Houping 2005 Expedition Logbook


26th April 2005: Becka + Julian to Yangshuo

Becka Lawson, Julian Todd

Hong Kong

Flew Manchester to Bangkok on 14th April for a week diving + kayaking on Ko Tao island in the Gulf of Thailand. Way hot (~37°C) + got badly burnt on one kayak but great underwater + some v. fine food. Bangkok less appealing, awash with ugly white men groping beautiful young Thai women. Flew on 23rd in Hong Kong + spent the night in some seedy dive in Tsim Tsha Tsui (sp?). Masses of people + skyscrapers but easy to negotiate.... unlike Shenzhen the next day. We crossed the border having breezed along in English in Thailand + Hong Kong to find no helpful signs or even touts. The first bank I found wouldn't take my cards (Construction Bank) + the ATMs were down in the next so after well over an hour searching I was mighty relieved to find a working Bank of China to score some cash. Helpful lady at the obvious bus station by the crossing explained we wanted the other bus station + we found "Yinhu" bus station across town, got our sleeper tickets to Yangshuo + had a dull but relaxing 5 hour wait filled with noodles, beer + fruit. To Yangshuo 7:30am. No answer from Erin + Duncan's phone (turned out it wasn't working) so roused poor Rob who sensibly directed us to the Karst Cafe for breakfast, where Erin eventually found us some hours later.

29th April 2005: Trip to Wulong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Becka Lawson, Julian Todd

Train to Chongqing

After a long but uneventful hard sleeper train trip to Chongqing we got the first bus out to Wulong + just about squashed all the gear in. Big stand-off on the outskirts of Wulong as the driver tried to dump us all out. The locals grumbled but eventually piled out but Julian + I played dumb (not hard) whist Duncan + Erin stood their ground. Eventually the driver gave up + drove us the 2-3km to the town centre... then continued on through town so god knows why he'd wanted to turf us out early anyway. Big gear unpack + repack, long internet session + then a v. fine barbequed dinner + pineapple.

30th April 2005: To Houping + initial trip to He Ma Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Becka Lawson

Crossing the Wu Jiang on the way to Houping

A mere 4 hours on the bus to Houping - tarmac as far as Tongzhi. Irritatingly had a truck parked across the road at the start of the street that is Houping so the bust couldn't get in. It was just starting to rain so we did a quick gear ferry to the hotel + then a fine lunch. Julian keen for a nerd + Erin, Duncan + I keen to go caving so we walked ~20-30 minutes on the road back towards Wulong then the shortcut track to Er Wang Dong to a couple of entrances that hadn't yet been looked at because people had always had too much or too little gear en route to Er Wang Dong/Houping (was gps'd on 13/5/2004 - see logbook). In the further entrance which soon liked to the nearer vertical entrance. Surveyed 14 legs ~ due south, 220m along + 50m deep, down mostly easy walking passage with a small stream. Looks like Er Wang Dong will have to wait a day or two until this gets checked out...

TU: 2 hrs

1st May 2005: He Ma Dong

Duncan Collis, Becka Lawson

Duncan + I got the short straw of tidying up the inlets we'd missed yesterday. Did the minor entrance which soon dropped down to join the main streamway. Next got the grimsville task of surveying to the open shaft with stinking dead animal. It turned out to be 3 dead chickens so I got stressed by thoughts of bird flu especially when I stood on something that made a nasty loud popping sound. Shriek. Plop. Down to the second inlet on the left some way. Neither Duncan nor I can remember what happened up there but I guess its on the survey. Oh yes -- it want to an aven and there were also a couple of inlets in on the right with possible miserable QMs. Then down past yesterday's final station where Erin + Julian had continued to survey downstream today. We found a couple of their notes where they'd left inlets + surveyed up the uppermost one. Into really big passage, got a couple of 40+m legs and up to 18m wide but it finally fizzled out by a daylight aven where it split into small, low ways on. Back to tick off a final QM near the start of this inlet + met the other so decided to wrap it up + go home as we were all hungry. Lost of bats + cave crickets + rat shit.

TU: 6 hrs

1st May 2005: He Ma Dong

Erin Lynch, Julian Todd

Mouldy moths in He Ma Dong

Went down some time splashing through all the water + fog. Surveyed down the stream to a major junction where Erin thought it was going well, but it closed down and we were just able to keep from getting wet in it. We crawled round some oxbows to carry on + passed two turning till the stream sank in a wet crawl. There was draft inwards which made us cold because we were wearing nothing under our boilersuits. We tidied up some long inlets and I climbed up some nasty overhanging boulders to find a drippy aven. Was now tired of it. Erin tried to do some photos of dull passage, and I got colder + her flashes didn't work. Nothing new about cave photography. Found the others on the way out at the big junction. Now waiting to try and draw it up.

TU: 6 hrs

2nd May 2005: Chuan Dong

Becka Lawson

Chuan Dong

Took four GPS readings along the multiple entrances to this river cave. The main resurgence Aquaduct Cave (on the left) and sink Arch Cave (on the right) are clearly visible on the road out of Houping, past the school and down to the low point about 200m from the school.

GPS readings:

  1. Point 880 Position Error = 17m
    Elevation 1280m
    49R 0212705 UTM 3278385
  2. Point 881 Position Error = 12m
    Elevation 1277m
    49R 0212875 UTM 3278281
  3. Point 882 Position Error = 13m
    Elevation 1173m
    49R 0212688 UTM 3278417
  4. Point 883 Position Error = 19m
    Elevation 1201m
    49R 0212569 UTM 3278512

A = above stream, left of arch entrance
B = field beyond boulder choke after arch
C = in stream at downstream aqueduct entrance
D = field above upstream aqueduct entrance
land mostly drops away around B so would expect another downstream resurgence. I may have seen one but I couldn't find a path that lead to it.

2nd May 2005: Carries to Er Wang Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Becka Lawson, Julian Todd

Duncan and the potatoes

Early morning bimble around Houping river cave (see last 2 pages) by Becka then two carries to take all our stuff to Er Wang Dong. Fine walking weather -- cool + misty. In anticipation of Mr. Wang's cooking we had a final slap-up meal at the restaurant in Houping + beers to wash it down. The evening meal fully lived up to our expectations. After a quick orientation tour of the karzi, Erin + bedded down with Mr. Wang + son whilst Duncan + Julian bedded down with each other and a vast horde of sprouting potatoes.

3rd May 2005: Survey of Chocolate coated in Feng Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Becka Lawson

Discovered that not only was there regular power now in Er Wang Dong but that the phone line installed last year let us get a dial-up internet connection -- no way! Julian noticeably brightened and there was clearly no way he'd be going caving. Breakfast was worse than dinner last night, lumpy reheated rice + Duncan thought he'd found a maggot but it turned out to only be a caterpillar. Off down Feng Dong just before 1pm. I'd been advised no kneepads which I wasn't so sure about as it's fairly awkward + crawly with good boilersuit-ripping potential. After just over an hour of this it breaks out into stream cave + we soon reached the pushing front from the single trip down there last year. Surveyed on, Erin complaining that the passage was too big + there was too much stuff to have to draw. It continued roughly northwards though was fairly confused -- there seem to be three separate streams in close proximity and some good leads off. We left it going strong in 10m + wide passage with a large inlet off at the final survey point. Back in time to have a fine meal of roast potatoes and spring onions. Thunderstorm again overnight -- was a big one early this morning too.

TU: 6.5 hrs

4th May 2005: Shown Guan Niu Dong by Mr. Wang 关牛洞

Becka Lawson, Julian Todd

Mr. Wang in Guan Niu Dong

Walked ~200m down Tongzhi road, let over stream past Xiniu cave on the left then follow main track up to two farmhouses. There turn off main track and go left, above the pigsty/karzi. Just 10m beyond pigsty on the right, just next to the rack was a shaft that Mr. Wang said was blind. This GPS-ed as Point 885, Position Error = 10m, Elevation 848m, 48R 0790549, UTM 327 6276. Continue up path for ~100m until get to non-cultivated bit. About 10m off the path at the top of an overgrown gully is a 4m wide, 1m high entrance to Guan Niu Dong. This is a small chamber which is fully blocked by boulders at the far end. Entrance GPSed as Point 884, Position Error = 10m, Elevation = 858m, 49R 0209408, UTM 327 6317.

