Zhangjiajie 2004 Project Logbook


20th March 2004

Dave Barrett

I arrive in Guilin to a cold wet day with no idea where to head toward! Lonely Planet to the rescue! After a brief stop off at the train station to use the washrooms, I decide to visit Yangshuo (it's only 7am so time to burn). Views are terrible with low cloud and constant drizzle on the bus journey. In addition, it is freezing on the bus. All the windows are open to keep the smell of the 'cockle cargo' at bay. First place to visit in Yangshuo therefore is the nearest cafe for a hot drink! Now warmer, my task is to e-mail Erin to obtain directions to meet up. Manage to navigate to my account to find all deleted bar 5 messages -- no e-mail address for Erin, oh dear what next! Karst Cafe to the rescue! I remembered the Karst Cafe from trawling through websites and the unforgettable name 'Echo Woo' as the owner. From the cafe, a very helpful Tom Tom contacted Echo to obtain a phone number for Duncan. The rest was easy and I arrived at the Karst Institute in Guilin at mid-day, and immediately onto a farewell lunch for departing YSS member! My solo travel trip from HK was over -- time to relax and prepare for the caving to come.

21st March 2004 - 22nd March 2004: Train to Zhangjiajie

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Dave Barrett, Zhang Yuan Hai

We packed all our gear. Dunks bought a few final bits and bobs, and Dave fixed the firefly. The four of us and our 21 bags made it onto the train without incident and had a restful night on the train. Dunks + I were particularly thankful for the reprieve from mad drinking seshes since the previous week had been particularly sodden, with CRF, CCP, and BBC groups all banqueting. Zhang Hai left us at Jisuo to join the US CRF group for a week. He told us it was too icy on Tianmen Shan, so we'd have to do things in the valley until the weather improved.

Arriving in ZZJ we wend down the 8 flights of stairs + were immediately touted for accommodation. Starting at 60, they soon came down to 30 for a 3 person room + a few minutes later we were on our way, GPS in hand. We caught the #1 into town + were told to take the 5, but got tired of waiting + set off on foot instead. It was a long muddy road until we had the bright idea of walking on the rails (dodgy fossilized turds). Dunks remembered the way to the resurgence he'd see in November, and we found it without difficulty. Locals called it variously "Hui Fu Dong" and "Fei Hu Dong". The immediate cave had 2 dry and 1 wet entrances, plus a sumped resurgence and a woman I spoke to mentioned 2 more nearby entrances. Looks good for the morrow.

23rd March 2004: Fei Hu Dong or Hui Fu Dong or Fei Bu Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Dave Barrett

Eventually crawled out of bed to find Dave busy fettling his camera kit -- think he'd been awake for some time. Had a warm-ish shower, some noodles for breakfast, and then got ready to go caving. Caught the no. 1 bus into town; the slowest bus in the world. They wouldn't let us get off where we wanted so we wasted some time wandering back through the middle of Zhangjiajie.

Got to the entrance at 1pm, and set off surveying. The main passage is quite large, but largely full of rocks. Surveyed down to the fossil entrance by the aquaduct, and then Dave ran round to his GPS point on the other side of the aquaduct, only to find that the water level was down and he could cross on stepping stones.

Then we surveyed in the active entrance beneath the aquaduct, going upstream to where there was deep water coming out of boulders. There's a way on but it'll be damp.

Then had a scout around. Dave found a big passage heading towards daylight, with a colossal wall built across it, while in the opposite direction I found a crawl also heading to daylight, which we surveyed out of. This turned out to go to the other side of Dave's wall.

Outside we found a stream sink which must be where our stream comes from, and a shakehole near to it with a possible squeeze at the bottom but no draught. Caught #5 back into town, had hotpot at a restaurant, and then hopped on a #2 back to the station. Follows the same route as the #7 but costs 1元 instead of 5角.

24th March 2004

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Dave Barrett

Erin, Duncan + Dave into the cave of many names again. This time it was to make the links between parts of the cave we had already surveyed as separate sections. Took a few photos of the 'big' entrance with emphasis on the dry limestone wall built at the far end. This wall is passed through a slot on the right, up + over into the very large chamber beyond. Large bats roosting high up, air not pleasant. Surveyed links in all the dry passages and out for a lunch of jellies in the quarry.

Our afternoon session was to complete the river cave survey. Entered the sink to an immediate sump; not good! The alternative ended up as dropping a small descending canyon off the side of the 'big' entrance passage. Luckily, we ended up in the streamway. Surveyed upstream to just before the main sump (deepening water with every small step) and the downstream toward our last known survey point in the stream. Managed to make the connection after wading a short section of canal and boulder choke. Job done, time to leave (Duncan + I completed the final like without bothering with a sketch as it was too wet in the complicated boulder choke) ... exited cave 6.15pm, caught bus 6.40pm despite being told they stopped running at 6pm!

