After a brilliant days GDG training on the Saturday, we spent Sunday checking out sumps and photographing in the fabulous Peak Cavern.
Very proud to have the front cover of this month’s Descent magazine. The deviation on the 2nd pitch. Heron Pot. Yorkshire #Caving #adventure #fun #photography #Godox #markburkeyphotography
Another super weekend in South Wales. New member Joe gets to grip with navigation through Britains deepest cave, Ogof Ffynnon Ddu.
Last year the team began the project of scanning škocjanske jame with the ultimate aim of reaching Martel Chamber, one of the largest cave chambers in Europe. Unfortunately the underground river has to run at no more than 3 cubic meters per second to be considered safe to cross and, after the snow melt, the levels rose to 13 cubic meters. After almost a year we returned.
The Hanke Canal is a vast canyon with the river running through. Ropes were rigged at both crossing points and as traverses along the walls to ensure that if the river begun to rise the team would be able to exit safely.
The passage is is, in places, 140m high and beautiful Gours and flow stone adorned the passage.
The scanning team at last have the chance to map this great chamber.
Gazing back from the sump the four cavers in shot give some perspective to the impressive cavern.
At the end of the chamber the sump denies the scanning team access to the final couple of hundred meters of passage before once again the river sinks through the limestone.
Very proud this morning to have received prizes from speleophotographia 2018! Thanks guys :)
#caving #photography #fun #markburkeyphotography
Fantastic start to the caving year in the fabulous Dan Yr Ogof!
Photographing The Largest Cave Chamber In The World... Bigging it up in China Pt 5, the final adventure.December 17th, 2018
The final leg of our journey would take us to the Gebihe cave system in Ziyun Getu He National Park in the province of Guizhou.
Here we would spend a number of days re-scanning the worlds largest cave chamber by volume, the immense Miao Room.
Our first problem, and when I say ‘our’ I do of course mean Phil’s as he was the only Chinese speaker among us, was to deal with was the fact that the local government did not want us there.
We could not stay in Getu itself as the local government decided it was unsafe and so would have an hours drive to and from the cave, adding time to an already tight schedule. We would also be required to have a chaperone at the entrance and photography and travel in the area would be limited.
Our next problem was we would need to source boats to get us through the entrance passage and in to the chamber. Again, Phil came through and managed to find a stock in an apparently disused adventure centre. We managed to cobble together a way of inflating them and borrowed a compressor from the local police.
All went surprisingly smoothly and we were soon paddling our way across the massive entrance and in to the Miao Room.
(Phil and Joe paddle across the impressive entrance lake)
The void was so huge that my Scurrion barely touched it. Boulders the size of houses littered the passage and route finding was difficult to say the least as you would often climb across a boulder just to find a cliff like drop the other side.
Roo, JJ and Pete began scanning their way in. Mike and Joe began marking the lower route and Phil and I would mark the higher, whilst Carsten would scout for photo locations. Our plan was to spend the first day finding efficient ways through the chamber and so saving time for the scanning team.
It took Phil and I about an hour and a half to cross the chamber by the easier high-level route. The other team would need three times this to pick their way through the lower. Phil was planning an attempt later in the week at bolt climbing up to Brexit passage and so we spent some time looking around the area trying to pick the best approach. During this time, we had spotted cairns heading up toward the far wall and were pretty sure it would lead to Minority chamber, a passage Tim Allen and Mark Richardson had previously discovered on the last scanning expedition.
Phil and I headed up to poke our heads in and spent the next hour picking our way through until the passage finally became a too tight inlet. I was gutted I hadn’t brought my camera in that day as the passage and formations were so vastly different from the rest of the chamber…..oh well next time ;)
We clambered back down just in time to meet up with Joe and Mike before heading back to re-check our flagging tape routes and re-group with the others. Fortunately for us our ‘Minder’ was pretty bored sat outside waiting for us and after reporting back that we seemed to know what we were doing we were given pretty much free rein the rest of our time there.
The next few days would be plagued with members coming down with stomach bugs and people fatigued and so the plans were juggled and I would only get the chance to photograph the one day…..but wow what a day!!!
Phil and Joe kindly offered to help me and I made use of the scanning team whenever they passed by. The chamber was far too large for the strobes to light and so we would burn through hundreds of pounds worth of flash bulbs trying to get a shot. The logistics were incredibly difficult. Getting the guys to places for lighting would sometimes take an hour and even with the walkie talkies communicating was challenging. Often the little boulder I wanted them to stand on would turn out to be an impossibly huge slab that couldn’t be climbed and trying to visualise how the passage would light was mostly guess work.
(Standing 148 feet tall, one of the largest stalagmites in the world)
(Far in the distance Roo stands on the slope toward Minority Chamber)
(Above phil the black void 80m from the floor, tantalisingly close, Brexit passage)
Unfortunately Phil ran out of rope on the attempt to Brexit passage and the route up toward it greatly deteriorated the closer he got. The French had also had problems with the stability of the rock on their attempt from the other side of the chamber so it still awaits……wide open for the taking!
