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10.03.1998

03 February - 08 March: Georg BAUMLER, Susanne Annette, BECHER McNAB, Eleazar 'Leo' BLAH, Tony BOYCOTT, Jenni,  A. BROOKS, Simon James BROOKS, Ian CHANDLER, Sijon DKHAR, Spindro DHKAR, Gregory DIENGDOH, Undsey DIENGOOH. Clive W. DUNAI, Richard FRANK, H. Daniel GEBAUER, Kirmm C. HIWOT, PASSAH, Tony JARRATT, Brian JOHNSON, Refulgent KHARNAJOR, Brian D. KHARPRAN DALY, Uwe KRUGER, Kyrshan MITHUN, Thilo MULLER, Fairweather W. MYLLIEMNGAP, Langspah RYNGKHUN, Gurjinder SINGH, Sher SINGH, Donbok SYIEMUEH, Andy TYLER, Valery VALVULA, Raphael WARJRI, Yv0 WEIDMANN.

Guides & Informants: Kham AA (Chiehruphi), Nigel AA (Chiehruphi), Miniren HAMON (Tongseng), Lucky DKHAR (Chiehruphi), Sijon Dkhmr (Nongjri), Kynsai JONES (Cherra Pdengshakap), Robert LAL (Chiehruphi), Wikyn L YNGDDH (Thangskai), Zuala RALSEM. (Khaddurn). Langspah RYNKHUN (Nongjin), Stingson SH1ANGSHAi (Chiehruphi).

date from

date to 

area

cave

1997- length

1998-survey

1998-length

vertical range

 

 

 

East Khasi Hills District

 

 

 

 

02.16

 

Cherra

Dam Um (Nongthymmai)

 

476.66

476.66

21.4

02.11

 

Cherra

Lawkhlieng

2,043.21

141.21

2,184.42

21.3

02.17

 

Cherra

Phyllut No.2

 

434.12

434.12

16.2

02.16

 

Cherra

Rong Umso ( Ochre River Cave)

369.81

369.81

39.8

02.17

 

Cherra

Soh Pang Bnait ( Thornapple Cave)

 

 

 

02.23

 

Nongiri

Diengnai

 

116.08

116.08

16.2

02.21

 

Nongiri

Dukabor

 

66.95

66.95

4.2

02.20

 

Nongiri

Khriang

 

69.12

69.12

3.8

02.20

 

Nongiri

Kurdot

 

129.87

129.87

20.4

02.23

 

Nongiri

Longkurdom

 

243.13

243.13

41.3

02.20

02.21

Nongiri

Lubon

 

428.51

428.51

43.0

02.16

02.21

Nongiri

Lymput

2,759.35

3,790.34

6,549.69

89.1

02.03

 

Nongiri

Mawkanong (W. Thylong)

60.00

15.00

75.00

6.0

02.19

 

Nongiri

Priang

 

67.70

67.70

21.0

02.22

 

Nongiri

Wah Sir

 

94.59

94.59

3.9

02.22

 

Nongiri

Wah Synrem

 

20.00

20.00

6.0

02.19

 

Nongiri

Wah Thylong

 

95.00

95.00

7.0

 

 

 

Jainta Hills District

 

 

 

 

03.06

 

Lumshnong

Citrus

 

11.50

11.50

2.3

02.22

03.03

Lumshnong

Kotsati-Umiawan

19,230.20

2,004.12

21,234.32

213.7

02.24

02.27

Lumshnong: Thangskai

Malo

467.51

1,854.37

2,321.88

42.5

02.28

 

Lumshnong: Village

Mawiong

 

27.40

27.40

19.4

03.05

 

Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 1

 

 

5.00

5.0

03.05

 

Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 2a

 

 

15.00

 

03.05

 

Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 2b

 

 

15.00

 

03.05

 

Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 3

 

 

25.00

 

03.05

 

Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Muhubon 4

 

 

252.46

7.0

03.05

 

Lumshnong: Mynkre

Moolih

 

 

0.00

0.0

03.05

 

Lumshnong: Mynkre

Moolih No. 2

 

 

0.00

0.0

03.01

 

Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Musianglamare Cave 1

 

