[Reproduced with permission from The Report of the British Karst Research Expedition to the Himalaya, 1970].


HThe idea for the expedition originated in 1968 when M. Herzog's book on the first ascent on Annapurna was found to mention a cave seen high on the flanks of this magnificent mountain. The geology of the area was subsequently checked and the extent of the limestone looked promising—but it was to take 18 months' preparation before the expedition could leave England to look at the karst (limestone solution topography) of the High Himalaya.

Members of the expedition gathered together and the aims were formulated—a broad scientific study of a selection of karst areas in the Himalaya. A small region in Nepal proved most promising, containing the massive limestone mountains of Dhaulagiri and Annapurna; a second region in Kashmir would also be studied in order to provide geomorphological variety and contrast. The first aim of the expedition was to be research, though we were all active cavers and had hopes of exploring any cave systems which we could discover, within the terms of studying all the components of the karst landscape. Consequently, caving equipment was packed beside our scientific apparatus and the piles of notebooks.

For a year preceding departure, all the members had work to do. Lengthy political negotiations were eventually successful, but the main task was gaining academic and commercial sponsorship, and support. In this we were very lucky and we equipped, supplied and financed the expedition by generous assistance from over 150 firms, individuals and foundations.

Very early on we had decided to travel overland, for reasons of both economy and interest, and also to take only one large vehicle. Surprisingly, the most suitable vehicle turned out to be a fire engine, which we bought ex-government and had to modify only very slightly.

  1. Outward Journey
  2. Kashmir
  3. Nepal
  4. Tukche
  5. Pokhara
  6. Return Journey



Outward Journey

We left London on the evening of 1 August and caught the night boat from Dover to Zeebrugge. Almost immediately we were faced with a major crisis when two of our tyres burst in Germany, and we needed to buy four replacements, as they were evidently all perished. Following this a long, trouble-free drive through Europe brought us to Istanbul. Crossing the Bosphorus on a hot summer evening in a chaos of lights and activity, we bade farewell to Europe, set foot in Asia and felt that we were really on our way at last.

Pushing on through Ankara and heading for the Black Sea we gained fleeting impressions of Turkey—empty dry space, 'biblical' villages, water buffaloes wallowing in muddy pools, sunflowers, and the never-ending hordes of children that we were soon to take for granted. We drove along the rocky, heavily wooded Black Sea coast to Trabzon where the route turns abruptly inland and we began a series of hot, dusty climbs on to the high deserts around Erzurum.

By this time our daily routine was well established. We would get up and begin driving at 4 a.m. and stop for breakfast as soon as we found a bakery that was open, usually some time after seven. Except for the occasional break, we would then aim to drive all day and would stop as soon as darkness fell. Our vehicle was well equipped with a spotlight that provided an adequately lit cooking arena. We were in bed by nine, rarely pitching tents and happily oblivious of mosquitoes and scorpions.

On 12 August our breakfast stop was close to the impressive snow-capped volcano Mt. Ararat, but by midday we were in Iran, travelling along a good tarmac road through wide open desert. Cries of excitement greeted our first sighting of camels, and the discovery of some lava caves and tunnels near Tabriz provided a pleasant break for all and an energetic interlude for some. The next day we arrived in Teheran and were held up for 2\ days before our Afghan visas were issued. Leaving the city at last and heading north to the Caspian Sea we climbed over the 8,000 feet Damovand Pass and traversed the Elburz mountains via a series of spectacular gorges that funnelled us down to a busy humid plain, with the Caspian Sea a mere line of marshes in the distance.

Turning inland our road took us first into cool, cloudy mountains ; ‘More like Dorset' said Geoff, as we drove through a Wildlife Reserve and saw only sparrow and blackbirds. But later we saw the rollers and bee-eaters that the Turnbull brothers had promised and spent the night in a dried up river-bed where Phil, Reg and Julian adjusted the gearbox.

