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Climbing in Hang Vu Ca Tau
Vu Ca Tau is located about an hours walk upstream from Hang En. It was first explored in 2006, the way on been blocked by a steep calcite climb. A possible continuation had been spotted by the team high up in the roof but a bolting kit would be needed to get up it. We returned to complete the project with only a small climbing rack and an old static rope to play with. We did have a bolting kit but as our bolt driver had snapped the previous evening in Hang En, it was rendered useless.
The walk up the En valley is breathtaking, with the massive entrance of En dominating the classic jungle landscape. The river meanders between groves
of banana trees, elephant grasses and rolling limestone hills, making the approach to Vu Ca Tau unforgettable. The entrance is approximately 30 metres above the river and is full of stals and gours. Apparently it is also full of water and fish in the wet season, hence the name. As we walked up the passage Howard warned us that a climb down was super slippy due to all the guano. As he told us this he plummeted down the slope and smashed his neck. It swelled up for a few hours and went stiff but seemed ok later on. We all took it as a warning and took more care on the steep slopes and climbs. I would spend the next hour climbing the muddiest and most greasy climb ever! The block of calcite offers 2 possible routes of ascent, the first being straight up the central dominating crack. This was completely un-protected and extremely slippy. In fact the whole monolith would have been easy to climb on if it was clean rock, but as luck would have it, it was greasy, slimy calcite!
We chose the second and less obvious route up the left hand side, passing a huge perched block. As there were zero foot holds and the surface was like glass, a number 6 wire and a thread secured a rope to stand on. With Sweeny and Clarkey spotting, the move up to the block was much easier to commit to! The block looked secure enough so a number 3 Camelot backed up with a smaller number one Friend underneath secured an etrier to help with the bold move around the block. Above the block I was dismayed to see that it was precariously balanced on two smaller boulders, both well jammed in. 30 seconds ago I had had my whole weight pulling on the front of the boulder…shit!
Behind this hanging death was a ledge, on which I re-grouped and rested. The climb going on was along a sloping, greasy ledge. I cleaned my boots of
mud and rigged a traverse line along the 5 metre steep and sloping ledge. The guys below all lay down on the floor to watch, Sweeny the possessive
constantly shouted that he would kill me if I had to sacrifice any of his Kevlar bolts to the route! Just as I reached the end of the ledge, I fully ran out of pro
and rope, I was at full stretch looking at the possible way on, it didn’t go. As I descended the awkward traverse the lads spotted a hole in the roof that would certainly need a bolting kit to be gained. Gutted!
Well, we pulled through the rope and de-rigged the climb. It should be noted that Sweeny got all of his gear back, but still complained! The jungle lads were impressed with the climbing but face was lost a few days later when I backed off an awfully exposed climb with 15 KGs on my back, 80 metres off the deck. These fellas are hard as nails, we should have asked them to gain the hole in the roof!