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Hang Ba Lam KM 35

Hang Ba Lam was an exciting lead according to Khanh and he was eager to take the team to it. We bounced around in the back of the truck along the HCM road 20 to KM 35. It was a relief to leave the vehicle behind and descend steeply on an overgrown but distinct track with a washed out gully on the left. After 15 minutes an alcove cave is found on the right and was to be our campsite. We had two venomous snake sightings in the vicinity during our stay but also from the campsite we were lucky enough to observe a magical spectacle of a flying fox on two evenings.

From the alcove cave camp Hang Ba Lam is reached by descending a gulley and into the jungle below, heading straight down we reached the entrance within ten minutes.
A dry River sink entrance with large boulder guarding the entrance which required equipment to descend; an improvised tree/ladder was used. The walking passage soon degenerates to a mud filled stooping tube, left at the junction, right was not explored but likely to connect back in the entrance chamber. The way on is low until a low chamber is met. To the left was followed through low bedding and some walking rifts with daylight shafts penetrating. This ends at a choke. A passage on the left was followed to a pit with no way out, on the opposite side the passage continues with a strong draught but gear would be needed.
Back in the chamber to the right duck under an arch which will sump in wet weather to reach a chamber and a scummy pool. The way on was a low duck and we were not keen to duck under the water to pass it. Some time with large rocks eventually smashed enough of the calcite of the wall and we were through but not before we were stripped down to our briefs and thong chamber was christened. For a short while a walking passage is followed until a calcite blockage was reached but a climb down on the left reaches a pool. This looked to be a sump but on close inspection it was passable with low airspace. We were not alone here; the pool was full of white fish. The wet sections are low and narrow with an awkward climb out. The cave continues through pools, squeezes and sharp climbing obstacles until relief is gained in a walking section. The second part has magnificent calcite flows on the left with large 'angel wing' formations. A large chamber is reached with some large formations on the left is reached. A pool in the middle is traversed to a pitch. This can be rigged off natural belays and although only 16m deep required 40m of rope. The flying fox pitch landed on a small ledge followed by another swim in very deep water to a shingle beach. The next section is on very sharp friable limestone with a number of climbs up and down. A small boulder choke is descended into similar going below. The 9metre Scorpion pitch follows, named after the resident guardian of this part of the cave. An awkward series of climbs follow and a hand line may be useful. A hading rift is followed at various levels to reach a chamber with a pitch to the right and an inlet on the left. The inlet was followed a short way with some climbs up to reach a confusing area of rifts and deep drops. The way on is not clear here and would require equipment.

The pitch was descended for 25 metres past large blocks to a boulder choke. The whole of the passage was now heavily silted and clearly backs up here. The choke was descended with care and requires a line (20m). At the bottom a squeeze through blocks led to the top of a 3m climb needing a hand line to the top of another climb. This was not descended but due to the large deposits of silt it was believed to be sump.
 

Martin Holroyd

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