Adventure Climbing in China


National Geographic Magazine have a great read on Adventure Climbing in China from their July issue. The kind folks over there have sent me some copy and images to share with you and after peeking at all of that below you can read the full article. Last minute flight to China anyone?

Climber Emily Harrington (teeny tiny orange dot in the middle of the image) takes the hard way up southern China’s Moon Hill, an arch from the remains of a collapsed cave. Sightseers have an easier option: a paved walkway to a viewpoint beneath the arch, then a dirt path to the top. © Carsten Peter/National Geographic

Crouched on the floor in the mud in one of the biggest cave chambers in China, one of the biggest in the world, we can hear nothing but our breathing and the drip, drip of distant water. We can see nothing but a void. Then we turn to the screen of a laptop connected to a laser scanner, and the Hong Meigui Chamber reveals itself. We float up to its roof, which forms a cathedral arch 950 feet above the cracked mud where we are crouched to avoid the scanner’s beam. We hover over a lake. We touch down on a beach on the far side.

“It’s like Google Earth,” I say.

“It’s like The Matrix,” says Daniela Pani, the Sardinian geoscientist operating the laptop.

 In 2013 a British-led expedition used a cutting-edge laser scanner to measure several cave systems in unprecedented detail, including Gebihe, whose Miao Room (modeled here from the original laser data), with a maximum height of 627 feet, ranks as the world’s second largest known chamber. CREDIT: JUAN VELASCO, MARTIN GAMACHE, AND LAUREN JAMES, NGM STAFF. ART: STEFAN FICHTEL, IXTRACT GMBH. SCAN DATA PREPARATION: JOE BEECHING, 3D LASER MAPPING - SOURCES: ANDY EAVIS, TIM ALLEN, RICHARD WALTERS, PETER SMART, DANIELA PANI, JANE ALLEN, AND MARK RICHARDSON, CHINA CAVES PROJECT; ZHANG HAI, INSTITUTE OF KARST GEOLOGY, GUILIN, CHINA

China’s Supercaves: Beneath southern China’s landscape of cone-shaped peaks, arches, and spires, researchers have discovered some of the largest underground chambers in the world.

The digital version of the cave is more real than real life. Real caves are dark. Extremely dark. In a big chamber, even with modern LED headlamps many times brighter than the old carbide ones, you can see 150 or so feet ahead or above, and not much more. Mist or emptiness overwhelms even the brightest beam. It’s natural to want to see more.”

Wright balances atop a spire in the Stone Forest. Deposited in a shallow sea 270 million years ago, the limestone here was eroded by heavy tropical rains. © Carsten Peter/National Geographic

“Wanting to see more is what drew Andy Eavis to southern China more than 30 years ago. Here in the still cloistered country was the planet’s greatest concentration of the otherworldly topography known as karst: sinkholes, stone towers, forested spires, and disappearing rivers that form over centuries as rainwater dissolves a soluble bedrock, usually limestone. And hidden inside and underneath this green mountainscape—the same iconic scenery found in traditional Chinese paintings—was the planet’s greatest concentration of undocumented caves.”

– Andy Eavis is the Chairman of the British Caving Association –

Credit: National Geographic

 

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