No day was without event: in Mashhad we were chased out of the beautiful mosque that dominates the town. Reaching the Afghan border the next midday we were almost glad of the three- hour hold up, spent waiting in cool stone buildings and in Herat the same evening we became so absorbed in colourful Afghan coats that we did not notice all the stickers being pinched from the lorry! Turning south, we had our hottest day (145° sun, 115° shade), reached Kandahar in an electric dust-storm and were offered hashish, grapes and half-filled bottles of pseudo-Coca Cola, in that order, on every street corner. There followed a night spent in the open desert, where a scorpion crawled into the coffee, and we awoke in the morning to find our camp engulfed in a sea of nomads-an endless camel train with a child on every hump. Kabul lived up to our expectation and we found it a colourful city of amazing contrasts. Not for the first time we wished we had five months to spend on the journey alone.

The road to the Pakistan border descends in a series of hair- raising loops, through 3,000 ft. down the spectacular Tangi Gharu gorge. That evening we reached the frontier, found the customs post and the Khyber Pass closed, and an assemblage of Comex coach parties. Their leader proudly announced that two coaches were being allowed through that night but we met them still trying to get into Pakistan the next day, having spent the night in no-man's-land. We spent a few hours 'defence spotting' as we drove over the dusty Khyber, then descended on to the sticky Indus plain where flooded fields bore witness to the recent retreat of the monsoon. We stopped to drink sweet milky tea, sitting on wooden ‘beds' with parakeets flying overhead and the usual crowd of onlookers. After a brief halt in Lahore the following day, to pick up mail, we were at the border by 3 a.m. and drove into India just before 6 p.m.

Our immediate impression of poverty and crowds was emphasized next day, and on our return to India some weeks later. At Jullundur we made the mistake of trying to drive through the congested town. Several hours of traffic jam later we made a dignified retreat and drove round. Immediately a torrential downpour began. This, then, is the monsoon—85°, 100% humidity, rivers bulging and roads flooded. At Jammu we gratefully paid 5 p1 each to stay in a Dak Bungalow, or rest- house. On 26 August we embarked on a pass crossing at 6,200 ft. and joined a queue of lorries waiting to cross a bailey bridge which was in the course of being erected to replace a collapsed bridge over a ravine. Another pass, and the Banihal Tunnel at 7,200 ft. took us through the limestone we had come to see. With the light failing we rolled downhill into the Vale of Kashmir, over 6,000 miles from London.


  1. Refers to the new pence in England (5 p — old 2 sh.). The letter p. in India would mean paisa (19 paise = 1 new pence).



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On arriving in Kashmir, on 26 August, we headed for the capital, Srinagar, to undergo the necessary formalities before entering the Sind Valley. Later the same afternoon we drove up this spectacular valley, on a good road, into the limestone peaks around the settlements of Sonamarg and Baltal. The area is strictly controlled by the army and the guard at a military checkpost beyond Sonamarg refused us access until the police gave their permission. The police, in turn, said the matter did not concern them! After much persuasion we were allowed up the valley and camped close to the Baltal army camp. The next morning, 28 August, we established a camp two miles downstream, on the banks of the River Sind, by a spring.

The weather was unstable ; generally hot and sunny but with unpredictable storms. We decided to cover as much ground as possible, in small groups. Roger and Phil went in search of the famous Amarnath Cave but route finding was difficult, they were both unacclimatized and, even with a bivouac, they didn't reach the cave. Four weeks in the fire engine had left everyone unfit and needing a fair bit of walking to acclimatize. Keith, Roy and John embarked on a long slog up a ridge south of camp and Geoff, Julian and Roger climbed a high peak east of Baltal. The latter group found some choked shakeholes, but the only caves' discovered were near camp and proved to be either rock shelters or snow bridges over the river. On the south side of the valley there was less karst but north of the camp Tony and Julian found a number of distinctive tower features. Later Tony reached the Zoji La and was able to locate and photograph a spectacular snow cave which is very likely the 'hole' described by R. D. Leakey after he visited the area during the war. Finally, Keith, Roy, Julian and Mary set off for Amarnath. They found that the path is longer than the map would indicate but the first five miles is an easy walk along a good path. Further up the valley narrows and the path, which is not well travelled and very indistinct, crosses several miles of steep scree slope. Then follows a climb to a pony track which leads to the Amarnath stream and joins up with the main path from Pahlgam. The cave is two miles further on. It is a holy shrine with an imposing entrance but disappointing lack of cave development. The object of worship is an 18 inch high ice stalagmite. Situated at 12,729 ft., the cave lies in a region of spectacular geological structures and glaciated mountains.