0.00

0.00

0.0

03.01

 

Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Musianglamare Cave 2

 

0.00

0.00

0.0

03.03

 

Lukha/Lubha

Paltan Puok

 

805.75

805.75

10.3

03.01

 

Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Pdieng Salah

 

0..0

0..0

0.0

03.02

03.06

Lukha/Lubha

Pile Theng Puok

 

2,535.00

2,535.00

110.0

02.27

 

Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Pyrda

250.00

581.61

831.61

23.7

03.05

 

Lumshnong: Thangskai

Romai Synhin

 

 

0.00

0.0

02.23

02.25

Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Sarang

 

698.23

698.23

19.1

 

 

Lukha/Lubha

Sielkan Puok

 

 

 

 

03.05

 

Lukha/Lubha

Skei

 

205.19

205.19

3.8

02.19

03.07

Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Synrang Pamaiang

1,655.34

4,562.42

6,217.76

200.8

02.25

 

Lumshnong: Mynkre

Thloochrieh ( Monkey Cave)

 

45.07

45.07

14.4

03.08

 

Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Umim

 

 

0.00

0.0

02.20

02.25

Lumshnong

Umkseh

234.00

976.10

1,210.10

17.1

03.06

 

Lumshnong: Chiehruphi

Umkhloo

 

 

39.52

23.8

03.03

 

Lumshnong

Umlawan No.3

 

 

 

 

03.03

 

Lumshnong

Umlawan No.4

 

15.90

15.90

10.6

03.03

 

Lumshnong

Umlawan No.5

 

40.67

40.67

12.4

03.03

 

Lumshnong

Umlawan No.6

 

363.41

363.41

25.9

 

 

Lumshnong: Thangskai

Umso

1,479.90

0.00

1,479.90

 

 

 

Lumshnong: Musianglamare

Umsynrang

1,668.46

3,190.01

4,858.47

63.4

03.01

 

Lukha/Lubha

Urhulu Puok

 

310.89

310.89

10.2

 

 

Accumulated length of the spring surveys:

24,779

metres

 

 

Caving in the Abode of the Clouds - Part III

Synopsis of 1998 Expedition to Meghalaya, North East India - by Simon Brooks (Orpheus CC) March 1998

Between the 11th of February and 8th March 1998 a team of eight cavers from the UK, five from Germany, a Swiss caver and members of the Shillong (N.E. India) based Meghalaya Adventurers Association completed another successful expedition to the State of Meghalaya in North East India.

During the course of the expedition a total of 27 new caves were explored and several existing caves extended to yield a total of just under 26 km of new cave passage, taking the total length of surveyed cave passage in the State of Meghalaya to 95 km.

The expedition divided its time between four separate areas, namely: Cherrapunjee and Nongjri in the East Khasi Hills; Lumshnong; and the Lukha Valley in the Jaintia Hills.  In the Nongjri area, Krem Lymput, partly explored in 1997, was extended to 6.5 km in length, establishing it as India's second longest cave.  Several other smaller caves were also explored.  In the Lumshnong area, Krem Kotsati-UmLawan was extended by another 2 km to 21.2 km in length, further reinforcing its status as India's longest and deepest cave.  To the north of Lumshnong, in the vicinity of the village of Musianglamare, significant extensions were made to Umsynrang extending it from its 1997 length of 1.7 km to a new length of 4.8 km.  In the same village, Synrang Pamiang was extended from 1.6 km to just over 6.2 km in length, making it India's third longest cave.  The current end of Synrang Pamiang is wide open, being a canyon style stream passage some 5m wide and up to 30m height with considerable potential for further extensions.  However, the cave is beginning to present logistical problems in that it is now 5 hours of hard caving from the entrance to the end of the surveyed passage.

