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Hang En, Khe Rhy and Hang Nuoc En (honest it isn't a sewer) Report.
Ian Watson, Anette Becher, Howard Clarke Mick Nunwick, Ky, Nguyen, Mr Uy and extra porter.
It was to be a four day trip starting with a gentle walk in on the 14th. All packed and ready for the off, it was like visiting an old friend. Although very well known and used by many, Hang En was and still is a truly beautiful place to camp.
We set off participating in the usual banter, often at someone else's expense. Time really does fly when having fun and I was having fun! We even found time to burn rubbish on the way to Dong village.
The one thing I had observed and really appreciated whilst on the entire expedition was the eco mindset which the porters and guides had adopted.
Dong village had changed vastly since the floods of the previous year. The floods had caused devastation throughout the whole area, but the people were just the same, friendly, hospitable and keen to share their rice wine.
Whilst resting some of the porters scurried off and started pulling some small tree like plants up in the village (with local permission of course). These sweet potatoes were for a hot snack later. The walk to Hang En passed too quickly, even with the cooked sweet potato break.
The initial plan was to check a new lead out prior to setting up camp at Hang En. However the plan didn’t quite go to plan, translation issues and Hang En fever seemed to take over. Mr Ky just sat there mumbling to himself about our stupidity, lack of our understanding of the Vietnamese language and his own unique form of semaphore.
Having set up camp we set off back to check the lead out. Walking for approx 20 minutes upstream back towards Dong village we passed an inlet on our left hand side. Shortly after this we came to Mr Ky's resting place where he was honing his semaphore skills (yes that was where we should have gone earlier).
A muddy scramble into an open Banana plantation was our way on. Following a little stumbling, thrashing and flailing of arms through the plantation we came to the resurgence. The crystal clear pool at the base of a small cliff was a pleasant respite from the heat. Myself and water baby Anette decided to take the plunge and look at the small boulder choke. I took my shirt off before entering the small stream inlet, Anette wouldn't. With Anette up one tight slot and myself up another, thoughts of huge unexplored caves came flooding back. No joy for me, only a few scrapes and unsuccessful attempts at finding the way on.
Water baby found a way through without removing three layers of skin, so off Anette went into Hang Nuoc En.
Back at the pool myself and Mick thought we had better show willing and start surveying, all to Watto's amusement. Having negotiated the slot we started surveying up the boulder choke towards the stream way. By this time Anette had been gone quite a while, so we were quite pleased when she re appeared. Apparently Anette was also pleased to see us, as she had become a little disorientated on the return.
Once hitting the stream way proper, myself and Mick had started commenting on the caves sewer like proportions much to Anette's disdain. To appease I agreed to swim "the sewer" with water baby thinking it would soon close down, we set off. It didn't, and much to Anette's amusement we would have to return to continue the survey.
15.03.12 Khe Rhy
With reports from memory of a possible lead in this phenomenal system we set off with high hopes. Spirits high we set off looking for the cave exit. Mr Ky seemed to have a little difficulty locating the cave, I suspect the boys were expecting a rest day. Having located the cave they went back to camp. Following an obvious path on left after 15 minutes of exiting Hang En, Khe Rhy true magnificence can be seen. Wetsuit clad we entered the cave proper. We were looking for an obvious passage reported from an earlier expedition. Long swims, navigating large boulders and traversing around large pools didn't bear fruition. The passage was followed for 2.5km upstream before deciding to retreat and take the opportunity to take more photographs. A gentle walk back taking various GPS readings concluded our trip into Khe Rhy.
Following a good night's sleep (rice wine induced) myself, Watto, Anette and Mick set off to continue the surveying in Hang Nuoc En (the sewer). Having all passed the entrance slot (Watto kicking his way through), navigated the boulder pile, we were back at the stream way surveying again. Watto on compass and clinometers, Anette on Disto with Mick drawing. I was spotting, which entailed treading water and holding onto delicate stall in the roof. Bats and rats, Anette still wasn't calling the cave a sewer. Swimming, wading continued to a chamber with large boulders and broken stal. The way on soon returned to its former glory (long tube like passage, delicate stal and agitated bats. This concluded at a small boulder choke with no obvious way on, although water could be heard beyond the choke. Mick "the digger" just couldn't resist having a little poke in the unstable pile. Hang Nuoc En totalled 450m in length with a depth of 5m.