Good meal for only 14RMB at our favourite haunt then back to base camp 'smelly bog'.

25th March 2004

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Dave Barrett

Surface walk today for Erin, Duncan + Dave. Warmest day to date, some sunshine. We took our usual bus, had breakfast at our usual eating place + then onto the quarry road. Here Erin approached a guy with questions about caves + luckily he knew of three, so we took an unusual ride on his tractor + trailer to the locality.

First site is a stream resurgence, approximate direction of passage 103°. Locals say this stream is a constant flow regardless of weather conditions which seems highly plausible looking at the mud + cobble deposits at the same level on both sides of the initial passage. The cave runs under the aquaduct.

Second site is a higher, fossil cave, trending 105°. No draught, plenty of rat shit in the hands + knees crawl prior to the passage opening up. This cave entrance is hidden in undergrowth. Third site has a river sink and draughting pitch at slightly higher level than the sink. Initial stoop at the stream entrance opens out to walking height (stream in separate passage to the left) and water can be heard rumbling nearby.

Took some photos, said goodbye to the group who were now accompanying us + went back to the quarry road. After a 'jelly lunch' stop, we walked the road toward the limestone towers (south), looking for features of interest. Several coal mines on route especially at the highest point on the road. One was 3m x 3m and clearly exposed the coal seams.

Beyond here, the road drops into the next river valley where the new road construction is taking place. Scenery improves all the time as limestone towers get closer and more imposing. A clash between this natural beauty and extensive construction work. The local workmen seemed rather surprised to see three westerners wandering along a road construction to nowhere in particular!

On return, we continued on the road toward the cement factory. The factory site is caked in dust and the air filled with dust + fumes. How people work here daily without masks is incredible.

Joined the 'main' road to catch our usual no 5 bus back to the centre of town. No cave sites were found on our walk, though one stream flowing downhill from a tight gully may produce a result (if we could get up there!).

26th March 2004: Goat-Horn through trip

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Dave Barrett

We had a lazy start (correction, Dunks + I had a lazy start. Dave was up at some ungodly hour writing away!) and got to Yang Jiao (Goat-Horn cave) around 1pm, after entering yesterday's gps coords + having a good quint at the map. As predicted it was a through-trip, popping out in the fields near Flying Tiger Cave. There were half a dozen side passages (mostly small) which we left unpushed due to lack of time. Main things to note: lots of large (sometimes mould encrusted) rat turds, lots of hay/dried grass flood debris, a knees-down wet craw (ew!) and a very thrutchy climb up that avoided a climb up the waterfall at the end of the crawl. About halfway through the cave intersected a big canyon cross-rift and at the end it again became more spacious, with tall canyon passage joining the current small stream. Several leads remain, including the connection to Li Gang Tiankeng. It's also interesting that Yang Jiao is parallel to Fei Hu Dong. Odds are there are more caves in the area.

27th March 2004: A day of rest

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Dave Barrett, Rob Gillespie

The morning began with an email from Bob Higgins saying Rob should definitely be on his way. Dunks went to the airport to have a look, and I managed to track him down to a big posh hotel listed in the Lonely Planet. By the time we'd all reassembled it was too late to go up the hill, so we all washed gear and had a pleasant sit in the afternoon sun followed by an excellent meal of beef + some vegetable hot pot.

28th March 2004: Up the hill

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Dave Barrett, Rob Gillespie

Shortly before 9am, Mr. Quan arrived with two jeeps to whisk us up the hill. It was, as always, an impressive drive through the valley towards towering cliffs. The walk was much more pleasant than in 2003--the path was mostly dry + free of dead leaves. The altimeter Rob brought helped us fix a few entrances using the calibration of 1049m at the bottom of the staircase. Our old elevations for Zushi and Zushi Xia Dong were too low, so Gui Dong's potential is only about 116m.

29th March 2004

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Dave Barrett, Rob Gillespie

Into Gui Dong to push beyond known limit & complete the survey. Duncan & Dave went in first to rig & look for ways on. Erin & Rob followed a while later to survey. At the bottom of the last pitch, larger passage is intersected but this closes down quickly at a slightly lower level in a choke. This larger passage has a large amount of sediment infill which has been partially eroded away. Lots of ancient coral reef remains throughout the cave. Once the cave died out, we hunted around for leads -- no luck. Draught is sporadic at lower levels & the airs is musty. The drill battery packed up quickly so if the cave had gone, we would have had a lot of hammering to do!