Realizing that there was little hope of finding caves we went back down the valley to Manasbal Lake, where caves had been reported. Limited outcrops of limestone were found and a small cave exists, but the region contained nothing significant and so we drove back to Srinagar. We took time to look around the town and were impressed by both the miles of waterways with their jostling houseboats and the local craft products, carpets, wood carvings, papier mache work and silks.

The source of the River Jhelum was said to be a series of springs and on 4 September we set off to investigate them. At the ' spa? of Kukarnag we rented what seemed a palatial wooden tourist bungalow with beds, a dining room and all 'mod cons'. The rats and centipedes weren't discovered until later. We were joined by Indian holiday-makers who had travelled to the area to 6 take the waters. The calcium-rich springs were full of bathers each day and servants were despatched to remote springs to fetch water if it was suspected of having a slightly higher calcium content. Five villages nearby had grown up around springs which were marked by temples and elaborately laid out gardens with lakes and waterfalls. The springs drain into a rich plain with rice-paddies with wide limestone ridges rising 2,000 ft. above the plain and near Bhamajo, a well-known cave can be seen. Geoff was pleased with the bat colony there and he and Sue braved the stench to catch and examine the bats. Sections of the cave are obviously artificial tunnels but the main passage ends in a boulder choke that Rog tried unsuccessfully to dig his way through.

A week was spent at Kukarnag, and, except for interrupting bouts of dysentery, everyone was able to work on his own particular project. Our hufs garden was draped with mist nets each night in an attempt to catch bats for Geoff, and during the day to catch birds for Keith who was collecting specimens for the British Museum. Mary and Jan made a detailed study of the human and economic geography of Achhabal village and its hinterland, finding the local people both fascinating and friendly. The geologists scoured the area for the sinks which must feed the springs, and had no luck until 9 September when a sink was discovered in the river bank near a village called Adigam, ten miles from Achhabal. A large quantity of Rhodamine B dye was duly tipped in and detectors were put in position at all the possible resurgences. Two days later we left Kukarnag and drove to Achhabal to say goodbye to all the friends we had made. The fire engine never stopped, for, as we reached the village a voice from the back of the cab said 6 Keep driving' and, looking to our right, we noticed the river was a delicate shade of burgundy!

We rapidly crossed hundreds of miles of plains and noticed the poor attempts at farming in the Punjab.2 Then New Delhi, a highly westernized city with well-planned roads, shopping precincts, and a concrete landscape, contrasting sharply with the intense poverty and crowded streets of Old Delhi. At Agra we were fortunate to see the splendid Taj Mahal by the light of a full moon on a warm, calm evening. As we neared Kanpur and the River Ganges, we entered the land of rice-paddies, but found extensive flooding even on the main roads. This continued for the next two days but by a mixture of luck and judgement we managed to stay on the road and find green, if waterlogged camp sites. We reached the border, at the small town of Nautanwa, on the evening of Friday, 18 September and passed into Nepal, with the minimum delay at customs posts, the next day.


  1. This is not strictly true, particularly as 1970 was an extremely successful year for crop production in the Punjab.—ED.




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On entering Nepal we were greeted with the news that the last one hundred miles of our journey would be impossible by lorry. The road to Pokhara had been washed away in forty-eight places and there was little chance for it being repaired that year.3 We sought the help of some British army officers at a nearby camp and, from the town of Bhairawa, were directed to Paklihawa, a retraining centre for Gurkhas which is run by Col. Langland and his staff. The army gave us a warm reception, tea, baths, the Times to read and a pool to swim in. They also put us in touch with a Gurkha officer called Omnath who arranged for us to fly to Pokhara, with all our gear, even though all the planes were apparently booked up. So, on Monday, 21 September, six of the group flew to Pokhara, with a ton of excess baggage on Geoff's ticket! The others stayed behind, repacking the fire engine, chasing a gun permit for Keith and finally leaving the vehicle in the capable hands of Col. Langland's mechanics.


