Dong Ba 2003 Expedition Logbook


30th August 2002: Bill arrives in Hong Kong

Bill Miners, Duncan Collis

Chose the wrong queue in immigration and had an extra long wait, but no to worry as Brian's flight was coming in 40 mins after mine so no rush. Duncs was waiting in the hall when I wandered through, hooray so we chatted a bit about his recent trip to Yunnan. Duncs and I both agreed Brian was 40 mins after me (I had arrived at 2.46pm) so that was good however neither of us had noted down the flight number so we played guess which flight and kept thinking he would be on the next one coming from a vaguely westerly direction. When it got to 4pm we started to reckon he must be held up in customs or even asked for a special extra long cavity search!! We then go check emails using Pacific Coffee Shop machines on 1st floor in corner, and seeing as nothing saying he is not coming we start to try to ask at airline desks if he had been on various flights but all desks very unhelpful.

Maybe he had come through? / not read his email saying he was being met? I was wearing my Yellow Petzl helmet so was v obvious. At 5.30 we decide to rush to the border -- we already had 3 overnight bus tickets and best to use them / get refund on Brian rather than let all 3 get wasted -- and we might meet Brian on the way -- him having snuck past us and be waiting at Guilin unable to get on bus.

We were very lucky with connections 21A MTR KCR then 15 mins at each side of border the FIXME 7 and arrived at bus stop with about hour spare -- time enough for me to borrow money of Duncs and we both buy snack / evening meal to eat on bus.

Bus was a Soft Sleeper overnight / luxury. Soft / blankets TV showing canto pop / aircon etc. Duncs started to tell me how once he had such bad socks on a previous one of these they had asked him to put plastic bags over his feet -- gosh these Chinese are a bit fastidious we though -- then low and behold a gentle ripe odor started to fill the front of the coach and the very polite attendant approached Duncs again with one hand exaggeratedly pinching her nose and the other holding two plastic bags.

30th August 2003 - 31st August 2003: Scotland to China Eyemouth to Guilin

Brian Judd

The start of the strip started with the usual rush of preparations between work and personal commitments. I drove to Edinburgh to get my visa from the consulate only find it was closed for the week while they moved office. No notice on website and they didn't answer the phone. Drove down to Manchester and got it the same day for an extra &gbp;20 (&gbp;50 total) for 60 days. I felt fretful leaving home at 430am to drive to Edinburgh airport, not sure if I'd left plenty of time to check in my 33kg bag and weighty hand luggage. On arrival found a scene of chaos as the computers were down. i then fretted I would be late to get my flight from London. In the end it all worked out as the check in clerk made me take out a kilo from my big bag (which I put in my 'hand' baggage) and booked the bag right through to Hong Kong. On the Turkish airlines flight via Istanbul and Bangkok to HKG I got seats next to the emergency exit so there was good leg room. On arrival I was met with a sign and a message saying to ring home. Looked around for Duncan and Bill but no sign of them. Changed money and phoned home to find out that after 30 hours of travelling it was now 31st August. My travel agent itinerary said I'd arrive on the 30th and I told Erin that. Duncan and Bill had gone on to Guilin. I had two options, try and find somewhere to stay or try and make the bus for Guilin. The later option was the best and the one I decided on but the time was very short to lug heavy bags, across town and border, via train and buses. In the end I got there 5 mins late but luckily the bus was still in and was a sleeper bus so I managed to get some sleep before arriving in Guilin and getting noodles and beer while waiting to meet Duncan to help me to the institute.

31st August 2003 - 2nd September 2003: Epic bag carry to Chongqing

Duncan Collis, Bill Miners, Brian Judd, Matt Ryan, Erin Lynch

The night of the 30th I was so excited I couldn't sleep, The 31st dawned with Dunks + Bill arriving at our apartment -- but no Brian. A quick look in the net bar revealed that Turkish Airlines didn't have any flights scheduled to arrive in HK on the 30th -- Brian had told us the wrong date! We sent Brian some instructions via his wife in the UK, but figured it was unlikely that he'd make the 9:20pm bus when he phoned us @ 5:45pm, still at Hong Kong airport! But the next phone call was at 8am from Guilin bus station -- he'd made it.

Now the only person missing was Matt. At 2pm he sent a text to say he was about to leave Yangshuo. The rest of us were busy digesting the swank seafood banquet we'd been treated to by the Institute. 4 hours later + still no Matt. At 8pm we left for the station without him. As we were unloading our 3 taxis he arrived -- his bus had broken down enroute + he'd had to abandon it + catch a taxi. bought the ticket + found out you can buy Liuzhou - CQ tickets in Guilin, but not for the train we wanted. Once our 49 bags were piled inside the station they drew unwanted attention . It seemed we'd crossed the threshold of what we could reasonably get away with. First they wanted 200Y to ship everything to CQ then it was 300Y to take it with us -- a better option but still expensive. What would we get charged in Liuzhou? Maybe 800Y? It was time to investigate other options. A quick cell to Yangshuo + we had an offer of ~3000Y for a bus to CQ. Too dear, so we decided to risk the train. Two porters with 4 trollies between then leapt into the fray + soon we + all of our bags had bypassed the 1st barrier, much to the disgruntlement of some of the other passengers who also tried to sneak around but were turned back. We hustled everything onto the platform + luckily our porters misjudged where the baggage car would be. Instead we ended up in hard seat. The woman at the door complained, but our porters told her where to stick it + we piled all of our bags on. The train ride was uneventful -- most of us stood with the bags while Brian slept. Surprisingly nobody ever asked us for dosh -- looks like the gamble paid off. In Liuzhou everything came off the train + we spent a while drinking on the platform before 2 women ( the same as last year?) came up and suggested we move to the more comfortable, air-conditioned Mother Baby Serviceman waiting lounge. After a short kip + the now traditional beer + snails it was time to move bags again. The 2 attendants gave us a hand + even pressed a porter into service. There was confusion about which platform the train'd be coming to, which resulted in a lot of ferrying back + forth over the tracks, but eventually everyone reached a consensus. This time when the train stopped 40 passengers got off at the nearest door. Brian, Bill + Matt got on + Duncan, the door attendant + I started throwing them bags. There were yells of "There's no space" "Where are we supposed to put these bags?" but the attendant was game, so we assumed it would all work out in the end -- which proved to be the case. Once bags were crammed into every available inch of space, thoroughly blocking the floor + aisle. I ran around to see about upgrading our "no seat" tickets to something a bit more sensible. Again we lucked out -- 5 hard sleepers -- no sweat. The only problem that remained was getting our bags to the sleeper section now that the train had left the station. It would have been okay but for the mad scrum at the closest wash basin as people jostled to brush their teeth. The train was completely packed -- with all seats occupied as well as all doorways + the seats in the dining car. WHere they'd fit the 40 people who'd gotten off, I'll never know.

It was fantastic to lie flat + sleep after spending the night in Liuzhou station.

2nd September 2003: Train to CQ

Duncan Collis, Brian Judd, Matt Ryan, Erin Lynch, Bill Miners

After a good morning (and afternoon too for Brian) sleeping in an attempt to make up for the previous night, we festered for a while and then went to the restaurant car. Dinner was good, with a few dishes that we could almost read on the menu. Back in hard sleeper we had a fairly early night, allowing sleep to speed us on our way to Chongqing.

3rd September 2003: Chongqing to Wulong

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Bill Miners, Brian Judd

Train arrived in Chongqing at 8:58, bang on time the gear was unloaded and we were allowed out of the large side entrance rather than having to go through the narrow ticket barriers.

It took two trolley loads to shift stuff out of the station; as the trolley returned to collect the second load an axle-nut came loose and fell off. Luckily, Brian who was guarding the pile of gear on the platform, spotted the bolt about to fall out, and so we were able to fix the problem by nicking a nut from a through-bolt, as the trolley wheels were held on by M8 bolts. By the time we'd got back to the pile of gear Erin was guarding outside the station, she'd managed to sort out bottles of iced water and a van for 20&yuan; to take us to the bus station.

