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1. Another game of follow the Phong through the jungle and surprise! Another good looking cave. It has to be said there has been a pattern developing in Phong’s cave finding ability. A few days prior we had pushed 1200m of new cave between Hang Thung and Hang Tra Ang . This time he had lead us to a very large shaft 400m altitude in the Phong Nha Ke Bang Massive in another gap between our New cave Hang Circle and Hang Tung. After a small rece by me and Snablet Watto and Deb we had decided that the shaft was probably around 150m Deep with a 30/30m passage booming of into the distance.
Back in Son Trach. After little persuasion Sweeny was chosen to represent the shaft bashing team. A passtime he has taken many years to master! He was joined by me and Snablet Mcnab. Then of we trotted with 200m of rope an assortment of rigging kit, and the obligatory bottle of spirit to keep us warm in the frosty Son Trach nights.
2. After a fantastic walk once more. We removed our water proofs thermals and balaclavas and donned our finest down apparel. No not really but if we
had any of these items they would all have been used. The Sweltering Vietnamese jungle had turned into Yorkshire on a wet November day.
The unseasonal climate didn’t do anything to dampen spirits however!!! After a wet sleepless night only made better by the thought of loose vegetated shafts to descend. We pulled ourselves together and set forward to climb up to the entrance. Walking up artery severing slime stone was then followed by what was aptly named rattan crawl, a short crawl in the jungle through rattan scrub and thorns. This reached the high point of the walk at 400m after a short descent through bamboo we climbed again back to the entrance to speculate ones more before our assault.
Sweeny quickly donned his harness and descended to the point we had reached 3 days before. A solid tree belay was made and 4 other pitches were
descended to a solid ledge aprox 50m from the floor. This last pitch was rigged from an awesome overhang to give a truly world class pitch of 46m
landing on the floor 120m from the surface. However the descent came with all the usual added extras of moving rock, mud, ledges and boulders.
Associated with an unprotected vegetated shaft.
Sweeny took it in his stride and dealt with it in his usual approach, donning his golden gloves of perpetual pleasure. Demonstrating shaft management of an astounding calibre. After much shouting from above and several kilos of mud, rocks, and sweat Snab and myself had landed on the floor. A yelp into the void visible now at the foot of the downward slope echoed onwards for what seemed an eternity. The only problem was there was a perched river. ‘Yes a perched river’. A phenomenon known only to water engineers we would learn on our future trip. Being the only swimmer of the group, I was laden with the illustrious task of prospecting the cave for future. After swimming of downstream for 150? M. In fine Quang Binh river cave I decided that enough grabbing was enough!! We decided that another trip was needed as we had no wet suites no survey tape only a Disto, and a very wet cave with a booming echo. Showing no signs of yielding as of yet. Donned in my finest birthday suit I exited the perched river/lake/pond/up welling/. We sat and admired the superb chamber 60/70/100+ high, before climbing out to return to camp for tea and medals.
3. After another smooth descent down nightmare shaft complete with rubbing ropes and falling mud rock and sweat we pushed on forth 300 ish metres downstream continually swimming. Passing fine flow stone columns and cascades into a terminal sump. With two small inlets above choked with silt and flood debris.. So off we swam back to investigate the potential of a small passage upsteam. This was again another sump. To be precise the water from a cave we explored a week before known as Hang Circle. After a last look out of the fine chamber to the pitches above and a moment of contemplation. Sween decided to ruin my whole trip by exposing himself in front of our idealistic view out from the chamber. Another piece of the jigsaw of Phong Nha cave system compete.