Dave headed out with the drill kit, whilst Duncan, Rob & Erin completed the survey & derigged out. All in all, a muddy, sharp, gear catching cave best avoided! TU 8hrs Dunks, 6hrs rest. On exit, much interest from the local workers whilst rope washing was underway. Shame they didn't help!

30th March 2004: 9 cave bonanza

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Dave Barrett

We planned to tick off a number of small entrances spotted in 2003. After some confusion as to our meeting place (Dunks + Rob set off after Dave + myself), three of us assembled at Oath Cave #1, Rob having gone on a walk to the transmitter tower and then followed the green water pipe.

The caves were mostly ticked off quickly

  • Qiu Er Dong has been dug out to a depth of 10m and filled with concrete to make a short of wishing-pothole.
  • Oath Peak Caves 1-4 are all blind.
  • Shaft 14 is a large impressive choked shaft.
  • Woodpecker Shaft - a too tight shaft/grike amongst pavement.
  • Shaft 16 - another too tight grike.
  • Shaft 18 - descended by Dave on a handline, it goes to a rift/crawl with sound of water -- interesting!

Throughout the day we were accompanied by William and Engineer Du, who seemed to enjoy spectating.

31st March 2004

Duncan Collis, Dave Barrett

Afternoon stroll to take some photos & rediscovered shafts we have been to & surveyed before. Found two new shafts though so a 50% success rate. It was rainy & misty all day -- the morning was spent festering around camp until visibility improved.

Beer withdraw symptoms set in after dinner so a visit to Lao Fu to enquire about alcohol was decided. His response was to open the door of a little cupboard by his chair & produce bottles of '2000 beer' (this isn't the sell by date!). Perceived as nectar, we paid 4RMB a bottle--it, in fact, tasted like pisswater but it was the only piss water we had.

Rob missed the beer piss water session as he wasn't well. Lucky Rob!

1st April 2004

Rob Gillespie

Strolled about + saw the wonderful sights -- the scenery is very impressive. Looking off the edge of the Eye Hole was better than Yosemite Whoo!

2nd April 2004

Rob Gillespie

I'm off the porters are waiting I'm late again hospitality was excellent I'll be back -- Christmas? Thanx!

26th March 2004 - 2nd April 2004: Rob's Mis-Adventures in China

Rob Gillespie

In his short stay in China, Rob's suffered more than most from Chinese hospitality. In Shanghai someone insisted on helping him arrange a car to the airport, which then failed to turn up, making him miss his plane, get stuck with another night in a very expensive hotel , and leaving him with no alternative but to buy a first-class ticket for the next day, since the rest were sold out. When he finally arrived in Zhangjiajie -- a day later than expected -- no one met him, but someone drove him to the poshest hotel in town. Drawings of cableways and eyeholes finally got Zhang Zhu Ren on the phone, but he denied knowledge of any cave explorers, and then when Zhang called me I didn't understand what he was saying, so Rob had no idea how to find us until we tracked him down the next morning for a bit 'o potholing.

Now Rob's gone back to Shanghai, where more hospitality has landed him in the Presidential Suite of a posh hotel complete with a fountain in the middle of the suite of rooms -- talk about a change from our digs up the hill!

1st April 2004: Red Pine Peak and the North end

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Dave Barrett, Rob Gillespie, Wang Bo Tao

The "pimp", Wang Bo Tao, came with us for a rather indirect trek to Yun Dong in the north. First we went to Boji Dong -- a resurgence? cave with a great view to Da Ping ) the big flat land to the S). It will require bolts to reach. From there the views just kept getting better. We went up Red Pine Peak and Rob spotted a large horizontal entrance down below -- very interesting! From there 3 small shafts -- all no go -- kept us busy for awhile, and then we headed NE to an area more of us had been to before. The area around the eyehole was stunning. Some of the views were incredible -- looking down god knows how many hundreds of meters to see little yellow work helmets below! We saw a few cliff entrance and took loads of photos. Rob had a good time in Yun Dong -- it didn't go , alas, but was quite well decorated. We came back famished + pleased by the views to find that Zhanghai'd arrived that afternoon + it was true to get cracking. Sounds like we need to go to Hubei ASAP.

2nd April 2004: Ying Tao Wan Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Dave Barrett

Zhang Hai arranged a local guide to show us to the entrance, once we'd finally seen Rob off. Arrived at the cave just before 11:00am.

Erin set off rigging while Dave and I enjoyed the sunshine. The rock in the cave was thinly interbedded with chossy crap, but a good thread round some flowstone on the ceiling got us down the small first pitch without using any bolts.