Bill stayed with the lot while everyone else went on shopping expeditions. When the shopping team returned Erin bought bus tickets, and persuaded the driver to bring his bus to where our bags were heaped so we could load up. We totally filled the load bays under the bus and half the back seat for which we were charged 100&yuan;. New road to Wulong complete apart from a couple of short sections and one bit which had fallen into the Wu Jiang, ChongQing to Wulong in just over 3 hours.

At the bus station we hired 2 3-wheeled carts to shift our stuff to Guang Ming Hotel our usual haunt.

Didn't manage to meet the government officials as they couldn't find our hotel and we couldn't find their office. Met up with a couple of guys from HuiBang, and Mr Li came and had a beer with us at dinnertime.

4th September 2003: Wulong to TianXing

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Brian Judd, Bill Miners

We'd arranged to meet one of the Huibang guys at 8:30am, they'd agreed to take us to the govt. tourism office, to the PSB, and also to organise a truck to take us + our gear up to Tianxing.

Erin + Duncan went to do more shopping and Matt + Bill went to try + buy replacements for the cell in the newly constructed drill battery which had been shorted during transit. Brian was taken to see officials + PSB.

The shoppers returned to find Brian had just set off in a truck with all the kit. He'd visited the PSB but the government official we were supposed to see was out of town and apparently agreed to come to Tianxing to see us.

At that point Brian phoned to let us know what was happening, and was soon on his way back to collect the rest of us + the shopping.

Huibang had agreed with the driver that we'd pay him 200&yuan; for the journey up to Tianxing, and everything seemed to be going well until the junction where the road splits to go to Tianxing or Wenfu. The Tianxing road had recently been attacked by a JCB, and although now twice its old width, the surface was soft, freshly turned mud. After a fairly cursory attempt, despite our efforts at pushing, our driver gave up so we asked him to take us to Wenfu, where we asked around to see if anyone there could get us up to Tianxing. Lots of shaken heads + mei yous, and one guy who said it would only be possible if a JCB helped pull his truck, so we unloaded and carried everything upstairs into 4&yuan; per night accommodation.

After we'd had a couple of beers and some dinner, and were preparing to go and stroll to Da Dong, Brain found a trucker who said he could take us to Tianxing. We offered him 100&yuan;, which he accepted immediately as it turned out he was going there anyway. All the kit was carted back down to the roadside and loaded into the truck. We knew our driver meant business when we spotted snow chains dangling from the back of the truck, which were duly fitted and we rattled on out of town.

The Tianxing road had been totally churned up by a digger over almost its entire length, and in two places we had to wait while a mechanical digger cleared away a big pile of dirt across the road. Our driver seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself, grinning like a cheshire cat the whole way. We eventually arrived in Tianxing, unloaded, chose accommodation + carted gear one final time across the village to our new digs.

5th September 2003: Dong Ba 1 Tian Xing

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Brian Judd, Bill Miners

Noisy night -- our accommodation is above the local gambling den and the farmers appear determined to lose all their money before going home.

Breakfast at 10, sugared potatoes -- I don't mind but others seem not so keen. Then Duncs feels bad so stays to man the fort while rest head toDong Ba.

On the way down to the cave we stopped at the farmhouse nearest the entrance / (who owns the land with the cave?) and he climbed up his tree shook it and lots of chinese apples fell down which we peeled and ate, also his neighbours produced pears -- Erin chatted to them for a bit while they sat behind their tobacco leaf sorting.

Mat to film around the entrance.
Erin to start survey round entrance with help from
Bill who will then follow carrying extra rope for
Brian who is rigging into cave placing a few extra bolts for mainly making Y hangs.

However, Erin forgot/mislaid the tape! So she followed Brian & Bill doing sketch of cave entrance bits to speed up survey when it happens.

We got underground at about 2.30 and out at 9pm -- noisy walk back with dogs barking. Brian left his SRT kit and oversuit at the farmhouse.

Got back to accom and chap was back from his shopping trip with lots of beer and eggs.

6th September 2003: Gear + Survey

Erin Lynch, Matt Ryan, Bill Miners

Bill & Erin were taking the two above bags to the cave to leave bottom of first pitch, while Dunc, Mat, Brian were were going to rig on, those three left before lunch while Bill put hasp on front room off LOUNGE and Erin sorted but at 1pm Mat returned as he had forgotten his boiler suit. So the three of us had lunch (posh meal with 7&yuan; meat dish & subsequent discussion with cook on food cost) and then went to the cave. Mat tried to film the survey occuring but the lights failed -- there were two small children who watched us survey -- I let them hold the tape while I did compass & clino however once we went down the first pitch they started to drop moss on us, the lumps got larger then one crashed down with quite a large piece of soil attached.

6th September 2003: Rigging in

Duncan Collis, Brian Judd

Set off down down Dong Ba with 2 sacks each. Matt had been supposed to come along to help Bri with photography while Duncan rigged, but reached the entrance to find he'd forgotten his boilersuit.

Rerigged Side-passage Pitch by installing a long deviation off one of the silly bolts on the far wall (bolts had flood debris on them!) then trundled down to the rigging front. Installed 2 bolts on the pitch before the before the 60 to give a nice easy pitch-head and a clean hang.

Drilled a bolt-hole at the top of the 60 for a 2nd pitch-head bolt to make getting onto the rope less unpleasant, but had no bolts left. The pitch before the 60 needs a long tector on the section of rope tied around the belay.

Got down the handline climb + next pitch, at which point it was 6:30pm and time to turn round, just as well since the next through bolt was missing a nut and we had no spares.

7th September 2003: Fester

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Matt Ryan, Brian Judd, Bill Miners

At 6:30am Matt departed for Chengdu with a long shopping list of things to buy while visiting Apple. How his visit will be received has yet to be seen, as Apple's currently living with her auntie!

The rest of us spent the day sitting around, sorting out the hut a bit, and drinking cups of coffee. Late in the day Bill had a burst of enthusiasm + washed one of the new reels + then dragged Brian out to GPS Tuwan Dong.

The debate over meal prices continues. Our landlord initially promised reasonable meals for 2Y per person, but is now trying to tack on extras + is generally providing insufficient portions. Internet access is working fine. Yesterday Bill put a lock on one of the doors so now we have a secure room for valuables, but security in other rooms is still a concern as the Zhu family is in and out quite frequently. Drill batteries continue to be a problem. We have one working Bosch battery, but it discharges quite quickly. The one made by Matt was shorted in transit + Matt's video light batteries (which could have been combined to form a drill battery) are so flat that they're having problems charging. Could use some Bosch sponsorship.

8th September 2003

Brian Judd, Bill Miners

Bill Miners:

I awoke at 8am and spent an hour trying to get breakfast served immediately -- then the frantic rush to pack tackle and sort out what is down the cave from Duncs description and write down what needs to be done at various points -- extra bolts for Y hangs on missing nuts -- aim is to finish wet series and do tower pitch and some below. We carried in a 60 for Two Crap Lights but abandoned it when we reached the rest of the rigging stuff as lots already down that needs to be carried.

Walk to cave nice in cool of morning previous walks at 1pm been nasty. We started down 1st pitch at 11.30.

Bit before Tower Pitch -- Calcite passage?, narrow, while was nasty with 5 bags between us. I found the points in the existing rig where rope finishes between 1 & 1.5m above the floor annoying, as waste lots of time getting on or off rope.