Following the brief reconnaissance made to the Lukha Valley in 1997, the area was revisited, revealing considerable speleological potential.  One of the main finds here was Piel Theng Puok which proved to be a fantastic resurgence river cave, situated in a small gorge at the head of a 50m high tufa waterfall.  This stunning cave is characterised by huge, square-sectioned river passage up to 20m wide and 30m in height and never less than 10m by 10m.  The passage is punctuated by massive calcite gours/dams of up to 6m high.  These latter features create large lakes and necessitated over 500m of swimming in the first 2.5 km of passage.  With the huge catchment area, the impressive size of the passage at the final point, numerous unexplored side passages, and the fact that only one third of the distance to the assumed sink has been found, the potential for extending the system is considerable.  Piel Theng Puok is definitely one of the most impressive Indian River caves found to date.

As has been the style of previous expeditions to Meghalaya, equipment (including surveying instruments) has been left with the Meghalaya Adventurers in order to assist them with further cave exploration.  Plans are already being made for a return visit by two teams in January/February 1999 and February/March 1999.

Meghalaya '98 - A Survivor's View

By Tony Jarratt 1/4/98

This year's expedition to NE India consisted of Tony Boycott (BEC/GSG), Tony Jarratt (BEC/GSG), Brian Johnson (BEC), Anette Becher (BEC/GSG), Simon Brooks (OCC/GSG), Jenni Brooks (OCC), Ian Chandler (WCC/CCC) and Andy Tyler (CSS) from Britain. Daniel Gebauer, Uwe Kruger, Ritschie Frank, Thilo Muller and Georg Baumler (Hohlen und Heimatverein Laichingen) from Schwabischeralb, Germany. Yvo Weidmann (Switzerland). Corporals Sher and Gurjinder Singh (probably the world's only Sikh cavers!) and the Khasi stalwarts from the Meghalaya Adventurers Association - Brian Kharpran Daly, Raphael Warjri, Donbok Syiemlieh, Colonel Fairweather Mylliemngap, Lindsay Diengdoh, Kyrshan Myrthong, Valerie Lalvula and others.  Our cooks, drivers, dhobi ladies and local guides kept the whole show on the road and enabled the cavers to concentrate on the job in hand.  So much so that after twenty days in the field, the total amount of surveyed passage (some two thirds of which was original exploration) amounted to over 26.4 km (15.3 miles), almost identical with last year's figure.

Our first discoveries were in the Cherrapunjee area where Krem Rong Umsoh (Ochre River Cave) was surveyed for 370m - leaving an extensive, bat infested upper level unmapped due to lack of time.  Krem Phyllut II (434m) and Krem Soh Pang Bniat (Thorn Apple Cave) where the writer was forced to adopt Mendip tactics to reach a large and as yet unsurveyed river passage heading both up and downstream for several hundred, bat filled metres!  The latter will doubtless provide an important piece of the extensive, segmented system known to exist in this fascinating area near the famous Raj hill station - only recently relegated from its title of "wettest place on Earth" by another Meghalayan town nearby.  While several of the team were busy here, a larger contingent had left by Wankhar Roadlines coach (honest) for the Nongjri area where over 5 km was surveyed in the 6.5km Krem Lymput system and associated caves.  A 24 hour "lurgi" began decimating the Cherra team who were now en route for our main area at Lumshnong in the Jaintia Hills.  Here we took up residence in the Soil Conservation Bungalow (C.B) just north of the village during a torrential downpour not good news when one of our projects was to be further exploration of the 19.2 km long, flood-prone Krem Kotsati / Krem Urn Lawan System running practically underneath the main road!

The following day the weather improved but fearing flooding underground we went surface prospecting beyond the known end of the system.  Here the tight and unpleasant Krem Sohmynken Khnai (Rat Shit Chilli Cave) was pushed by Tony Boycott for 30m becoming too small.  An extra treat here were the black and orange striped Tiger Leeches, one of which made a fatal error by biting the scrawny neck of a cigarette addict.  Smoking became a popular pastime over the next few weeks.

The nearby Krem Umkhang / Kharasniang was again visited in the hope of finding a connection to the main system.  This was not to be but as a consolation prize we didn't get wiped out as we squeezed through a dodgy boulder choke during an earthquake!

