China 2011 - San Wang Dong

During the Tian Xing expedition (a month long expedition I was in China for) I made it known that I had time at the end of the expedition for another caving trip. So the seed was planted..
Plans were made. Duncan Collis, and I would travel to San Wang Dong (a 60+km long system), rig to camp and beyond, push some leads, and leave camp set up for the coming expedition (7 days after I departed). On October 1st we took a local bus to Tong Zi, and began organizing equipment at the Tong Zi centre for karst and cave exploration. Spending the night, we planned on an early start.
We rose at 07:30 with Duncan registering a 7 on the Bristol Stool scale, so we serviced and inspected all the hammer drills, plus a few other odds and ends waiting for his score to improve.
By 15:00 we had all the equipment on our backs, having a proper gentleman’s start, began the 2+ hr hike to the cave. Arriving at the entrance we changed into our cave gear and were off (2 large cave bags a piece) rigging a short cut traverse (with a secret fishing line pull down) plus the other pitches into camp. The trip in was quiet enjoyable. It began with a lot of hiking through large Bore hole (50m x 30m), up and down sand dunes, around old mine workings from when the cave was being mined for nitrates. A few left over artifact were still visible in the timeless passages. Then we came to some fun stuff, a belly crawl which turns to hands and knees, followed by some fun rifts with a few pitches. We arrived in camp at 23:00. Unpacked, cooked up food and a brew then to bed we went.
07:30 saw us up cooking breakfast. Once finished we geared up and left camp to push some leads beyond The Silk Road. To get there we had to pass through The Valley Of The Kings. I have not seen as much gypsum in a limestone cave then in that passage. Being 1.6km long with passage widths ranging from 30-60m and passage heights ranging from 20-50m high, it contained break down the size of houses, gypsum crusts 5-20cm thick in piles over the floor, crusts on the walls, and ceiling. Gypsum flowers (everywhere) as thick as 2-3 of your fingers (Duncan calls them toe nails). It looked like snow in this 14 degree celsius cave, sparkling like hoar frost on a cold winter’s day. There was the odd selinite needle as well, average length 10-15 cm (they have measured one to 47cm). Arriving at The Silk Road, we dropped our packs and flagged the route (6 ½ rolls of flagging tape). Arriving at our lead, we rigged a short pitch into what had become an active collector. Out of bolts and rope, upstream became our only option as downstream quickly went to what appears to be a 15m pitch. Surveying up stream we came across 4 inlet waterfalls and some nice bolt climbs. We worked up a few short free climbs into break down. Off I went poking around for the way on. Exploring every hole between boulders, I came into a void with an audible stream through an impossible squeeze (it could be dug at if you are very bold), having a hunch I was able to communicate to Duncan and found I had traversed across the ceiling and was close to the largest waterfall inlet (A bolt climb/traverse would be the better option to continue here). Finishing up the survey we headed back to camp.
04:00 a proper alpine start! We woke and broke camp (after recording an inventory of what was stored in camp for the upcoming expedition). We powered through the cave, made great time on the hike back to Tong Zi, luck was with us as we did not have to wait for a bus to Wulong. Arriving in Wulong I went straight to Erin Lynch’s flat to collect the rest of my things before racing to Chong Xing, after all I had to catch my flight.
At 08:20 the next day I was air born back to Canada, arriving in time for the ASS' pub night at the Hop’n Brew in Calgary!

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