Nandan 2005 Expedition Logbook


19th December 2004

Bobby de Vos

Thai Airways was very nice and did not charge me for having too much luggage. I had to move some equipment from checked baggage to carry on, but I was able to take everything.

18th December 2004

Thomas Matthalm, Anja Renner

Munich - Zurich (Switzerland) - Hong Kong with Swiss Air.

19th January 2004

Thomas Matthalm, Anja Renner

Arrived in Hong Kong and stayed overnight with Rich Gerrish.

20th December 2004

Thomas Matthalm, Anja Renner

Hong Kong - Shenzhen - Guilin (21st)

21st December 2004 - 23rd December 2004

Andrew Atkinson, Ju Morse

Bristol - Heathrow: Inevitably delayed train.
London - Guilin: Virgin then Chinese Southern
Guilin - Lihu: Lots of buses, no problem 'til Lihu, when we could not find Erin and co. After about ½ hours, found them walking down the street.

21st December 2004 - 22nd December 2004: From Guilin to Lihu

Erin Lynch, Thomas Matthalm, Anja Renner

Thomas + Anja arrived in Yangshuo early in the morning + raring to go. We packed all the kit+ then they tore off to see the sights on bikes while I stressed + uploaded data. We caught the 4pm bus from Guilin after a no-hassles van ride from Yangshuo. They wanted 50Y for bags on the G-N bus + were surprised that we spoke any Chinese. The bus got in to Nandan at 10pm + we found Bobby after some confusion as to which station we were at (the stations are across the street from each other). Failed to call Liang Hui Ren, but Bobby'd sorted accom., so we were okay for the night. In the morning we bought supplies, registered, bought phone cards, and then crammed all our gear on a bus to Lihu. We were surprised when it stopped a short way out of town at a half washed-out bit of road. More excitement moving bags ensued. Finally arrived in Lihu + the bus conductress + driver helped us find a nice guesthouse + then even drove up to the window so we could unload directly from the roof onto the 2nd floor. We setup the tackle store + then went out for a short walk. At night a government official came + showed us some photos + offered to let us see some maps.

23rd December 2004

Bobby de Vos, Erin Lynch, Thomas Matthalm, Anja Renner

Erin, Thomas, Anja, and Bobby headed to the government offices, then walked out of town. We spotted a large entrance to the right of the road. After doing a surface survey to pin point some other small entrances, we entered the large opening we had first spotted.

The cave turned out to have large rooms, big passages, sporting climbs that we rigged handlines for, and at the end of the day, some pools of water. On pool was shallow and wide, so we could wade across. The next pool was too deep to wade, but there were very nice ledges so we could straddle the water without getting wet. Anja took several videos that we enjoyed watching back in our accomodations.

The cave keeps going past where we turned around, plus several side passages that can be surveyed. The passage we followed had a cool draft through it, leading to speculation of a second entrance.

24th December 2004

Ju Morse, Andrew Atkinson, Anja Renner, Thomas Matthalm, Bobby de Vos, Erin Lynch, Joerg Dreybrodt

All went to have another look at yesterday's cave. Took a few photos and a bit of video 'en mass', then split into three groups to survey.

24th December 2004

Ju Morse, Andrew Atkinson

Surveyed 1st major passage on the right, looping back to connect with main passage, then turning around and continuing along branch passage. Large passage continues on with nice cracked mud floor in places and strange shaped stal, passage opens up to a very large muddy floored passage. Then passes large column and turns off to right where a large chamber opens out, with a way on in the floor to a low arch and then a pitch, which required a handline, so was left for another day.

24th December 2004

Anja Renner, Joerg Dreybrodt, Thomas Matthalm

Anja, Joerg and Thomas continued yesterday's survey in the drafting passage. After reaching a huge chamber (140 x 40 x 8 meters), the "second" entrance was discovered. From the entrance, the sounds of a drum and singing could be heard from a nearby village. We followed the sounds up to a traditional village and "spoke" to some locals. Took some video and then went back to the entrance depression. Short recce of the huge entrance at the far end of the doline. Turned back and surveyed a side passage to another entrance (shaft). Back to camp at 19:20.