4th May 2005: Walk to Shi Wang Dong Tiankeng

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Rob Garrett, Becka Lawson, Julian Todd

Cloud in Shi Wang Tiankeng

Not content with the wander with Mr. Wang first thing then a tourist trip to see the (impressively flowing) resurgence with Julian, Duncan suggested I checked out the Tiankeng. I walked down the Tongzhi road until level with the covered bridge over the river, where the road crosses a stream. I followed this stream all the way up the valley on the right bank (good track initially, hard work in the middle which was cultivated with small messy paths all over). As you follow up the stream, a small stream enters from the left (with a path on the left bank). Standing in the main stream at this point is:

  1. Point 887 Elevation 893m Pos Err=16m
    48R 0789625 UTM 3276182
    no fields here

Further up the valley, where the valley widens + the fields are found again, the stream disappears then reappears. It then turns left (west) towards a village with only a dry streambed continuing ahead (north)> At this junction is:

  1. Point 888 Elevation 923m Pos Err=12m
    48R 0789362 UTM 3276740

Following up the dry streambed finally leads to the lip of the doline + the thundering roar of a waterfall on the opposite side of the dolines. At this point is:

  1. Point 889 Elevation 986m Pos Err=12m
    48R 0789219 UTM 3276968

I then started traversing around to the left, west, getting 4 more GPS points:

  1. Point 890 Elevation = 1058m Pos Err=10m
    48R 0789145 UTM 3276954
  2. Point X Elevation = 1087m Pos Err=10m
    48R 0789038 UTM 3276983
  3. Point X Elevation = 1103m Pos Err=8m
    48R 0788983 UTM 3277936
  4. Point X Elevation = 1080m Pos Err=10m
    48R 0788912 UTM 3277101

Point 7 was in fields above + well beyond the waterfall entering the doline (which is ~ opposite the col, point 3. The river above the waterfall is in a steep sided valley.

I then tried traversing right, east, around the doline from 3 initially on a small, greasy track, with a very long drop. It was also v. overhung by trees + I couldn't get a GPS reading so I gave up on this as a silly idea.

Instead I took the larger path not near the edge which climbs up steeply to a proper road. I took 3 readings along here, 8 + 9 were on the path up, 10 was on the road on the edge of the doline and 11 on the road beyond the end of the doline.

  1. Point X Elevation = 1109m Pos Err=31m
    48R 0789290 UTM 3277006
  2. Point X Elevation = 1114m Pos Err=17m
    48R 0789287 UTM 3277095
  3. Point X Elevation = 1136m Pos Err=17m
    48R 0789262 UTM 3277175
  4. Point X Elevation = 1122m Pos Err=9m
    48R 0789283 UTM 3277256

I walked on the road to where it doubled back + started on that but it wasn't heading the right direction + it was getting late. Decided to be foolhardy + try to hack straight back to Er Wang Dong as the valley route I'd come up had been slow going. I headed down the main road, past the doline, and it gradually lost height then contoured around left, finally reaching a col looking into EWD valley. Unfortunately the road ends here (~550m from the doline + 550m from EWD) at:

  1. Point 891 Elevation = 1049m Pos Err=10m
    48R 0789906 UTM 3276422
    col between doline + Er Wang Dong
  2. Point 892 Elevation = 975m Pos Err=?
    48R 0790048 UTM 3276576
    path from col to EWD
  3. Point 893 Elevation = 927m Pos Err=?
    48R 0790191 UTM 3276695
    path from col to EWD

I asked a very shy goat-herding girl which way to EWD. The path she pointed out started well but gradually disintegrated into minor paths + water-washed gullies but the concrete building near EWD is a good landmark.

5th May 2005: The Underworld

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Becka Lawson, Julian Todd

Early start for a trip to the pitch at the start of Chicken Run in EWD. Once at the stone circle junction we decided to nip to Qingkou Tiankeng to take a few photos. Water levels were extremely high following 3 nights of thunderstorms, and as we neared the tiankeng we were forced to cross the stream by teetering on stepping stones, where normally we'd just stroll along damp gravel. The doline was an impressive sight with two sizeable waterfalls thundering down it, and a brown stream flowing along the bottom. On our way back the river was noticeably higher and we had a jolly time at the crossings.

At the start of Chicken Run Dunks rigged the pitch while the rest of us took photos + gradually chilled. The pitch was broken in half by a ledge with pitches going off on both sides which presumably connect. When we finally reached the bottom we were pleased to find passage going off in two directions + wished we'd brought two sets of instruments. First we went west and were surprised to find a nitrate pit and writing on the walls in traditional characters. We wondered how they'd come down. The passage split, with the left branch quickly petering out and the right branch ending in a drafting, complicated choke-aven with another large nitrate pit. There may be a way on, but we decided it could take ages to find + retreated to the bottom of the pitch. Heading southeast this time in what looked like more promising passage we soon came to yet another junction. here the mud was fresh and we were fairly certain it had flooded since the miners had last been there. We followed a strong draft to the right, coming to a tricky climb up. Julian scrambled up + was dismayed when A) Duncan couldn't follow and B) there was no handline for him to use on the way down. He scouted ahead + reported a waterfall + more passage beyond - a definite QM A. From the muddy junction we then headed left which came to a soak-away with a nice cracked mud floor. Running out of options we went back to the bottom of the pitch + went east. Junctions + more junctions followed, with a big lead down a climb to the right and a drafting boulder choke to the left. Julian found a number of artifacts; a hemp carrier-thing, and retaining walls built to keep a route through the choke open. All very interesting, but we were hungry, so headed out for bean sprouts + tofu. Luxury.

TU: 8 hrs

6th May 2005: Walk to Qingkou Tiankeng + Niu Bizi Tiankeng

Becka Lawson

Stream flowing into Qingkou Tiankeng

The early breakfast sent Duncan back off to sleep whilst Julian + Erin nerded so I walked to these two Tiakeng. The route seems to have changed since Duncan + Erin did it in 2002 due to many new roads. Probably a 2 hour return trip to get to the top end (point 7) of Niubizi gorge + back.

Route: From Er Wang Dong, go behind the farm + almost immediately take the good footpath going steeply up to the right. This leads up to the road at

  1. Elevation 954m 48R 07890393 UTM 3277187 Pos Err 14m
This road climbs up + somewhere must reach a more major road (I missed this junction on the way back + ended up high above EWD.) Just follow high above the gorge behind Er Wang Dong - at a a couple of points it splits with one way going to a farm, stick to the non-farm road. Eventually this road reaches a large road. Take the left, lower road here. [The upper, right road switches back + then takes you high above Qingkou Tiankeng with a good view of the waterfall opposite].
  1. Elevation = 1079m 49R 0209704 UTM 3278392 Pos Err = 29m
The lower road drops down until you get a good view of Qingkou Tiankeng on your right.
  1. Elevation = 1021m 49R 0209588 UTM 3278688 Pos Err = 10m
The goat track leading off here along to the gorge soon disintegrates into overgrowth. Follow the main road up to the left. After ~200m this comes to a crossroads. To the right leads to the fields above the highest part of Niu Bizi Dong. Straight ahead is road for ~100m then narrows to a footpath. There is a good view of a series of 3 large entrances (Niu Bizi Dong) on the far wall of the Tiankeng. There is also a not-very-interesting-looking entrance shaft right on the left side of the road.

  1. Elevation = 1103m 49R 0209520 UTM 3279298 Pos Err = 7m

Soon after, where the path turns to the right you get a great view right down Niu Bizi Tiankeng. At this point,

  1. Elevation = 1121m 49R 0209477 UTM 3279435 Pos Err = 20m

There is a possible entrance on the left, up above the path. I didn't go further but from Duncan's write-up (2002-07-20) the path continues round, down to a farmhouse in the valley then you can approach the gorge along the river bed. However the river was taking q. a lot of water when I was there (less than Qingkou + less than Shi Wang Dong but still a small river rather than a stream). It was dry when Duncan did it.

May 2005: Er Wang Dong Two

Becka Lawson

Sent down to keep me occupied. Various bones + bad smells on the entrance descent suggest locals use it to discard animals in. Further in, beyond any direct sight of daylight I saw my first Chinese rat bounding away. Fortunately the size of the rat shit doesn't seem to scale to the size of the rats -- they are big but no bigger (+ more nervous) than Liverpool rats. I spotted the red eyes of a second one high up on the wall. Lots of huge nitrate pits. Spent quite some time hunting around in the small crawls + chambers at the end, looking for a way on. It definitely drafts (into the cave) here but the air may just disappear in the small streamways. Just before all this small stuff, where the big passage narrows right in, is a calcited aven from a small hole in the roof -- looked like it might continue above but too much water dripping from it to tell if it was drafting + it would be a 3m climb up to a vertical squeeze which would need hammering. Very fine views of the entrance slope as you exit the cave once your eyes have light adjusted.

