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We had visited this valley in 2006, and remembered it as a pretty tough walk in. Lots of sharp limestone and several dodgy wooden log bridges. We then had to climb up the side of the valley to almost the top to get to the cave entrance. Luckily this trip was not the same!
We set off on the first day by truck up road 20. We stopped to explore a roadside cave on the way, so ended up sleeping at a road-workers' camp at the side of the road. The next morning saw us heading off into the jungle on the usual path. Some up and down, but nothing too severe, with a few short sections of pinnacle limestone. After a couple of hours we had reached the entrance. We walked further on for about 15 minutes to set up camp and have lunch, then it was back to the entrance for exploration.
When we arrived the entrance looked good with sunbeams coming down through holes in the roof. We descended the boulder collapse entrance to reach a large passage heading off to the left. The right was a calcite choke. A dry cave with many large flowstones and gours.
We surveyed in following a passage generally 20-25m wide and high. After about 500m we were high up on the right side with a lower trench on the left. We reached a point where it was not possible to continue along the calcite without rigging a rope. We descended to the lower level and pursued a small passage through the calcite, eventually ending in a calcite choke. However partway along we were able to climb back up beyond the steep flow which had stopped us. The way on was an equally steep calcite slope, but it was possible to free climb up. At the top a low arch made us resort to hands and knees to cross a small pool. The passage soon opened up with a flat mud floor, some columns and pools.
After 20m or so we climbed a calcite slope to another calcite choke. To the right a small passage through stal led into a well decorated small chamber with stal columns. A steep mud slope led down into a larger passage with mud floor and lots of formations. Two climbs were noted which needed rope and were left for the next day.
We returned the next morning to rig the drops. A climb on the right led to a 10m pitch with no obvious way on. Continuing over the top we arrived at the head of a large collapse. A hand line was used to descend 10m of steep mud and rocks. The passage continued to descend until it reached a terminal choke of very large boulders. There is an aven at the end and a few bats. The cave was named Hoa Huong after our guide's wife, and was 1034m long. We completed the survey and photographed the cave.
Returning to Road 20, we stopped to investigate a small entrance. Following a dry stream bed a small hole was found. A short drop of a few feet led to a small pitch of 5m. At the bottom a climb down through boulders for a further 5m led to a gravel choke. At the foot of the pitch a small inlet passage became too tight.
We returned to the road-workers' camp at road 20 for the night. In the afternoon we went to check another shaft close to the road. A small entrance, but quite deep. Adam volunteered to descend. Unfortunately the rope was not quite long enough and Adam was left dangling a few metres off the floor and about 70m down past a mid-air knot change.
We re-visited the shaft on another trip and Adam was able to complete the descent of 80m to find no way on, but a very large old bomb at the base of the shaft. As there is a fair amount of loose stuff on this shaft, he was not too keen to hang around!