Lushan 2003 Expedition Logbook


19th April 2003: Arrival in Lu Shan

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Julia Tian

Arrived in Chengdu after a short flight + lots of hassle over survey instruments (eventually they went in the hold). We saw lots of fold belts from the plane, followed by a vast expanse of flat land. Julia pointed out Lu Shan on the map for us--it's ~50km from some fairly substantial mountains to the west, which bodes well for the future.

Initial impressions are good. Mr. Shou, the showcave owner [Ed: manager] seems relatively easy going. We are also joined by Apple, a 20 year old student from Beijing with excellent english who will be our translator; Ya Ge (Feng Chun),showcave V.P. and part of the famous Yangtze white water rafting expeditions in 1986 (he knows some of our Chongqing friends); Chia Juan, reporter for the Chengdu Economic Daily and her english-speaking colleague; and a host of other reporters and individuals we haven't yet identified.

Over dinner we were told about a doline shaped like an ear, people living in a tunnel? funnel?, and a stone tower that had been knocked down during the cultural revolution. Chia Juan showed us an article she'd written featuring a sketch of a mountain-ringed depression with a cave underneath. They showed us many photos of the small sink holes in this large depression. Another selling point for tourists seemed to be the fields of yellow flowers (rape seed?) + tea plantations.

I think things are off to a good start, but I still have a few concerns: the original plan was to camp in the cave, but we were not told this + didn't bring suitable equipment, also we would like a comfortable environment for drawing up if there really are 50km's of passage! How collaborating with the Chinese members of the team will work underground is anybody's guess. I am not sure if Julia wants to learn how to survey, or if she has other tasks. In Hunan we had a problem with v. noisy guides who drove us to distraction, so I'm hoping that won't be a problem here.

20th April 2003: A brief introduction

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Julia Tian

We spent the morning having a lie-in, then shopping for supplies + acquiring 1:50,000 topo maps of the area. With the maps it was easy to see the ear-shaped depression. We were told they hoped we would find a new entrance to the cave there. After lunch we went to the cave for a quick look + to make the final decision about our campsite.

In the best scientific terminology, the cave was made of biscuit. Great big walls + ceilings of crumbly conglomerate. It was clear we should have left the drill at home. What the cave lacked in natural beauty the designers had made up for in abundant lights of all colors and descriptions. At one point we were shown to a pit which we need to explore--it looked fairly normal until the lights were turned on--the absolutely defy description. The brightly colored flashing lights in all sorts of patterns would not be out of place in a carnival + all it really lacked was suitable background music.

Further in we reached the campsite--a lovely sandy area, unfortunately in the middle of the tourist route, without running water, and with a broken porta-potty, so we decided to live outside.

At two places we saw inlets. The volume of water didn't seem very large, so hopefully we won't have any problems with the coming rainy season. What may be of greater concern is a surface river that sinks in the ear-shaped doline.

The showcave had a number of other enhancements: a cafe-bar a'la Carlsbad, a large Yin-yang diaz whose function we don't understand, and more. We are a bit concerned about accuracy surveying near iron railings, power cables, and literally kilometers of light rope.

There was not enough time to visit the doline, so we returned to Qing Long village at the bottom of the hill for dinner with the reporters. The food was top-notch, with a huge bowl of fish soup and a plentiful supply of spicy dishes. The evening was fairly jolly, but seemed to be winding to a close when we strategically asked the other guests if they needed more beer + presto the evening was saved. When we could no longer eat any more we returned to the hotel for karaoke, drinks + bull. Matt + Apple outdid the rest of us, staying up until 6:30AM. Looks like this is going to be a good expedition.

21st April 2003: First day of survey.

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan

I woke up with an awful hangover, but soon felt tolerably well. The bags were mostly packed into a 4x4, and then we sat in the sun waiting for another car to arrive.

Eventually, a "crack of noon" start, and we stopped for lunch at Qing Long. We got underground in the mid afternoon, accompanied by a film crew, etc. At six it was time to head out, we were told, so only 550-odd metres surveyed, but a good start nonetheless.

Dinner from the workers' kitchen was supplemented by leftovers from lunchtime, and beer and some excellent 60% paojiu brought up from the town ensured a good evening of song & bull.

22nd April 2003:

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Julia Tian

I spent the night in agony; nauseous, with severe gut pains + the runs. Duncan did his best to comfort me by breathing pao-jiu fumes my way as I writhed in discomfort. In the morning we were told that the day's surveying would be postponed while we waited for the Deputy Mayor who was to arrive at 10. 10 became noon, and then at 2 we were told we had 8 more minutes to prepare. Once a convoy of jeeps arrived a number official-looking people got out + we didn't meet any of them. Instead we were told to go and survey the cave. Shrug.

At one point we crossed paths with a large group containing the CCTV crowd and Yage, but who knows who they were and if they were remotely interested in what we were doing. Surveyed to the drinking fountains + along seemingly endless stretches of small walking passage festooned with light rope. Julia took lots of photos with her new digital camera.

23rd April 2003: Finishing off the showcave

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan

Erin's turn to do book; underground for noon. Got cracking on with the remainder of the showcave, doing the other side of the big loop through the campsite, and then going to the teashop and a little way beyond, past the end of the showcave to a small stream where we left the survey.

Back at the greenhouse, we found a number of unacceptable loop errors (up to 40% !) in the processed data. Most of these vanished when we found that one of the loops had been connected at the wrong station, however one remained, so Matt + Duncan went back into the cave to resurvey the small loop just before the teashop (10 mins in, 20 mins survey, 20 mins out), having fun climbing the showcave gate, which was locked, and determining by backsights that a couple of legs had been screwed up by showcave railings interfering with the compass.