TU: 2.5 hrs

6th May 2005: Twin Pits Cave (named by Mr. Wang)

Duncan Collis, Becka Lawson

Mr. Wang ploughing with Shuang Keng behind him.

Mr. Wang had pointed out an entrance right by where he was ploughing, about halfway between Er Wang Dong and San Wang Dong, by a tree in a dried-up streambed. Duncan put a spit in for a 10m pitch down. Becka turned up + we surveyed down the pitch then to a short climb to a pool of water (less than welly height on the left side, or an epic traverse on the right). A short crawl then an old rats nets with weird white sprouts + albino caterpillars living on the rat shit. Soon at a second pitch/freeclimb. Only about 5m down but it looks like the cave could take quite a lot of water so it's probably worth rigging. Drafting out. Wrapped up the survey + derigged.

TU: max 1 hrs

May 2005: Economics of Er Wang Dong

Erin Lynch

Making tofu

Each family has 10 mu (4 potatoes, 4 corn, 2 rice) = 400,000 sq. meters of fields. [Ed. may have been some confusion here...]

1 mu = 60 zang x 60 zang

3 zang = 10m

1 full grown cow = 2000Y

1 month in a Zhejiang factory = 1000Y

½ kilo of cow meat = 10Y

½ kilo of pig meat = 8Y

½ kilo of bean noodles = 3Y

1 month of high school (food + accommodation) in Tongzhi for Mr. Wang's son = 400Y

1 month government salary = 300Y

80 people from Zhong Lin Cun have gone to Zhejiang

7th May 2005: EWD - Underworld II

Duncan Collis, Becka Lawson

Inscription on the wall

Rerigged the pitches down (a 60m rope should do it, plus about 5 slings + a rope protector). Started surveying where we'd finished on the last trip, down a chamber + under ourselves. The good walking size passage soon came to a small waterfall from the left which almost immediately dropped to a small, gravelly sump pool. We climbed up besides the waterfall (handline very useful). The water comes in from high on the left.from a small, unappetising crack. On the right soon leads over boulders to a perch overlooking a pitch and a stream. Duncan reckoned this was a sump bypass. We then backtracked to tick off the other two leads at the end of the last trip. Up on the right led into the boulder choke with man-made retaining walls, climbing steeply up. However Duncan reckoned there had since been movement in the choke so we wrapped up. We also went down from here, past the big retaining wall + down a 2m tube. This brought us high above the passage we'd just been surveying in (before we'd reached the sump pool), but with no obvious way to climb down to it. Running out of non-vertical leads, we then went to where Julian had climbed up on the last trip. Duncan managed it on the left side (Julian had gone up the right) + I got a handline so got up too. To reward us for our efforts, we then knocked off a few long, straight legs in tall, 3m wide rift. This ended in a biggish pitch. There were also a could of possible leads on the left as we went along. Derigged to find the other two waiting. Oh yes -- got some good photos of the Chinese characters at the bottom of the pitch.

TU: 8 hrs

7th May 2005: EWD - Feeling Groovy/Feeling Cheated

Erin Lynch, Julian Todd

Followed the others in. I put a pie on the big dish to use as a signal if one of us got out first. Erin went ahead and I checked out that big chamber which I had just transcribed into tunnel. I went along the perimeter and climbed down into a pit in NE corner, and then found a weasel into the boulder choke which was above the limit of extent in the Underworld where there was a Chinese stabilized choke up. I went through it some way till I got lost, but saw evidence of dry-stone walling. Went back to the Underworld pitch to see it being rigged, and was told to go back to Erin who was waiting in Feeling Groovy. Went down a few climbs and selected the best looking one, which happened to have a line of stones across it probably because it was the wrong turning for the Chinese miners. We started the survey at a triangle of wood on the sand one Erin height up -- surveying techniques have improved since then. The inlet meandered rockily on the radiator grills, always easy to climb and never quite ending. No breeze to speak of and one downward passage we couldn't follow due to a small muddy pitch. After many hours of short survey legs we reached a large aven chamber. Everything was fortunately climbable and lead nowhere. A way back rejoined the original passage, and a second way back had no option to do the same, but we didn't have time to survey it so it didn't get checked out. Ate pie, waited at pitch for others to ascend, then raced out.

TU: 8 hrs

May 2005: San Wang Dong - Beyond Sleight of Hand

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Becka Lawson

The bag of tricks

Mr. Wang had consulted with his brother + they'd decided that since we were cavers the 50Y "administration fee" to enter San Wang Dong could be waived. Very good news, so in we went. Huge + confusing passage initially, then contact-lens hell in Where the Wind Blows then a pig of a pitch that Duncan had a grim time rigging. We had a 12m rope wrapped twice round a huge stal (needs rope protectors, we used tackle sacks) then I think a 37m rope from this to a very tight deviation around a stal boss on the lip (needs a rope protector) which is undercut. Down to a rebelay round another stal with two rub points just beneath it (needs yet more rope protectors - two, we only had one). Or better still get some bolts in somewhere? Finally all down + trundled to the end of the previous survey. Duncan scouted for the way on whist Erin sorted the survey gear out. Shit where's the book? Frantic checking + re-checking her bag produced nothing so we scrabbled around for anything to write on whilst Duncan, oblivious, shouted out what he'd found. "Duncan, we've got some bad news." "What?" "There's a bit of a paper shortage." "Well how much have you got?" "None." "None? Where's the 5 pages of wet stuff I gave you?" "Safe with Julian in EWD." Suddenly instead of the explosion of expletives I'd been expecting we all started giggling + from there on in we had a fine time. Erin discovered that the dry bag made coarse but acceptable sketching paper (using the marker pen) + the two Melonin plaster patches were OK for numbers. She wisely decided to skip the elevations. We surveyed down the main passage over a couple of boulder blockages and traverses until the floor dropped out leaving a boulder bridge over a deep hole and a possible continuation but with a probable deep drop in the middle of the passage. At this point Duncan climbed down under our floor level quite some way + reported it continued. We hadn't much time so instead of this we backtracked + looked at two left leads. The first soon narrowed + reached a pitch head with a small waterfall + possibly more water below, with a 2.5 second drop. The second, just 20m further back towards Sleight of Hand went along then down a climb + a steep mud slope down to reach a pitch head with water which presumably is the same pitch as the first, but on a 1.5 second drop from here. Took photos of the nice mushroom formations + other bits on the way out.

TU: 9½ hrs

10th May 2005: Feng Dong

Duncan Collis, Becka Lawson, Julian Todd

Pretties in Feng Dong

Underground before 10.30, a record. Locals watched us wriggle into the entrance - what must they think? At the handline climb, Becka left her kneepads behind, having forgotten about most of the passage between there and the big stuff. At the pushing front we took the lead with the stream, which went upstream in initially large passage, but after 3 legs it went squitty and we had to crawl under a waterfall and then climb up a small wet hole to find a continuation which ended at an aven after only 40m.

Back where we'd started we took the other, dry passage which went for over 100m in pretty large stuff, passing through a boulder ruckle only to be stopped by a solid boulder and mud choke 40m later. However a side passage near the end was very pretty, and ought to be the subject of a photo trip.

Next we backtracked to the big bouldery chamber where our previous survey trip was almost stopped and pushed the lead on the west side. This went almost immediately to a hole down, from which the sound of a large stream could be heard. It may be possible to descend on a long handline, but we couldn't see whether there was a pitch at the bottom - stones tumble a long time though, ending with a good BOOM!

Our next stop was the high level passage which doubles back towards the cascade where the second stream enters. This reaches a pitch down to the stream, upstream of the cascade, with 5m wide passage open ahead. There is another very pretty area at the start of this passage.

Finally we followed a route under the boulders of the main passage which eventually veered off and reached a drop down to a large (for the area) stream. A long handline ought to suffice. Headed back out, finding that in our absence the locals had excavated the entrance crawl somewhat, making our exit from the cave much easier.