  1. K. K. Guha (Hon. local Secy, for Calcutta) travelled by bus the entire route to Pokhara, a month later and met some of the members near Tukche.—ED.


Pokhara more than lived up to our expectations, with the water buffalo grazing on the runway, the baked clay and thatched houses and the jostle of smiling faces peering from under huge black umbrellas in varying states of disrepair. At the Parbat Hotel we met Khagbir Pun, an ex-Gurkha officer who was to become our sirdar and good friend. Tony, Julian, Mary and Jan stopped only briefly before flying on to Kathmandu where, over the course of the next three days, they made contact with all the necessary authorities, did a rapid 6 Cooks tour' of all the sights on hired bicycles, met our two Sherpas, Jangbu and Lakpa, and picked up some spare parts for the gearbox which Mr. Bowser had kindly flown out from England.

Eventually, on 25 September the expedition began the 'walk in'. Most of the members, plus Khagbir and a line of 47 porters, left during the morning and were caught up by the same evening by the Kathmandu group, who had been delayed by lack of planes. Each porter carried a fibreboard box weighing 60 lb. and was paid the equivalent of 50 p a day. The entire weight is carried on a woollen headband that passes across the forehead and the strain is taken by the neck. Despite their loads and the fact that most of them wore no shoes, the porters moved with an agility that the rest of us envied.

The seventy-mile walk to Base Camp took seven and a half days and we were drenched more than once by the last efforts of the monsoon. The transition from one climatic zone to the next was very marked and, having suffered steep, slippery paths through leech-infested jungle on the first three days, we were glad to reach the valley of the Kali Gandaki and begin following it north into an alpine' region of pines and fir trees. The days assumed a quite definite pattern. We would break camp by nine, carrying little but cameras, anoraks and chocolate. The day's walk was punctuated by a number of stops at teashops where we drank glasses of strong tea and ate potatoes baked in their jackets, dipped m fresh ground chilli powder. The night's camp site would be reached by two or three, the tents put up, and a meal cooked before darkness fell. Khagbir and the porters slept in nearby villages and seemed to know everyone along the route.

From Pokhara, then, we walked via Hyangja, climbed to Nau- danda where our passports were checked and camped below Lumle. Then down to the Modi Khola and via Birethante and the valley of the Bhurungdi River to the foot of a steep climb to Tirkhe Dunga and a hot, sticky camp site. The next morning was clear but the mountains too far away for us to see any peaks. That evening we watched the clouds lift to expose the snowcapped peaks of the Nilgiri and, crossing the final ridge, we reached the Kali Gandaki the next day and bathed our feet in the hot springs that give the village of Tatopani ('hot water') its name. On the morning of 30 September we left the school yard that had been our camp site and followed the river northwards to Dana and another passport check. Still keeping to the west bank of the river we traversed a succession of landslides and took the spectacular path to Ghasa. Khagbir had told us of a recent landslip in the village itself and when we walked through the next morning we found the place devastated by a river of mud and rubble. From Lete, a few hours later, we had impressive views of the mountains ; Dhaulagiri is to the west and Annapurna and Nilgiri to the east. The scale of these peaks was impossible to appreciate and it was only when we began to climb their flanks a few weeks later that we realized how vast they are. Our camp site that night was unusual to say the least since the only flat area available was the well sprung roof of a house at Kalapani.

The next day we walked up the wide gravel floored valley, sometimes wading streams but often being forced to climb high above the river. By midday we had reached the village of Tukche, and congregated on the village green while a camp site was located, the porters paid off and contact made with the headman of the village. He, Mongal Singh, turned out to be both the Lama and doctor and gave us access to a room in the village hall that was to become our kitchen, sold us everything we needed and bought all our left-overs some six weeks later. So we reluctantly said goodbye to Khagbir and the porters and watched them set off for Pokhara.