I can’t thank Pete, Roo, Phil and Joe enough for all their help that day. It was a real privilege to get the chance to photograph there.
Our week was finished with a slightly unusual government dinner in a fancy restaurant. Delights like thousand year old eggs and Bee Lava awaited us as well as the copious amounts of Baijiu.
After a fabulous few weeks in a stunning country with fantastic people it was time to go……if only I could find a taxi!!!
Managed to sneak another great day underground before Christmas. Here a shot of Agen Allwedd main passage. #caving #adventure #fun #photography
More fun and mayhem with Dudley Caving Club at the weekend. This shot shows the entrance pitch to Pant Mawr Pot #fun #caving #adventure #photography #Godox
The next leg of our journey would be to Leye County in the northwest of Guangxi Zhuang.
Myself, Carsten, Pete and Mike opted to add a few hours to our five-hour journey to visit the impressive Buliuhe natural bridge. We enjoyed a great couple of hours being punted up the river on a raft to see this impressive sight from every conceivable angle. Well worth the uncomfortable few hours spent to get there!
Our accommodation in Leye was brand new and something quite different to what we were used to in the quite village of Fengshan.
The hotel was very modern with air conditioning and wi-fi and…..themed accommodation! Phil was in a forest, Mike had a water feature running around his room, JJ a gambling table, Joe a cinema, Roo a rotating circular bed, I had a Gym, but by far the very best was Dr Peter Smart who, not only did he have a pole dancing stage, but managed to break it whilst trying it out on the very first night!!!!
The first scanning target was Hong Meigui, the 5thlargest cave chamber in the world. Extensive work has begun to make this a show cave and where we were expecting pitches are now concrete staircases! Unfortunately, as I understand it development has ceased and the great chamber is left with half-finished lighting and debris.
Undeterred the team begun rigging a traverse to look down in to the main chamber and I went through to take a look from the chamber itself. Unfortunately, the chamber itself was filled with mist, this would become a real problem for photography in this area. Over the next couple of days, we explored throughout the main parts of the cave, following the passage to the sump area’s and side passages, eventually culminating in a fabulous through trip to the other side of the valley to emerge in a vast Tiankeng.
The final objective would prove something of a surprise for the scanning team, and cause a real headache for the photography.
The Funnel Of Light (Yuan-guang Chamber) in Mao Qi Dong would prove to be huge, measuring in at over 6 million cubic meters. The chamber itself it linked with an adjacent Tiankeng where an impressive 250m of concrete steps await. I really didn’t fancy the impact that many steps would have on my knees carrying 20kg or camera kit and so decided on the 260m entrance pitch instead. Mike suggested making a hole in a drinking bottle lid to cool down the descender when you reach the knot pass 100m above the floor and so I popped a pierced bottle in the top of my bag and swung out on to the head of the pitch. The first 30m was pretty hard work having to lift the rope to get it to travel, but after this the abseil became smoother and I would enjoy the daylight shaft in all its glory. The re-belay seemed to take forever to arrive and as I reached it I grabbed for my bottle, but alas it had worked its way to the bottom of the bag! Although warm I wasn’t too worried about the descender though and was soon past the knot and making my way toward Pete and Joe who were already in the chamber awaiting me. I’m not sure if it is because the rope had been tied off the previous day, or if it was because it was new rope, but I had begun quite a spin on the final hundred meters and once at the bottom felt pretty motion sick for a good 5 minutes!
The fun wasn’t over yet though and although I was on the floor there was still a good 20m of stretch left which meant another knot pass whilst bouncing on tip toes on the loose rocks.
Finally free of the rope Pete and Joe came puffing up the 200m rock pile and finally I got a chance to look around at the chamber but…..I could now see no more than 30 feet in front of me, the whole place was filled with mist. The entrance above was just a faint glow in the ceiling. As we were there I begun trying to formulate a way to photograph the chamber but wasn’t hopeful. Eventually I decided to give a try to shooting Phil on half way up the pitch with Pete in the foreground and joe a few hundred meters behind on the ridge. The mist was really heavy and it became obvious it wasn’t going to clear that day and so we went for the shot, and again and again, trying to make it work until……Bang! One of the mega bulbs had blown up on Phil 100m in the air. His reflector and colour gel obliterated……I’m OK…..this far away voice echoed around the chamber and so I did what any self respecting photographer would do…..made him do it all over again!
Phil would get his own back though by making sure I didn’t leave the bar until I was very very wobbly that night….poor poor me.
The final caving adventure for the week before heading off to Getu would be the Luomei Lotus showcave which had some unusual speleothems and even more unusal lighting!
Of course it wouldn’t be China without our government banquet and this would be something quite special. Instead of the usual restaurant affair we were invited in to the home of our host for a stunning home cooked meal and the entire village turned out to help celebrate in our honour with traditional dress and dance
……although some of the team should definitely have held back on the rice wine before having a go at the dancing! ;)