TU: 8 hrs

11th May 2005: Feeling Groovy - Er Wang Dong

Erin Lynch, Becka Lawson

No power all day so limited opportunity to put off caving and we were underground before 10.30 again. Soon to the end of the Feeling Groovy survey. Did around 50m in small, windy stooping height passage to a small pool with a low mud crawl. Matt had scooped all of this when he'd run ahead at the end of the Feeling Groovy survey. Backtracked to some more interesting-looking leads. I'd noticed a promising-looking passage on the way in, on the left side, just past the stone circle at the junction. However we decided to save that and take the right (as you go in Feeling Groovy) at the stone circle junction. This started with a low wide mud-floored passage which reached a junction (*mentioned later*) after around 40m. We went right into taller, narrower passage that ended in a short climb up to the left and then soon reached a chamber below a 15m high aven. A stoop/crawl passage led off from the left of this chamber and soon reached a dry streambed. We headed downstream (left) leaving the right, upstream branch as a QM A. The stream dropped down a series of short, easy climbs then levelled out to easy walking passage (quite narrow) until Erin noticed a cairn - yippee - a connection. We tied the survey to this then scooted along and Erin was pretty sure it was Carmel Squares. Took some photos then decided to survey a left hand passage from the next cairn we found (approximately 100m by pacing from the first cairn). This was mostly stooping passage. Just as we thought we'd better wrap up I spotted the junction (see * above) we'd surveyed earlier in the trip. Excellent - a second connection. This whole loop had a good, strong draught throughout. We decided to try to go out Carmel Squares - quite crawly (Jammy Crawl) and catchy however it only took us an hour to get out even given some indecision in places on the route-finding.

TU: 8½ hrs

11th May 2005: Shuang Keng

Duncan Collis, Julian Todd

Eventually got bored of lack of electricity, internet or food and went caving. Due to powercut last night we were soon both reduced to caving on small LED torches. Climbed down from previous limit to a small chamber with light coming in from the other entrance. Then down a climb through boulders to reach the head of a pitch. A couple of bolts and a backup round a wedged boulder just saw us to the floor with a 27m rope. The pitch is a 20m freehang.

Below this the landing is on a platform of rock with drops on three sides but it is possible to climb down in stages to a 15m wide chamber.

The stream course heads off into a crawl while on the other side of the passage a hole leads immediately into Er Wang Dong Slideways.

TU: 2 hrs

13th May 2005: Chuan Dong

Becka Lawson, Julian Todd

Got a disbelieving Julian up and out of bed and left the hotel by seven, underground and surveying by 7.10. Took about an hour to survey the huge natural arch cave on the right of the road - very wide passage. Duncan looked at it later and said it would be worth a good furtle in the sink in the boulders in case there was a continuation.

Then surface surveyed over the road (unfortunately at the same time as all the kids were heading to school) then into the lower section of the resurgence. This soon to a man-made, concrete dam around 4m high. Julian then went out again and up to the next entrance and spent some time trying to throw me the tape over the deep pool below the dam.

Then surveyed on, underneath the concrete aqueduct (dry - but in the afternoon it was flowing so presumably the farmers control the flow somewhere). Soon to a skylight then turned left and shortly reached an entrance on the right which was as far as I'd been when I first went in on 2/5/2005. Finished the survey soon after due to rumbling tums - only to find the others had already finished breakfast.

TU: 2½ hrs

13th May 2005: Chuan Dong in the afternoon

Rob Garrett, Julian Todd, Becka Lawson

One of Chuan Dong's many entrances

After a fine lunch, Becka and I (Rob) set out to continue exploration. The previously dry aquaduct was now full to overflowing and an efficient entrance floundered slightly as we promptly lost the main way on. Fortunately this turned out to be a cunning bypass to avoid getting wet feet and legs. Once again we lost the main way on following a pleasant Yorkshiresque rift which came in sight of daylight just as it was getting a bit small.

As we returned to the main way on we were met by Julian following us in and from here surveying continued apace in big, bouldery stream passage. This romped on and on for another 400m or so until a splashy climb and wade led Julian to the surface. Not wanting to get wet, Becka and I elected to return via the underground route. On the way, another inlet was briefly investigated and since it went we decided to survey it. A couple of hundred metres of pleasant passage led to a boulder ramp to the surface again. The stream seemed to continue underneath but it was time to come home for tea and medals. Hopefully the first 1km day of the expedition.

TU: 4 hrs

14th May 2005: East Meets West in Er Wang Dong

Becka Lawson, Rob Garrett

Small scale hydro scheme on the way to Er Wang Dong

A late start after a morning carry down from Houping so we decided on an easy amble to leads near Blackburn Lancashire. Spent some time locating a cairn from the previous survey then checked out two QM's marked on the survey and one that wasn't. One on the right led immediately to a thin, deep rift which would need a rope. Just beyond, on the left, a short crawl led to a small chamber with a hole in the 2m high ceiling. We piled up some rocks and some combined tactics to get up there to find around 60m of pleasant enough passage sloping upwards to reach ... nothing at all. Trundled on down the main passage a short way to another QM on the survey. This led off to the right where the main passage crosses a small stone bridge. It was well-used with a good footpath in it and led to a large passage that I just couldn't believe nobody had ever looked at - you'd at least have expected someone to have accidentally wandered up there, lost! Onwards with a good draft. The route split, we took the upper route; the lower led to a bouldery chamber with possible ways on. The main passage continued large then the roof came lower and lower ... though the draft convinced us there had to be a way through. It must have convinced the miners too, as they'd dug a narrow trench in the sand for around 30m to let you crawl past the lowest point and back into spacious main trunk passage again. This reached a junction with a large nitrate pit and a main way left. A nearly-intact pair of sandals were put on the right side here, with stones to mark them. We continued ahead. The passage narrowed to around 2m wide but got much higher with an interesting low, draughting hole on the right and other possible ways on high on the right and left. Finally we reached ... daylight - the Tiankeng. We were in a large window around 30m above the main river passage, just before the main opening of the Tiankeng. We decided to wrap up the survey there, but back at the main junction with the nitrate pit thought we'd try the left passage to see if there was a shortcut back to the main route (forgetting we were well above it here). This led off in wide but stooping passage and soon reached ... another junction, all routes with footpaths. We stopped and surveyed back to the nitrate pit junction and legged it out so as not to be late for tea. Over 700m, not bad for an afternoon's jaunt.

TU: 5 hrs

14th May 2005: Feeling Optimistic

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch

Went to Feeling Groovy to push a few leads. The first went to a pitch, which turns out to be directly above Feeling Cheated. The second lead, a muddy crawl near the stone circle, went for a few legs and then degenerated to a flat-out descending crawl over very sticky mud with no draught. Finally we pushed a good lead which went to a 20m pitch with a waterfall, which comes from an upstream continuation that can be entered by traversing over the pitch. A side branch went for a reasonable distance in a crawl before shitting out totally. Came back out through Monoxide Streamway, which is far more tedious than I remembered.

TU: 5 hrs

15th May 2005: Crazy Painter

Duncan Collis, Becka Lawson, Rob Garrett

Back to the same place two days running - must be good. Showed Duncan the eyehole to the Tiankeng and the leads in East Meets West then continued yesterday's survey from left at the big nitrate pit junction. Soon to a chamber with a large nitrate pit and water collection pool and steps up from it. On in large passage but it didn't last and we were in stooping or crawling stuff the rest of the day, basically doing a largish loop back to the end of the large passage. Checked all the leads bar a flat-out crawl (QM C) where we hit a small stream.

