Northern Lao - European
The Northern-Lao-European Cave Project expedition 2014-15 is back from an eventful trip to the provinces of Xieng Khouang, Oudomxay and Houaphan.
Although formal permit was obtained for Xieng Khouang province, the Lao military did not allow any fieldwork in the Nonghet district due to safety concern. Consequently, after having surveyed a few smaller show caves in the surroundings of the provincial capital Phonsavanh we went to Oudomxay province where we still had good contacts from previous years and the safety situation is good. During one exploration week a number of new caves around Chom Ong village were explored, including 900 m long (preliminary value) Tham Ketlin. Several of these new caves resemble upper fossil levels of the 17.15 km long Tham Chom Ong System but are not connected to the main cave any more. Furthermore new caves in Beng district (Oudomxay) were targeted with the local authorities being very keen of having more cave exploration done in that district.
The second expedition weeks was spent in Houaphan province where the cave potential is still not depleted. Main discoveries were 770 m long Tham Pang Noy, which was connected to Tham Houay Ngot, now forming the over 3.6 km long .Tham Houay Ngot-Tham Pang Noy System”. Another breakthrough was made in Tham Sop Koup, a river cave which was discovered in 2013 and where exploration was stopped in front of a sump. In 2015 this sump was circumvented by a climb up over flowstone and 1,680 additional meters were added to the cave length, resulting in a total length of over 2.4 km of Tham Sop Koup. A period of heavy rain and cold weather prohibited to target Ban Nam Y where in January 2014 a large new river cave with major potential was discovered. Consequently, Houaphan province needs a return trip in 2016.Altogether 25 new caves with a total of about 8 km of passages were surveyed during the expedition.