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Near Son Trach in Bo Trach District, Quang Binh Province. Explored by Debbie Limbert, Robin Sewell (Sweeny), Andy Mackenzie, Howard Clarke and Peter Whitaker. 05th April 2007. Write up by Peter Whitaker.
Summary – an interesting little venture explored over a few hours with a team of 5 yielding 262m of varied passage on different levels. The cave featured a large proportion of distracting inlets, boulder chokes and breakdown passage. On the plus side there were 3 going leads, one of which was in a large phreatic passage.
We were travelling back down the road from meeting Howard Limbert and his damp team who had been camped in the entrance of Hang En for a few nights. Andy Mackenzie had only just acquired his shin injury which was to stop him from caving for most of his holiday, and was getting in as much bravado caving as possible, before the gangrene set in. Gangrene, that was, if he was to believe our taunts.
We were running out of options for caving that day in our jeep team. Some of the guide’s leads were turning up with scrabbles in the jungle with very little caving. Like the daylight chambers at the bend in the dry stream bed. Being a Vietnam novice, I volunteered to check it out. A crawl through a tube over stream debris led to some shattered connecting chambers, disappointingly complicated by daylight from various directions. This was more like jungle river overflow development, blessed with water in the wet season. As a last ditched effort to push any possible cave from the fruitless venture, I climbed feet first through a hole in the floor onto a ledge in an ominous looking small chamber. The smell of the place was not something I recognized. It wasn’t quite like rotting vegetation or bad air, just something disturbing. The floor was bare sand, apart from a manufactured pile of leaves and wood in the centre. It looked like a nest! I remembered throwing a rock at a wasps nest in a quarry on Skipton Moor in my youth and contemplated throwing a rock at it to make sure but I didn’t know just how fast defending snakes could strike. I didn’t really fancy a shot at the Darwin Awards – an annual joke ridiculing stupid and foolish accidental deaths of the year where people remove themselves from the gene pool - so I maturely made a retreat from the chamber. We explored another small cave at the end of the river bed and made our way back towards Son Trach.
At the km 11 marking on the road back from Tra Ang Bridge to Son Trach, we came across the other jeep team; some were kitting up for exploring. There was a cave approximately 40m from the road, up a path to the base of a cliff, on the right hand side of the road, if looking away from Son Trach. They had already been for an initial look and found a pitch. After a brief discussion, we decided to rearrange the teams and continue the exploring. The locals warned of poisonous snakes in the cave. A stooping entrance soon enlarged into a chamber. Left led along the top of a slab to a second entrance 20m from the first. The route from here back to the road was blocked by the vegetation. The way on was a climb down the slab, which was covered with flowstone; a broken stal was useful on the climb. The chamber led to a big stal and narrowed beyond; a pitch in the corner was the way on. The pitch started with a slot, but enlarged to follow one of the walls, which was very abrasive. The pitch included a ledge and deviation and measured 10 m in total.
From the bottom of the pitch, the rift continued in 2 directions. Facing away from the wall, right led 3.5 m to a 12 m climb down to a sumped pool. The thin pool lay underneath the passage facing in the same direction as the main continuation. From the bottom of the pitch leftwards was the main continuation; the rift continued for a few metres where it joined a stream passage. This continued for another 10 metres where it reached a T junction. Right led 20 m upstream a canal to an inlet waterfall. A bypass before the T junction led to a window partway along this canal. Left at the T junction was the main and downstream continuation. This was a 6 metre wide tunnel passage over sharp gours. The tunnel passed a few side passages, notably an overflow on the right hand side and a steep inlet passage on the left. The team divided to thoroughly explore the alternatives. Peter looked at the inlet passage. Andy and Sweeny explored forwards and Debbie and Howard C surveyed, with Debbie directing the whole venture from a central boulder in the centre.
The inlet passage climbed steeply up a mud banking; small branches with some interconnections led off from this but there were no significant developments. The cave was more interesting for the wildlife eg Peter noted a small mud choke ending in a spider and a poisonous centipede, creeping up on each other in the dark.
From the central boulder, forwards and to the left led along an ascending slab to a hole in the roof. Through here led to a broken bedding passage, a large log featured across the passage. Andy pushed past an assortment of debris to find a further entrance after approximately 40m. Among the breakdown, Sweeny explored an ascending rift, assisted by Peter. This fruited approximately 25m of passage but it involved some desperate climbing and wallowing past spiders in what was obvious minor passage.
Debbie found the main way on. From the central boulder a small opening on the right hand side opened out into the main continuation forwards at floor level; this continued with a muddy floor but soon reached a deep pool. The end of the pool was out of sight round a corner and this was left as the main going lead for the cave.
The team decided to exit via the newly found entrance, which was essentially a boulder choke. Howard and Peter exited through the entire cave and cleared up the loose ends. The overflow on the right hand side was a miniature version of the main passage and trended down over many short gours. This joined a larger passage which in turn intersected a large 7m diameter booming phreatic passage. This phreatic passage ended in a lake/ sump which was left as a going lead.
The waterfall at the end of the canal joining the T junction was also climbed; this proved to be a precarious 6m muddy climb, however it did yield another going lead. At the top of the climb the inlet continued 25m upstream to a thin lake or sump (the termination was out of sight again).