Page 19 of 28
Hang Cao/Vuc So 5 Day Walk 19/3/12– 23/3/12
Howard, Deb, Clarkey & myself duly dispatched with Ky, Tang & 3 other guides as Tang knew a man who knew a cave that he'd last visited some 20 years previously. Also Phong & Tang had visited another cave in the relative (1 day walk away) vicinity that had ended in a short pitch in a gigantic descending passage.
Initially following the start of the Salt n' Pepper track, the walk followed the usual pattern: humid, plenty of ups/downs, little water, claustrophobic jungle although the paths underfoot remained good throughout the entire trip. The GPS showed our route as heading directly for Cha Noi, indeed we came within 3k of the Cha Noi valley before dog-legging north-west & then walking parallel with the Cha Noi valley.
On the 2nd day in we arrived at a broken, vegetated cliff leading up to the entrance of Hang Cao, Phong & Tang's cave to an undescended pitch. An uninspiring 10m climb up was rigged by Tang using a freshly macheted sapling with a disturbing amount of spring. Some not so subtle glances from the others, darting between my modest girth & the give in the makeshift ladder, spoke volumes as to their lack of confidence in this proposed method of ascent. Instead; Tang clambered up a 2m chimney to the left before then stepping right onto the cliff face & hand- slapping up grass tufts up & out of sight.
Clarkey & I gingerly followed whilst Howard & Deb awaited developments, falling bodies. The cave entrance was a useful looking 10m x 10m arch descending steeply over good rock with tell-tale slither trails indicating a potentially sizeable snake population being in residence. No draught or sign of water, the passage wended down through calcite stal for about 150m before descending steeply down a calcite slope. Phong & Tang became noticeably excited as we peered downwards & indicated this was the pitch & as far as they had been. The Vietnamese, not being blessed with the more "muscular" European arse & therefore not having our distinct physical advantage, appeared astonished when this 50m obstacle was quickly overcome by the simple expedient of sliding down, bum first.
The cave ended at a distinct calcite blockage some 310m in from the entrance, still no draught or sign of any active water & with no likelihood of there being any potential for future progress. Returning, the climb down from the entrance was if anything worse than the climb up. Matters not helped when my brand new digital Panasonic camera decided to unclip & descend at a greater rate of knots then envisaged by their standard warranty. Clarkey's inadvertent rock shower from above as I descended the chimney instantly forgiven when, after 15mins careful searching, he not only found the missing camera but it proved to be still in perfect working order!