Yunnan 2004 Expedition Initial report
Yunnan 2004 was a 17-person, 7-week expedition to the mountains just west of the town of Zhongdian, Yunnan Province, China. As in previous years, the expedition set up a base camp at the Milk River Guesthouse in the north of Zhongdian and camped at a series of locations in the mountain range, usually in yak herders' villages.
The expedition returned to several undescended shafts located in 2003 and, in addition, worked in several previously unvisited areas, logging and exploring new caves. Approximately 250 new entrances were logged. Our most promising cave, Dawa Dong (C3-296), was left at approximately 120m depth, at a tight rift requiring widening. Although this cave has a good draught, progress, once the first three pitches had been dropped, was painfully slow: 10 trips aimed at widening the rift yielded only 5m of horizontal progress along the rift. Exploration in C3-296 was cut off by lack of time.
Several other caves showed initial promise and draught, but choked at depths or lengths in the range 50-110m.
Taking the efforts of our previous expeditions to this mountain range (i.e. the Yunnan 2002 and 2003 expeditions) and this expedition together, we have now prospected extensively for cave entrances across a wide area of the mountain range. Although the several large resurgences (C3-1, C3-45, C3-46, Lucky Benevolent Water, fisherman's pool) and the almost total lack of surface drainage in the high-altitude limestone regions convince us that the mountain range contains large undiscovered cave development, high-altitude entrances to these systems have so far eluded us. The most fruitful next step may to be explore from the bottom up, and/or to visit the area in winter, when gaps in snow cover may make draughting entrances easier to find. We are currently rethinking our approach.