24th April 2003: River Town

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, , Julia Tian

My turn for book and the original plan had been to continue up the streamway beyond the cafe at the end of the showcave. Rain and promises of easy passage near the fairytale telling area changed our plans to that and we got a fantastic three legs in (nearly) before we were told to stop and we must go to the streamway, since the reporters wanted to go there instead and this was their last day. Just what we wanted with dry clothes and non-waterproof survey paper but we were assured it would be 'no problem' and eventually persuaded to move there. Made a fine start upstream following a line of red string and being followed by all and sundry. this place is a veritable maze of smallish inlets as was to be expected and it didn't take long before there was no major passage and we eventually got wet either failing to traverse (splash) or crossing a waterfall. Surprisingly the reporters kept going nearly to the end which we declared to be a wet lead which would have involved getting us (and the notes) a bit damp. Numerous leads, some better than others but none amazing. A reasonable day of caving though, at least compared to the previous days of surveying showcave.

Returned to surface to learn not only were Roy + journalists returning to Chengdu tomorrow but so was Apple. Sob.

25th April 2003: Weita and the largest prison in west China

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Julia Tian

This morning Apple + the journalists returned to Chengdu. Unbeknownst to Yage there's a plan afoot for Apple to come back tomorrow with compressed biscuits + washing powder.

We took it as a bad sign that as soon as the journalists left we didn't even get breakfast! But lunch came soon enough and during it we got a quick read of a fantastic report about the cave written in 2001 by geologists from the Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment Academy of Sciences. Highlights include:

"Longmen Great Cave covers the area of more than 8 square km, and the main thoroughfare is over 100km long, it's the biggest and longest cave discovered in China, formed during the Cretaceous Period."

"Safety in the cave: the geological construction & topography around the cave is very steady ... "

I think we met the author himself--he explained that the surface water in Weita drained west, away from Longmen , but said there was a spring to the S which he believed was connected to Longmen. His topo maps showed a lot more water detail + seemed to be more recent so we scanned them + then went for a drive. On the road we passed a dozen sink holes--our driver/geologist? had descended 2 shafts to boulder chokes. The location was good for many of them, but the elevation was not--the prospect of dropping a pitch series in conglomerate is distinctly unappealing.

On the way to the depression we passed what is reportedly the largest prison in West China. A large number of grim brick buildings surrounded by a high brick wall topped with an electric fence made us think it was probably a good idea to move quickly + not take any photos.

We passed a cave padlocked shut + then arrived at a ridge where we had a good view of the depression. All along the scenery had been interesting: fields comprised of rows of tea bushes instead of the usual terraces---some of them would not have been out of place in a decorative garden. The depression itself looked flat from above, but once at the bottom it was hard to see for any distance because of the small hillocks. We were shown 4 entrances, all of which looked interesting, all of which were heading in the wrong direction. The last had a fair sized stream going down a waterfall pitch + would make a sporting descent.

Our overall impression is that this would be an interesting area for exploration if the problem of rigging in conglomerate could be overcome.

A final mystery that remains unsolved is why are the houses in Weita so well decorated? We saw newly painted walls, brightly colored trim, decorative fences around yard area, even tiled farmhouses! It was all most unusual. The school especially stood out--with clean walls + no slogans to be seen.

26th April 2003: Crawling round in circles

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan

We were going to go upstream from the Hao Yun Quan (Good Luck Spring) today, but then were told that a reporter would accompany us and that we should go where we'd been the previous evening, to continue pushing leads in "False Start".

The strongly draughting upwards crawl continued for some distance, with occasional respites where it was possible to sit up, but generally becoming lower and lower until eventually we (for some inexplicable reason) ended up DIGGING to get Matt into a final draughting boulderchoke chamber.

Another lead was pushed to a ~10m pitch, which looked interesting and which can probably be tackled easily with a ladder belayed to a big rock. However, most of the day was spent crawling, which ranged from sandy to rock and from hands & knees to flat out. A couple of loops were surveyed round and then one passage which kept going and going (we wished it wouldn't) and was left with several leads, all of which are crawls.

25th April 2003: (evening) False start continued.

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan

After spending the day being shown various holes in Weita (the big depression the other side of the hill) we nipped into the cave for a quick evening trip. Decided that 'False Start' would be a good bet as it's near the entrance and quite big.

However the big walking passage soon ran into a series of stoops and short crawls, although it remained wide. Finally we reached a gravelly collapse that appeared, pretty much to be the end. On the left, though, there was a little crawl over gravel with a very strong draught emerging from it. We surveyed this for a couple of legs before calling it a day

On the way out, another lead was spotted a little way back from the crawl, hidden under some boulders. This also draughted strongly and appeared to be walking passage.

27th April 2003: Marvelous stream passage

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan

The day began relatively inauspiciously with the stream feeding Lucky Spring quickly degenerating to a crawl. Matt went for a furtle + came back reporting large passage + a crawl bypass. A climb up popped out into big passage with a boulder floor + the sound of a streamway below. We quickly regained the streamway proper + then the fun began--to keep our feet dry we attempted increasingly bold traverses + climbs until a large nose of rock collapsed beneath Duncan, reminding us that the cave is made of choss. It was fine passage--a comfortable size near the water with signs of being much larger at roof level. After 150m the stream disappeared off to the left and we were again clambering up a >15m wide boulder slope covered with dry black mud reminiscent of Houping. The passage bent sharply to the left + a climb down ended in boulders, but a traverse along a very convenient ledge on the left regained the high level. Big, big, big... at last the cave had yielded some interesting + sizable passage. To the right an aven came in + nearby Matt set a station on a boulder perched precipitously over quite a big drop down into who knows what. After passing yet another good lead--this time 3m wide walking passage, the stream made an appearance for a single leg before going down a tall rift to the right while the high level dry passage continued to the left. To keep to the ledge above the stream we had to climb up "Son of Choss" which made everything else in the cave look positively bomb-proof. The passage continued romping off to the northeast in fine fashion until the high level suddenly went off up a loose + over hung climb + the stream came in from the right. The high level certainly looks interesting, but it will require a handline + a bit of daring, so we left it for another day, instead heading upstream.