24th December 2004: Great Wall 99

Bobby de Vos, Erin Lynch

Bobby de Vos:

Erin and Bobby surveyed a side passage and found several entrances. One entrance exited into a small valley which leads to another entrance. Erin lost her marking pen cap for the second day in a row.

Erin Lynch:

Great Wall 99 was pleasant mud-floor passage which at first was easy to survey as it had no side-leads, but this didn't last long, as we soon, came to a maze of entrances.

25th December 2004

Ju Morse, Andrew Atkinson

Went back to see if the climb down that needed rope went anywhere got sidetracked just before by a climb up on the right. Oh and by the way - retook all the photos that came out fuzzy from yesterday on the way. The climb was slightly hairy but ok: led on to connect to left passage and eventually to two entrances. 1st couldn't get out of as it was a 10m pit, 2nd popped out on a side of cliff to the right of main entrance. Quick debate whether it would be easier to traverse around cliff or return through the cave. The cave won, went back down to the climb down with a handline, which turned out to connect but into the rift near the 2 entrances. Out for Christmas dinner..

25th December 2004

Thomas Matthalm, Anja Renner, Bobby de Vos

Connected the passage the Erin and Bobby found yesterday to our last station. Then cleaned up some side passages and the explored and surveyed the christmas decorations passage. This dropped into the main tunnel at the "rimstone-pool" climb. After a connection shot at "seven summits" we left the cave. Took a GPS reading of the entrance (drum entrance) and then investigated the cave passage at the far end of the doline. On our way back over the surface, we found a nice sinkhole just 200 meters away from the cave Bobby and Erin surveyed yesterday, after they came out of A40.

25th December 2004: Wang Shang [Yang Jia] and a sink

Joerg Dreybrodt, Erin Lynch

We set out to survey the sink 1km E of Lihu. On the way we saw a depression which a farmer said contained a cave. We hiked along a very scenic valley towards the sink and eventually came to a rather disappointing bolder ruckle w/ a small entrance below it. It went down a drop immediately and didn't look particularly inspiring, so we continued along the valley, noting signs of of flooding way, way above the valley floor. Finally came to the real entrance - 10m wide with a deep looking pool fed by a stream coming out of what must be a second entrance to the site we'd seen earlier. It looked likely to sump so we opted to put off the swim and go for a look a a big fossil entrance high above the site. We were accompanied by a pair of kids who'd stubbornly refused to admit that any of the entrances had names. We clawed our way up the flood-debris littered slope and found an old woman who also didn't know any names. She did however know a long cave + the kids took us to it. Wang Shang Dong [Yang Jia Dong] was an impressive entrance that just got better... 40m wide fossil passage with huge stals - what more could you want? We passed numerous small side leads before hitting a loop and an ominous sign - writing on the wall. A few legs beyond the cave ended at a drafting choke with leaves. It looks like the main way on is finished, but who knows about what the side leads may hold.

26th December 2004

Bobby de Vos, Joerg Dreybrodt

Joerg and I went up the road some more, and poked out heads into two caves, overhangs really. A local pointed us to a cave with bamboo growing out of the sinkhole. We found the bamboo, threw a rock in, and climbed down in. The cave descended quite steeply, but vertical gear was not required. After a dozen survey stations, the cave ended at a deep sump.

26th December 2004

Erin Lynch, Thomas Matthalm, Anja Renner

After Li, Erin's friend from Ganhe had arrived, we visited his relatives about 1 km out of Lihu. As his uncle had died, we wanted to watch the funeral ceremony, but unfortunately came too late. His coffin was still standing in front of the house, but the drums had stopped for this day. But we had the chance to sit together with them round the fire in their house and and Li managed to get us some real hot-pot for lunch. After this we walked further along the road, and Li showed us several new entrances. They all are situated in a valley where the locals have several coal-mines. Two of the caves impress with big entrances and from two smaller holes, a big and warm draft streams out. On our way back, we saw some more entrances which all look good. Erin tracked the way and all the promising caves. There seems to be a lot of work to be done.