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Our immediate plans were to cover as much of the surrounding mountains as possible via a series of reconnaissance trips. Two parties left early the next day, one to walk north to Jomosum and the other to try and reach the Dhampus Pass, north of Dhaulagiri. Tony, Phil, Jangbu, Mary and Jan walked up the main valley past a new agricultural experimental station to Marpha and entered a zone of arid, treeless slopes in the rain- shadow of the main mountain range. The skeleton of an aeroplane of the King's flight showed us where the airport runway ended and we walked along its length to a series of military checkposts where the authorities stopped us going further up the valley, but offered to send a policeman to fetch rock samples if we indicated which mountains we were interested in. The next day, while Geoff and Lakpa investigated the lower slopes of Nilgiri and the Dhampus Pass party climbed endless shale screes in thick mist, to a height of 16,000 ft., the Jomosum police were kept busy following Tony, Phil and Jan as they climbed the slopes around the town.

On 3 October the party reassembled in Tukche, Julian, Rog, Keith and Roy having been beaten back from the Dhampus by blizzards and altitude sickness. It became necessary to leave a permanent guard in camp as odd personal possessions began to disappear. Mary and Jan began their village study, John and Sue went to Jomosum and helped Geoff to hunt 6 bugs5 on the river terraces behind Tukche.

On 6 October Julian and John entertained the locals by fording the Kali Gandaki, but found only a rock shelter on the opposite bank. Meanwhile, Tony and Jan had followed the Dhampus Khola beyond its forge section to a valley flanked with thick bamboo. The next day a group left Tukche to find a route on to the Dhaulagiri meadows, a series of limestone benches at 12,000-13,000 ft., where we hoped to establish a permanent camp. The route was far from obvious and, despite Lakpa's incredible capacity for route finding, he, John and Tony were forced to retreat from a steep shoulder which gave no access to the meadows. The next day Julian and Mary, and later Tony and Jan, climbed the Tukche yak pastures, finding no caves but brilliant blue gentians, shy yaks and splendid views of the mountains. Later Geoff, Julian and Lakpa went up a ravine south of Chini and found some small risings.

Back in Tukche the locals had been talking about some spectacular caves at Kursangmo and an optimistic party set off with ladder, rope and goon suits. Phil filmed Tony climbing into a very small hole at the head of the pitch, directly under a powerful waterfall. Inside there was a small, well-decorated cave with pure white flowstone and an alternative dry entrance that facilitated later photographic trips by Rog and Phil.

By this time a second group of Keith, Roy, Rog and Jangbu had established a route up to the Dhaulagiri meadows by crossing the Ghatte Khola and climbing a wooded spur that leads to the yak pastures above. Although the track is good and easy to follow, the climb is steep and long. A camp was set up at 12,100 ft. on a ledge close to a spring, surrounded by limestone outcrops and commanding superb views of the entire region. The camp was occupied continuously for the next fifteen days. Everyone spent some time there, plodding up the track, rucksacs laden with food and supplies. In the morning we would wait for the sun to rise behind Annapurna before venturing out to cook breakfast. A nearby shepherd and his son came to watch us cook and eat and claimed all empty tins. They showed a great deal of interest in all our equipment and laughed when we donned extra layers of clothes after sunset. The evenings and nights were bitterly cold and, unlike the shepherd in his sandals and blankets, we needed duvets and good sleeping bags to keep warm. After watching the setting sun turn the Annapurna Himal pink and orange we would take to the tents to begin the usual restless night. We needed sleeping tablets at this altitude but, even then, were woken by repeated avalanches on Dhaulagiri and creakings from the enormous icefall that terminated three thousand feet above us. A large area of limestone was studied from this camp, extending up on to the south-east shoulder of Dhaulagiri and White Peak at 17,262 ft. The parties that climbed this peak set up temporary camps at between 14,000 and 15,000 ft. on the snow line. At this altitude the problem of sleeplessness was more noticeable but everyone was surprisingly fit and well acclimatized, having been to Kashmir and having taken adequate time to adjust to altitude in Nepal. On 19 October Keith, Tony and Roy followed an inclined slab of limestone to the summit of White Peak and, a week later, were followed by Julian, Mary and Rog. Tony, Geoff and Jan also climbed to the col between White Peak and Dhaulagiri but none of the parties found any caves. All the ascents were begun about 5 a.m. as the weather seemed to be following a definite pattern of clear mornings with clouds rolling in about midday, totally obliterating all views of the valley below. Unfortunately the mornings were cold, with the tents and zips frozen solid. The rest of the time was spent visiting the icefall, water testing, filming a spectacular gorge and sampling yak milk, yoghurt and cheese which we were able to buy from the shepherds. With the aid of Keith's binoculars we could just pick out the Tukche camp, way below and also saw other climbers, some miles away across the meadows.