Here we had one of the biggest surprises of the trip--a large block of fallen flowstone in the streamway + farther along a certifiable formation! It was by far more beautiful than anything we'd seen thus far in the cave--4m across + light brown. The stream went up several cascades + Duncan found a cunning traverse past them, but the hour was getting on a bit so we decided to turn round + try to close the loop in the streamway.

Heading downstream, it looked as though the stream was going to sump immediately, but instead we were treated to a series of cascades + climbs round deep mill pools in bedrock of all things. The rock was a beautiful red-brown + a joy to touch after so much crumbly conglomerate.

Completing the loop will require wading so we left it for another day + came out, hoarse from all the shouting over the roar of the water, but well + truly pleased with our finds. Longmen Dong is shaping up to be a fine cave indeed. Top trip with some excellent sporting caving.

28th April 2003: The big pitch + men in white masks

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Julia Tian, Yang

Following our triumphant return from the streamway Apple + Julia announced a plan to go down the hill the following day for showers, shopping + a night in the hotel As a bonus they'd even arranged to have our clothing washed for us. This called for a short + easy trip so we could maximize our beer-drinking time down the hill.

The site manager told us that to the south of the Teashop there was a passage that connected to the "Big Pitch" , carrying all of the water from the cave + even connecting to the surface at a complicated point with many ways on. Mr. Yang said he'd show us the way into the passage, so we had our mission for the day.

Instead of descending the Big Pitch we traversed round to the right into a network of stooping height passages reminiscent of Arab's Bathtime. They went generally downhill and to the south until we reached a fork + were told that to the right was a shaft going to the deepest point in the cave. At this point the passage started trending uphill! confusing us a bit, but eventually it reached a steeply descending slope of loose earth + small rocks that ended in the promised pitch. At the bottom of the ~20m drop we could see a big black pool of water--looks like a wetsuit job. The top of the pitch is a dusty mud slope with relatively smooth walls of conglomerate. Finding a decent belay here is going to be a problem.

We came out of the cave to find that all of our possessions had been moved to a room without window panes or a door below the deck. We were told that this was because of SARS, but perhaps they also wanted us out of the way for the May holiday?

WHile sorting out whose socks were where, we all had our temperatures taken by a man in a green labcoat + white mask. He said Lushan + Chengdu were SARS free, but Beijing had 100+ cases.

Down the hill we dropped Yang off at his house + then sped to the hotel where they had neither electricity nor hot water--disaster! For this trip we'd been joined by Wendy--a member of the Bluebird Club who'd come to visit Julia + Apple. Apple declared that Wendy drank beer instead of water, and quite a jolly night ensued, ending with a ride in the fantastic blue pedi-cabs through the rain. Matt + I both suffered for our indulgence--although I maintain it would have been alright had Mr. Shou not called Ms. Feng + Panda in as reinforcements as he was beginning to wane.

29th April 2003: Substation, etc.

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Wendy, Julia Tian

Got brief lie-in 'cause everyone had forgotten we'd switched rooms to one further from something that was emitting a loud high-pitched alarm. Then a hurried cuppa and bags down to the courtyard where our transport back up the hill was, apparently, about to leave.

Some time later and nothing was happening so we went for breakfast. Erin, Matt & perhaps some of the Chinese women suffering from hangovers.

Eventually went up the hill and caving. First to the passage behind the substation, which turned out to be alternating sections of flat-out crawl and walking until it eventually ended in a chamber with no obvious way on.

Next we went to go and look at the passages on the right just beyond Hao Yun Quan.

We'd been hoping that the substation passage would turn out to be the passage on the showcave's survey which legs it up to the East side; our hopes\ now was that if we couldn't find that end of it, maybe this would be the other end.

The cascade just beyond the Hao Yun Quan was quite wet, and it was obvious we'd get a soaking, but Mr. Yang knew another route up, which turned out to be one of our QMs from the 2nd day's survey.

Surveyed round that, which popped out of one of the passages we'd been going to look at. Ticked off the other passage in short order then had a look at the stream, which seems to flow under the boulders by at least 3 different routes. One of these leaves the choke and is a 'real' passage for 20 or so metres.

Finally surveyed along a big walking passage off the right-hand wall above the choke. Surveyed 200 or so metres, past some QMs, to a huge choke through which a way was found just as it was time to head out.

30th April 2003: A surprise connection

Erin Lynch, Matt Ryan, Yang

Dunks was suffering from the same eggy-burps + runs that I'd had 10 days previously, so Matt, Yang + i set off as a 3 some to survey the lead reputed to connect to Stomping + then find out what lay beyond the choke at the end of Stomping.