TU: 6 hrs

16th May 2005: Rob's Dig and Magician's Nightmare in San Wang Dong

Duncan Collis, Becka Lawson, Rob Garrett

I tried to lead in to San Wang Dong to Magician's Nightmare - our aim - but I've not even slightly got to grips with it. As an aide memoire, I mentioned Rob's Dig on the left as we were about to go into Where the Wind Blows. Duncan and I hadn't seen it so we all went up for a look. One thing led to another, and soon I'd gone back to fetch all the gear whilst Duncan pummelled the pinch point with a rock. Hitting it with a hammer sped things up and finally even the driver was brought in to play. Having patiently (for me) waited whilst all this went on, I was allowed to try the squeeze and got through (tight on the hips though). There was a pitch almost immediately so Rob and I started to survey in whilst Duncan kept on hammering until eventually he fit (snugly). Duncan rigged with two pitch head bolts and a tacklesack rope protector down around 10m to a steep sandy slope then a pitch / climb (needs a rope) to the proper floor (27m rope). Passage continued very steeply down around 40° to a large false floor then a handline climb down to a chamber with a small stream. The stream went upstream a short while but became very narrow and Duncan had a good go at pushing it and reported no caver-sized leads. Also, we'd lost our strong draft (presumably into the roof) by here. Quite late in the day (nearly 4) but we decided to at least rig Magician's Nightmare, which Duncan did, whilst Rob and I tied into the old survey then started the new one. Duncan found a mean little hole that let you climb around 5m down from the false floor where you enter Magician's Nightmare. From here he put in a Y-hang with two spits then around halfway down a rebelay spit in calcite. The short pitch landed in roomy passage with some fantastic crystal needles and extrusions (some like flowers) *WOULD BE GOOD TO TAPE THIS OFF*. We had a few minutes so surveyed down the slope (quite steep) to a point where a rope for a handline would be sensible and did three legs upslope, under a low arch to below the second pitch in Magician's Nightmare. There was no way on upslope but downslope is a QM A. Then slog, slog, slog out and a bit late for tea. Mr. Wang had brought TWO crates of beer down from Houping!

TU: 9½ hrs

16th May 2005: Broken Beatles

Erin Lynch, Julian Todd

Decorations in The Bird

A late start for SWD made later by difficulties finding the key the others had hidden "low and to the left" of the gate. Arms through the bars up to the shoulder, we tried for a good 20 minutes to find it, hindered by a step on the upslope side which inspired Julian to try standing on his head for a better angle. Surely the others wouldn't have been daft enough to leave it just out of reach? Finally, on the verge of giving up, I tried fishing around with a stick of bamboo and, lo and behold, the key appeared

A slight navigation error meant we ended up high on the right side of the Western Finger instead of low on the left. Never mind, as there was a lead and a cairn so away we went up quite pretty passage with white stal that unsurprisingly ended in a pitch down to the middle of the Eastern Finger. It would be a fine place to hang a big spotlight for a showcave, but we found it a bit unnerving, as it looked as though the floor was only 4m thick, above a 40m drop!

Back down in The Finger, we again failed to find our intended lead, instead going to "Big Lead" just north of the Shite Cliffs of Dover. A muddy climb brought us to a chamber with large black space showing through boulder fill high to the right. Julian found a jammy way into the 20m+ wide, 20m+ high room which we quickly decided was too big for us to survey, opting instead for a 3m wide, 20m tall canyon heading towards the doline. Sweet. The floor was covered in black popcorn and looked virgin to my eyes. We romped along past stumpy crystal toenails and assorted formations to a chamber when it all degenerated to a popcorn crawl. No draft but we pushed on. As time was running short and it looked to be the end, I scooped up a climb, only to find more walking passage and a good excuse to return tomorrow.

TU: 6.5 hrs

17th May 2005: Bone Collector

Erin Lynch, Becka Lawson, Rob Garrett

A genuine morning start got us into the cave by 11am. Steady progress into the cave (San Wang Dong) allowed Becka to practice her route finding. The long trudge up the Finger Chamber before climbing off into a dark passage lurking in the West Wall. A sneaky scuttle up through boulders and we were into Broken Beatles passage which is well decorated and makes a beeline straight for the other doline. A little later and everything is unpacked ready to go. Well, almost everything ... where is the tape measure? Becka searched forlornly in the deepest recesses of the obviously empty tackle bag whilst Erin looked glum.

Two hours later and a rather sweaty Rob is scampering around back in the disconcertingly large Finger Chamber, tape measure in hand, trying to pierce the gloom of the West Wall with a bunch of feeble LEDs in a vain attempt to locate the entrance to Broken Beatles. On the third pass he finally spots it and shortly later he is romping down new passage in search of the others. An improvised "tape" measure had allowed them to survey on for a hundred metres or so to a junction.

Now with a proper tape measure we made steady progress along the right hand walking passage with pretty ceiling, sandy floor and pleasing stal, confident that the sun-filled doline must be very close. Alas, on the very doorstep of glory, a large, glistening white flowstone blocked our path from floor to roof and wall to wall.

Back at the junction, an inviting draught offered better prospects. A couple of sandy pinches necessitated short grovels but then we found ourselves in a big chamber with strong draughts and a multitude of options. One led to a strongly sucking short pitch where the surrounding rock sucked even more. The biggest lead we left, favouring a smaller one to the right with a faint draught and small inlet. Following this we found an ever-increasing selection of animal bones raising our confidence in the close proximity of the mighty Tiankeng. Dessicated butterfly wings and a well-fed, live frog with staring bulbous eyes reinforced our hopes as we pressed on ever westwards with a bit too much of the south. A climb up and the passage looked to choke with sand but a short grovel, much like those gone before, offered the lure of a draught. Unlike those before, however, this grovel led to a flat-out crawl in the softest of sandy passage more comfortable than a bed in Er Wang Dong, if not Houping.

Onwards went the crawl, passing a menagerie of gathered bones. Onwards went the crawl round an intermitude of corners. Onwards went the crawl in a relentless, velvet-coated steely fist of a passage. And yet onwards as time passed by and we began to think about the journey out. At last the crawling eased and then as the last trump prepared to sound out it popped into a little chamber. A short climb down and we fixed our final station. The way on, for another day, virgin passage 3m x 5m with a sandy floor meandering gently down into the unknown.

TU: 9 hrs

18th May 2005: Waterworks, Er Wang Dong

Erin Lynch, Julian Todd, Becka Lawson

Becka with the aquaduct

San Wang Dong plans scotched by rain (MORE rain ... sigh) so two teams in to the East Meets West leads. We set off up the steps noted early on the Crazy Painter trip, leading up from a man-made pool of water above a large nitrate pit. Small passage led up and soon reached a moderately large passage. Left here became smaller, then soon popped out into what I'd thought was a blind alcove in the second chamber of the Crazy Painter survey. Tied in to an old station then back to the chamber to survey right. Good walking sized passage led up and north with a route up on the left of the main passage to the ledge 5m above at one point but no way on there. The main passage eventually got lower (probably large passage subsequently mud-filled) until it was completely blocked by mud with no draught. Oh well. Back down to where we'd noticed an inlet coming in on the right, just after the high left ledge. JUst below the inlet were a series of 6 man-made pools, some still holding water (and below this was an awkward handline climb on rotten rock, with more nitrate pits and weird yellow stuff on either bank). The inlet also headed up and north (about parallel to the main passage). The tiny stream in it had been diverted into a 10cm wide mud aqueduct, presumably to feed the pools below the inlet climb. The inlet soon degenerated into a confusing mass of crawlways with pillars of rock between, like catacombs. One way led via a crawl to a ledge up above the inlet stream. The way which followed the inlet stream (trickle) upslope got to a flat-out crawl which continued low and had a slight draught in. This was the only QM here - QM C? Photos and a tourist to the Tiankeng on the way out and met up with the other two.

TU: 8 hrs

18th May 2005: Condensation Crawl and Company

Rob Garrett, Duncan Collis

Easy going through to East Meets West and the enticing promise of Condensation Crawl aka "Pissing in the Wind". Water droplets at the entrance contrast with the initially dry, sandy stooping passage which descends steadily. As we lost altitude our average survey length deteriorated as awkward spikes of shit rock made progress a little tortuous. Soon we were traversing over pools of water, not quite the hoped-for master streamway. Soon mud was added to the equation; an oily suspension of clay particulate oozing beneath a lowering roof. Then a change of character as a succession of three climbs descended some 25m to more of the same only a little drier now. The mud floor was cracked but still gloopy; the passage still tortuous but the rock was better. Another climb down through a small hole and a further muddy deterioration of passage was enough for us to call it a day. Two draughting leads, both nasty, and a hasty retreat.

We had another lead in mud slightly closer to the entrance but, on closer inspection, this turned out to be similarly tortuous passage. We ran away. A better lead on the other side of the passage also held the lure of a draught. We followed it to a small crawl. 5m along and the draught had gone. We continued and the draught returned. Curious. Progress here was either crawling or stooping and much quicker than in Pissing In The Wind. Just one junction with a QM C, although the way we went was little better. It did, however, and much to our surprise, eventually breakthrough to bigger passage in Crazy Painter. Duncan, who had left his bag somewhere in the middle, had to go back the small way while I trotted the long way round, meeting the others en route.

