Oxford University Cave Club

2003 Yunnan Expedition Reports

Yunnan Province, China

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26/7/2003 - Report from Rich Gerrish

Hi all,

We are now into our second week in China. Getting to Yunnan province proved its usual gear transporting mission with far too much kit and not enough people to carry it all. On top of that both myself and Hils have been quite ill with a vicious cold/flu type thing that has had both of us run down and exhausted. On top of the heat, travel, mosquitoes and hassle with the organisation that goes with being the advanced party it has been quite a hectic time.

Hilary and I along with Dr Huang from the Kunming Geographical institute spent a couple of days visiting our old friends in Guli village. Last year we were the first westerners ever to have visited this village in the remote mountains south of Zhongdian and the reason why so little people actually go here came to light when we visited Xiao Gang in Kunming before setting off. It turns out that the village is an old leper colony. This explained many of the things that we had seen last year but had put down to nothing more than a small genetic pool and inbreeding. Despite receiving treatment for the leprosy and the younger generations being free from the disease and the accompanying loss of fingers and facial deformities the village still suffers from the ignorance and suspicion of other Chinese and as such remains isolated.

Having little time we immediately set about exploring the caves we were shown last year. The first, a fossil pitch (vertical drop) of 30m is still going but was the least exciting out of the two.

The second, a stream sink dropped down two pitches and entered a long section of awkward rifts that were great fun and reminded us both of the caves in Yorkshire. At the end of the rift a third pitch was descended to the head of a fourth which looks to be about 20m in depth. Due to time constraints a halt was called here and we surveyed out of the cave leaving the rest of the exploration for later in the expedition. The total length is roughly 150m with about 50m of depth.

Looking at the maps of this area it is clear that there is huge potential for much more cave exploration here with a large resurgence (cave entrance where the water reappears) indicating the possibility of a much grander system with the hope of a large and impressive master cave too.

The people of Guli Village were, like last year, unbelievably friendly and helpful to us providing us with food and accommodation. When we left both myself and Hils were sad to leave. We have both become very fond of the village, it's beautiful setting, wonderful people and of course fantastic caving.

Dr Huang headed back to Kunming on urgent business whilst myself and Hils caught a bus north to Zhongdian where we met up with the rest of the team.

With nine members so far and a tenth joining us shortly we have far more manpower than last year and this has become evident in the amount we can get done. This year we are also in possession of some fantastic maps which have enabled us to pick the sites we want to look at with much greater success.

Last night Martin Hicks and Peter Talling returned from a recce trip to report that an area of shakeholes pinpointed on the map also contains a possible 50m entrance pitch and many other possibilities. More recce's today are expected to have similar success. I, meanwhile, have been trying to shake off the remnants of my cold and have been kept busy with organising the group equipment into something resembling order so that future caving trips will be more efficient.

The film is coming along very well indeed and I am starting to worry less about selling it to Creative Touch and National Geographic. Even if they do not want it I am sure that it will be excellent given the quality of the footage that I have taken so far.

Tomorrow, myself, Martin and Pete are off into the hills for a days' recce to yet another exciting spot and I have my fingers and toes tightly crossed that our current success will continue and that I will be feeling fitter in the near future.

Until next time, take it easy,