At this stage Julian and Mary returned from a successful trip to the Dhampus Pass and Geoff and Phil left for Pokhara, having decided that some caves there warranted further investigation.

Five days later John and Sue set off to join them, with Jangbu and three porters. Two of these were man and wife, each of whom carried a 60 lb. load. Their nine-year-old daughter was given the job of carrying the baby; a practice we soon became accustomed to.

Our last hope for finding caves was the Miristi Khola valley and the approaches to Annapurna. Thus, on the day that John and Sue left they were accompanied as far as Lete by Keith, Roy, Tony and Jan and a rather colourful character called Kappa, who was their porter. The Miristi Khola party reached the valley of the Tangdung Khola that evening and spent a noisy, uncomfortable night on the shingle banks of the river. Early on the morning of 25 October they began a 6,000 ft. ascent to Thulo Bugin, following the path taken by a reconnaissance party of Roy, Julian, John and Lakpa, who had been driven back by bad weather a fortnight before. After 3,000 ft. through dense bamboo jungle, on a steep slippery path made worse by bamboo 6 rollers' at every step, they climbed a steep grassy couloir, traversed below a series of cliffs and came out on to the meadows, above the tree line, by a shepherd camp. The tents were pitched beyond this and snow had to be melted before cooking the usual A.F.D. food that had become our diet. Kappa spent the night in Keith and Roy's tent and remained lifeless until the next day when Keith shot a grouse and Kappa rushed out to help cook it, before returning to Tukche. Tony and Jan set off immediately, crossing 'Herzog's Pass of 27th April' at 14,000 ft., and dropping down to camp at 13,600 ft. near the Hum Khola. Keith and Roy spent all day crossing the Hum Khola basin and camped in cloud on a second pass at 14,400 ft. that was again devoid of water. The spectacular gorge and resurgences of the Hum Khola were examined in detail and then everyone moved on to the Miristi Khola. While Keith and Roy made their way to the Annapurna Base Camp and icefall, Tony and Jan visited Herzog's 'cave' but were disappointed to discover it was precisely 12 ft. long. They then returned to Tukche, passing en route, Rog, Julian and Lakpa, who followed the same route to the Miristi Khola but, in addition to low cloud and poor visibility, suffered continuous heavy snowfall.



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On 2 November we were all reassembled in Tukche and had decided to return to Pokhara immediately, to continute to search for caves. The old trading centre of Tukche had been a fascinating place to stay. The local people were friendly, inviting us into their teashops to try the local delicacy of 4 saltea'. Tea- shop stops had become quite a feature of our lives and the Ghatte Khola teashop was a regular port of call for people heading down the valley. Although trade between Nepal and Tibet has officially ceased, the Kali Gandaki is still used as a regular routeway for trekkers and Tibetan refugees, most of whom called in to see us. One group of American Peace Corps workers invited us to stay with them in the village of Beni and when two groups later walked out by an alternative route they were able to accept this offer. Tony and Jan, and later Rog, Julian and Mary, all walked out via Beni and Kusma in order to visit the well-known Gupteswary Cave, a Hindu shrine that the King of Nepal had visited the year before. The cave was unique for many reasons, one of which being that the entire exploration had to be carried out in bare feet. Fortunately the cave was interesting, beautifully decorated and more than compensated for this minor discomfort! Meanwhile Khagbir, nineteen porters, Roy and Keith were following the normal route back to Pokhara. Everyone noticed changes from the walk-in. Now the rivers were lower, paths were being repaired, poinsettias bloomed everywhere and oranges were almost literally ten a penny.

