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Hang Khy Re
Hang Tang Shaft
Phong, Tang, Lou and their jungle boys, have been an invaluable asset to our work in Quang Binh. They have turned up fantastic caves such as Nuoc Lanh, Salt and Pepper Pot and Nightmare Shaft. I was quietly confident when Tang commented that he had found a shaft that had a 20 second (?!) drop for a stone. Due to translation problems I think we set out to look at 2 caves and recce the shaft on the way back to Son Trach but we soon worked out that we would be heading out to the shaft straight away.
Phong had guided a return trip back to Hang Nightmare and as that was the main objective 95% of our rigging kit and rope was away on that trip. We only had 20 odd metres of rope and a couple of slings to go and check out Tangs shaft.
At about kilometre 4 on Road 20 you take a path right (on the north side of the road) and down to a dry streambed. A steep climb takes you on quite a confusing circular track to the top of a hill in a great position, with great potential for deep and pretty long caving. The 3 hour trek up was steep and slippy due to the constant rain experienced this year in Quang Binh. We all sang along to Hotel California – Liem’s cheerful contribution to the wet day - and tried to learn the Vietnamese words to Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh!
We arrived at our campsite at around 3pm and decided to set up our hammocks and wait for the morning to come, with hopes of better weather (and less leaches!). The afternoon passed in a drunken haze of rice wine chamma chams and the classic pork fat snacks that the lads always turn up. The actual camp at the shaft is superb. It has 2 bamboo shelters and a good water supply. The jungle around is filled with monkeys, weird skunk looking cat things, birds and plenty of insects. There was much talk this year about Burmese tigers, luckily there are probably not many in the area surrounding Tangs shaft. There have, however, been a few sightings in recent years in the entrance of Hang En.
Mr Tang was the sensible one, he sent us to bed early and said we needed to be fit (not pissed) for our visit to the serious shaft the next day. We had a wet night in our hammocks but were well rested and excited in the morning to hit the shaft and start playing! We had breakfast and set out for the shaft.
The shaft is 30 minutes from camp and the walk in is not too arduous, something to remember for the return trip with half a k of rope! Tang found the way through the forest with no problems, his navigation was superb. As we circled the shaft on approach the ground dropped slowly until we were right above it! What a sight, the classic pothole. Getting a GPS reading and cross checking the map we realised that the shaft is located about 2 kilometres from Hang Vom’s stream way and is at 800 metres altitude. For anyone who knows the area well it presents the prospect of possibly the greatest through trip in the world! If only we could get into Vom via this…
We could only get close enough to see that the shaft drops vertically with solid walls boring down, a rope would be needed to investigate. Around a tree, a walk along a ledge, another tree and we were sat looking down the hole. I am not sure what emotion was strongest, the excitement of looking down a huge hole in this location, or the frustration of only having 20 metres of rope!
The shaft is a beautiful elongated oval shape, approximately 8 metres wide and 25 long. We could confirm that it drops away for at least 120 metres. The rocks were dropping for 7 seconds and then rattling on further. My arse started to twitch, even if the cave caffled at the bottom of the pitch, it would be a truly amazing experience to descend through the mist and into the darkness below. Plenty of photos and videos were taken to excite the next expedition to the area. We left the shaft and made a start back to Son Trach discussing what would be needed to get down. Plenty of bolts and slings and an endless supply of rope!