, has a child on the way, is decorating a new house and now works for a new company that's an offshoot from Hui Bang, so he's very busy.