TU: 9 hrs

19th May 2005: Breakthrough to the Far Side (Shi Wang Dong)

Becka Lawson, Rob Garrett, Duncan Collis

Went in to do some surveying (Becka's Inlet, as it was known, which was actually an outlet anyway) and to descend the "unriggable" shite-rock pitch that was draughting and was hoped to go to Shi Wang Dong.

Rob and Becka set off surveying while I was to rig the pitch, with an agreement that they'd come and find me after an hour. Due to reports of awful rock I'd brought a chisel along, which proved extremely useful for finding out what was under all the mud, popcorn and choss. It turned out that there was good rock lurking under only half an inch of crap right at the pitch-head and I spent a merry while dressing a couple of areas of nice, flat rock and putting in a couple of spits. I'd just got the 18m rope tied on and was investigating possibilities for a rebelay or deviation to get past a lip when the others arrived.

It sounded like the lead had gone big and then, amazingly, they'd come back for me rather than rattling off loads of survey legs. We decided to see what was down the pitch, and unless it was spectacularly good, to go surveying the big stuff.

Rob arranged a deviation off a large piece of choss on the other side of the passage, and this was good enough. However the rope was too short so we switched to the 27m. This was also too short. I could almost reach a ledge, beyond which there was a further 3 second drop into a big space with the sound of a large stream, with a good inward draught. As we didn't have enough rope, we derigged, ditched the SRT stuff and went off surveying.

Interestingly, although the route we'd come through was virgin we soon were following a clear miners' path - T'Owd Man had obviously got in via some other route.

After a few legs, the big passage broke out into really big passage, up to 50m wide, and it was obvious we'd had a bit of a breakthrough.

There was plenty of evidence of miners having been there before us, with a couple of nitrate pits, a few excavations and a mysterious wooden artifact stuck in the ground which had been whittled out of wood, which was shaped like a broom handle with a bog roll stuck on each end.

We surveyed and surveyed, getting quite disorientated a couple of times because of all the junctions, and leaving lots of good leads.

We didn't connect to the Tiankeng, didn't connect to Er Wang Dong and didn't find the main drain, but it really didn't matter.

TU: 9 hrs

20th May 2005: Shi Wang Dong Tiankeng!

Becka Lawson, Rob Garrett

After a crack of 1.30pm start and helping out on a few flashbulb shots, the other three went off to bag some more big stuff whilst Rob and I set off on the trail of T'Owd Man. The footpaths we'd found yesterday seemed to fade to the east and we didn't think they'd come in the way we had (certainly not through Broken Beatles anyway, which was virgin). Rob thought the pit in the floor of the main passage with a footpath and a large nitrate pit was the best chance of finding their route in. We surveyed down to the chamber below and followed the footpath west to a water inlet but then the path stopped so presumably this was just where they got their water from. We stopped the survey soon after this as the passage split and became smaller, though there are still two QM's here. For our next attempt we followed the footpath from the pit back under the climb we'd descended. This soon brought us back to the wooden stake and second nitrate pit we'd found yesterday, so again this wasn't their way out. We'd run out of footpaths to follow so we spent a couple of hours tidying up the remaining leads in this lower area. We still had some time but too little to start a new survey so decided to amble out having a good snoop for the miners' route. We poked our noses into every crack and kept an eye on the ceiling for possible pitches down and slowly worked our way back to Wishbone Chamber (the Bone Collector chamber with a pitch). The only option seemed to be a sneaky route in from the roof, but looking carefully at Wishbone Chamber the footpath in it still seemed clear so we followed it on, east, along the Bone Collector. Going slowly and searching for clues, we found some bamboo pieces below one of the short calcite climbs - an old ladder? Further up, where water sprays in, the blocks that I'd thought looked like stepping stones on the survey trip but that we'd then dismissed as being natural were, now, we decided clearly stepping stones. Soon after we got to the narrow slot on the right where we'd seen a black frog on the survey trip. The frog had gone but this seemed the only plausible lead left towards the Tiankeng. In I went and it immediately narrowed. Bum ... However there looked to be a wider slot higher up and perhaps signs of wear on the wall (or just mud?). I clambered up and higher found a rotting piece of bamboo in the floor - remains of another ladder? The passage continued, flatter now, low (stooping); not hard but could this really be the main route in? Then Rob shouted from behind that he'd found a boulder on the floor at the corner that had been hammered, so fresh white stone showed. I looked down and found another hammered boulder - yeeha, this was it! I knew it was late so suggested surveying it the next day but Rob was all for doing it now so I ran back to Wishbone Chamber with a note for the others saying we might be late so we didn't get locked out. Back to the start of Frog Inlet and speed-surveying began ... in frustratingly windy passage ... but with a definite smell of rotting vegetation and bats winging past (one hit me in the back of the head as I was trying to take a reading) and a live moth - we'd GOT to be near now. There was a clear trail in the floor that might even have been dug down and Rob reckoned we were heading straight north for the Tiankeng but I thought it could keep going for some time (more than we had) before we got there so I was making going-home noises when Rob shouted that he could see daylight. He must have better eyes than me (or the light was fading fast - it was 8pm) but 2 legs later and I could see a big opening out into a faint gloom - we'd made it. We were on a ledge opposite a huge waterfall. A route up to the left may lead to where the miners got down from but there was no time for admiring the view. We packed up and flew back down Frog Inlet, jogged to Wishbone Chamber and stomped down Broken Beatles. We caught up with the others in the main chambers of San Wang Dong and were back at the farm for 8.45. Poor old Mr. Wang had another late tea but we cheered him up telling him we'd hit the Tiankeng at last.

TU: 7 hrs

20th May 2005: One Man and His Dog

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Julian Todd

Barefoot footprints

We took a number of bulb shots on our way to push the far west of yesterday's big finds. Everything went relatively smoothly with only one misfire (Julian screwing a bulb into a live circuit) and one broken firer (cheap plastic bulb socket).

Before we could do a single leg, Julian discovered a distinct barefoot footprint in the sand. We wondered how old it must be, and strung flagging around it. The footprints continued along the large passage, 25cm long toe:heel, fairly shallow with a short stride. After several hundred meters our mystery man walked to the edge of a pit with a strong draught coming out of it and the sound of water. A 2+ second drop meant we'd go no further west today. Near the footprints we noticed a curious set of other tracks - paw prints. Our mystery visitor had had a dog with him. Perhaps for company, or maybe he was searching for the lost animal?

We back-tracked and checked out a few alcoves then went up a big lead Dunks had pointed out on the way in. An easy climb up went to a large T-junction. Running out of time we to opted go the way that meant we'd complete a loop. Soon enough the passage came around and dropped down, connecting to the previous day's survey at the bottom of the chossy climb.

Late for tea, we ditched most of our gear and ran out, 10 minutes to Wishbone Chamber where we found a note from the others, and then 45 minutes to the farmhouse for an 8.45 dinner.

TU: 7 hrs

21st May 2005: Shi Wang Tiankeng, San Wang Dong

Becka Lawson, Julian Todd, Rob Garrett

Looking out into Shi Wang Tiankeng

Off up Frog Inlet to see if we could follow T'Owd Man out but failed. Left from the ledge where you pop out just led to another viewpoint into the Tiankeng. Down the passage on the right leads down to a 4.5 second drop pitch head. Around 50m along this passage from the Frog Inlet ledge, a passage on the left leads over a bold step across a deep, narrow rift to a series of 3 or 4 more eyeholes overlooking the Tiankeng and a short crawl on the right that goes to a ledge above a large passage that would need to be rigged but is only 15-20m down. Conclusion - the miners probably dropped in to Frog Inlet from the hole directly above the ledge where Frog Inlet arrives at the Tiankeng. An 8m bamboo ladder would do it ... Rob through he might be able to climb it and said at least the rock was good. He set off and about 50cm off the deck a big flake which was his handhold peeled off and he landed on his back. Funny at the time but we were very glad he hadn't got up any further. Back down Frog Inlet looking for QMs. A squitty crawl on the left didn't really go and one on the right we surveyed a while but it got too tight. Headed out and in San Wang Dong main entrance, at the smelly bit just before the Sea of Tranquility, Rob suggested I checked out the black hole at the bottom. It led immediately into big passage which ended at a narrow rift pitch of around 20m (which Julian promptly dropped his torch down) and an even narrower parallel rift on the right which we freeclimbed down quite a way (needs a handline to go further). Lots of evidence of miners in this second rift.