26th December 2004: Huile Dong

Andrew Atkinson, Ju Morse

Went to find warmth in a cave. The cave entrance was found at the base of a cliff found below a hut. Started off as a rift passage, a couple of dead ends, then dropped down to the right, down a 2.5 m climb into the streamway. This cave obviously floods to the roof. Muddy, flat and, low in places, small climb led and dropped into another streamway. Gave in for the day after a low crawl/squeeze in flood mud, with a howling gale, opened up to going roomy passage, with lots of black mud. Bobby and Joerg caught us up at this point and we returned taking photos on the way. It turned out Bobby and Joerg, had come in another entrance (not as nice as ours).

24th December 2004

Thomas Matthalm, Anja Renner

Surveyed a big passage starting at "drum entrance" till a huge room. We called this room Bai Ku Yao according to the wonderful traditional village around and their people. After many spraylegs and some search for ongoing passage, we found another big passage heading off from the chamber. We surveyed until a boulder (muddy!) climb led us to a muddy and damp chamber. Went back and surveyed Anja's rift passage for 100ms in straight line till a green lake at the floor of the rift. Then went back into Hei Ni Dong to check christmas decorations. Back to camp at 19:30 Hungry!!!

27th December 2004: Huile Dong

Andrew Atkinson, Ju Morse

Returned to see what lay beyond the squeeze. Mud, mud, and more mud. In several directions. Surveying was slow, and we eventually gave up after finishing one passage and were about to start in the other direction, when the compass was being too sticky. One redeeming factor of the mud was it caught Andrew's notebook on a wall rather than letting it fall into the stream/puddle. Lucky I had my eyes open or it might still be there.

27th December 2004

Bobby de Vos, Erin Lynch, Joerg Dreybrodt

We went to a cave Erin had surveyed in during the previous years. We surveyed a through cave which was cold due to being very deep. Another side passage was warmer, so we ate lunch there. There are some leads there, but we went to another part of the cave which had bigger passages and bigger leads from previous surveys.

28th December 2004

Erin Lynch, Bobby de Vos, Thomas Matthalm

We surprisingly got a lift with a road worker's truck up to Ban Lao. There we started to photograph and survey the "through" cave, while I was checking another entrance. This led down in fine style to a muddy gallery. To the right, a temporary sump, leads to a lake with the sound of a river/sink. Back to the surface, I wanted to start rigging the shaft Li had shown us two days before. After I got into my harness, a bunch of guys including the truck drivers invited us to join them. They wanted to show us a big shaft - which they did only some minutes ride along the road. A huge doline (20m x 50m) needed rigging. I started to rig the shaft with a big tree as the first rebelay. After I started descending, I realised that the tree was home to hundreds of excited bees that immediately started to investigate the intruder. Bees sitting on my glasses, I decided to continue abseiling down to an airy ledge. After a while, I decided to move the rigging station and went back up to the tree. Now the bees were not excited, but angry...

28th December 2004: Drum Cave

Ju Morse, Andrew Atkinson

A stroll up the righthand road in the sunshine and the snow. Took a look at the huge sinkhole next to the single hut on the way. At the cave we managed to find the last survey station easily. Surveyed over lots of mud hills with holes dropping away to a lower level. Returned and started to survey in the other direction. One way went to boulders where there may be a way through, the other way led to a chamber heading up and finally closing down after climbing for a bit. Exited, taking a couple of photos on the way out and headed home.

29th December 2004

Ju Morse, Bobby de Vos, Erin Lynch, Thomas Matthalm, Anja Renner, Joerg Dreybrodt

Up early for a lift in a truck to the shafts. For a while we wondered whether they were going to show up, but eventually we spotted our trusty drivers. Up we went into out luxurious carriage, with a carpet of mud to make us feel at home. A white knuckle ride followed (more from the cold than the speed as our drivers were very careful of their passengers).

At the cave entrance our plan to split into groups, one doing each of the shafts and one a nearby river cave was scrapped, as we all ended up in the same cave - five going in a lower horizontal entrance and Thomas and Anja rigging the pitch.

We (Erin, Ju, Bobby) surveyed from the bottom entrance to the shaft, while the others (Andrew and Joerg) entertained the Chinese with photos and caving through ahead of us. We attracted a few other visitors and we all gathered at the bottom of the shaft for some more group photos. A little exploring later and Bobby and Thomas surveyed up the pitch while we exited the cave via the horizontal entrance.