During the next few days work was concentrated in and around the Urn Lawan System where several km of fine passages were discovered and mapped.  The terminal choke was passed by the "old English gits" to reach two 10m and one 30m pitches with the sound of a roaring stream echoing up from the depths.  This turned out to be a possible inlet stream becoming too low downstream but providing India's first free diveable sump upstream, passed after some 3m Brian "Nobrot" Johnson.  Emboldened by this success he decided to repeat the performance in a downstream sump back in the main streamway above.  After several tries he spotted the tell-tale silver sheen of airspace some 4m into the sump and "went for it".  As he thrust his head into a 2" high, 3" wide airbell he realised his error, lost his mask, blackened his eye, gashed his face and shit his pants - all at once!  Desperately sucking small amounts of air and large amounts of water (most of which had already been through several hundred villagers) he successfully groped for the mask and reached a slightly bigger airspace.  Bigger maybe, nicer - definitely not.  He was only able to get the mask to his face by continued ducking down and wriggling, all of which activity served to use up the oxygen content of the airbell.  Suffice it to say that he eventually escaped - a bloodier and a wiser man!  His Swiss companion, Yvo, was suitably impressed and the reputation of the "old English gits" improved yet again.

On 24th February we fancied a change of scenery so were driven several km up the road to the village of Thangskai and the 50m deep pothole of Krem Malo.  This is the last resting place of a Tata lorry which descended the pot with seven people on board some years ago.  It was left last year at 467m long with lots of ongoing passages including a fine streamway where the way on led off from "Estelle's Dumping Pond".  This interestingly named feature will crop up again later in this tale.

 

The entrance of Krem Malo

After being filmed abseiling in by Uwe we mapped 230m of big inlet to a sandstone boulder choke guarded by an enormous spider and named it Mega Heteropoda Passage.  Next, the very attractive streamway was surveyed downstream for several hundred metres until Brian heard an odd droning noise.  Not relishing the 50m prusik out we were delighted to turn a corner and find a low entrance (exit?) in the jungle with the sound of lorries passing on the road above.  On hacking our way up to it a passing local indicated that it was downhill to Lumshnong.

Unbelievably, just round the next road bend was the C.B. - our accommodation - where an astonished Uwe found us partaking of tea and biscuits a few minutes later.  Our high spirits were suddenly dampened when we realised the probable source of the tea water - the village of Thangskai - and via "Estelle's Dumping Pond" to two small springs supplying our kettle and the whole of Lumshnong village!  Oh, the Perils of Expedition caving.

Uwe filmed us re-enacting our exit before we went back in to continue with the survey so as to have plenty to impress the Nongjri team who were arriving that evening.  This cave was later the scene of India's first proper cave rescue when, on a major mapping/filming trip, Jenni got lost while soloing out and peeled off a climb, injuring her legs and back.  Several hours were spent searching the cave, jungle and roadside ditches before she was located by Brian and Simon at the end of Mega Heteropoda Passage and assisted to the surface to fully recover after a few days rest.  At least we found several hundred metres of new stuff while looking for her and had the novel experience of being driven the 200m to the rescue by coach!  This incident concentrated a few minds on the possibilities of expedition accidents - but maybe not enough.

A day off was had by Brian J. and I who accompanied Brian K.D. and Bok on a recce to a different limestone area, Ladmyrsiang, which shows promise for a future visit.  A large tract of jungle covered karst rises from the edge of an open, grassy plain with a pleasant lack of the ubiquitous Tata and Shaktiman coal lorries and their continuous horn blowing.  A few small caves were noted here and there are rumoured to be many more nearby.

Back in Lumshnong we tidied up a few leads left over from last year.  The 15m pot entered from the mediaeval style coal mine, Krem Mawiong, was re-laddered and a further 8m pitch descended to reach a too narrow rift. Near the village our drivers spotted a python and later that day a bear was seen - it had apparently been doing something in the woods.

In Krem Urn Lawan Brian J. and Yvo had traversed above the 30m Old Men's Pot to find an inlet beyond and not the hoped for extension to the main system. Raphael, the team cameraman and talented artist, was being instructed by them in cave survey drawing whilst I did my bit by teaching Gurjinder the subtle arts of digging and pushing ridiculously tight squeezes.

The former was in vain but the latter yielded over 100m of superbly decorated inlet passages heading towards the elusive link with Krem Umkhang/ Kharasniang.