TU: 7 hrs

22nd May 2005: Magician's Nightmare + Crusty Duvets

Rob Garrett, Becka Lawson

Everyone ready staggeringly early so in the cave at 9.30. Spent a while finding the proper cairn near The Finger to tie in the Bisto survey from yesterday. Then left Duncan and Erin, and I tried to navigate to Where the Wind Blows. Failed. Utterly. Really pissed off because this was my third trip there and it was still all unfamiliar. Argh. Down Magician's Nightmare, handline (20m needed) where we'd finished the last survey and continued. Initially lovely wide, easy passage sloping down but then everything got covered in mud and became brown, gloopy and sumplike. Just past a showery aven we took a sharp right and the passage closed right down to leave the stream trickling out from a flat-out mud-lined crawl. Well, we're not doing that. Just before was a tight passage on the right. We just fit through in the vague hope of a bypass but left led to another tiny crawl in a stream. Right entered a flat-out crawl in damp, sticky mud with some bones. After an interminable time wriggling forward I finally got to a dead end; thank God for that. Derigged Magician's Nightmare, dumped the gear and set off up Surveyor's Delight poking into anything that looked like a QM (especially on the right, as we were hoping for an Er Wang Dong connection). Past the pinch point where Crusty Duvets starts there is soon a hole with water on the right. We climbed steeply down this a long way (Rob much further than me) but found no way on - the stream disappeared into boulders leaving just a body-sized tube as a QM C. We returned past the pinch point + decided to look up at the QM on the right of the passage, up a large bank of pebbles. This led to a climb (OK up; handline needed down) then to v. draughty passage. After a while a crawling passage leads left + eventually closes down. The main passage continues then holes appear at the bottom on the right dropping down into Crusty Duvets. Rob checked out the far end - no way on (other than a plummet down) so time to go home. I failed to find the way back from Where the Wind Blows + got grumpy again.

TU: 10 hrs

23rd May 2005: Loose Ends from East Meets West, Er Wang Dong

Becka Lawson, Rob Garrett

Once again a rainy, misty day so the daylight amble to Shi Wang Tiankeng was cancelled. After four days on the trot in San Wang Dong, Rob and I decided to try to tidy up the remaining leads in East Meets West in order to get our 400m survey quote for the day (for the Expo to make 15km surveyed by the time we left). We started with the climb up after the last East Meets West station. This led off in lovely, easy walking passage and shortly arrived at a ledge overlooking the main East Meets West passage just before the ledge overlooking the Tiankeng (we could see daylight). Surprisingly, we found a full tea set - abandoned in haste or forgotten? There were two round metal lidded cooking pots, a metal kettle, an attractively decorated ceramic teapot, two ceramic bowls, a pair of tongs, a pair of shoes and the remains of a fire, some bits of wood, a ladle and some other unidentifiable bits and bobs. Presumably it was there so the miners in Crazy Painter/Water Works could use a bucket to lift up provisions for lunch if the ledge onto the Tiankeng was being used as an un/loading point. No obvious route down from here to the main passage. The passage also went the opposite direction after the climb but almost immediately ended in a chamber with a 4m+ climb needed to reach a passage above. We ticked off a QM nearby in Crazy Painter that was a crawl to a flat-out crawl until it ended. Then back through the crawl in East Meets West to a fairly unobvious climb on the right. This continued in irritatingly short, wriggly legs up two awkward climbs (though we didn't use the handline). A good draught led us on. There was initially a footpath but later only traces of bamboo and one set of footprints. Finally we intersected a larger, low-roofed passage. Left here soon got very low then choked. Right opened to roomy passage but then hit a series of three holes and ended. The third hole was only 5m above the floor of a chamber with a clear footpath in it and we were keen not to have to reverse the climbs so I lowered Rob down the handline tape then stood on his shoulders to get down once we were certain we knew where we were - Water Works, in the chamber just above the steps. Strangely, the other two holes in the upper passage we'd come from didn't connect anywhere to Water Works - so where is the passage we could see below? Deeper? Tied in the survey then had to do the sodding East Meets West crawl again. Finally we looked at the lead I'd found right at the start of East Meets West. Initially promising, in large sandy passage, it soon closed down. A walking-sized passage left led to a strange area (walking on perched boulders?) high above the floor of the main chamber leading towards the Tiankeng. We surveyed a short loop, with every corner overlooking an airy drop. Back in the main passage a walking passage ahead soon became a crawl and eventually closed down completely. 87 legs and 700m - definitely time to go home.

TU: 8 hrs

22nd May 2005: Shattered Stones

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis

Went back to the pitch in Wishbone Chamber to rig the next 50m drop into the big passage below. Unfortunately the rock around the next pitch-head was bad, and much time was wasted trying to find something worth putting a bolt into. Eventually I thought I had it cracked with a swing into a roof-channel which looked solid, but as I was blowing the chippings out of the first hole I found that it had broken through into a void - the rock seemed to have the texture of an Aero bar.

Luckily there was another pitch-head in the other direction, which went straight onto a big mud slope so I abandoned the big free-hang and rigged down the slope. At the bottom of the slope it turned out that there was still another 20m drop to the floor of the big passage, but there was also a large rubble slope going up and it transpired that at the top there was a 20m wide passage with a strong breeze coming out of it.

We surveyed a couple of hundred metres along this passage until it hit a big collapse. A rather loose clamber up revealed two ways on - one back down the other side of the rubble and one up a further climb, which is where we went.

This passage was on two levels, but soon it ended at a solid wall. Where was the draught coming from? There turned out to be a flat-out crawl at ceiling level, which went for nearly 20m over mud and popcorn before popping out into a big rift passage, where there were some huge boulders, up to 20m x 10m x 5m propped up and wedged in unlikely places. From this passage, there are two pitches down, but one drops back into the collapse. The other, according to the survey, is above the lead in Shi Wang Dong's main passage but I can't think of a suitable hole in the ceiling for it to drop through.

TU: 11 hrs

24th May 2005: Shattered Streamway + more Bone Collector

Erin Lynch, Becka Lawson, Rob Garrett

Duncan's trapped nerve was still playing up so Becka and I cajoled Rob into coming along with us. He made short work of rigging the second pitch on Shattered Stones, placing a single bolt. When we both, one after the other, complained about "single bolt, backed up to a pile of choss" he sputtered in protest that it was a Y-hang from two columns. Suitably chastened we started surveying upstream, teetering around a 20m wide, neck-deep pool only to find ourselves at the base of a pitch. Bum. Later in Aven we saw it is under the 80m drop off Frog Inlet. Downstream was much smaller, only 5m wide and 8m tall, and it soon came to a short drop which we rigged from a chock stone. Becka descended, getting rather wet, and reported a further drop for which we didn't have any rope. The rest of us declined to follow her down. We spent a few minutes surveying a side passage with a nice mud floor, before it too ended at a drop. Out of rope and options, we derigged. Rob headed out to work on his drawing up whilst Becka and I went to push Bone Collector. The crawl was longer than either of us remembered, but well worth it for the subsequent excellent sandy-floored walking passage with beautiful banded limestone that headed off. It was not our day, as all too soon we came to a climb down which needed a handline. Becka descended with the rope tied around two pieces of wrist-thick rock. She immediately came to another drop which also needed a line which we didn't have. Peering into big, black space, we both felt damn frustrated. The rest of the trip was spent pushing a small, draughting tube at the base of the climb down from the Bone Collector. It popped into a chamber and looked like it might go somewhere, only to end at a mud dig with a gale howling out of it. Sigh.

TU: 9 hrs

25th May 2005: Slices of Haw / Poo

Erin Lynch, Julian Todd

Needed another 70m to make San Wang Dong over the 15(?)km length, so Erin proposed a few leads near the entrance that hadn't been looked at since 2002 when standards were lower and there was a hell of a lot more easy, big cave just there to do, so why waste time in this squitty bit? Dunks had gone in earlier to collect his camera and we thought he had left the key somewhere inaccessible (he hadn't) so we waited for half an hour at the entrance for him to come out. Erin had the original notes and eventually found where we were on it (an arrow pointed from a comment: "cool flowstone bridge" was misleading - I found a different flowstone bridge, but it evidently wasn't cool enough).