I started down Tower pitch put in 1st Deviation then failed to find 1st bolt went back up a bit and put in a natural so could swing around a bit more then found 1st bolt, it must have been smashed by a rock during the year is at an angle -- has no nut and the thread is squiffy. I could not find a nearby natural to use and Doh -- the drill was at the top with Brian -- so I prussik up and he comes down

Brian Judd:

The last time I'd been on this pitch was in 1996 when I was with Ali Garman and we'd been short of rope, bolts and rigging gear. So much easier to take the drill down and place a through bolt, then spend time hammering self drilling bolts that we had back then. Bugger nostalgia, progress is great! After placing the bolt I abseiled to the end of the 45m rope. This almost reached a natural belay so I added a rope labelled 60m and rigged down to another natural. Further down I found a bolt. None of this really tied in with the rigging guide I had but the bolt indicated it was last years route. I was interested to note how drippily wet it was because great pains had been taken on other pitches to keep them dry by putting in strenuous traverses and deviations. Abseiling* down another 10ms I was surprised to feel the know of the end of the rope in my hand while still dangling some distance from the floor. Quickly installing a jammer on the rope I climbed back to the last bolt. I pulled another rope from the bottom of the bag also labelled 60m and tied on again. It occurred to me that this also wasn't 60m but by now the floor seemed only about 25m away so I hoped for the best. Unfortunately it was about 8m short of the floor. Somewhat frustrated climbed back up to meet Bill halfway up, dropped bags containing Drill, through bolts, maillions, a little sling and rope on ledge. Back in Tian Xing for 10.20 p.m. A 10 hour trip. At least got some photos. Apparently Duncan had told Bill to use the 57m rope for the pitch but hadn't relabelled the 60m rope when he'd cut it in half in Tian Xing after discovering a rub point. Also noticed that my deviation had been changed on side passage pitch (again), now the rope goes almost horizontally to the deviation. I think its about time I gave up caving and took up dominoes. We had a good meal of real meat and spam although the quantity wasn't great. Our landlord wanted an extra 10 yuan for these dishes. I think we should pay more to get better food not just for morale but also to fuel 10 hour caving trips. Possibly 10 yuan extra maybe too much although its only pence each in UK terms which relative to our beer and travel costs is negligable.

It was all a bit reminiscent of 1996 and being very short of rope!

8th September 2003

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Brian Judd, Bill Miners

Duncan and Erin were to go rigging but the day was damp and drizzily so progress is put on hold. This mornings breakfast of noodles was tasty but insufficient quantity if we had been contemplating hours underground. No doubt the food debate will continue. Bill and Brian are reading, Duncans working on Yunnan surveys and Erin is sorting out gear. Last night we lost our internet connection when the landlord moved the phone downstairs. Its raining still.

8th September 2003

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Brian Judd, Bill Miners

Lunch is delayed by arrival of farmer with badger which was then killed and its entrails served for lunch at 4.30 (I did not partake in that 10&yuan; dish!) then supper at 7.00 yet more badger meat -- in the evening Erin sorted out camp food, everyone else read.

10th September 2003: Dongba -- Rigging-in + Survey

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Bill Miners

Erin + Bill spend an hour surveying below Acrobat, then Bill went out. Meanwhile Duncan was playing with the knitting on Tower pitch. The rig is a copy of last year's, minus the knot-pass 5m off the floor. By the time Erin caught up, Duncan had moved 4 bags of tackle to the head of Deviant Drop having rigged the Shattered Drop and made a start at placing bolts on Deviant Drop to avoid using any of the manky-looking naturals.

Two Crap Lights was rigged down the right-hand shaft, which has abundant naturals and a wide pitch-head. It rejoins last-year's route at the Y-hang.

Finally, Enlightenmentwas rigged, with a couple of bolts placed so the rope could hang away from the drizzle.

Prussiked out in 3 and a bit hours (including time spent placing a new bolt on Tower Pitch to replace the bent bolt and the replacement that had been placed too close to the original bolt.)

11th September 2003: Recce

Brian Judd, Bill Miners

Everyone taking it easy today in preparation for camp tomorrow. Brian and myself went for a walk into the Northern valley -- previously unlooked at 3 small holes then one super collapse entrance into large chamber -- Yan Fong Tou [sic] 48R 0784674 UTM 3239244

12th September 2003

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Brian Judd, Bill Miners

A bout of packing yesterday evening meant that an early start down cave should have been possible -- but more packing got done in morning and then as breakfast was so bad we went to restaurant for lunch -- yum yum a fair amount of beer was drunk and despite an initial plan to go off at 2 there were no signs of this happening (Erin & Duncs retired to bed) so Bill and Brian set off to the cave

Erin & Duncs caught up at the entrance and it transpired that Brian & Duncs went down ahead to rig Hansel & Gretel while Bill & Erin were going to follow and do a bit more survey but half way down they lost impetus and decided it was more important to get to camp and not dick around surveying while carrying lots of tackle bags. We met other two as Brian was rigging Hansel & Gretel -- having put some extra bolts above to help climb down avoiding slippy exposed traverse up to big boulders. However here the drill escaped and no longer worked so Duncs had to rock pecker a bolt on the slab climb down to the scree slope where we put a long tape -- then a rope was also put on the top of the scree slope where traverse occurred -- again more pecking by Duncs. Just beyond Giraffe hall we found lot of mud, really rather nasty going and then once past big rocks there we had to do a wade -- ERG!! as there was welly deep water in the section just beyond -- but we all plunged in -- last year I remember sitting here doing the survey book while James wandered around 10m lower down on the rocky floor -- amazing all due to the dam.

We then got to camp -- no longer the idyllic dry spot of last year but very gloopy mud Brian & Bill had karrimats to put their bivis on, Duncs and Erin used a raft of tackle bags! Soon the cavern had a new noise above the gentle drip of water -- ragged snoring from 4 out of FIXME exhausted cavers.

13th September 2003: 1st Dong Ba Camp 2003

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Brian Judd, Bill Miners

Reasonably comfortable night considering we were sleeping on a muddy slope. Imagine lying down in a muddy field, with no vegetation, no sun and blackness all around, the only sound the dripping of water onto a plastic sheet to collect water and you get the gist of it. Compared to life in the trenches during the First World War and we were lucky. Lucky, lucky bastards; except for some reason we'd chosen to do this, and not been conscripted. Bill was first up collecting water and starting the stove. Duncan and Erin stayed in their pits being waited on by Bill 'Jeeves', the camp butler, or so we teased. After awhile we were ready to go and look at the promised leads. Duncan + Erin were to go down into "Naked Desire" to see if they could make the connection to Qi Keng Dong. Bill + Brian were to go to to Glycogen Chamber and see if there was a way on there. There was quite a lot of screaming as wet muddy caving gear was donned. Duncan explained the way to Glycogen and Naked Desire to Bill + Brian. Duncan + Erin thought Brian + Bill overdressed with furry and oversuit compared to their boilersuits and nakedness. However the furry suits did stop cave abrasion and it was easy to take stuff off when it got too hot. In the event of something going wrong B + B didn't want to rely on passion to keep them warm. One couldn't help thinking that a team of four in the field split into two groups was stretching themselves thin, but exploration beckoned..

The route to Glycogen was a fairly straightforward scramble over muddy blocks and climbs and on to the steep slope up into the chamber. Bill explored while Brian climbed up to an obvious lead although he didn't know it was the only one at the time. A steep climb up mud and powdery stal formations led almost to the top but the last bit looked too intimidating without a rope and a hammer to dig holds. A fall from here would be serious. Reluctantly the pair left this obvious lead, traversed the chamber and went back to a side passage leading to the Fossil series. Here Bill passed the previous limit over boulders in the Southern branch and climbed upwards until halted by lack of rope to protect the climbs. Then surveyed back. The Northern branch looked promising but two routes led down to pitches which needed rope. A climb up reached another 3m wide passage trending downwards. This went shortly to one blind pot and another pitch which may or may not have been blocked too. Surveyed out and back in camp by 9.30pm. It was obvious all the leads found would need more rope. Disappointingly this meant going out of the cave unless Duncan and Erin had found anything.

14th September 2003

Duncan and Erin returned at 12.30am.

13th September 2003: Pessimism Passage

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis

The previous night, Erin had convinced us that the way into Naked Desire would be sumped, so it was a pleasant surprise to find it high and dry. Well, no wetter than last year, anyway. Showed B & B the way down into Naked Desire, and marked it with a cairn, not that we really expected anyone to find the way past the various obscure climbs, wades, crawls & traverses if we needed rescuing.

The gritty crawl in the 'Naked' part of Naked Desire had been blasted out by a flood, and was now stooping height. Naked Desire showed signs of flooding in several places, and we only saw one fish -- presumably they've been washed downstream.

Bit of the Side more chocolaty than last year for the first part. Had forgotten about the third pool -- Duncan managed to traverse over it, but Erin swam.