Back to Hang En and our luxury camp. Another night of intellectual exchanges, heated card games, rice wine and superb food was had by all. The following day we made our way back to Dong village (drank rice wine as customary) and exited the jungle. Another superb Hang En experience although the camp is becoming used by other parties.
Hang En and our luxury camp.
This significant discovery found early on in the expedition, provided the team with a spectacular cave with amazing and unusual formations. Khanh our guide who discovered Hang Son Doong told us about a cave with a small river on the last expedition but time did not permit us to visit it.
Hence we planned a quick trip to check because any river caves in these parts are usually pretty special. The walk to Hang Va starts from the same place as visiting the exit of Son Doong. Following a sizeable river down to its sink than climbing steeply up to a col and into a large depression. The walk is only 1 1/2 hour from the new Ho Chi Minh road and soon we reached a depression from where we could hear a sizeable stream.
We descended the steep boulder slope until we were at the stream level. We pushed downstream first in a pleasant passage to a large pool. A short swim led to a reasonable walking passage passing a small inlet. Downstream the passage was pushed for 200m to a sump which had a similar appearance to a cave we found many years ago called Nuoc Nit and as expected when the survey was drawn this would appear to connect.
The small inlet we passed was also pushed to a sump which we now believe to be the water from Passchendaele in Hang Son Doong. This inlet is small and would account for the water in Passchendaele backing up and forming a lake after heavy rainfall.
This was all we really expected of the cave but when we returned to the entrance we thought it wise to check the upstream passage which had a stream flowing from a large boulder ruckle. This was easily passed to a continuation and after a few climbs up and down through boulders we managed to enter a stream passage.
This passage was followed in a fine style for 200m until the passage suddenly changed dramatically. The streamway continued but above we could see a huge dry high level passage.
We had surveyed over 500m that day and we knew we had 2 excellent open passages to push.
We called it a day so that more members could have a chance to grab what looked like some cracking passage
We were not able to return for a couple of weeks due to other trips in the jungle but when all the team returned to base we decided to have a day trip to Hang Va, surveying and photographing as we explored. One team bagged the main stream passage and the other the large high level passage.
The streamway continued in classic Vietnamese excellent streamway mainly around 10m wide and 8m tall. After passing a number of large waterfall inlets a sump was reached after just over 500m. The team photographed this fine passage and on the
return met the other high level team.
They all insisted that we all must visit the high level passage due to its amazing formations. Back at the junction a high level traverse with a 20m rope led to a 30m wide and 30m high passage filled with giant gours.
This dramatically increased in size passing a huge stal boss. The huge gour floors had cracked mud in the initial stages but little water.
We climbed up on the left of the passage to a huge gour dam and the view from this part of the cave onwards is very dramatic. You overlook more giant gours now in a
passage 90m wide. In many of these giant gours are vulcanites or conulites usually 2-3m tall and numbers of many hundreds if not thousands. All are in a shallow pool of water in the dry season. These formations are absolutely stunning and we had never seen any like in the world before.
This passage continues for 500m and the majority of its length is filled with these special formations. We have found out since that these type of formations can also be seen in a cave in Thailand and another in China.
However the huge numbers and pristine quality of the ones we were lucky to find made for a special day out.
This section of the cave is very close to the end of Hang Son Doong (within 100m) but no way on was found due to the high calcite blockages were encountered.
Since our return we have been reliably told that these formations are formed when a calcite raft in a gour pool has a drip into it and this pressure sinks a small section of the raft. Over time and many drips a vulcanite or conulite can be formed. In this case due to the large size of the passage these formations are large and plentiful
Hang Va was an excellent discovery and we believe that many more important caves are still to be discovered in this section of the massif.