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Hang Tang was one of the 2009 trips main objectives. Noted in 2007 but undescended due to insufficient gear, this massive surface shaft was a real peach.
The first trip out saw Deb, a press-ganged Martin C & myself head out into the jungle with four porters. A later than hoped for start saw us camping mid-way before hitting the top campsite next day. Using a large tarp to waterproof a thatched lean-to, the only drawback was
the somewhat scummy water supply resulting in a definite decline in hygiene standards over the ensuing days.
Forty minute walk to an impressive shaft. (“Kind Words Butter No Parsnips”). Festooned with usual bolting paraphernalia, including the excellent Makita 14.4v drill, I stepped over lip & started the descent. From the offset it became clear this would not be a straightforward rig, the shaft went down at an offset angle, prohibiting a straight drop, and bulged out with cherty ledges at regular intervals creating rub points where there was no good rock to whack a bolt in.
Using 10mm drop-in anchors it seemed sensible to double up the belay points rather than rely on single bolts. 15m down from the lip and two bolts placed on the overhang, down 30m and repeat. 35m down the pitch veering leftwards and then a final single bolt (having managed to now drop the taped roll of anchors) to a 90m drop.
Landing on a large boulder slope, a fantastic 30m x 20m passage barrelling down at 45 degrees with a waterfall clearly heard in distance. I was able to speak to Deb & Martin via radio, confirming I would take a quick look ahead and report back in thirty minutes.
The passage headed downwards over large but relatively easy to cross boulders before levelling out in a huge chamber with twin but small waterfalls falling from the darkness high above. The passage continued onwards crossing a pleasant sandy floored beach but seemingly closing down at a huge gour filled chamber. (“The Theatre of Performing Monkeys”) It seemed unbelievable that such a huge shaft with a large stream entering in the wet season could kaffle out. At floor height however two twin green shoots could be seen dancing in a 2m wide, 2m tall niche. My first thought was how where they managing to grow so far out of daylight followed immediately by what was it that was causing them to move about?
Stepping into the alcove a distinct draught could be felt, climbing up the crumbling wall I could see through into a chamber accessed by a pitch down. Fantastic, game on! Back up the 45 degree slope, resting on the way, an excited, happy, conversation with Deb & Martin to explain the situation. It was getting late in the day so agreed the best thing would be to ascend and return en-masse tomorrow.
The return was a bastard; foot jammer sling snapped 15m up resulting in following 75m of ascent by a jury rigged frogging system. I was very slow and very tired as I approached the first bolt going out. Now I was able to pinch the string from the setting tool and repair my foot jammer allowing a slightly quicker final 80m exit.
Following day all three of us were back and kitted up for the descent. Plan was I’d go first and add further bolt belays with Deb and Martin surveying and carrying a photo kit. I’d also noted our new 200m Mammut rope was performing peculiarly inasmuch that it had tighten up considerably beyond each bolt belay resulting in insufficient slack so as to easily clip in descending gear. It was agreed I’d take rope out of the first bolts, pull up resulting extra rope at the second and then the final third re-belays before drilling extra belays in the final 90m drop. The rope was noticeably also in areas feeling like tape and bunching up at the belays.
Our plan worked smoothly, the final 90m being split by two further belays to a final 30m pitch. At the bottom loose rock rained down from above as dangling bags caught rock and as a small ledge gave way, one of the ricochets catching my left forefinger resulting in a somewhat swollen digit.
Reunited at the bottom Martin commented he’d hated every minute of the descent.
Both however where impressed by the continuing passage, huge rifling bands in the roof adding to the impression of the cave shooting downwards. Deb and Martin surveyed whilst I went ahead to rig the pitch. Rather than take the previously noted 2m climb up, a step through onto a ledge led to easier access.
A convenient thread gave backup enabling a bold step out to place a bolt belay for a straight 20m drop. (“Whooping Mamba”) A calcited walled chamber led over boulders corkscrewing back on itself. A small climb led to a dramatic change in the passage, a sharp, wet, rift passage and a 1.5m crawl. (“Unlucky Fried Kitten”) A somewhat painful 10m crawl led to a small window over a 20m pitch with a pool and rift at bottom. That was it, we were out of rope. Having all peered
down the pitch we exited photographing as we went. The ascent of “Kind Words Butter No Parsnips” took all three of us 1hr 15mins. At the surface we walked back in the rain which had been continuous throughout the day to campsite.
A later start due to continuing inclement weather, we discussed about the 200m Mammut rope, how we could move heavy loads up and down, the shaft, the inherent risks and finally, a rather unfortunate incident involving a pan of boiling water and my left foot. It was decided that we needed more kit and that the Mammut needed replacing with something we could trust. We agreed that I’d go down; de-rig leaving the second and third belays in place so we could easily find the bolts on a return visit.
Only problem was trying to get off the rope at the bottom of the entrance pitch. The sheath had by now concertinaed up, despite there being a further 15m spare & wouldn’t run through my stop leaving me standing on my tiptoes but unable to get off the rope. Clinging to the wall allowed the Stop to be opened and twenty minutes later I was starting back up the rope taking maillons out but leaving the hangers in place. The second and third belays where left in place complete with krabs and the rope thrown back down from the initial belay.
Hang Tang wasn’t revisited and remains an ongoing lead.
Entrance pitch needs new 180m rope, should be easy to spot re-belays as hangers in place and Mammut still attached to 2nd & 3rd re-belays and knots below these left in situ. Follow Mammut (having attached new rope!) and where you see a knot, bolt belays will be found nearby.
Sheltered, flat camping at bottom of entrance would be practical with sufficient wood at bottom to create fire.
Problem of hauling gear up large, slanting shaft probably best overcome by rope across the shaft with a pulley in the middle with a haul rope thro same.