The left branch of the first junction was looked at first and was small, thrutchy hading rift on several levels but draughting strongly outwards. Retreated, preparatory to surveying it, but then spotted a climb up into FIXME passage and did that instead because it looked nicer.

However, after only a few legs the passage broke out onto a big ledge above the main passage in Bit on the Side -- it was just a high level oxbow.

We went back to the original objective now, hoping we'd manage to thrutch our way to a pitch down into Qikeng, however, once we started surveying we immediately found the obvious way on we'd missed before, which although not big was quite comfortable and strongly draughting to boot (towards us). Passage gradually descended, then hit a 12m wide chamber were we went down ~20m of climbs, and left the survey at a narrow rift heading down + north. It'll be a bit thrutchy but looks like it should go. Took 1 hours back to camp.

14th September 2003

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Brian Judd, Bill Miners

Brian and Bill decided to go out as all their leads needed more gear. On the way they crossed the welly deep pool as it had been on the way in. It was now waist deep. It seemed only polite to inform Erin and Duncan. In view of our lack of knowledge about the height of the water in the dam it was decided everyone would exit the camp and pull back stuff that was staying in the cave to higher ground. A 10m rise would make life interesting with a long swim. 20m higher would sump the cave. All exited safely if tired by 9.15pm.

15th September 2003: Fester

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Brian Judd, Bill Miners

Festered + had a nice meal at the restaurant. Washed some of the accumulated grit off our caving gear.

16th September 2003: Interview at the Hydrostation

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis

Down the hill to JK at sparrow-fart. Checked into the hotel + had a shower, anticipating missing bus up the hill. Walked to posh yellow/mirrored glass building at riverside, Dunks complaining it was probably a hotel + restaurant. Initially unhelpful guy at the door took us to coppers who sorted us out + then insisted we stay to receive same info again, but in English. Upshot is:

  1. Maximum water level in the dam is 305m ASL
  2. Water in the dam rises a maximum of 0.5 - 1m a day.
  3. The water level was 283m at the dam when we measured it as 288m in Dongba.
  4. They've been filling the dam all month at a rate of 0.5m a day.
  5. They measure the water level 3 times a day to the nearest centimeter.
  6. There are 2 people on staff who speak pretty good english.

Mission complete at 11:30, we went to a net-bar until the bus was about to leave, cancelling our plans for a nice evening out in Jiang Kou thanks to the surprising easy efficiency of the morning.

16th September 2003: Yn Feng Tuo

Brian Judd, Bill Miners

A late start (1.00pm) saw us once again at the entrance slope down. Soon passing the previous limit reached in sandals, we carried along clean washed rocks between mud banks. A couple of little climbs led to a 31m pitch which was duly rigged. Fortunately the 42m rope we had was enough to rig a traverse from a natural and a Y hang from 2 bolts. On the way back we put in a bolt deviation to avoid rubbing down the wall. An enticing 6m x 30m passage led off from the base of the pitch. Clambering down clean washed boulders the passage dimensions decreased somewhat, although picking up a dry inlet, until a pool was met. Brian swam across this with a couple of strokes and then rigged a traverse for Bill to follow and keep the gear dry. Unfortunately the traverse rope slipped off the nodule he'd optimistically tied it too when testing it and he fell with a mighty splash into the pool. It seemed a suitable point at which to survey back. Back in village by 9.30pm

17th September 2003: Yn Feng Tuo

Brian Judd, Bill Miners

Slightly earlier start, this time with wetsuits, I borrow Duncs but 10mins after leaving Tian Xing at midday we get a lift in a posh smoky window jeep down the road and they give us water as we leave so at cave early -- on way down we put anchor on previous drilled hole and bit of rope for awkward climb. Once beyond 1st pool with traverse rope we find a second pool -- quite deep -- just wadeable then in trunk passage crossing from left to right -- we go downstream and go straight into low sump area (Damn!), but beyond is lovely large chamber (hooray) but full of large mud banks through which trickle/stream meanders -- Mississippi? due to low dip of ceiling we are both happy but this could easily sup ahead so as expected eventually roof comes down to a gravel filled sump -- we survey out with Brian taking lots of photos. We should have surveyed from GPS location to cave but clouded/condensation in instruments means not possible -- long slog up the hill but get back for Tea at 9.00 -- probably would have been okay without wetsuits -- we both decide tomorrow is last day -- in, quick survey upstream (which will probably close down soon) then derig -- an easy day!!

September 2003: Yan Feng Tuo Dong -- upstream

Duncan Collis, Brian Judd, Bill Miners

Dunks was elected to go ahead to scale expected cascades and to fix ropes, while B & B followed with the survey. The cascades were, as it turned out, very easy, and Dunks soon found himself considerably surprised by the passage suddenly enlarging to about 10m wide. A quick scoop upstream (it goes!0 then back to assist with the survey.

We surveyed for hundred metres of this large passage, including a 35m wide bedding-collapse chamber where most of the stream entered from a ~4m but unclimbable cascade (will need bolts). Finally we reached a flowstone blockage with a strongly draughting crawl though it and then a small chamber with an even more strongly draughting small hole, which looked to be the end of the cave. However, the squeeze was pushed, and with removal of some gravel should become quite easy.

Beyond was a bit more big passage, which turned left and hit a huge boulder pile. Just as we were considering turning round, Bill settled the matter by falling over and carving his hand up. Duncan couldn't resist a quick ferret around in the boulders and found a route up to the top (the key is a hole up through the boulders in the streamway which comes out of the right-hand side), where it looked like the passage goes right and might continue.

19th September 2003

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Brian Judd, Bill Miners

Clean gear, wash, rest, rain and thunder. Electricity goes off. Erin ill. Bill cut hand draws up plan of Yan Feng Tuo Dong. Erin on computer map of area.

20th September 2003

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Brian Judd, Bill Miners

BIll draws up elevation of Yan Feng Tuo Dong. Erin starts more work on cave database. Duncan and Brian to Liu Jiao Wan a pot found by Bill + B on 2003-09-11. Sill raining, late start after beery lunch at restaurant (45y) 20m pitch rigged from boulder and using rope protectors. 10 bats roosting in downstream passage. Short section upstream walking over small muddy gours led to smaller climbing continuation not followed to bitter end. Downstream went to a couple of climbs, one needing a sling to return and a second pitch. Brian climbed out and suggested to Duncan we get more rope and the drill. Walked back to Tian Xing and returned to put a bolt in to act as deviation on 1st pitch. GPS entrance and survey down watched by friendly locals. Took photos. Rigged 2nd pitch (20m) on two naturals. Passage below contorted vadose canyon. The 120m rope seems to be the kiss of death for vertical systems. We carried it for nothing in Yan Feng Tuo Dong as well. Maybe we should use it down Da Keng. The passage continued down small climbs, pools, come walking, a crawl, some standing, and inlet and a thrutch to the top of a 5m pitch. We turned round, explored the inlet for 50ms and headed out. Duncan seemed OK in shorts and oversuit, but Brian was cold in same gear. On way in Brian dropped the tape in a pool. Fortunately it wasn't too deep. T.U 5 hours followed by a good meal. We're now paying more for meals and the food has improved. Still much cheaper than restaurant at only 13y.

21st September 2003: Cold, Wet and dirty.

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis, Brian Judd, Bill Miners

Still raining. Somewhat knackered myself. Erin mostly recovered but her gear still at Dong Ba. Some DIY to prepare for Matt + Co. I think the space may not be enough for all of us to live in comfort. Of for a nice hot bath and a soft bed! Will we go caving?