At the head of the 20m second pitch, Erin couldn't find any good rock, so asked me to have a look... I couldn't find any good rock either, so rigged off the bolt Zhang Hai had put in on his earlier visit to the cave (this was as far as he went) plus two more on the opposite wall for a straight descent.

Next pitch-cum-climb was draughting, but the way on the downstream (trickle) at the bottom was barely cat-sized. An upstream lead went to an aven and that appeared to be that. The only remaining lead was a slippery climb up to a squeeze, which amazingly went, crossing a watershed to drop down a 14m climb on the other side to a second small stream.

The stream was followed in small passage down a 5m pitch, and after a couple more climbs down was left at the top of a pitch of perhaps 10 or 20m.

3rd April 2004: Ying Tao Wan Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Dave Barrett

Dave set off at 09:00 with rigging kit, the plan being for Duncan and Erin to follow shortly to survey behind him. At 09:15 a team of locals set off with masses of 1½" laid rope. Erin & Duncan set off at 09:30 and met the Chinese at the entrance -- they'd nipped down the first pitch for a quick look.

Took drill and a bag of rope + hangers down and up through the squeeze where we dumped them. Met Dave at the head of the pitch Duncan had reached on the previous trip; he'd had a difficult time with the rockpecker due to crappy thinly interbedded rock, but was about ready to descend. Due to a limited choice of bolt placements and lack of naturals, the descent was somewhat marred by a couple of rubs and a nasty drizzle, but it didn't matter because at the bottom the cave enlarged to about 3-4m wide, with more pitches down flowstone ahead.

Cursing their combined lack of imagination for having decided this trip was in "Handbolting Territory", the three regarded the beckoning passage, and contemplated the route back to collect the drill. Dave nipped down to have a quick look ahead by tying a rope onto the end of the one from the pitch just descended, and ended up going down a series of 5 pitches by tying on more bits of rope. He returned to report a sump with a possible bypass that needed a bit of rock removing.

Duncan + Dave went and fetched the drill and more rope,and got the pitches rigged with only a bit more faffing, and soon work started on the sump bypass, which turned out not really to be a bypass so much as an outlet for a pool, partially blocked by flowstone.

After about 30 or 40 minutes of hammering, Duncan managed to get through to find a difficult 3m drop to the head of a 20-odd metre pitch. Everybody thoroughly cold by this point, so an exit was made, leaving most of the kit in-situ for next time, and slowed only by the need to do a few survey legs up the pitches, and for Dave to do SRT by braille when his light failed and he dropped his spare cell down the pitch he'd just ascended in the dark to reach the bag he had left said cell in.

All felt moderately mauled by the end of the trip -- quite a tiring cave for its length.

TU 8½

4th April 2004

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Dave Barrett, Zhang Yuan Hai

Erin & Dave not feeling well so a decision made to stay on the surface & ab down to Zushi Dong, the large upper hole seen on the walk up to the hilltop (Tian Men Shan). The plan was for Dave to rig down to the cave & Erin to follow, whilst Duncan took photographs from the path. We located the spot to drop from & set off with the kit. A chinese photographer came along pointing which way down we should take.

I started the descent at 11am, keen (despite runny nose!) and looking forward to an easy descent. Down the gully, over the lip, two bolts and I get to a ledge. Who's waiting for me on the ledge? The chinese photographer, now known as goat-foot! I wondered why I'd bothered to rig from the top of the ledge, but the rock here wasn't good so as a starting point it would have been inappropriate (& exposed!) I had radio contact with Duncan who advised which way to rig to make direct descent to the cave. Great plan. Worked well, up to the point when I tried to use the radio & found no battery pack on it! The pack had fallen off somehow & assumed to be at the bottom. Nevermind, voice contact was possible by shouting.

A short traverse followed to line up above the entrance & then the next vertical descent. It was here that it started to become a little scary! The rock wasn't great for bolts & I had to hunt around. In addition, after using two on the traverse, I only had two left for the final line down. I put in a single thru bolt to ab down to the 'trouser-browner' overhang at the top of the entrance, using the last thru bolt on the overhang. All that remained was to pendulum into the undercut entrance. A 20 minute struggle with a horizontally growing tree at the base of the entrance proved demanding but rewarding. Using slings to work round the branches, I managed to pull into the the entrance. It was close. I had the equivalent of 'disco leg' in the arms whilst hanging onto the branches & trying to wrap a sling round one of them. It was a sheer pleasure and relief to get onto terra firma & dekit for a rest. Once rested, time to look at the cave. The only gaps were up to the left (6m climb) or top right (approx 12m climb). The former proved possible & led into a small chamber with a climb on the right side up toward the upper hole, where a further exposed climb leads to the water chute -- no chance! With it being inaccessible without climbing aids, Erin did not follow & I had to derig. It was quite a long descent (3½ hrs) mainly due to my decision to check & recheck everything on the way! Better safe than sorry...

