China 2011 - Tain Xing
During Mexpe I was strongly encouraged to go to China for a caving expedition. Once back in Canada, and having dealt with being robbed of most of my possessions (in Canada), I contacted the expedition leader, Imogen Furlong to see if I could join in on the fun. After an email or two, success I was to meet them in China on September 25th at some hostile in Chong Xing.
The expeditions main goal was to return to the cave Zuan Yan Keng (People Go Down) and continue down the pitch it was left at. Hopefully continuing to push it to connect to the Tian Xing system China's deepest cave currently at -1247m. After some airport adventures in Shanghi I arrived to Chong Xing got into a taxi then could not communicate my destination (the driver did not know the location!). So after a 10 minute game of pictographs in my diary, stopped in the middle of the freeway, using a free map I picked up from the airport we came to some sort of decision. Another 20mins later I spotted the small Hostal and was left outside with my kit bags. It was 00:00 in the morning when I signed in and sat down with Imogen to have a few pints. We waited for the others who were also late. 6-8 beers later everyone had arrived, socialised and gone to bed. We were to be up early to catch a bus to Wulong. Here the growing group of cavers was met by Erin Lynch (The Hong Meigui Guru).
A hectic day of administration, packing equipment, we began the drive up into the hills to the small Hamlet of Tian Xing. We would spend the next three weeks living in and below this small rural Chinese hamlet. This was going to be fun!
On arrival to Tian Xing, after the unpacking and organising, all of the cavers were put through a survey "course" to confirm that everyone would be familiar with the projects survey methods, standards, and identify who would be the sketchers. I passed which ended up making me the book person for every survey trip I was part of (except when Erin was along, of course). This was a bit of a blessing, as I became quick and an ok sketcher, but on a downside I did not get to rig many pitches outside of the multiple climbing trips undertaken (everyone likes to rig!).
People go down cave was previously explored to a 60m pitch with continuing passage, we were here to continue the exploration of this cave, and a few others. The first few days after the survey course was spent rigging to the previous limit of exploration, then after messing around with some glue-in bolts in the crappy mudstone the expedition was discovering and dropping virgin pits continuing to follow the water. Eventually the trips began to get too long for some of the team members to do consecutive "day" trips. So when we rotated on the deeper trips our "off" days were spent exploring some of the upper leads in PGD and also pushing some of the other caves on the to do list. The two that grabbed members attention were Liang Feng (Beer cooler cave) and Da Keng Wan. Beer cooler was pushed down a few pitches and deep into a tight meander then left. Da Keng Wan exploded in interest with the discovery of the Tartorous Chamber (the word huge would describe it) and downward trending passage.
One of my personal focuses on the expedition was Aid climbing. I was purposely seeking out as many climbs during the project to work on in my preparation for Raspberry Rising. I had pushed my climbing to 5.12b, now I needed more Aid climbing mileage. One project Brenda Sloan and I took on was a climb in the newly discovered Tartorous Chamber (Da Keng Wan). Here we spent a few days (we were originally told it was 15m on good rock!) climbing into the ceiling following an inlet. It was an adventurous few days (we only brought 12 bolts on the first day) which involved some free climbing, aiding in water, scary mud ledges of death and some hook placements for a belay! Once in the ceiling (around 40m above the chamber) through some tight meandering passage lead to a connection with Liang Feng (Beer cooler cave). Success! The derig involved a sporting through trip after the survey was complete.
Attention was being shifted to the ever getting deeper PGD, soon some of the 23 expedition team members trips were extending to 20+hr! A team meeting and discuss the pros and cons of establishing a camp around -500m was weighed and in the end it was agreed that camp was to be set, and hot bunking to be used. Within the first rotation the "night shift" of the Russians made the connection that Erin was expecting. They connected into the Tian Xing system at -700m adding the 9th entrance and another few km to the impressive 44+km -1247m deep cave system. Soon it was my camp rotation turn, I was to bounce to -700m join Erin and Andy McKenzie at the bottom for some surveying , at which point we would derig on our way up to Camp. I had a great and quick trip in arriving in 4 hr, we checked a few leads added some survey then began the derig. Erin went up first with the survey equipment and day bag, then I followed with 2 bulging packs as Andy got the short end. One bag to place the rope etc. It did not take him long to fill the bag then he thrutched his way closer and closer to Camp with bulging arms in snot like mud covering everything, cursing me. Eventually I returned (when he was practically at camp) unloaded his burden and let him derig the last pitch to Camp.
Moods were high as we spent the last night in camp. In the morning we packed up and began the derig up while carrying all of the gear bags. A bloody chore and a half! We stopped derigging rope at the top of the "Gash", then proceeded to carry 14 heavy tackle sacks up to the "Beach". At the bottom of the last pitch before the "Beach" Andy and I were fighting over who would take the last bag (we each had 4 already!) as the team was determined to get all of the tackle sacks to the "beach" or above. After a quick brew Andy and I raced to the surface to arrive at 01:00. We promptly woke Imogen, grabbed some beer then walked them down to the entrance for the team behind us. Then we returned and spent the next few hours drinking, bull shitting, and general merry making. The others arrived a few hours after and joined in until the early hours of the morning.
During my next derig trip awareness struck me, I was climbing a pitch when rock fall from another caver hit me in the head, shoulder and back. I was very pissed off at the time! but managed to get out just fine. With rest, drugs, doctor and physiotherapy the pain went away and feeling came back to my legs. I reflect on it every once in awhile when I forget to have fun. As it can all be taken away by an unintentional incident. I love caving, and I enjoy the company who I spend it with.
When derig was finished the equipment was transported back to Wulong where we washed, inspected and organised the equipment for storage until the next expedition.
The team members ranged from UK, Australia, India, USA, Russia, China and your token Canadian. Thanks!