21st September 2003 - 22nd September 2003

Brian Judd

In fact we did go caving (see next writeup). Afterwards I had one of those China experiences that suddenly creep up on you. The landlords son asked if I'd be around for the next 20 mins. Somewhat tired from caving and hungry because we hadn't eaten I said I would. Then the postman turned up with his wife and child and said he had a couple of caves near his house. After consulting with Erin we established he lived 30 mins away. It was quite late but it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. We set off. It soon became obvious that this was a walk of much more than 30 mins. On the way the postman pointed to his wife and made a sign with his hands for sleeping. I had no idea what he meant but guessed it was something to do with sleeping overnight. We got to his house as darkness fell and the family gave me a Pomelo, one of those crosses between a grapefruit and an orange. Still stuffing this into my mount we headed up the hill (all caves seem to be uphill). After passing thro' thick vegetation and a maize field we came to the edge of a shaft of about 20m. Further down the hill in more vegetation was a horizontal entrance which immediately led to a vertical rift. Both caves looked interesting and the local people later indicated that they went deep but they hadn't been down. As this is an area we haven't found caves before and the valley leads to a blind depression they are worth coming back to. Anyway by now it was pitch dark and I didn't fancy walking back, especially when they offered me food. This turned out to be a bit of a farmhouse banquet with lashings of pigfat, potatoes, aubergines and rice. I had a cup of Baijiu but the family and guests surprisingly declined. And what off the sleeping arrangements? Later I found out as the postman dived into bed with me (head to toe) It now came clear to me that when he was pointing at his wife he meant she would be sleeping on the floor for me. I had some very strange dreams that night breakfasted at the farmhouse and then walked back in time to meet Vladimir and Ilya

21st September 2003: CAVING!

Brian Judd, Bill Miners

Having given my hand 2 days to heal I wrap it up with bandage and insulation tape and trod off in rain to Liu Jiao Wan Dong Nice short hour walk then change at farm and they watch us go down. Some water coming down pitches so heads up and we get wet. Get to previous limit. Start survey Brian on book, me instrument, do 2 legs get to top of pitch, Brian goes down 6.5m -- now obvious easy way on -- we push a squalid wet crawl some 20m then decide is to nasty and derig. back on surface at farmhouse we get taken on long walk (20 mins ?) by old man and 6 year old kid? to a cave on ridge overlooking valley of Dong Ba but further west almost overlooking Furong Dong -- it could be good will return tomorrow with GPS and rope. Yeeha!!

22nd September 2003

Bill Miners, Brian Judd, Vladimir Yurkuns, Ilya Boiko

When Brian got back from his night with the postman the four of us set off collected SRT and rope + oversuits from Farm in North heading valley and hey presto old bloke with pipe and feeble beard had a toothless friend join him and they both led us off to the cave -- BUT for some reason they took us a different way which involved much much machete work ( hour) but it did take us to the lowest side of the shaft -- Vlad went down and slashed veg then I went down with drill and made a long job of rigging most time spent kicking lots of veg down ahead -- 2 slings then 3 bolts and landed amongst organic (tree, branches) 50m down but the rift at bottom slopes east and has sand boulder choke immediately -- BOO HISS so others all came down and lots of photoing ensued, on way back I went and drew a sketch for the old bloke at farm (who had got fed up of waiting).

23rd September 2003: Bill's Sink

Bill Miners, Ilya Boiko

We set off to do Bill's Sink and Bill's Shaft ? get to Bill's Sink easily and surprisingly quick -- don't expect much but Ilya gets changed before me and goes down the 42m and goes far -- hooray, however we are both in surface prospecting mode just oversuits over walking clothes and boots. The 42 goes down 2 Climbs and 2 pitches -- with one bolt top of last pitch put in by hand -- then 10m on + climb then start the 38m and one drop then rebelay to stal and another walk down a slope and hey presto the streamway!! Yee Ha hooray -- Yabba Dabba Do I really felt we would hit the lower cave Yan Feng Tou[sic] -- we set off it was wet -- nasty in walking boot got tight at one point in rift above a sump that goes right past a rat nest -- i.e. your head is 3m from it and you yell lots/chuck sand and 5 or so of the buggers scamper off. Then more large passage with the occasional climb -- superb, at one point my chest harness is pressed into service on one climb

Sadly we start to see sand/gravel, fear the worst a few more turns and a sand choke , pants!! Start to survey out and survey and survey eventually get out @ ten, longest ever grot (no caving clothes) trip I've ever done -- very satisfying back to house at 11pm but Da Keng people still down cave!! -- no tea for us -- grumble!!

24th September 2003

Bill Miners, Vladimir Yurkuns

To Wan -- Peach Bend in River nice small decorated cave at bottom of shaft.

0784451 3238964
Alt 826
epe 7m

23rd September 2003

Brian Judd, Vladimir Yurkuns

In the morning Brian went down alone to fix the first 200 meters rope, while Erin and Vladimir were waiting for him on the surface. Brian decided not to follow the route of last year and went down in the new way (starts with the tree) which proved to be the right choice.

While out of rope and batteries, Brian informed us on the surface that he was going up. Vladimir was waiting for Brian on the surface, and Erin went back to the farmhouse to bring, if possible, the new battery. When Brian came up to the surface, we decided to go back home, to take a couple of hours of rest and to go to push the cave down with fresh strength. We were back in the farmhouse at around 4.30p.m, the battery was ready. So we just rested for a while and went back. It was my turn, so I grabbed the drill with the new battery and the tacklebag with 200 meters of rope needed to be fixed. At around 7p.m I started my descent. The huge pitch was going down and down, without any sign of the end, I was drilling and drilling. As I was new in this business, I wasted a couple of bolts but managed to fix seven or so. After several hours of work I found myself on the bottom, which occurred to be a hall (25m in diameter) with slope going further down. The bottom is covered with gravel and stones of different sizes.

As you can see on the scheme, I walked not more than 20-30 meters and found a new pitch, a really big one. OUt of energy and time I informed the surface about what was going on -- "Fantastic", said Brian. It was! I left some stuff on the bottom, grabbed the drill and the battery and started going up. At around 11.50p.m I was on the surface, exhausted. I found that Brian was not alone, Matt and Apple made him a company. They were frozen a little bit, while I was as hot as stove.

We packed all our gear and headed to the farmhouse. It was a good day. We fixed all the rope and the cave was still going on. Though the line we fixed needs to be improved -- there are 4~5 places to put protectors and I would not mind if we double the bolts on some points as well.

24th September 2003: Da Keng

Brian Judd, Duncan Collis, Ilya Boiko

I wanted to continue rigging the shaft and took down 200m rope and a drill and battery. Unfortunately upon reaching the ledge reached by Vladimir yesterday I discovered I'd made one tiny, tiny mistake. In my keeness I'd neglected to bring any more through bolts and hanger! I found 1 through bolt with hanger and a hanger which Vladimir had left. Oh Well. I put in a self drilling bolt and abseiled down the rubble slope. I expected to find the edge of the next large pitch immediately. Instead I found the slope continued and I could have walked or scrambled down it without the rope. So I'd wasted 1 of my precious hangers. Finally I reached the edge of the next pitch. It will be interesting to rig. I think a lot of it may be overhanging but it may be possible to get some bolts in on the right hand side. I threw a number of half brick size rocks over the edge. Each took about 6-7 secs to hit something. Maybe about 250m or less deep. The problem is we don't want to abseil down 200m of mostly free hanging rope to find it too short. I put the 1 bolt in I had in preparation for tomorrow and climbed out. We need to put more bolts on the main pitch. Further up I put in some bolt holes for deviations and gardened the tree pitch. So the trip wasn't wasted. It took just over an hour to climb out. Sunlight shone down the entire shaft but the atmosphere was very misty due to the temperature difference. I came out as Duncan + Ilya came to meet me. On the way back we decided to look further down the hill along the road for more caves. A farmer at the large farmhouse on the col told us of 2 caves, one large down the hill and one up the hill. We looked for the one downhill but couldn't find it. We'll need local help. Back to our 'camp' to wash drink beer, eat, write reports and relax. The next rigging of Da Keng should be good as long as I remember the bolts.