29th December 2004: Recipe for Muddy Bai Tai -or- How to make Bai Jiu drinkable

Joerg Dreybrodt

Add 1 spoon of sugared condensed milk
Add 5 centiliters Bai Jiu for not more than 3 RMB/bottle
For the taste some instant coffee - can be skipped if not available!
Stir with a spoon till everything is solved and just fill up with hot water.
You will enjoy an incredibable tasty Bailey like drink and wonder what happened to the "tasty" Bai Jiu!
Cheers and Ganbai.

30th December 2004

Bobby de Vos, Anja Renner, Joerg Dreybrodt, Thomas Matthalm, Andrew Atkinson, Ju Morse, Erin Lynch

Rest day: Bobby, Anja, Joerg and Thomas had an exciting trip to Nandan to get condensed milk, coffee, water, etc. Went back to Lihu after a great lunch and a visit to the market. Erin, Ju, and Andrew stayed at the camp and relaxed as well as they did paperwork. Improved camp temperature by deploying two electric heaters.

31st December 2004

Ju Morse, Andrew Atkinson

Set off to look at the depression on the left hand side of the road heading north out of Lihu with Anja and Thomas. There are a number of sinkholes. Andrew descended the first, which had two small entrances at the bottom that didn't go anywhere. [48G-I12-61] The second was very deep and needed rope, so we split into two teams, Andrew and I looked at the two smaller holes to the left side up the hill and Anja and Thomas returned to camp to fetch rope and look at the bigger entrance.

The first of our two holes required a rope, so we looked at the second, which turned out to be a nice but short cave [48G-I12-63], which we surveyed (280ish m) and then returned home.

31st December 2004

Anja Renner, Thomas Matthalm

After a brief descent into the big rift, Anja and I decided to go back to the camp to fetch SRT and rope. On our way back, we found a big doline with a short but sizeable passage down to a 15 sqm sump. The cave and doline were surveyed. On the way to the hotel, we found several other shafts/caves. At night, Joerg and Anja prepared "Gluhwein" which was very tasty and gave us a good start into the final night of 2004. New Year then was celebrated with a typical Chinese firework.

1st January 2005

Anja Renner, Thomas Matthalm

Wanted to go back to the big rift but decided to drop the big pothole just beneath the road (at the workshop left)[Shuang Yan Dong]. We took the GPS reading. After descending/rigging we surveyed approx. 250m of active streamway to a upstream/downstream sump. Back at the hotel, we had to improvise some dinner, after the restaurant ran completely out of anything eatable.

31st December 2004

Bobby de Vos, Joerg Dreybrodt

Erin suggested walking down a valley south of Lihu to look for caves. I saw steam rising from a point off the trail, so we went to investigate. We found a deep shaft with the sound of rushing water coming from the bottom. We went back to get rigging and SRT gear. Joerg rigged the shaft with some rebelays, and we went down. It was so foggy that you could not see the bottom when you were still descending. The river will make wetsuits mandatory.

1st January 2005

Bobby de Vos, Joerg Dreybrodt

We went back to our vertical river cave, this time with wetsuits. We tried to finish the survey of the shaft, but the tape tangled. We then surveyed downriver. We swam at some points, and the passage kept going and going.

2nd January 2005

Ju Morse, Andrew Atkinson

Decided to go and have another look at the muddy cave [Huile Dong] and continue surveying. Started with the big passage at the end, which lead to a sump after 100 meters or so. There was a higher level passage but it didn't go far. Returned to other question mark at junction. Surveyed along this until too muddy and a crawl. Exited via a different entrance which we also surveyed.