Using a pull thru on the tree, I swung into vertical line ready for the ascent. This was the most exposed I felt on the trip (probably ever!) so I kept my view horizontal and tried to think of pleasant things, like the surface! It took one hour to derig & top to a welcome cuppa.

this was the first serious cliff abseil I had completed alone. It is fine working at depth underground but certainly more scary in broad daylight at a cliff face. Nevertheless, I am glad to have overcome the challenge!


Several other caves noted on the way down: FIXME INSERT SKETCH. Broadly in line along the weakness. Beds horizontal at the cave but dipping on the other side of the weakness.

5th April 2004: Ying Tao Wan Dong

Duncan Collis, Dave Barrett

Down Ying Tao Wan to derig, despite it still going as we're told its only of interest to caves. 40 minutes to the bottom, fast, efficient derig, out after 3 hours. Dave washed all the ropes while Duncan went down She Dong with Zhang Hai . Have since been told the company wants us to completely explore all the caves (could take a while.. ..!), so it looks like we'll have to rerig and go back down this one sometime.

TU 3 hours

5th April 2004: She Dong

Duncan Collis, Zhang Yuan Hai

After derigging Ying Tao Wan, Duncan was persuaded to go on a trip down She Dong. The usual conflicting information about the cave, only 20 metres deep, need 40 metres rope, takes 1 hour to the end, etc.

Duncan had a quick nosey inside the entrance to check out the lie of the land, and found the cave draughting strongly, and immediately meeting a small stream which went both upstream and downstream. Upstream went for about 20 metres to where the water came out of a hole in the roof which was not entered. Downstream was a climb, at the base of which the stream trickled into a too-low bedding. However, to the left of this was a 30cm wide, metre high passage heading at ~45°, which after 4 metres reached a constricted pitch-head. Only a small pitch.

A short time later Duncan returned with Zhang Hai, a bag of rope, and the drill and enormous battery. The pitch-head constriction was caused by a wedged rock which could be rocked but not dislodged -- Duncan carved up his finger trying. Unable to unpack the drill in the confines of the pitch =-head, the bag had to be passed back to ZH who then passed the contents back to Duncan. Two bolts and some contortions later saw Duncan and rigging kit down to a ledge.

Zhang Hai reached the pitch-head and managed to crack the inconvenient rock and lob it down the pitch while Duncan cowered on the ledge on the opposite side. A deviation on the ledge enabled a clean descent to the floor, where the way on was too small. Duncan suggested ZH check out a crawl near the deviation, and was informed that it went to a second pitch.

Zhang Hai elected to go down the pitch on a handline tied to Duncan's harness, to see if it went, so a 14m rope was folded in half and tied on. However, this didn't reach the bottom, and hung free so that plan was scuppered.

A couple of bolts and a 'tector later Duncan was down the pitch, and found that the way on was virgin walking-sized passage to another pitch. Zhang Hai did not seem very enthusiastic!

The third pitch required two tectors as the only available good rock was in a rubbish position. At the bottom there were 3 small inlets, a big ramp up rubble, a bit of horizontal passage to another pitch (which looks like it may be fossil) and a crawl into which the stream flows. All draught. Derigged out, and ZH surveyed from the 2nd pitch to the entrance.

Suggested rope lengths:

  • 1st 8m 2 hangers
  • 2nd 10m 2 hangers 1 tector
  • 3rd 13m 2 hangers 2 tectors

TU 3½

6th April 2004: Guigu Dong

Duncan Collis, Zhang Yuan Hai, Li Guang Yu

Zhang Hai was adamant that today we had to do Guigu Dong; photographers and a cameraman had come up the hill, and everyone was expecting a show. Erin was still ill, so the team was to be myself, Zhang Hai, and Mr. Li the fearless freeclimbing photographer.

I was imagining a desperate route with lots of exposure, as from the viewpoint across on the next spur, the cliffs looked enormous and very vertical. Zhang Hai's information that the route involved a traverse along a 10cm wide ledge didn't help, and I spent a while trying to find a good excuse to jack, but eventually had to face it: I was going down that cliff.

As it happened, the route was a total anticlimax, being mostly a series of chossy scrambles down through vegetation, rebelaying from trees and feeling like a total whoopsie as Zhang Hai and Li Guang Yu strolled past me.