25th September 2003: Da Keng

Brian Judd, Vladimir Yurkuns

Got up all raring to go and fired up to start tackling the next pitch in Da Keng. Immediately reality intervened to knock the plans off course. The first was that the lead acid batteries for the drill were causing the wiring to overheat and burn. Duncan had spent some time trying to sort it all out, drilling holes through wood, wiring everything up and sending me to the shops for bolts, screws and small nails. All the effort was in vain. It now seems there was a fault in the drill itself. The second event to alter plans was that a cow had fallen down Mi Dong and the farmers wanted help to bring the bits out. We were offered half the cow it it seemed a good thing to do for them anyway. Unfortunately the only way to bring it up would be to cut it into pieces, so it promised to be a bloody job. Eventually it was decided that Matt, Apple, and Ilya would go to Mi Dong with a a gang of farmers, Erin and Duncan would stay behind fixing things and Vladimir would follow me down Da Keng after a couple of hours with the drill battery if Duncan could fix it. I spent the first half hour putting in some deviations near the top of the shaft to improve the rigging and then abseiled to the bottom of the shaft. I cut the remaining rope of to use on the next pitch, leaving 10m spare to alter the rig on the previous pitch because there are some slight rub points. Then it was on to the new pitch carrying the 200m rope brought down yesterday and the bit cut off. I drilled two holes and rigged a y hang with a traverse line tightened to keep the rope from rubbing. Then abseiled down the pitch and put in two more bolts. The walls belled out and away on all sides. I abseiled to the end of the rope (the cut off bit) about 30m down but could not get close to the walls. At that moment Vladimir came and joined me but Duncan had been unable to get the second drill battery working (homemade from 2 sealed acid cells.) Without any more drill power the only option was to abseil straight down and see what happened. There was just enough power in the drill battery to get one more bolt in to make a Y hang. I tied on the 200m rope and set off hoping it was enough to reach the bottom or at least a ledge. The rope was very fast and I descended even with a soft lock on. I controlled the rope carefully with 2 hands. If I let go I would plummet. It was quite hypnotic watching the walls go by and gradually they went further away. The nearest wall was 3m away. The shaft was immense. I watched the rope slowly unravelling from the bag. I switched on my side torch hoping to see a landing but there was only blackness. I kept checking the bag of rope hoping there was enough. Still the shaft continued continued and the rope gradually got used up. Then I spied a floor. I hoped there was enough rope. There was. The rope had stretched considerably (9mm) coming down and I let the stretch go back up the pitch before unclipping from the rope. I measured what was left. About 20m. So a 180m free hang. The whole pitch was about 200m. What was next? My legs were stiff where the harness had cut the circulation off but I could see the pitch continued. I threw stones down. Maybe about 20m more or less. So a small pitch! But it would need more rope and a working drill. Only option, climb back up. It wasn't so bad and took 30 mins. Vladimir was cold when I met him. He'd taken a few photos and I took more as he climbed out ahead of me. Suddenly there was a terrible thump. It was the tackle sack he'd been carrying which must have unclipped about 25m up. Most things in the bag seemed to be OK but unfortunately his digital camera, inside its case, inside the Darren drum was wrecked. The rest of the climb out passed without incident and we emerged to daylight at 6.30. T.U 7.30. We washed, went for dinner and waited for the others in Mi Dong. They didn't come until 12.00pm by which time we'd gone to bed.

26th September 2003

Brian Judd, Vladimir Yurkuns

Fettled battery then prospecting to Yan Fengqian (1994) and Shenjitan (2001) in the valley South of Dong Ba. Both previously explored but a good walk in brilliant weather. Prepare for Da Keng, stock up on sky hooks.

25th September 2003: Mi Dong Cow rescue

Matt Ryan, Apple Liu, Ilya Boiko

In the morning the landlord told us a farmer's cow had fallen down 200 meters in Mi Dong and hoped we could help them pull it out and they would give us a half. So Matt + Ilya and I carried the rope and equipment to the village near the cave. we took a rest in the home of the family who had lost the cow. Walking down to the cave was steep, muddy and difficult. We followed a local person who made a path for us. Behind us were several people carrying baskets of wire to pull the meat out of the cave.

Matt + Ilya put two bolts in the rock near the edge and Ilya set off down the cave. First he tied the rope to a tree on the edge of the drop and put two more bolts in the middle of the pitch. Matt followed with knives and the two of them started cutting the cow. The local people and I tied the basket to the wire then lowered it down to the butchers. The first time they but one of the legs in the basket so it was not too heavy, the second time a bit heavier. The third time the basket got nearly to the top before emptying all the meat out onto Matt + Ilya who were luckily not anywhere near where it fell. Eventually Matt + Ilya tied the head onto the basket and we hauled it up the pitch. None of the farmers had gloves -- only me so the wire must have been very uncomfortable on their hands. After a few more baskets a farmer's wife brought me some tapioca and pears for everybody to eat. Matt + Ilya had to make do with a snickers bar. By this time it was getting dark so I was happy when Matt told me on the radio that this was the one last basket. After we had pulled it up the farmers carried the meat and the wire up the hill to the village. After half an hour Matt + Ilya came out. I know Matt couldn't hold the radio while he was climbing but I know he could hear me if I sang to him. We sang a mixture of songs in Chinese, Russian and local dialect and Matt joined in English down below. After a failed search for a lost spanner we headed to the village for a wash and very delicious dinner. Eventually we walked to the road where we pushed a three wheeled cart back to TianXing finally arriving home at 12:30. All very tired.

26th September 2003 - 26th September 2003: Da Keng Entrance Shaft survey

Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis

After too much time spent being ill + festering, I finally went underground -- never mind we didn't get outside of daylight. Da Keng is a corking pothole -- the entrance shaft is mostly covered by a flat roof that you can see glowing a yellowy-orange above you as you abseil down. There's a large wall of curtains at the top near a large ledge on the opposite side of the shaft, which then narrows to a modest 10-20m wide, dropping down almost vertically. In a large alcove you can see a beam of light hitting the floor -- at first we thought it came from a second shaft, but more likely it is from a hole in the floor of a higher alcove. The pitches totaled a respectable 284m, with the rubble slope at the bottom bringing it to almost 300m deep. We got out late + the next day I went back to solo sketch the upper portions -- figuring it was more sensible to take advantage of the sunlight than to struggle in the darkness, prolonging our already late trip. I am still not satisfied with the drawings. It is a difficult matter surveying a kidney shaped shaft when you are in one lobe.

27th September 2003

Duncan Collis, Ilya Boiko

So, we both had to survey an unknown part of Yan Feng Tu [sic] cave. There was nothing interesting on a way down. About 25-30 meters of rope, before + after -- a lot of climbing on many sorts of stones. On t-junction we turned left, through all that bloody water stuff make way to the the last station of previous survey. On that place there was a huge wall of massive big stones going up the ceiling with a lot of holes of all sizes between them. We decided not to start survey immediately, but to climb up + see what's going on after. First of all-to connect the points of our survey + previous one by the shortest line--over all that stones. After climbing for 15-20 minites we reached the top of the stones--from there the was a rather clear way going somewhere upstairs. We began surveying + went through a pretty good tunnel. At one moment we realised, that echo from our voices was that kind, which you can reach only in huge halls. There wasn't a big distance between the passage walls, but while looking up it seemed like you're standing in a bottom of a big shaft. Maybe there's an entrance from surfase, going to this shaft we should check the map.

The passage finished by the series of small cascades with water. The last one was too high to climb up, so, we finished surveying + gone back.

It was rather hard for me to do all that way down + up--maybe becaurse of my poor physical form. Another problem--for me only--was with the measuring tape. It has a small strope handle on it's zero size. So, while putting the tape on after measuring i had some incidents when the handle was kept by stones or was locked between them. I think, we should skange the handle or just cut it off. As for the cave--it's wonderful!!!