At the very first station Yang offered to give us a hand + from that point onward he held the tape for us. What looks like a crawl turned out to be surprisingly spacious passage. At points it was 30m high + we spend a great deal of time trying to climb up avens. It's unclear whether or not there's a higher level; but I'm inclined to believe not at this point. Yang once again demonstrated what a kick-arse climber he is--effortlessly cruising up things. Especially impressive considering Julia later told us he injured his arm in a car wreck + lost some mobility in it. After a good long section of big stuff the passage degenerated to the promised crawl + before long we popped out into Stomping At the end of Stomping a bit of a furtle located Dunk's way through the choke + then we had a good 10m of real ceiling before resuming the clamber through boulders. Almost immediately we lost the way + thought we'd reached an end when Matt spotted a slot up which regained the big stuff. (We'd crawled right past a well-worn route which would have avoided a good 20 minutes of crawling + squeezing.) Matt announced that he knew where we were + when I climbed up I immediately recognized the back of a boulder we'd seen some 2 hours before. 2 legs later Mr. Yang realized where we were--no need to repeat the crawling! and declared himself very happy, positively beaming.

1st May 2003: Marvelous II

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Yang

Carried on upstream in the marvelous streamway. First off, D + E went to check out a couple of suspect legs on yesterday's survey, which turned out to be misrecorded as suspected. Meanwhile Matt was fixing his boilersuit.

Decided to start off by closing the loop created by the streamway and the large dry oxbow, so left a note for Matt at the junction. As we expected the unexplored part of the loop was largely flat, and contained a lengthy wading section.

Having closed the loop, went upstream to meet Matt + Yang heading downstream from the junction--Matt had guessed that our survey would take a while and that he could avoid a wetting by going the dry way and waiting.

Pushing upstream, we encountered varied going with sections of boulder hoping and lots of sporting streamway with climbs, traverses + wades. Yang did all of this in his best trousers + slip on shoes which he kept bone-dry by lots of shit-hot climbing (on conglomerate choss!) above the stream.

Matt had a gammy leg due to tripping up in the showcave on the way in, and Erin was suffering from survey overload, so at 5:30 we turned back. Dunks fell in twice due to chossy rock (+ being too fat) on the way out.

2nd May 2003: Doss

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan

Matt was going to rest his leg + not cave, drawing up surveys instead while Duncs + Erin had an easy trip. Their start time got later and later so they never went underground and drew up considerably more cave than Matt who spent his time trying to fettle printing in Survex.

3rd May 2003: A doorway to Derbyshire

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan:

Went to drop pitch in Arab's bathtime. A short crawl over boulders led to virgin passage with alternating crawls + climbs via a hading rift and fairly pretty white river to the roof of a streamway which bore a striking resemblance to a conglomerate version of Giant's streamway--complete with Vice and Comic Act cascade where we turned around. Measured to top of second pitch then discovered first one was an easy handclimb or lifelined climb. Yang even managed to freeclimb it via a harder route to one side.

Erin Lynch:

Interestingly the streamway was full of rubbish which we presume comes from the prison, which has been tipping it down a shaft since 1958! A highlight of the trip was a 6m long which river. Yang pointed out that the pretty bands of dark pebbles to each side were in fact bits of used charcoal. The white wasn't calcite, so I can only presume it must be a trash-formation of some sort.

4th May 2003

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Julia Tian, Yang

While Matt was still emailing, Erin + Dunks went into the cave to survey over the choke at the bottom of the steps in the entrance series. 3 legs did the job, the others arriving as the final leg was completed. Had a footle around for leads, but found nothing (Yang also says there's nothing).

Then we went to another lead suggested by Yang, which turned out to be the one near sta #21 which we'd had our eye on. This was a ~15m wide, but almost boulder-filled passage initially, which went through a small hole and then resumed as a decent 7m wide walking passage, popping out on the out on the SE side of the Big Pit that someone threw Blackpool Illuminations down (looks even more incredible from this side, with a clear view across to the numerous strands of light-rope hanging 50m down the walls). Another smaller passage from here lead us back to the showcave at an obscure undercut next to the choke where we'd started, with a further 10m wide boulder-filled passage beneath it heading back to the Big Pit.

5th May 2003

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Yang

Today I feel so excited because ...../ (At morning Duncan's stomach :( )
we saw the beautiful sand. stones. water/stream ... saw them. touch them.
Because Duncan uncomfortable so Erin + Matt + Yang surveyed. first.
one/two hours later Duncan joined us.
Started from the big pitch 50m -> a sump -> upstream
pm 4:20 we climbed up a 5m high rock, so difficult for me.
we haven't ladder, so we use our belts on a string hung the rock.
then put the rocks in piles on the passage. floor.
Matt and Yang climbed up first. Erin and I trampled on Duncan's
shoulder, Matt, Yang grabed our hands. at last we win!
pm 5:10 Yang and I found a kind of flow stone flowers, so beautiful ...
every day we just like big mice run in the cave at night
came out. maybe someone sometimes think boring all day
but I don't think so. for me everday is new, interesting, + exciting!
I know I am so slowly but everbody help me, wait me
The feeling of happiness full of my heart!

6th May 2003: More marvelous streamway

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Yang

With a record early start (9:30 AM) we headed up the streamway for what we expected would be a long trip. Dunks + I surveyed up a few cascades until the others joined us + we continued to a 20m wide breakdown chamber. There the stream had the biggest inlet we'd seen thus far coming out of a passage to the left, while the main streamway came out of a small sump. Up the boulders there was a 4m drop to the right, while the left continued up to a necky climb on flowstone + then a crawl which soon regained the streamway. There was an obvious wet way back to the breakdown chamber which we decided to do later, instead continuing upstream along the usual climbs + traverses alternating with boulder ruckles with the stream below, until we encountered a number of calcite boulders followed by the prettiest section thus far seen in the cave--a grotto with a number of stals. Apple used her last photo here.