1st January 2005: Kilometer day

Erin Lynch, Andrew Atkinson

Moderate late start setting out for a known winner -- big cave I'd surveyed for ~50m in 2001. We failed to hitch a lift but got to see lots of blasting along the road + then walked along Skylight Cave's depression and up into Gan He upper entrance area. The cave was as remembered -- massive. Andrew took the expected number of photos in the entrance chamber + then we finally got down to the task at hand -- surveying 80m wide passage. It was a bit daunting at first, but we soon got the hang of it -- "how big's that stal" "6m across" "not big enough - ignore it." The cave narrowed to a mere 30m wide after a bit before resuming its generous proportions. I had pangs of guilt at trampling over sparkling formations + dry gour pools, but it was clear that we were far from the first along the passage. The through draught was chilling us to the bone, so we were quite happy when it finally got a bit warmer, but this didn't last long. After about a kilometer of survey we noticed a new chill in the air + the draught going the other way -- not a surprise as the sun had set. Rounding a corner we heard a chattering ahead. At first I thought it was a nest of rats, but Andrew correctly identified the rustling wind noise + high pitched squeeking as a colony of bats. It sounded like they were waking up so we whispered the numbers as we tiptoed past them. It got progressively colder until I eventually realized I was standing on a bunch of plants -- we were out + it was time to run home for supper.

2nd January 2005: Wet + wild in Cave 60

Joerg Dreybrodt, Erin Lynch

After yesterday's reports it was clear that Cave 60 was the place to be. Well, actually, I was quite keen on just sleeping, but Joerg can be very persuasive. So we abbed down the excellent entrance shaft into 10m wide river passage going off in both directions.

Bobby + Thomas were tooled up to tackle the downstream lead, while our mission was upstream. Things got off to a good start with a swim. We were able to get out of the water after a few legs + things generally continued in this manner - half in + half out of the water. We'd expected moderate sized passage, but to my dismay we rounded a corner into 10m wide borehole. Too much to sketch. Soon after the passage split, with a dry flood overflow oxbow providing a relatively easy-to-sketch alternative to the streamway. Down the other side the roof started to come down (possible high level continuation). After another swim we reached a lovely set of cascades over dark, slimy rock. At the top the roof was finally low enough that we could estimate its heigh accurately, and a further swim brought us to the inevitable sump. On the way back we noticed a curious change in water temperature near the oxbow + traced it to a warm inlet flowing out of the bottom of a draughting passage which goes to a boulder choke (unpushed). Further around the oxbow another draughting passage led off to more boulders. An interesting area worth a closer look.

2nd January 2005: Gluhwein Recipe German Style

Joerg Dreybrodt

4 bottles Great Wall wine
1.5 l of orange juice
50 g cloves or more
about 100 g sugar (to the taste)

Heat slowly up, avoid that it cooks!
Enjoy after cold caves - cold Chinese villages or whatever you can imagine!

2nd January 2005

Thomas Matthalm, Bobby de Vos

The downstream trip was excellent, with a swim at the end. We ended up taking survey shots at water level. Thomas took the video camera and shot some excellent footage of me going up the cascades.>

3rd January 2005

Bobby de Vos, Thomas Matthalm, Anja Renner

We walked out of Lihu towards the river, which we followed up a stream. A local man took us across the river and to a large cave opening that the river flowed out of. We continued around the hill, and found several entrances. We surveyed several shots to a sinkhole.

3rd January 2005: Hoofing it

Andrew Atkinson, Ju Morse, Erin Lynch

After protracted negotiations, I arranged a 6am bus for the next morning so Andrew + Ju wouldn't miss their flight. Then we set out in search of Cow Through Cave. Transport was against us, so we'd nearly made it to Gan He by the time we got a lift. In An Cun I was not surprised to see extensive showcave development and even a former hydro scheme masquerading as a showcave. However, I failed to find the cave we were looking for. Somewhat disappointed, we walked back to Gan He just in time to miss the last bus to Lihu. Sore feet + numerous entrance photos were the theme for the day. There certainly are lots of caves here.

4th January 2005

Anja Renner, Thomas Matthalm, Bobby de Vos

We went back to the cave from yesterday and surveyed some more, connecting most of the entrances. The last entrance out to the GPS point will require wetsuits.

5th January 2005: Velcro chokes

Bobby de Vos, Erin Lynch

There are few places in the world where you can comfortably prussik clad only in buoyancy aid , knickers, and wellies. Unfortunately Nandan is not one of them -- I was too bloody hot.