27th September 2003: Da Keng

Vladimir Yurkuns, Brian Judd

First task of this trip was to try and get some rebelays into the "Bare, Bear" big pitch. Duncan had done a good job of tidying the rope on the previous pitch so it was fairly quick to get to work. I managed to get 1 new bolt in at the top of the pitch and this enabled me to swing into the wall and catch the sky hook on projections. Unfortunately a lot of the projections turned out to be soft calcite and mud, so it was a bit energetic to drill the holes. Eventually I managed to place 6 new bolts breaking the pitch up at the top. By that time the circulation was cut off in my legs from the harness and I was completely drenched in the cotton boiler suit from the drips coming down. I abseiled to the bottom leaving a fairly big hand at the end. Vladimir then came down with the 200m rope, by which time I'd placed 5 more bolts for the next pitch. I was feeling cold and miserable but I felt Vladimir should have a turn at rigging. As it happened it only needed 1 more bolt to reach the bottom; about 35m from the ledge. Vladimir had a quick look at the passage continuing, which was about 6m wide and probably 200m high! Unfortunately this only lasted 70m and then the continuation was down a squeeze and a crawl to a rift. Vladimir shot off down this while I tore my boiler suit to pieces on the popcorn formations. He reported back that there was a 10m pitch followed by a 30m pitch which of course he couldn't get down. I didn't want to cut the remaining 200m rope and was freezing anyway so we decided to come out. Vladimir put two more bolts on the big pitch "More Questions Than Answers". I left the bottom at 6.00 with the sealed lead acid batteries. They weighed a ton so I warmed up fairly quickly. We stopped briefly to allow Erin out of the cave where she'd been drawing the elevation and reached the surface at 8:15. I was completely knackered, bruised and pained. Got back to the 'hotel' washed found only cold food and only the chicken head left of the promised chicken dinner. Ilya and Duncan returned from Yang Feng Tu at 9.20pm. I went to bed. Erin argued with the landlord about the cost of the dinner and banged on my door to get her money out of my room to pay him. I took two ibuprofen and painfully slept. Must be getting old or are the caves getting harder?

29th September 2003

Ilya Boiko, Vladimir Yurkuns

Were walking around the hills in search of the new entrances. Farmer was really nice and took us to the entrance, which was a 25 minute walk from his house. he said that cave was probably visited by foreigners, but he was not very sure.

    Huangjia Wuji or Xiaoao
    1001 meters above sea level
    Point AAA02 0783628 3236649 (accuracy 9m)
    After that cave our guide called his fellow farmers to join us, they brought some electric light and we entered the horizontal cave, a small entrance of which was hidden in the woods.
    1077 meters above sea level
    Point AAA03 0783070 3236446 (accuracy 13m)
    This cave is often visited by locals -- you can see pcs of their flip-flops on the floor and broken formations. Entrance is a FIXME INSERT SKETCH horizontal hole in the slope. The cave is not that big -- the most part of it you can go, there are a couple of places for a bit of crawling. It goes maybe 150 meters in the south-west direction (azimuth 216) and after that you can see daylight -- it ends like a window in the cliff with spectacular view on the below woods and big water pond. There are some small narrow pitches in this horizontal passage need to be checked.

29th September 2003

Brian Judd

Brian to Da Keng to put a few more bolts in the top pitches before it goes vertical. Took 30m rope to release some slack. Its OK if not brilliant. Getting ready for camp tomorrow. Feeling recovered by afternoon so should be an adventure!

29th September 2003: Dongba Ducks

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch

We set off for Dongba with high hopes of climbing up to a bypass to the unpleasant ducks in Dongba's entrance series. The ducks had significantly more water than before + the small banks had rearranged themselves once more. But there was still plenty of airspace, so we went thru a + Duncan began climbing up while I amused myself by shifting rocks. The climb went well -- a sling got Duncan past the tricky bit, but alas it only went to an aven. There was a lot of organic matter, suggesting a connection to the surface, but no sign of daylight. So scratch that as a solution to the ducks-sumping problem. There was nothing left to do but shift more rocks. The digging went smoothly with Duncan shifting enormous boulders while I groveled in the mud. By the time we were fed up there was a sizable trench in the floor, but it still looked like we'd not lowered it enough to prevent the ducks from sumping off. Luckily this was all an optical illusion. From the other side of the first puddle it was clear that at most you'd have a nose-to-the-ceiling grovel--good news indeed.

30th September 2003

Brian Judd, Vladimir Yurkuns

Vladimir Yurkuns:

It seems, we finished the vertical part of the cave this trip and from now on, we are going to explore the cave's horizontal part, which is occurred to be the long one. Here is the scheme of what we have in Dakeng at the moment. FIXME INSERT SKETCH The horizontal part of the cave is really interesting -- it goes in several directions, there are old dry corridors, as well as new wet meanders -- in the dry corridors you can find bats and guano, in the meanders with flowing water there are many dry roots and pcs of trees -- sign of previous floods. Here is the scheme of what we've seen on the bottom! FIXME INSERT SKETCH

Brian decided to stay and camp in the beginning of the narrow part of the cave, while I went out -- it takes 2.5h to climb the vertical part if you do not carry anything.

Brian Judd:

After Vladimir left I felt a bit lonely at the bottom of the pitches but set to work slinging my hammock to a stalagmite curtain and a bolt. Afterwards I strung string above it and spread tarpaulin over it to make a fairly cosy tent. I got water and made a brew before adding water to a beef and potato hot pot ready meal. Designed for two people it was suitably horrible and I struggled to eat it. In fact I left about a third of it despite trying to wash it down with coffee. By now my den looked homely with candles and food spread about but I was quite cold as my undersuit was set and I didn't have anything dry to put on. My nice warm furry which I'd brought for the purpose of camping on this trip is still trapped down Dong Ba. There was only one thing to do -- get into my sleeping bag. Before I did that I put everything into bags and hung it up in case there was a flood in the night because the stream could go through the campsite if it rained hard.

It was 9.00pm and I guessed Vladimir was just reaching the surface about this time. I soon fell into an uneasy sleep, waking a few times as a my sleeping bag got wet and I got cold. I awoke in the morning after a strange erotic dream. Most of my undersuit was dry, but the sleeping bag was wet and all the water had slumped to the lowest point of the hammock. Plus of course I had a raging hard on. I lowered myself gingerly into my wellies and warmed the seat (of my pants) over the stove as I made breakfast.

1st October 2003: Da Keng

Brian Judd, Erin Lynch, Duncan Collis

1st Oct 2003 Chinese National Day Gradually I warmed up and even felt comfortable. I tried to take pictures of the camp but had trouble with the slave units. I took one apart with the trusty Swiss army penknife and the problem looked to be loose batteries. Anyway it worked after that. I settled down to read the book I'd brought (a horror story). In the night I thought I'd heard breathing (not my own) but realised after a while it was the hammock swinging against the tarpaulin. I reckoned if no one came down by 1:00pm I may as well climb out of the cave but at 11.30 I heard faint sounds. The cave was draughting strongly so I thought I'd burn the small bit of rubbish I had. Unfortunately the hot smoke rose up and then sank down again as the draught sucked it into the cave. By the time Erin had joined me at 2:30 the canyon was misty with smoke. I made her a brew because she was quite cold and wet from the pitches dresses only in a boilersuit. She explained Duncan didn't like the look of the rope when he saw a small cut piece dangling by itself on the wall and had decided not to come down. In fact it was a temporary deviation I'd used to swing myself into the wall to be able to put more bolts in the pitch (on 27/9/03). Erin and I set to surveying the pitch. We had a lot of plumbs straight down which made the task easier but it was a cold wet job as there was a lot of drawing to do (by Erin). We finally made it to the top of "More Questions Than Answers" 3 hours lafer at 5.30pm. I had a small shock when I suddenly saw Duncan, who'd been sitting in the dark waiting all that time. We all climbed out Bear pitch making it to the surface in just over 1 hour 15 minutes, sweating and no longer cold. Good food, wash and bed. Vladimir and Ilya had walked about a bit but it had rained a little and been very misty.

4th October 2003: FIXME CHARACTERS Qian Kou Dong

Duncan Collis, Ilya Boiko

Set off through the drizzle drinking beer. Got to within 20m of the cave, according to GPS, then Duncan sat as a 'fixed point' while Ilya circled around through the trees looking for the small entrance. After some time, and still no cave, Duncan got up, turned round and walked about 25m straight to the entrance, having never before been there.

Strolled and clambered through the cave to the far end, passing some beer-bottle sized bats on the way, to arrive at the other entrance for a breathtaking view of ..... thick fog. Then surveyed back out, checking all the holes in the floor on the way.

Only one hole went, and we descended a total of 50m rigged off of naturals, including a deviation using the tether on the tacklesack.

As we were packing up to set off back, Ilya produced a bottle of chilli-baijiu for the walk back.