I used one bolt for a 30m abseil down a near-vertical section, the only place Li used the SRT kit he'd been lent. The '10cm wide' ledge was a 10m long traverse across a crag with about 15m drop to a big ledge below, and probably wouldn't have been too bad without a drill and enormous battery dangling from my harness. 5 bolts, a couple of slings and a 27m rope nicely reached the entrance to the cave. Well nearly...

There turned out to be a loose, slimy climb up to get into the cave, which Li somehow slithered up and rigged a rope from a tree. Once in the cave another climb up was easily overcome, then a short walk in 3m wide, lofty, draughty passage and we reached the real climb up -- 8m of completely blank rock above a 15m pitch. The old parrot-pole ladder had all but rotted away, and even Li wouldn't try using it. Ill equipped for a bolt-climb, a retreat was called, and we surveyed out and derigged back up the cliff.

Zhang Hai was very concerned because the survey of this cave was supposed to be our main objective, but by the following day, the development company had decided that it should be left as a mystery to tantalize visitors.

7th April 2004: A day of rest

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Zhang Yuan Hai

I've been completely out of it since the 4th. Seems Rob's sniffle hit me a bit harder than Dave -- hope he's not had a relapse on his plane/train journey. For the doctors among you, the symptoms were muscle aches, productive cough, runny nose (first clear, then yellow), slight earache, headache, slight sore throat, and three days of low fever (max 38.3°). According to the LP, it was probably only the flu, despite all the rat shit we'd been wallowing in lately. Also, the fever broke after 2 tabs on Amoxy and some wild sweet potato jelly from Fu Taitai!

We awoke to high winds and a commotion outside. We were in the middle of some serious Weather, with thick mist and tarpaulin flying all over the place. Half the roof had been blown off the large worker's accommodation building, the ladies' had taken a hit, and the breeze-block and tarpaulin construction next to the temple was in complete shambles. Some of the workers were sifting through debris for their belongings, while others were playing cards in the hall outside our door, sitting on the salvaged bedding. One poor sod had lost his coat + was bundled up in a duvet, a bit of string, and a shopping bag for a hat!

Zhanghai declared it a day of rest, and prepared all of his kit for a hike down the mountain tomorrow -- he needs to be in Hubei soon. He said our objectives are now Guan Yin Dong, She Dong + Lei Gong Dong, and Ying Tao Wan Dong depending on time.

8th April 2004: A short stroll; Down the gully to Guan Yin

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Lao Fu

Zhanghai departed early, giving us a new set of instructions before he left; forget She Dong + push Ying Tao Wan. He'd had word that the boss-man, Zhang Zhu Ren, had changed his mind again + was now very interested in Ying Tao Wan. Doh!

Went on a walk with Lao Fu to look at the route to Lei Gong (Thunder God) Dong. Looks to be bang-on-line with YTW. We also found another spot (near the point Lao Fu said was over Lei Gong Dong) where we could see the mystery large entrance near-ish the green pipe. Hard to tell if it's a shelter or not, but either way it looks pretty inaccessible from the bottom -- very sheer-looking cliff face below it.

I also found a small spring 2 minutes walk from the worker's camp. It's been opened up a bit + has a concrete retaining wall that forms a very slimy, mucky pool w/rubbish. Eww. Unfortunately, it looks penetrable as a grim crawl... Maybe save it for future generations?

Dunks ran off to Guan Yin Dong gully + then came back shortly for more instructions, as the sketch + info Zhanghai'd provided didn't seem to correspond with reality. Lao Fu sorted him out + he went back with a rope + found the entrance, just barely having enough string to get into it + having to jump for the rope on the way back (take more than 27m next time!)

8th April 2004: Erin's adventure with laundry

Erin Lynch, Fu Taitai

I was quietly doing my laundry, one eye on the mess tent, and planning to get some hot mantou after dumping the water for my last rinse when Fu Taitai strode over and decided to get involved. She'd decided that I'd been using a washing machine all my life and was doing it all wrong. My basin and I were relocated to up a slope near the mess-tent tap, where she repeatedly filled it with water and instructed "Xi!" ("Wash!") while I obediently "xi"ed and muttered in Chinese "but I think that's enough..." to no avail. My hands were blocks of ice + the mess-tent closed by the time it was deemed clean enough. Then we rung everything out + put it in a bucket, which she then filled with water!? Clearly I've missed something here... In any event, the sodden clothes we hung on the line dried out fine in the lovely sunshine.