We surveyed upstream in Smoking Yao intending to tidy up the oxbow + investigate the 2 draughting leads. I spent a merry few hours scraunching and squeezing through the chokes. Both were very fresh + cold -- it was easy to follow the draught. In the first choke a crowbar is required for further progress. The second choke was much more complex + there may still be a way through, but it is a true 3d maze. I got a fair way into the choke only to be stopped by the second half of a 2 part squeeze. On my way back I got turned around + Bobby was starting to think about organizing a rescue by the time I finally found my way out, leaving shreds of my wetsuit behind me.

I forgot to bring my boilersuit for the prussik out, so went au-naturel. While de-robing I spotted a white-yellow catfish in the stream, about a handspan long, but we failed to catch it. Near the second choke we also saw a much larger brown catfish + a small grey non-catfish. There were all too fast for us -- definitely need net-technology.

5th January 2005

Anja Renner, Thomas Matthalm

Went back to Cave 70 and connected it to the surface survey. After some more or less unpleasant wading in very cold and slimy water it was finally done. Then surveyed a water filled (waist-chest deep water) side passage, we decided not to start the swim-survey in the main passage. Left the cave and then walked up the hill (N-W) to search for the daylight shaft. This was refused by thorns in every size and shape and by a smaller injury of Thomas's knee. Then descended to a small village on the other side of the mountain in order to search for the upstream entrance. We found this entrance with the help of a young villagers who guided us for approx. 400 ms out of the village to a nice (15 x 8) entrance at the end of a sizeable dry riverbed. A higher level room had some rice bowls, incense sticks and memorial items. This room was fortified with two well preserved walls. On our way back, the friendly villagers indicated another resurgence entrance at the end of the valley. Back at the hotel, we updated the cave descriptions until Erin arrived with her new 'pin up style' caving dress that urged a packed bus to a sudden stop to enable the travelers some cheering and watching... :-)

6th January 2005: Mr. Li's Sticky Slippers Tour

Erin Lynch, Anja Renner, Bobby de Vos, Li Deqin, Thomas Matthalm


Once again, Mr. Li appeared out of the middle of nowhere just to show us some more caves. After the obligatory welcome cigarette (that I had to smoke again...) we all left the hotel around noon. Attracted by the sound of a drum, Anja asked Mr. Li if there is a drum manufacturer around. Invited by Mr. Li we joined the drummers. Then we left for Huali with a breadvan. On our walk through the traditional village we had a chance to see the manufacture of the Baikuyao clothes.

Mr. Li then guided us out of the village - without a single look down to a huge cave entrance at the bottom of the valley - to a rather less inspiring shaft right beside the road. A spit was soon bolted and already halfway down in the shaft, Li mentioned that there could be already "some dead bodies down there" - Aha - nice to know...

After some more rigging, Anja and I then had to face about 15 - 20 dead bodies - all the bottom of the shaft was covered with bones, skulls, and the remains of two recent bodies still in clothes... After a quick survey or the 100 x 40 meter large room, we then made our way out - happy to leave this sad and awkward place. Back on the surface, Erin and Li just returned from Mr. Li's first SRT lesson. Keen to prove his new and hard earned caving skills, he guided us to a small cave entrance some hundred meters away from the village. A strong draught and steam indicated a promising cave - that indeed was immediately entered by a keen Mr. Li. Vanishing in the steaming clouds, Mr. Li managed not to throw himself down the first 12m shaft and disappeared in the unknown depths of the cave. One bolt later, Bobby preferred to trust his SRT skills and joined Mr. Li. After one hour freezing in the dark night of the Baikuyao Mountains, Erin, Anja, and I slowly started to worry about the sake and physical safety of our two daring explorers. In pure "Mr-Li-style" I slid down the calcited shaft. To my big relief, Bobby & Mr. Li had a peaceful Chinese -English conversation, developing their latest discoveries into a hero-tale, featuring an eight to nine second drop. Without beliefing, I wanted to get my own view of that shaft - that turned out to be even more a nine second drop with some bouncing of stones. To add some more spices to this promising shaft, the drop started with a slimy mud slope - that forced me on my knees. Mr. Li, on the contrary, walked up this mud slope like a real gentleman enjoying an afternoon walk on a park lane... I WANT TO HAVE THE SAME STICKY SLIPPERS!. After some more hiking and a car lift to Lihu, we enjoyed a delicious dinner and the obligatory cigarette, offered by Mr. Li.