Beyond the passage widened + the ceiling came down to stooping height briefly before a breakdown chamber where the stream split. Thus far we'd had high hopes for the stream continuing into the distance since it didn't seem to be losing much to inlets, but here half the water was coming from a deep canal, while the rest came from the right, where there was a further division into a wide, low crawl in water (drafting well!) and a rift complex where the stream continued to divide.

It all looked rather grim so we decided to head out + survey the loop. We had a leisurely slog out--Apple seemed to enjoy the whole thing immensely, although I'm not sure if Yang enjoyed the bits where he was up to his neck in water being used as a foothold :) Dunks checked out leads in the "Red Bridge" chamber + found a promising fossil passage that T's almost immediately--grade A lead. Out at 9pm all a bit knackered. Yang declared tomorrow a rest day. We think the streamway would make an excellent adventure tour/intro caving trip for hardy athletic types.

7th May 2003: A day of rest

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu

This time down the hill everything went smoothly--there was hot water when we go to the hotel, our clothing was washed + returned the next morning, and no one got ill from too much beer. We bought up all the red nail varnish we could find + bought a pair of transparent wellies for Duncan. Dinner was hotpot with far too many plates of veg + meat. We were all groaning from being overfull by the end of the meal + we didn't even touch 2 of them. Throughout the dinner a group from the power company kept coming over to toast us. Funny how these things happen in China. After dinner Apple + Matt went out for the 2nd ice cream of the day. Apple had had a craving at the far point of yesterday's trip + Yang had remembered + bought all of us ice cream at the first village down the hill.

8th May 2003: Up the red canyon

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Yang

On the way up the hill we picked up a very boozy smelling Yang complaining of a hangover. Miraculously the rest of us were hangover-free, but Matt was emanating a strong odor of spring onions. We went to the "lead near the entrance that'll take 3 days," which was actually a lot further from the entrance than anticipated. It lay behind an illuminated sign--a sure bet that there was going to be a lot to survey. After our first leg we counted 5 ways on--Bollocks! Luckily a lot of them were short + nasty oxbows. We lost Apple + Yang at a crawl + continued on through dry, mostly stooping passage with a bit of hading rift thrown in for variety. We stopped for a bit at a small chamber with yet more branches. Side leads definitely seemed the theme for the day.

We surveyed past a mystery maxi-pad (lightly soiled, nowhere near a streamway, how'd it get there?) to a lunch break near a small stream (pissing increased its volume considerably). A circuitous route led us upstream via a rift + climb, both easily bypassed, to more canyon.

Surprisingly the stream had cut down through genuine bedrock--the most chossy, fractured bedrock I've seen, but still real bedrock. The rock was rust colored + covered with a layer of fine red dry mud/sand. It was dry in the way that makes you sure you're going to be snotting black for a week. The canyon walls had collapsed a bit in places, so we variously traversed + climbed, finally reaching a chamber where the grit got the better of my contact lenses + we gave up for the day. On the way out we bypassed most of the crawls + small passage accidentally-- looks like there's a good deal more to be done here.

9th May 2003: Crawling with leeches

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis

It's possible to have too much of a good thing, so logic dictates we should have put off this trip to the far end of the northern/Good Luck/Marvelous streamway, but the sun was shining + there was rain forecast so Dunks dragged me out of bed to go crawling in a wetsuit with him. The first thing I noticed about the crawl was a number of wriggly white critters--the most unhappy, hungry-looking leeches I've ever seen. Great. The crawl started out okay + I was thinking it'd been over hyped, but then the ceiling came down + I had to get my chest wet + immerse my hands in leech infested water. Yuk.

Luckily the crawl went almost immediately to an aven. Dunks attempted the climb, but the water coming down it made it too hard to see holds. Other leads in the area were either low or exposed climbs, so we went to survey the canal a few stations back. It quickly sumped, but not before a sneaky low airspace gap into a flooded chamber with ~1m airspace + no place to stand while reading the survey instruments. Lovely.

Our 3rd + final option was the inlet rift complex. The largest of the inlets went to a 6m climb up moon milk. It's probably doable, but would entail a good soaking. The second inlet we followed kept going + going , further dividing numerous times + eventually becoming quite sharp + nasty. If you fancy 1m to 3m survey legs, this is the lead to push. Many QM's remain, all of them decidedly unsavory. We clocked up 50 legs + about 24m of elevation gain, bringing the cave's vertical range to a respectable 350m.

9th May 2003: Nature ramble

Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Yang, Kevin, Ma, Julia Tian

Having spent the night clocking up the illness tally I decided caving was a bad idea (particularly upstream of the drinking fountains) and sleep a better one. E + D were off to the end of Hao Yun Quan and Julia + co. were off to entrances vertically above them. As a compromise I went with them to work the gps etc. Only had to stop of a dump three times and some vaguely interesting looking entrances. Got back in time to enter data before E + D returned then slept.

10th May 2003: Mouldy crawl

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis

I was itchy to do something with the day, so dragged Dunks to station 37 for a go at the crawl/stooping passage full of mould there. It started out tremendously unpromising--not even a hint of draft, but quickly gained one. Doh.

The draft went where all drafts seem to go in the cave --the Big Pit. Following it down a crawl the other way we thrutched over a boulder to some genuine virgin walking passage--a whole 10m of it. Beyond was more crawling + then a trickle followed by the sound of a bigger streamway. A wet crawl in mud, probably connects to the "Red Bit" streamway, but confirmation will have to wait, as it was dinner time + we didn't fancy getting wet.

