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April 25, 2012   |  2012 - Expedition Summary

Batu Nigal and Tiger Cave from Red Leaf Monkey camp

Batu Nigal and Tiger Cave from Red Leaf Monkey camp. (c)Tony White 2012

Train Cave, which is one of the highest caves in Mulu, yielded 4.7km of passage and linked into Bridge Cave, signficantly increasing the vertical range of this system (final figures awaited). The approach to the entrance of Train from the camp in Red Leaf Monkey Cave 1 was apparently fairly epic, passing through an area of pinnacles which necessitated swinging around these sharp blades of limestone and balancing across the tops of ones that had been flattened by nesters. Unfortunately, in contrast to the relative luxury of the RLMC camp, the local nesters have established an underground camp in Train, which is a complete tip. Red Leaf Monkey 1 & 2 yielded about 1km of passage each and the team have now pulled back from this high camp.

In Lagan’s Cave, around 1.5km of passage has been surveyed, off to the side of the show cave lower entrance. These extensions were missed by the original explorers in 1984 (personally guilty!) despite obvious routes through stal, adjacent to what is now the new showcave walkway, which lead through to a large chamber lying on top of a boulder choke. From here a climb down leads to Leopard Passage (named after a bed of rock in the roof which is patterned with oncolites) in which a small river appears and disappears in a series of sumps. From the mud, it’s pretty obvious that the boulder collapse causes ponding back of the river in high water and it seems that the water resurges and becomes the S.Lupar, which crosses the Deer Cave board walk. There are a couple of small leads remaining in this complex but a bright prospect is an entrance to the north and above the Fast Lane entrance to Lagan’s, offering the possibility of a connection to Racer Cave.

Mike Bertenshaw bolting (c) Les Williams 2012

Mike Bertenshaw bolting in Dream Pool Series, Lagan's Cave

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April 17, 2012   |  Going like a Train

Nearly six kilometres of new cave has been explored and surveyed from the high camp 600m above Cobra Cave. Two caves, each  about one kilometre long, have been explored adjacent to the Red Leaf Monkey camp, while over 3.7 kilometres has been surveyed in Train Cave, with leads still to follow.

One brief alarm was the temporary loss of Mike as he made his way from top camp back to Park HQ with some porters – it seems somehow he got separated from them and did not arrive at Park when expected. A search party was readied to go and comb the slopes for him, but stood down when a radio call from top camp announced Mike’s safe return.

Lagans has continued to reveal new cave with nearly a kilometre now surveyed, still with some small leads to be followed. Elsewhere surveying continues in efforts to tie all the independent caves into the master survey, and the scientific team are busy studying sediments and collecting samples in several caves.

More news as it unfolds…

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April 14, 2012   |  Exploration Continues

A lead in Lagan’s Cave has led to some big passages, higher and to the south of the main drag. This is still going with leads to explore.

A small team have been camping at a nesters camp 900m above Cobra Cave. Two caves have been explored to a conclusion but another is to be visited tomorrow. According to the nesters, this drops into Bridge Cave. More on this later.

Andy arrived in the Park today after making a speedy recovery from his malaria. The weather in the Park is generally OK but a big storm this afternoon brought down trees on the Lagan’s track and a BIG tree nearly took-out Moose near the Paku.

Further efforts are being made, assisted by local climbers, to gain access to entrances in the cliffs above the Paku Valley.

More news in a couple of days

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April 7, 2012   |  Advance Team Arrives in the Park

Under the leadership of Mulu veteran Dick Willis (standing in for Andy after his malaria scare) the advance team has arrived in the Park and started exploration. According to Dick the weather in Mulu is ‘wet’.

Work has started on this year’s objectives. The boulder-choke in Lagan’s Dream Pool was a monster and blocking what should be a big passage heading into the hill. Early prodding found a way down to a small but fast flowing stream but upstream the air space was too small. The following day Mike Bertenshaw and Les Williams made an attempt to bolt up alongside the choke and find a way over the top. Using the Makita drills that have been provided for the trip (thanks Makita) they accessed a chamber but this again was blocked by boulders… However, they had already undertaken a bolting trip in Mayday Cave and now have a pitch to drop into open passage – so that’s something to go back to, tomorrow.

Elsewhere, after relocating the entrance to Stonehorse Cave (helped by a substantial wooden stairway that has been built up the slope) a team went through and found the route through Paris’ Cave and into Fern Rock.

Science work is well underway with Jason Lin commencing a detailed study of sediments in Lagan’s Cave, the location of Bellpits being mapped in several caves by Julia James whilst Pete Smart and Chris Smith have started to identify suitable stals, muds and quartz crystals for sampling for dating studies.

Unfortunately, after a day without rain, it has just restarted. At the moment the Paku river is high, which makes accessing many of our objectives difficult as there is a risk of being cut off on the far side; hopefully the weather will improve soon.

More updates later (if the bandwidth will cope with it)

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March 24, 2012   |  Expedition Leader in hospital

Most people get malaria during or after an expedition but Andy Eavis, leader of the 2012 Expedition, has managed to do so in advance. He had been in West Africa, visiting his daughter who lives there and, about a week after returning, he became very ill. He was at a BCA meeting at the time, which was probably enough to put most people off their tea (! only joking folks) but he was admitted to hospital a couple of days later and was immediately diagnosed with malaria. By the time the medics got him, he had a blood parasite count of 21% – an acute case is normally considered 8%.  Several days of quinine drips, lots of saline, near coma finally saw him come through and he’s now at home, recovering. We wish him well.

The remainder of the team have dusted off their organisational expertise and pulled together to cover for him. The first group fly out of the UK tomorrow, Monday 2nd April, to be joined 6 days later by various others. We’re heading for the southern end of the Park, based at HQ, to carry on looking for more cave in the Southern Hills and the south end of G.Api. We’ve also got a strong science team with us who will be doing more work on dating these fantastic caves.

We’ll update these pages as we go along!

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