 

The tata truck at the bottom of the entrance of Krem Malo

 In return Gurjinder taught me how to find our way out of the bloody place after we got thoroughly lost. Later, joined by Ian, we surveyed about 220m in the "Anglo-Sikh Series" but again failed to make the connection.

On 2nd March Annette joined the rapidly swelling ranks of the disabled when she fell off a climb in one of the Chiehruphi caves and severed two tendons in her left hand. Daniel had succumbed to Housemaid's Knee and the lurgi had worked its way through most of the European team members.

Surveying continued in Krem Malo and some spectacular high level fossil galleries and soaring avens were found.  One of the many impressive stalagmites here was shaped like a Saguaro cactus from the classic cowboy films.  In Krem Umkhang/Kharasniang a final connection attempt was made by digging a strongly draughting hole in the floor but this failed due to the size of the wedged boulders.  With several small quarries nearby it may be possible to borrow a "bang wallah" next year to sort these out!  Our attempts were filmed by an incredulous Kyrshan who had never before seen such stupidity.

Meanwhile, a few km up the road at Musianglamare, Andy, Ritschie and anyone else they could pressgang had been doing sterling work in Krem Umsynrang (pushed from 1.67kms to 4.85kms) and Synrang Pamiang (from 1.66kms to 6.21kms by the end of the trip - see below). 

 

Corporal Gurjinder Singh in the Anglo-Sikh series of Krem Um Lawan

Lots of other caves and coal workings in this area were visited and mapped.  The final 2kms of Synrang Pamiang were clocked up on a 15 hour + overnight trip by Ritschie, Andy, Brian K.D, Tony and I on our last night - well fortified by beer, rum and whisky to deaden the effects of the first 500m of awkward caving.  In my case it also deadened the awareness of a deep, open road drain into which I leapt from the coach to gain a few cuts and bruises.

This magnificently decorated system is very much like a major Welsh cave and the lack of multiple entrances makes for a fairly strenuous trip to the end and back.

 

Some of the cripples at the CB

A second entrance was found on this trip but being a trial coal shaft entering the ceiling of the huge main passage some 30m. above the floor it was not considered an easy way out. One has a certain sympathy for the innocent miner on the last shift.  The 20m high by 2-3m wide meandering river passage, Collaboration Canyon, which was where we ran out of time showed every sign of continuing in this style forever.  This is a tremendously impressive system which may well challenge Krem Kotsati/Um Lawan as India's longest cave if only the predicted high level passages some 20m up in the roof can be entered.  It even has underground leeches!  On the way out Tony severely bruised his leg and jarred his back after stepping into a concealed hole.  His temper was not improved when he later dropped a large boulder on the same leg. It was a slow trip out for us all and a miserable walk back to the road in a downpour but at least we had got our 2kms in the bag.

Another huge river cave, Piel Theng Puok, was left ongoing after 2.5kms in the Lukha Valley area below and to the south of Lumshnong.  This major resurgence system was explored by swimming in long canals formed behind huge gour dams and has great potential.  Other caves in this area are also ongoing and it will be a major target for next year.

India is now well and truly on the world caving map thanks to the dedicated work of these international expeditions and there is plenty more to be found throughout the state and probably in neighbouring states such as Nagaland.  Despite the proximity to Burma these areas are slowly being opened up to adventurous foreign tourists.

Needless to say we enjoyed the usual excess of superb food and passable booze provided by the Adventurers and despite all the injuries and occasional frustrations with the computers, due to a lack of electricity, a good time was had by all.  Our thanks go to all concerned who made it such a success.

This article has been published in both the Belfry Bulletin and Grampian S.G. Bulletin.

Refs. a selection:

International Caver n.22 (1998) pp.3-15

G.S.G. Bull. 3rd series vol.4 n.4 (March 1998) pp.11-18

B.B vo1.50 n. l (Dec 1997)

B.B vol. 50 n.3 (Apr 1998)

Caving in the Abode of the Clouds, the Caves and Karst of Meghalaya, North East India.  Report of the 1992 and 1994 Cave Exploration/Cave Tourism visits.

Compiled by the B.E.C and O.C.C. (March 1995)

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