January 2003: A through trip

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Julia Tian, Kevin, Yang, Shen, Zhang,

Approached in the morning by the manager Shen and told that, since I was the leader today (was I?), we would be going to another entrance that connected. Oh, and could we bring 30m of rope. Set off en-masse to said entrance and set off crawling downhill. Then uphill. Around bends. The downhill again--to a big chamber, at last--maybe this wouldn't take all week to survey afterall. Back uphill in a couple of long legs then back down in a different direction--off the page tastic with no idea whatsoever which direction we'd be heading in a leg's time, lots of big junctions and qms and it wasn't even lunchtime yet. A couple of longish legs downhill and the instrument team went on strike, starting to eat lunch. There was nothing for it but to do likewise particularly since we were to conveniently find ourselves sitting next to a sump. Were it not for this underwater not we were apparently just five minutes from a connection. 'Never fear' said the farmers (well, they would have done had they been speaking in English), 'there's another way around, but it's a bit of a long way' -- So we set off back up slopes, hading passages, the works. Eventually we were told we could 'keep surveying 'til 5 o'clock' but then we really must hurry since it was still 'quite a long way'. A couple of legs later and we jacked just before I went off the page and just before five. Erin went out the way we came in while Duncan and I joined the hordes for the thru' trip, predicted at about an hour and a half. Lots of stomping, climbing, pretty bits, standing on shoulders and even jumping off cliffs to the opposite bank (over a canyon no less) and I heard the cry from Duncan, 'Oh fuck off. You must be joking. Come and see what these silly fuckers want us to do now.' I squeezed my way to the top of the pitch and traversed down for a better view. 'Maybe it's not too bad.' 'It looks doable on a belay belt or handline.' 'This must be what the rope's for.' We set about trying to establish a few vital facts--had they been down it before? Was this the only pitch in the connection? Did they have any idea how to get down it? What about Julia, Kevin + Apple? There were general Chinese murmurs of 'it'll be fine, lets get on with it' and I was game even if Duncan thought I was as loopy as the Chinese for trusting them. We rigged a pull through off a convenient poised boulder and I set off down for an inspection. 'It'll be 'reet' I called to Duncan, who still didn't believe me, but one of the farmers did, joining me at the bottom, hand-over-hand with his torch in his mouth. As an experiment I got to the base of the overhanging bit on a handover hand and declared to Duncan that I'd trust Yang to get Apple down safely one way or another, reckoned Julia and Kevin could probably look after themselves and Duncan could do it on a ten bar without too much of a struggle. Yang let Apple descend on an Italian hitch life-lined on a second. This would have been perfect were it not that he had to pass the krabs to Duncan to tie the knot. Julia and Kevin were lowered on a 2:1. Yang made like a spider and Duncan had a go at it the farmers' way, removing bits of skin in the process--I'd apparently neglected to mention the steepness of the slope below the overhang. By now it was getting rather late and neither of our guides' torches were producing any useful light, Kevin's had long since failed, the Tikka clones were getting dim and Duncan was a long way into his second battery--the first having failed just inside the entrance. Were delighted to be told we were about halfway then. Hoping Yang's light held a lot of charge and glad mine lasts for days (but wondering if that would be enough), we continued to follow our fearless leaders. Kevin's lack of light showed itself when he slipped traversing at the top of a rift. Grabbing hold of Yang neither of them descended far-- although Yang's bag did, necessitating a climb down to what looked like easier going, so we all followed for about eight metres to a climb back up to a passage heading off back at roof height. 'This looks familiar' declared Apple as we made our way along more featureless stooping passage into a chamber. 'This looks blind' declared everyone else after a bit of a poke about. With a bit less faith we followed our guides into a crawl a few yards back which to our surprise dropped out in fair size passage with a reasonable draught--and not totally dissimilar in character to the otherside of the sump at lunchtime, however it was becoming increasingly obvious as we made our around a breakdown chamber that our guides no longer had a clue where they were especially when they showed no recognition on coming across ravines to jump across and so we sat in the dark a few times while they had a hunt for something they recognized, on one occasion watching Julia suck the juice out of a pack of shredded beef as though it were her last ever meal, or maybe at least her last for a long time. We on the other hand did recognize a bit which in the absence of mass dejavu probably meant we'd gone round in a circle. for a while. Eventually, after shouts of joy we set off into an obscure crawl with limited draught which had footprints the otherside. The guides by now admitted to never having been in this part of the cave before but at least now they had something to follow. Another half hour of sitting in the dark and we'd have mutinied but now we gave them another chance to prove themselves and trailed behind the torchless guides. Someone shouted 'another pitch, we need the rope'. Duncan and I pretended not to hear. More shouts, 'they need the rope, bring the rope.' 'They can fuck right off then,' we shouted back. We then patiently explained that pull throughs when you have no idea where you are are generally considered 'a bad idea'. 'But we do know.' 'Bullshit, you're just saying that 'cos you've no other ideas as to what we should do' 'but we're at the top of climb we were at the bottom of last week' 'Really?' 'really.' 'are you sure?' 'certain.' We still didn't believe them but not really fancying freeclimbing the previous pitch, or for that matter repeating the rest of the journey, we rigged it off a convenient flake and I set off down to hunt for survey stations -- surely I could fashion some prussik loops out of tackle bag drawcords or something. We obviously should have had more faith though since it was indeed the very same climb. This was a bigger pitch than before though so there wasn't enough rope to do the lifeline as a 2:1 with one half of the rope. I warned Duncan of this who warned Yang via Apple (in his first ever clear English, 'Apple, this is very important...') who replied, again via Apple, that it was fine, he'd do it his own way. 'But the way you did it last time won't work.' 'I know, you told me.' 'Yes, but you're still rigging it the same as before' 'Don't worry.' After 10 minutes of this Duncan rigged it and Apple set off down. We ate the last Dove bar which I'd been hiding (Sorry everyone else!) and watched farmer 1, Kevin + Julia descend. Farmer 2 descended hand over hand not entirely without Elvis leg on some of the trickier sections. Yang had a play with coming down on an Italian HItch proceeding in a manner reminiscent of someone learning clutch control then finally Duncan and a pullthrough and out to the surface for a late dinner with the very relieved looking couple of farmers. 11.5 hours underground so not a bad beginners trip for most of the party. There was even a beer or two left while we contemplated how many days worth of survey we'd covered.