2nd October 2003: Journey out from UK

Jenny Drake

Had lift from a friend to Manchester Airport for an evening flight to Dubai. Had to do a little repacking to get the cabin baggage into the allowance, but no probs with the hold bags. Flew with Emirates and my first long haul scheduled flight for about six years. V impressed with the airline. From Dubai we changed planes for the flight to HK, via Bangkok. Most of the passengers left in Thailand, so I had a row of four seats to myself. After immigration and SARS formalities it was 11pm when I arrived at the arrivals hall, so I decided to sleep there, rather than travel an hour to Kowloon and try to find somewhere to sleep late at night.

4th October 2003. Got a reasonable nights sleep, had breakfast and took the 6:30 bus into Kowloon and the ferry terminal following Matt's detailed instructions. As has been described before, the terminal is disguised as a shopping centre, but the steady stream of people carrying luggage gave the game away. It was here I saw my only SARS face mask. The boat was a CAT, or jet foil, or something, very fast anyway, so it was only an hour to Shenzhen and the transfer bus to the airport. Again SARS, immigration and customs into the PRC went smoothly. I changed my HKD to RMB and waited for the 13:10 flight. The plane was a Boeing, so my worries about Chinese airplanes were allayed. Arrived at Chongqing and met Matt and Apple and the news of their engagement. Took the airport bus into the city and Apple negotiated a taxi to the bus station and ferry pier. Here we split up with just Matt and I heading to Wulong. 4 hr trip along a road that seemed to be simultaneously under construction and falling into the gorge. We booked into the hotel and went out for a meal.

5 October. Went shopping for an optical mouse for Erin, a duvet for me and some coffee and oranges, then took a bus to Jiangkou where I registered with the police. Had lunch and my first experience of being the centre of attention for a rural Chinese audience. Took the bus to Tian Xing. The road is being upgraded, at the moment, so has been churned up into mud by the diggers. It required a bit of gravel shovelled under the wheels by the driver to get up a short steep section. Arrived at Tian Xing to meet Duncan & Ilya. The other three were on a four day camp down Da Keng.

3rd October 2003 - 7th October 2003: Da Keng

Brian Judd, Vladimir Yurkuns, Erin Lynch

3rd October 2003. Early breakfast -- too early. Finish packing bags for planned 5 day underground camp in Da Keng. Eventually get going after some faffing and make good time to camp where we have a brew. Mood lightens considerably. We set off surveying and make steady progress through the "Popcorn" squeeze (the answer to More Questions Than Answers) to 'Handjob' pitch. At Handjob I rig the rope straight down to avoid some very bad rub points it had previously. It still needs a couple of rope protectors. It works OK as a 'get you down' but wouldn't do for a lot of careless traffic. But then we're all highly trained and experienced cavers aren't we? We survey beyond the very draughting crawl and turn around at 7.00pm. Surveyed 582m first day.

4th October 2003. Left underground camp at 12.00 after comfortable night. B + V take photos while E goes to rerig Popcorn pitch (10m) because it s a bit marginal with 1 bolt and a traverse line. None of the block in the roof are good enough for a Y hang so B and E decide to use a stal pillar. B rigs a Y hang to this and the bolt and undoes maillon to put in traverse line. E suggests putting traverse to backup stall which B does but then forgets to do up maillon. Both B + V abseil down with open maillon! Ooops! E notices and bends maillon back into shape before doing up. Take more photos. Rig deviation on Handjob pitch which stops 1 rub and gets rid of a rope protector. Surveying starts at 3.00pm. Survey to 7.45pm and then turn right at Horse junction into stuff V + B hadn't been to before. This passage looks very interesting about 5m diameter with cracked mud floor. However there were some pools to get past so we called it a day at 8.15pm. Made speedy return to camp by 9.30pm. Surveyed 579m today.

5th Oct 2003. leave camp at 12.00. Plan to survey all side passages off main line. Start with very draughty inlet which leads via crawls in water to avens and a shaft with a visible passage about 15m up. Next junction the passage became too low. Then to a wet inlet with interesting passage shape and formations but this terminated in a sump. Finally to Horse junction (named after rock formation). Turned left and found water falling where it had been dry when V + B came first. This passage led past some pitches down which we left to pursue upstream via cascades. This wend some distance. V + I pursued the last 70m surveyed across a pool and up climbs. It shows no sign of stopping. Surveyed 680m. Only took 30 min to return to bottom of Handjob then 15 mins to camp.

6t October 2003. Go to Horse junction + turn left. B descends 10m pitch and decides passage beyond small and uninspiring. E send V down narrow rift. V disappears for some time. Eventually reappears thru B's small and uninspiring passage. V comes back agrees passage uninspiring. B takes photo of waterfall with V under it. Then go down very wet passage at Horse junction. Drops steeply in contrast to preceding bit of cave. Surveying down E wet in cotton boilersuit. B rigs 10m wet pitch off 2 naturals and descends. V drops tackle sack containing B's camera and other items down pitch by accident. It's almost comical as this is the second time V has dropped a tackle bag + camera down a pitch on B. Tragically the first time V's expensive digital camera was destroyed. This time the waterproof Cannon A1 seems to have survived. luckily it didn't fall as far and landed in a pool. B goes off to explore and drops down eventually to a sump. All survey and get very wet. More photos. Then back to Horse junction and turn right to 'fossil passage' with pools. B wades pools to save time only knee deep with mud floor. B tries to carry E across but sinks into mud so she has to wade anyway. V manages to traverse around after his bag is taken from him. Vladimir can climb down next bit but B puts a rope on for safety. By now getting late and we're cold. Passage continues very draughty thru some good decorations and over deep gour pools. Eventually stopped by small pitch where passage enters and continuation looks like getting bigger. So on the last hour of the last day in Da Keng 2003 we have the best lead. I can't help being disappointed but am to cold and tired to get the rope.

7th October 2003 Break up camp. All climb out with 2 bags leave some tarp for next year. B derigs More Questions Than Answers and tells others to go out as it takes a long time. However V stays and together with B pulls the rope out, coils it and FIXME at bottom of Bear Pitchto be ready for full derig. Out by 5.30pm quite tired*.

By the time B + V got back E + D had input the cave data Da Kengis now 658m deep and 2 kilometers long, so one of the deepest caves in China, in the top 3 and plenty more potential. Also it's going away from Qi Keng Dong and Dong Ba.

8th October 2003

Ilya Boiko, Vladimir Yurkuns, Matt Ryan, Brian Judd

After washing Da Keng gear go for walk down E side of Da Keng valley. Two 'entrances' turn out to be rock shelters but V questions a woman on a path and she takes us some way down the hill to a shaft hidden by bushes. At about 1011m its a little lower than Da Keng and appears to be 40m approximately deep. Brians GPS 10011m +/-17m 48R 0784623 UTM 3234733 (021 on GPS) Dishutang

Next Ilya calls down that he has found a hole in the pine forest. It turns out to be a walk down a steeply descending passage to a small climb with a 30m approx pitch. *1 022 1104m +/-10m 48R 0784704 3234971

Later we have a leaving party for Vladimir and Ilya who catch the early morning bus to Wulong to go to Fuling and then down the Yangtze to Shanghai.

9th October 2003: Photo trip and partial derig of Da Keng

Jenny Drake, Matt Ryan, Duncan Collis, Brian Judd

The aim was to photograph the 300m 1st shaft in Da Keng from the bottom, looking up. Matt, Duncan and Jenny set off for the base of the pitch, arriving at about 7:30pm after 1 hour. matt set off back up with a tackle bag to his position of 55m up the shaft. Brian set off later to arrive at his position of 129m from the floor. Communication was by radio, with a whistle code fro back up. The radios worked well and the acoustics were so good that we could have communicated by shouting if we had to. Duncan, Matt and Brian each had three flash bulbs and a home made bulb holder/ firer and reflector. Brian and Matt had powerful PF100's. Duncan, at the base, was given less powerful PF60's to avoid overexposing the walls at the shaft base. Cameras used:

  • Pentax SLR (Erin's) with ASA 100 slide film 50mm lens
  • Nikon Coolpix 5000 (Jenny's) Digital 5M Pixels

We also had Erin's Minolta SLR, but this developed a fault and would not release the shutter, or wind on. The two cameras were set on bulb and FIXME focus. The Nikon was tripod mounted.