9th April 2004: Guan Yin Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch

After my long convalescence it was finally time to go caving. We packed 3 big bags + then wished we'd asked for porters as I wheezed + hacked my way to the rig point. The gully was not as fearsome as it looked from the top -- a fairly easy scramble down over loose rocks gained the 2 bolts D'd placed for a y the day before. He added a third for a deviation (kept tightening...) and fourth for a rebelay, landing us neatly at the cave entrance. An enormous thread + single bolt got us down the first pitch with our big bag of rope, 20 hangers, drill + battery, etc. A quick look around revealed three climbs and no easy continuation... Now it became clear why Zhang Hai'd wanted to teach Li Guang Yu to bolt on the day it stormed. We wished he was with us, as further inspection led us to believe that the strong cold draft was almost certainly tonking off down the black space we could see at the top of an exposed ~7m climb. There was wear, so we're sure others (mythical or not!) have been up the climb, but we didn't fancy it. The passage is a rift, but too far to bridge across even for Duncan, and there weren't many positive holds. Needs a daring climber or dynamic rope + etriers. Surveyed out + derigged.

10th April 2004: Leigong Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch, Li Guang Yu

Mr. Li and the other photographer (with the ridiculously long lens) wanted to photograph our descent to Lei Gong Dong, so Erin cunningly got Mr. Li to carry one of our four tacklesacks.

After a bit of a stroll across the construction site, it became clear that Mr. Li wasn't heading for the gully Lao Fu had shown us as a descent route, so we had to detour back to where we wanted to be. Cameraman with long lens looked decidedly dischuffed with this development, as the top of the gully was heavily vegetated -- think Mr. Li had been trying to lead us to somewhere a bit more spectacular!

Set off rigging down the gully with drill and heavy battery and 180m rope, and I soon had to ask myself quite why I was using my stop when the slope was so shallow I could just walk down it. Dropped the rigging kit and strolled down to investigate the route -- a few easy scrambles led to a cliff -- this was where we were supposed to rig from then!

Erin untied the 180 and I pulled it down and packed it up. Erin then rigged the steep top part of the route with 2 27m ropes. A short rope was rigged on a climb that would be difficult with lots of kit, and soon we were approaching the cliff, accompanied by Mr. Li.

Began the 180 several metres back from the edge to assist on a couple of more difficult scrambles, and after a couple of more difficult scrambles, and after a bit of direction from Mr. Li as to where to head for, was bolting down a sloping cliff with lots of ledges.

The rope just reached, and Erin & I arrived at the bottom closely followed by Mr. Li who had simply clambered down the 100m of 70° cliff, taking pictures of Erin's descent.

The cave entrance was quite large, being formed in an overhanging cleft, but soon reduced to about 6m wide by 3m high. After only 80m of hopping from mudbank to mudbank over a meandering trickle, the passage closed down to a rat-shit-edged duck with no draught.

However, nearer daylight was a drippy aven where about half of the tiny stream entered, and just inside the entrance was a climb up which led to a tight rift parallel to the main passage, which ended at a 5" diameter hole after about 20m, and a meandering canyon which ascended to a second smaller entrance in the cliff above the main entrance.

Surveyed, took photos, and then surface surveyed up the cliff to a GPS point Erin had set up while I'd been rigging. Getting everything up the cliff took ages, and I finally got back to the house at about 10:15pm.

Incidentally -- Erin saw the first maggots of the Spring this morning in the ladies', so winter is officially over.

11th April 2004: She Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch

A gentle trip down She Dong surveying down almost to the limit, including resurvey of the small section ZH mapped as we didn't have his data available.

Checked out the big ramp up below the 3rd pitch -- goes to a choke. Also descended the next pitch, although didn't have time to survey it as we've been told off several times for being late back yesterday, and so we wanted to be out for 6.

The bottom of the pitch seems blind, but there are a few other ways on to check out, and a strong draught to account for, so we left all the kit down the cave (hanging up, hopefully out of reach of rats) for tomorrow's trip.

12th April 2004: She Dong

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch

Back down She Dong to complete the survey and tidy up loose ends. The final pitches were indeed blind, and so having surveyed them we packed up and gradually derigged out, checking out leads as we went.

Where the stream is lost just before the final pitches, there's a possible way on following the stream, but as it's a flat-out grovel in rat excrement rich water, and had no draught, it was not pushed.

At the head of the 3rd pitch a sketchy traverse over the pitch head leads to a climb up into a big solution dome which ought to have ways on as it's where the draught seems to go, but nothing could be seen but shadows which might or might not be small passages -- either way it was not possible to safely get up to look properly.

All obvious leads inspected, we exited the cave, Erin taking several photographs on the way.