'We need a holiday' declared Erin and no-one else disagreed. 'How about tomorrow' and no-one else disagreed so with happy thoughts we headed to bed.

12th May 2003: A plan is formed

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Julia Tian, Kevin

Decide to ask for a holiday for M,D,E+A with Julia to leave the expedition + return to Nanning after a few days in Chengdu. Go down to Lushan +eat BBQ then await Julia's reimbursement and decide to ask for spending money for the holiday while we're at it. No results so decide to go en-masse to the office first thing next morning.

13th May 2003: A holiday

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Julia Tian, Kevin

Go to the office and talk about cave for a while, eventually all being re-imbursed and some money for our trip to Chengdu. Late b/fast followed by buses to Chengdu. Kevin led us to the Youth Hostel and our collective hearts sank at the thought of more dorm accommodation but we were still on expenses so got private rooms at 90 RMB a throw. Even better was that a problem with the hot water meant one of the couples would have to have a luxury suite (230 RMB?) at the same price. Were shown to a nice room on the ground floor which we gave to E + D assuming this to be the better one, particularly with our hostess also suggesting that we should let the foreigners have this room and us Chinese (?! yes really, brown hair, long nose, stubble, no talent for speaking Chinese and a shortage of designer labels, but I'm still Chinese apparently) take the other one upstairs. A few pangs of guilt at the intricately carved furniture and bathroom with Jacuzzi and we decided it was too late to swap so went out for pizza, followed by (for Apple + I at least) some Chengdu food + a walk around the city centre etc.

14-17th May 2003: More holiday

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu

Holiday in Chengdu on expenses. Eat lots of nice food + generally relax then return to Lushan on evening of 17th for meal where we astounded our hosts by refusing to drink beer.

18th May 2003: Back to the grindstone

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu

Back up the hill in the morning where we decided we were all too tired to go caving just yet so found an excuse that D+E's lights were not charged and spent the day drawing up/dossing.

Interupted just after lunch to be told an American had turned up upstairs and our collective hearts sank--we'd thought we had managed to put off all the potential hangers on who'd approached us in Chengdu. Turned out to be a middle school teacher from Ya'an who'd come here with a few of his students. Drank a bit of beer with him when he got out until he was dragged off by his students.

18th May 2003: Down + up stream

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu

After a lazy morning we headed off upstream to the closest fossil lead. It didn't go very far before turning from pleasant dusty-mud coated passage to a nasty rift, so we turned around + headed out, admiring some bendy/rubbry mud stone along the way.

Back at the waterfall just before Hao Yun Quan we went downstream. It was very similar to upstream + quite pleasant. Before long the stream split--one way continuing as before and the other running along a bedrock-floored passage. We left the bedrock for later and splashed our way downstream to a 2m water spout where the bedrock-stream re-entered, with substantially more water. Another 2m waterfall, a bit of traversing, and we came to a fork w/most of the draft disappearing to the left in a dry high-level passage while the water continued in a lower passage. Shortly we came to a sump. Deciding to save the dry passage for later, we went back to close the loop along the bedrock streamway. Surprisingly half way along there was a sizable inlet coming in from high on the right. Beyond the connection the passage continued with a small stream + Matt + Apple left to take photos when we reached a point where it looked like we'd have to scrott through boulders. Dunks found a way through closed another loop + ticked off one of the main streamway QM's, and then we pushed along walking passage for a short while. Finally it was getting quite late + we left the passage going: stooping height, strong wind, bedrock floor w/black coating some surfaces, small stream ... heading off into blank space. Looks interesting and is reasonably pretty in places.

20th May 2003: Downstream Hao Yun Quan--Red Bit Connection

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu

Continued our way downstream, or rather we left the stream to whatever course it takes from where it sinks beneath boulders, and took the fossil route instead.

Straight away we encountered another stream, entering from the left as an inlet fed by numerous smaller streams falling out of a ceiling of boulders. We concluded that this water must come from the teashop. The water from this inlet was immediately lost in the boulders of the floor, presumably uniting with the main stream.

After a bit of walking passage and a short bit of furtling around in boulders, we popped out in an 8 to 10m wide passage 2m high with a decent draught. We left uphill for later, and surveyed downhill. The passage remained pleasantly proportioned, and briefly gained a small stream, which entered and then left again on the right.

Suddenly, Dunks found the surroundings to be familiar, and sure enough, a few legs later the survey was connected to the 'Red Bit' survey just below the ridiculous combined-tactics-balancing-on-a-pile-of-boulders climb. Despite having spent some time there on a previous trip whilst silly games were played on the climb, it was a couple of minutes before the penny dropped and Apple twigged where we were.

