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2002 Yunnan Expedition Reports


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From Richard Gerrish, 26/8/2002.

Hi all,

Hils is a bit busy sorting out Web related stuff so I now have the task of putting into words the experiences of the past few days.

22nd Aug.

We caught the Bus to Deqin and sat staring out of the windows with our GPS in our sweaty palms. The first section out of Zhongdian appeared to be crap but after coming over the first major rise after about an hour and a half the scenery began to look promising with an increasing absence of surface drainage and stuff that looked like limestone outcrops despite the fact that it bounced around irritatingly in time to the bumps in the road. From there all the way to our lunch break at a town called Benzillan it continued in the same vein. After lunch we climbed steeply out of Benzillan with an increased number of surface streams until it started to look very poor indeed. About 2 hours short of Deqin we began to get excited again with limestone outcrops soaring up out of the tops of huge mountains and low and behold a resurgence, at 4000m+! Further on we spotted more cave entrances and vowed to return. From the high point down to Deqin the scenery turned crap again but we had marked several points along the whole route with the GPS and had a good idea where to look again.

23rd Aug.

We decided not to hang around in Deqin believing that the surrounding area seemed less promising than the ground we covered the previous day so we boarded the same bus back to Zhongdian, much to the drivers bemusement. We hopped of at the highest point of 4300m where we had spotted the cave entrances the previous day. Despite travelling light and the slope being quite slight progress was double hard at the altitude and we were soon resting frequently and feeling the effects of mild AMS. The cave entrances we saw from the road all turned out to be rockshelters but spurred on by bigger outcrops behind we decided to push on and see if the far side of the mountain, dropping down to the valley beyond would be more promising. As the altitude became greater the going got harder and the final push to what the GPS reckons was 4935m was a bit of a pig. The far side of the mountain looked no better and on the return walk we came to our conclusion, however ignorant we are of geology, that it appeared to be a limestone cap on top of impermeable rocks. The high level resurgence along with surface streams below the good looking rock seem to confirm that this extends for quite an area. Disappointing considering the altitude at which we were...

Arriving at the road we caught the bus back to Deqin for a damn good rest.

24th Aug.

Despite being in pieces after the exertions of the previous day we boarded yet another bus to Zhongdian, this time getting off at Benzillan to look at some of the promisingly large streams that flowed out of good looking areas there. Being at a relatively low altitude we had hoped that we might follow these to the good looking (geologically speaking) mountains behind discovering a resurgence on the way. Not so unfortunately. This appears to be too far north of the really good area we saw and we jacked after 2 hours of walking in blistering heat with the stream valley extending well beyond our view... If a return is made to this area, I believe the guest houses at the southern end of the town look far nicer than the fly infested s**thole that we stayed in!

25th Aug.

5:15am... Another bus to Zhongdian. We hopped off this one in the middle of what we thought was the good area but with huge packs and nowhere to dump them we were a bit weighed down. We did a brief recce up one of the main eastern tributaries to the Yangtze just south of a town called Shentu. We saw no streams descending off the mountain, only the major river we were following and exposed limestone formed over 50% of the mountain side!!! Only after returning to the road and hitching a ride did we discover a town with restaurants, and possibly guest houses. This may be an ideal base to mount future recce trips but bearing in mind that if you start looking for the deepest cave in the world at resurgence level you are going to have one hell of a shaftbashing hill walk it may be wise to find somewhere with better access to the high ground further up valley. We didn't pass anywhere on the road but there appeared to be villages off the road that may be worth investigating if we return for a better look.

On the rest of the journey back to Zhongdian we were fortunate to have clear weather, something we did not have when we left. This enabled us to spot what looked like a very large limestone Massif to the west of Zhongdian. From geological maps we had determined already that there was what looked like a very interesting area west of Zhongdian. Xiao Gang had confirmed that by saying that those mountains, that we had highlighted on the TPS map, were made from bare rock... This sounds like an extremely interesting area and one that according to the TPS maps has one hell of a drop for mountain top to river level... A must visit!

26th Aug.

Today we catch the overnight sleeper bus back to Kunming and from there hope to visit the Nujiang Valley with Liu Hong and his friends, who know of cave entrances there. Fingers crossed for positive results in this, yet another seriously depth ridden area.

Yours to -3000m,