12th April 2004: Ying Tao Wan Dong

Duncan Collis

As suspected, having been made to derig the cave a week ago, we were shortly afterwards informed that there'd been a change of plan and that we'd have to go back down to push further

Although we're actually quite keen to see where the cave goes, it's a bit galling to have to re-rig it and then de-rig it all over again, so we'd been leaving it 'till last in case the plan from the development company changed again. However, they still want us to explore it further, Erin's flu is gone, except for a persistent cough, and we had an afternoon spare after finishing She Dong, so we decided to make a start.

A solo trip for me to rig the first pitches and to place a handline on the climb up through the squeeze and to rig the big climb down on the other side -- placed bolts for this. Left drill and battery beyond the squeeze and then came back out. That should give us a good head-start on tomorrow's trip.

13th April 2004: Final push

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch

Packed everything the night before, including as much as possible of our luggage for going down the hill, planning a record early start. Up at 6:30am to usual sounds of radio as workers ate breakfast. Should have joined them for slop + mantou, as our own fare was delayed until 8:30. But still underground by 9am, having told Lao Fu to expect us at 9-10pm. 1 big bag each plus prussik bags + assorted kelter to the far side of the squeeze where we picked up a drill bag. Rigging went smoothly and we arrived at the limit at 11:11am still mostly dry thanks to aggressive bailing of the gours.

Dunks went through the hammered out squeeze and found some not-quite-shit rock in the ceiling for 2 long through bolts and a y down to a small ledge + 1 bolt rebelay. Mudstone + extremely thin beds of limestone were the theme for the day. An 18m hang landed at another ledge where a bolt in the only decent rock sufficed to get down another short drop with a rub against mudstone at the top. A deviation and we landed with a splosh in welly deep quick-mud. At first it looked like the cave was finished + we might sink without a trace in the mud, but around the corner there was a hole down onto another pitch. Two bolts high up + a krab + bolt deviation got down to yet another ledge, this time with a rub against flowstone. We were short on tectors so decided to ignore it. The rock around the ledge was a fantastic example of mudstone with the beds protruding from the wall all around. A y-hang off the only good rock + the only remaining tector on the edge got us down to the floor with a single 10m rope to spare. Small horizontal passage went off which all too soon came to a low wet crawl. I wallowed along it until it turned a corner + became even more low + aqueous -- small gours descending at 30° with the roof less than a foot above and no relief in sight. The air was fresh, but I couldn't determine a draft direction. We had lunch of vindaloo strength dried beef + that was that. It was enjoyable rigging + pushing, perhaps the best bit being the total lack of rat shirt below the hammered squeeze. We surveyed out + derigged, out of the cave for just past 9 with a mountain of bags. I recruited some help in nice clothes + slip-on-shoes. They were unimpressed with the idea of moving muddy bags in the dark, but when I picked up the heaviest + trotted off they had to follow suit. We washed + inventoried everything + then turned in, ready for the walk down the hill. It was a satisfying trip, but I will be a glad to be going back to Guilin.

14th April 2004: Decamping

Duncan Collis, Erin Lynch

We awoke to rain + continued packing up our sodden gear. The day before I'd asked for 5 porters + Lao Fu had said 2 with two runs would be better, but as it was raining the decision was made for 5 with 20kg each --not a nice load in the wet!

Mr. Li came down the trail with us, his hands firmly in his pockets as he strolled with ease along the wet + slippy path down. We stopped at the eyehole to survey it for Zhanghai -- high winds made it impossible to pull the tape taut, but I think they already have a survey of it anyway -- we passed two land surveyors with tripods, etc. on the path!

Lao Quan sorted out our broken radio + treated us to a nice lunch, then we bought 4 soft sleeper! tickets to Liuzhou + met Zhanghai + Zhangyu at the station. Luxury (although not so much baggage space)!

15th April 2004: Note on breakages

Erin Lynch

This has been a costly expedition in terms of breakages.

  • Zhanghai's radio battery -- dropped while rigging Zushi Dong -- best avoided by taping the batteries securely to the radios so they can't be accidentally detached -- making radio cases also an option.
  • 4Ah lead acid battery -- died after 3 holes -- possibly knackered before expo; source of problem unknown; possibly wiring problem/related to short-circuit venting during TX2003
  • Bosch drill "2" -- failed bearing + resulting broken case -- old age? not used except for Zushi Dong bolting (10 holes); most likely broken before trip; ironically, same drill serviced in UK just before expo (2004-04-20 breakage due to improper reassembly)
  • firefly -- metal tab snapped -- same problem before expo; needs re-soldering

The padded drill bags worked well, although they could be modified to make them more rugged + easy to clean.