Strolled back and went uphill in the large passage, and sure enough found ourselves climbing up out of the boulders behind the illuminated sign near the teashop waterfall. ANother loop closed, and the mainline through that part of the cave completed, we headed out.

21st May 2003: 2nd entrance continued

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu

Picking up from where we left off in Long Men Di, continued surveying towards a connection. It was as promised: short, grotty legs in rift alternating with sections of large passage, often with numerous leads. The rock on the whole was extremely shattered + unreliable. Route finding posed occasional challenges, but we managed to find the top of the first pitch without too much trouble. The ladder tangled badly + didn't reach the floor, and the pitch was wetter than remembered, but aside from that there were no problems. Duncan + Matt pressed on, surveying until 9pm along crumbly traverses (vertical zig-zagging to increase the survey length?), a crawl, and similar delights. We spotted some shrimp in a pool below the pitch, but no leeches. The slog out was fairly uneventful. Duncan easily scamper up "the jump" and found a boss from which he ran a handline. With that it was no problem getting up the otherwise intimidating overhung mud/choss climb over a 4m drop. We were out for 11pm, making it a 10 hour trip and back at the showcave for 11:30, having lost the path + wandered about in the fields for a while. Astonishingly Duncan's Ion cell lasted until 5 minutes from the complex -- previously he'd been averaging about 5 hours on main beam.

It was a fairly successful trip + now we are confident that one more trip will finish the connection, which is a relief since we all are eager to finish the work here.

24th May 2003: Long Men Di -- Long Men Dong connection surveyed.

Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan

After a relaxed start, got underground at half past one. Got to the survey front at half past three, wimping on The Jumpby using our belay belts as a handline rather than relying on Newton's laws and fine judgement to get us safely down.

Survey went pretty efficiently and no-one fell down the chasm near the final pitch. The chasm turns out to drop into the same passage as the final pitch, and is only 10m deep. Out by 8:30pm.

25th May 2003: Dejavu

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu

For our final trip in Longmen Dong the choice was obvious--push the big fossil leads off the northern streamway. Who knew what might lie there? We were certainly hypothesizing that the area could well be swiss cheese. But first we wanted to photograph some of the excellent sandstone + conglomerate features in the streamway which had been crying out for a photo trip from the very beginning. With 2 small flash guns on slaves and Apple's +my small automatic Olympus cameras we managed quite well. It was only a pity that Julia wasn't there with her digital camera.

Upstream our first objective was the fossil lead which Duncan had noticed in the chamber just beyond the rock bridge. A short way in Matt was heard to mutter something about wasting time in crawls, but perseverance was rewarded when suddenly we started to hear a rumble of water. I assumed it must be the Marvelous streamway, which disappears briefly under the rock-bridge chamber. But I was indeed mistaken. This stream looked to heave marginally less water than Marvelous and it was coming from the NE (away from upstream Marvelous in fine form: 15m high, 6m wide passage. All too soon this excellent passage came to a parting of the ways: a comfortable crab walk (with roof tube?) to the right and a waterfall climb to the left. We took the wet option--spluttering our way into stream passage so reminiscent of Marvelous that we named it Dejavu. The main difference was that flowing from the NE Dejavu cut across the bedding at a much shallower angle than Marvelous + thus had fewer climbs. We briefly lost th stream under boulders + then popped out into big black space. Whee! 15m wide, the passage rounded a corner + then changed from boulders to a roof tube of dust mud, well calcited in places, with a 1m wide floor trench cut down by the streamway. Alternating between the fossil + stream passages as they split apart at various places, we surveyed a good 100m+. All the while the wind was very noticeable--the passage was certainly 0 going somewhere. FInally, just as we were about to run out of food, warmth, and enthusiasm, the passage degenerated to a low wet crawl with leeches. Yuk. We collected a very hungry looking specimen and turned round--a mere 300m from a surface sinkhole which could very well be the source of the draft.

On the way back we were grabbed by an unexpected burst of keenness and surveyed downstream Dejavu to a connection with Marvelous--or at least that's what we intended to do, but after one leg the stream went down a stooping passage while big fossil passage continued above. Again the choice was clear + we surveyed the big stuff to the chamber where we started, with a brief interruption when a hold broke + Apple went into a pool up to the brim of her helmet. Our best guess is that the Dejavu streamway actually connects to Marvelous at the major inlet in "The Wet Bit"--a good distance away, with the promise of some top sporting caving.

All in all, an excellent way to wrap things up--good photos, and a bonus 67 legs and >700m on what was supposed to be a short survey trip.

26th May 2003: All that Jazz

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Yang, Julia Tian

A final trip to wrap things up; we'd not dropped the pitch/climb in the Red Bit which was said to soon lead to a lake (or sump?) and the lowest point in the cave. We'd also not got to the bottom of the 'big pitch' which everything else connected to the top of--could this lead to the bottom? We were (possibly) told there was another way down-which was how the lights had got to the bottom and still hadn't stumbled across it; this seemed like another reason-which sounded a bit better than just fancying a look at the sump, which was closer to the truth. We also took camera gear for the climb down (turned out to be prettier but less photogenic than expected). We'd taken a handline for the climb but there was no belay and would have been very wet as well as tricky. Erin scouted a wet crawl where the stream split 5-10m away from the pitch - wasn't as horrible as it first looked and bypassed the top of the climb., Ran out 100m of survey which went to the bottom of the 'day off' pitch from 4-28 but not to the big pitch. Even with lots of photos and shrimp collecting (E+D) there was still time to get down the hill that night so we could get to Chengdu the next day.