The latest news from China:
San Qiao 2006
April 15, 2006
The San Qiao 2006 expedition began about a week ago. The first day we mapped Beggar's Cave, which was accessed through a restaurant - our first leg went in one side of the dining area, and out the back door into the cave. It ended at a calcited aven, and since then exploration has focused on caves near the Three Natural Bridges park. The three bridges are spectaular - they span a ~200m deep limestone gorge, which once was cave passage. Dozens of caves enter the gorge, and although most are blocked a few have yielded some passage. Duncan, Michel Bovey and Erin have concentrated on 72 Ways Cave. The name is a bit of an understatement, as the cave is a phreatic maze and it's not unusual to have 7-way junctions.
On the final caving day we found the best lead of the expedition. Houzituo Dong began as clean-washed 10m-tall, 4m-wide canyon stream passage, dry in the winter but obviously very active in the summer. It dropped down a series of short (<10m) pitches interspersed with deep pools which need traverse lines. At the bottom was... 60m wide passage which was left ongoing.
Houping 2006, part 1
March 28, 2006 The expedition began with a very welcome jeep ride to Houping thanks to the Wulong government, thus saving us a day spent hiking gear down the hill. We arrived to find Mr and Mrs Wang packed to go to Zhejiang. We'd arrived just in time, as a day later they both would have been on their way to the factory. Mr Wang was more than happy to stay and cook for us.
Despite greatly improved cooking by Mr Wang, the expedition was plagued by digestive trouble. (We think it was due to a very lavish funeral banquet we attended.) Fully half of the expedition members spent an unhappy day or two vomiting, and the rest suffered from a variety of giardia-like symptoms. Despite many lost caving days, we managed to bag 10km, pushing both Er Wang Dong and San Wang Dong over 20km in the process. A connection between the two remains elusive.
The big goal of the expedition was to find the streamway. Prior to this expedition we'd only seen small trickles, which couldn't account for the 6 cumec resurgence at the bottom of the valley. In Er Wang Dong the pitch which takes the Qingkou Tiankeng streamway, the pitch from the gnarly side-passage north of Qingkou, the pitch down in the Sea of Holes and the Kings Canyon pitch series all dropped into Dong Feng/Speleotherapy/Large Intestine. This area was a maze of passages which flood violently in the summer. Large tree trunks and other flood debris (often high in the roof) made us glad of the dry weather. Most curiously, all the air in the area is going east into blank space.
Elsewhere in Er Wang Dong, Confabulator connected to Carmel Squares and the pitch off the Main Drag just before Underworld connected into Feeling Groovy/Optimistic/etc, making an already complicated area more so.
In San Wang Dong we concentrated on tidying up loose ends in last year's big find: T'Owd Man/One Man and His Dog. Several of the big walking-sized leads were pushed, mostly making loops. Mike Ficco was persuaded to sketch the intimidatingly large black space to the east of the start of T'Owd Man. It went east (with the standard footprints and dogprints) to a too-steep slope down into Cliffs of Insanity. (We didn't find the time to push Cliffs of Insanity, but it remains a priority lead for the next dry season.) At the end of One Man and His Dog we rigged down Swingin' in the Shower to a 0.01 cumec stream. It was very windy, and after an initial rifty bit we romped along >5m wide stream passage with slippery mud banks on either side. After a few hundred metres heading due north (away from the resurgence) an 0.045 cumec stream entered from an aven, and shortly afterwards the whole lot hit a sump. All the draught goes up the aven, which is in the vast empty space north of One Man and His Dog. Speculation has the water coming from one of the two dolines marked on the map to the west of San Wang Dong.
Closer to the entrance in San Wang Dong, Bisto was pushed, and it left going (looking very good). Duncan and co. even retrieved Julian Todd's light which he'd lost there last May.
Yunnan Draughting Holes
February 20, 2006
There was less snow than expected in Zhongdian this winter, but the team of four led by Hilary Greaves still did a lot of good prospecting. At the end they de-commissioned the Zhongdian gear store and mailed all of the equipment to Wulong.
Young Pioneers in Tian Xing
October 1, 2005 Members of the Tian Xing 2005 expedition were made honorary Young Pioneers this Friday at a special ceremony held by Tian Xing's Lower School. The expedition donated dictionaries, stationary supplies and sports equipment to the school, and afterwards the cavers narrowly defeated the teachers in a hard-played game of basketball.
Acheron 2 - Qikeng's streamway refound
September 29, 2005 The Tian Xing 2005 expedition has reached new lows in Lan Mu Shu Dong. After dropping 640m in muddy pitches and rifts, the cave intersected sizeable streamway which sumps 109m horizontally distant and 19m above the upstream sump of Qikeng Dong's Acheron Streamway. The combined Lan Mu Shu-Liu Chi Aokou Xia system is now 832m deep, making it the second deepest in China.
Connection in Tian Xing
September 25, 2005 After three hours of hammering, Pete Talling, Fleur Loveridge and Rob Garrett broke through You Fucking Fucking Bastards squeeze in Liu Chi Aokou Xia Dong to make a connection with Lan Mu Shu Dong at the top of Typhoon. The combined system is now 768m deep.
15km in Houping
June 1, 2005 The recent Houping 2005 expedition mapped 15km, bringing the area's total to over 40km. Both San Wang Dong and Er Wang Dong were extended to 17km and 15.7km respectively. A connection between the two main caves remains elusive, however the long-predicted connection between San Wang Dong and Shi Wang Tiankeng was finally accomplished.
7km in Xilian
March 13, 2005 The joint Hong Meigui-CRF Hunan 2005 expedition was an unqualified success. Access problems prevented the 6 man expedition from returning to Da Dong in Zhangjiajie, so the expedition travelled to a new area, Xilian. In six caving days the team surveyed over 7km of passage, leaving many good leads for a return expedition.
Liu Chi Aokou - down the Penetrator
November 16, 2004 The quest for depth in Tian Xing's Liu Chi Aokou Xia Dong got a big boost with The Penetrator, a 220m shaft which landed in clean washed streamway. A further short pitch brought the cave's depth to 592m. The Penetrator is the fourth 150m+ shaft in Tian Xing, along with Pitch Out of Time in Qikeng Dong (160m) and Da Keng's two entrance pitches (284m,219m).
Da Keng -775m and going
October 26, 2004 Tian Xing 2004 has pushed Da Keng to a depth of 775m. The cave is now 4274m long and still going, however long swims and cold temperatures have brought exploration to a halt for the time being.