There were a couple of very poor QM's (didn't go beyond what you could see) and we checked out upper shelves in the passage but found only oxbows. At the spot on the old survey notes with the word "poo" (as yet unexplained) we found a good, walk-in lead. It was 7.30pm, late, when we started surveying it in a hurry. Most legs were between 1 and 4 metres because it was very meandering and well travelled. We stopped after 29 legs at a stal blockage that you could squeeze past. It was 9pm when we got out. This passage had been well travelled, as was Slices of Haw (with step placements) but as yet no explanation for it as it goes nowhere and is not interesting in itself when there is so much better cave just there.

Are there standards that could be applied to QM's? You need to rate how hard it would be to push, and how hard it was pushed, and how promising it looked at the limit of push. And reason for turning back. Could take 5 characters of info and would be left on record at any junction. Rating now is QM A, B and C with sometimes a record of how much rope would be needed to drop the pitch, if that was reason for turning back. A cross-section of the QM might help and a declaration of how far it could fairly be pushed without surveying.

TU: 3 hrs

26th May 2005: Chuan Dong

Julian Todd, Becka Lawson

After the carry up and a huge lunch I needed some gentle exercise to work it off. I could only muster a very weary Julian to come along. We surveyed the side passage near where the first inlet comes in. This quickly got to a streamway about 3m down (needs a handline) which is a QM A as it seems to lead to a separate inlet to the main one. It was very drippy and we had no handline so we headed to the entrance of the most upstream inlet and tried to follow the water further upstream. Unfortunately this just led into a bouldery breakdown and there was no easy way on - just a miserable QM C crawling in the stream over boulders at the bottom or a drafting QM C crawl high above the stream. We went out of this furthest entrance and I had a quick poke around the hillside - no other big, obvious entrances nearby but it would be worth spending a few hours here sometime. Trip not too exciting but even at a measly 150m or so surveyed I think Houping 2005 has finally broken the 15km mark.

TU: 3 hrs

25th May 2005: Tian Ping Mi Tiankeng

Becka Lawson


Given the success of the last two forays to Shi Wang Dong and Qingkou / Niu Bizi Tiankengs, I cockily set forth for Tian Ping Mi Tiankeng. Duncan pointed me off on a fine track - take the path just to the right of Er Wang Dong main entrance for around 50m then take the main path left. This climbs up steeply and continuously, past a concrete water cistern, up rock steps and then smooth rock gulleys (keep right where it branches). It eventually reaches fields and shortly after comes to a T-junction. Turn right here and the path levels just before a farmhouse. The GPS here is:

  1. Elevation 1097m, 48R 0789858, UTM 3277105
From here, the path briefly continues up the ridge but soon turns right (north) and ascends much less steeply. The path forks - ignore the right, lower branch to a farmhouse and the road, and instead take the upper left path which shortly arrives at the road. For the return, note this is the lower of the two paths joining the road here. This junction of path and road is:
  1. Elevation 1122m, 48R 0789614, UTM 3277475

From here it is just 5 minutes walk to Shi Wang Tiankeng: go left down the minor road. After 150 it comes to a more major road. Turn left here then almost immediately take the minor road off on the left which traverses the top of the Tiankeng. From Er Wang Dong it should be less than an hour to Shi Wang Tiankeng on this route, and only around 30 minutes to return (much better than my two routes of 4/05/2005).

However I was en route for Tian Ping Mi Tiankeng. I had a false start when I think I got to Xin Wu Zui village by following the main road left until it crossed the streambed running into Shi Wang Tiankeng. This was at:

  1. Elevation 1106m, 48R 0788641, UTM 3277749
The correct route from point 2 is to go left to the major road but then turn right along the main road to climb up the valley to the north (quickest if you use footpaths to shortcut some of the hairpins in the road). High up this road reaches
  1. Elevation 1255m, 0789204, UTM 3278137

I think Tian Ping Mi Tiankeng is down the gorge to the right of this road, just after it reaches a col and starts to descend. Point 5 on the second map is on the road, shortly after this col, overlooking the streambed before it enters the gorge at

  1. Elevation 1266m, 48R 0788789, UTM 3278850
Before this point, at the col, a footpath leads off and contours around the small hill on the right of the road. It then descends to a T-junction. Turning right here may let you get close to the Tiankeng. I went left, which contours down below the road with some views into the jungly mass below and a big rock spire. Point 6 on the second map was on this left branch of the path, at
  1. Elevation 1227m, 48R 0789021, UTM 3278914

The path heads down past overgrown fields and a deserted farmhouse to a streambed. I followed this down some distance (there was no alternative: there was no path and the banks were thickly forested) but it was very slow going on slippy, muddy rocks and I stopped when I'd have had to start climbing as the gorge sides were narrowing and I couldn't get a GPS reading. Just then, when I was feeling a long way from home, there was a God-almighty blast - and another - and another. After the third I could start to hear boulders crashing down in the trees above me. Shit, shit, shit. I knew exactly what it was - the road above that I'd been walking along was being built and workmen were along its length, moving and breaking up rocks. I'd even seen little red flags and had idly wondered what they were for. I'd also had several guys with hard hats waving and shouting at me but I'd just kept on stomping, not wanting to have to turn back. All the other signs now made sense too - the deserted farmhouse, the abandoned fields with fresh-scarred boulders lying in the middle ... the lack of people. The blasts were still coming, six, then a respite. Not squashed yet but I was right at the bottom of a steep-sided, V-shaped gulley. I climbed a pathetic 3m above the streambed and six more blasts exploded, more boulders, and finally quiet. Heart yammering, I slithered as fast as I could out of my trap and started stomping up the far side of the valley. Thick, white smoke from the dynamite showed where they'd been blasting - right above me. Now I was at point 7 on the second map, at

  1. Elevation 1220m, 48R 0788676, UTM 3279154
The streambed here runs 100 degrees downstream, 280 degrees upstream.

I slogged up to the road on the far side of the blasting and met some villagers, huddled, waiting. I got to the far side of them, just to be safe, then weighed up the options: either hacking over 1km east through the jungle and across a gorge to try to reach Niu Bizi Tiankeng before the light gave out .. versus returning along the road and risking being blasted away. Niu Bizi was too far - it was 6pm and the terrain looked grim so I set off down the road and tried to ask the villagers if it was safe but they just stared. Then a jeep came past with the hard hat guys who'd tried to tell me something before. I got another earful but at least they seemed to be pointing me back the way I'd come from - surely they wouldn't let me wander straight into the blasting zone if they'd seen me? Would they? I stomped down the road worrying about how I (or Mr. Wang) might get into trouble even if I did save my skin. Where the road crosses the streambed is point 8 on the second map, at

  1. Elevation 1262m, 48R 0788294, UTM 3279191
They let off another three blasts on the road ahead of me. There was a whistle just before they went but the three second warning would only let you plug your ears, not actually run anywhere. I noticed a grandmother and her grandchild standing at the porch of their house and decided at least it must be safe where I was. Then I saw the fresh-blasted rocks littering the area and wasn't so sure. Nothing for it - I had to keep walking. I made sure I didn't go too fast and kept pointing at the road ahead. Nobody stopped me. I know, I know, I'm a pigheaded, stroppy foreigner but please, they wouldn't watch me walk into a live zone, surely? Up the road, past two more gangs of staring men and then, at last, back at the col and safety. I beatled off, hoping the men in the jeep wouldn't catch me up ...

It would probably take two hours to get to point 6 on the second map from Er Wang Dong and then I'd start exploring by taking the footpath at the col and turning right at the T-junction (rather than left as I did). However the terrain is very hard going - heavily forested, steep-sided hills, difficult to make out depressions and with few footpaths. It's maybe going to be easier to find this Tiankeng from below rather than above.

29th May 2005: Booze labels

Erin Lynch

Julian enjoying the wine

We polished off six bottles of red on the train journey back to Liuzhou. Here is the verdict:

Tibetan Dry, Shangeli La Winery Co Limited. Cost 51 Yuan. Taste test: fruity, sweet, with a hint of grape juice.
Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation. Cost 29 Yuan. Taste test: dry, a perennial favourite. Two bottles.
Dry Red Wine, produced in Spain for Carrefour branches in China. Cost 16.5 Yuan. Taste test: spicy, dry, no fruit.
Dynasty Red Wine 2002, produced and bottled by Sino-French Joint Venture Dynasty Winery Limited, Tianjin, PRC. Cost 29 Yuan. Taste test: nobody could remember the next morning.
Yeguangbei Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, produced and bottled by Dragon Seal Wines Company Limited, Beijing, China. Cost 29 Yuan. Taste test: again, lost in the dregs of our hangovers.