The attraction for us at Pokhara was the Harpan River which disappears into a deep sinkhole a few miles south of the town. This had first been visited on the days just before the walk-in to Tukche when Phil, Geoff, Rog and Keith had found it in full flood due to the monsoon. A ladder had been put down but Keith found a descent ridiculously impossible—the river was a rushing torrent 20 feet wide and 10 feet deep. Though the potential for caving looked doubtful a considerable bat population in the area aroused Geoff's interest.

Having returned early from Tukche, Phil and Geoff had first visited Mahendra's cave, north of Pokhara, but found more bats in large cave chambers south of the Harpan River sink. Geoff and Jangbu spent many days in this area, catching and recording the bats, and Khagbir's back garden was used for the subsequent dissections. It was 9 November that the last of the expedition arrived in Pokhara and some members then paid short visits by air to Kathmandu. However in the side of Geoff's bat caves were two open passages awaiting exploration.

Early on the morning of the 10th a large group set off to the Harpan River sink, situated just by the main road, with teashops adjacent. Geoff and Tony were the first to arrive and in an attempt to see down the shaft, 150 feet deep, the latter fell into it. Fortunately he discovered, by landing on it, a narrow ledge 20 feet down and then climbed out with the aid of a rope secured by Geoff. This afforded much amusement to the local populace, who seemed to think that this was our normal mode of exploration. By then others had arrived and by partly laddering the sinkhole we realized a descent would be extremely difficult due to the amount of water. Consequently everyone climbed down into the deep jungle-covered gorge, a quarter of a mile south of the sink, and clambered along to the entrance of the bat caves. Julian, Tony and Phil then looked into the unexplored passages and were pleasantly surprised to find clean canal passages, mostly about 12 feet square containing pools of standing water, clear and warm, which made wading through them a delight. Having first found the link between Bat and West Chambers they waded along Canals Passage and arrived in the roomy Main Rift with the river thundering down a series of cascades from the sink. The Harpan River Cave had been discovered. The rest of the day was spent surveying and photographing and some large scale passages were left for later.

The same trio returned the next day to explore further while Geoff and Jangbu continued to catch bats in Bat Chamber. South Passage was traversed just once. Again a large and pleasant passage was found and Tony and Julian surveyed while Phil took photographs ; then, at the end, Jungle Exit was found, conveniently near to the risings. Julian and Tony then looked at a passage in the roof of the Main Rift and discovered another entrance- Collapse Entrance-now the easiest way into the cave. Large logs found eyen in this high level passage testify to the effect of flooding ; in the monsoon most of the passages flood, and all the time people were in the cave someone had to be stationed at the dam at Phewa Tal lake, a mile upstream, to ensure the sluice gates were not opened.

Phil had to leave for Bhairawa on the 12th and Julian and Tony had to spend most of the day on a surface survey. It was only late in the afternoon that they went to explore the main stream- way downstream from the Main Rift. The passage floor was occupied by a deep lake with a strong current at the start, so, with the assistance of Geoff, Mary and Jan, they roped up and floated on lilos down to the final sump. In all over 4,500 feet of passage had been explored in the system. It was on this day that Julian was chased across one of the deeper pools in the cave by a none too friendly snake. Also, on the very last visit to the cave, the spiders were found-great, hairy animals, five inches across, a group of which were resting on the walls of the Collapse Entrance, cooled by the breeze which blow through. As the passage was no more than two feet square at this point, it was a nerve-racking experience to enter or leave the cave.



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Return Journey

The departure date was fixed for Friday, 13 November, a good day for travelling we thought, and John, Sue and Phil had already gone to Bhairawa to make ready the lorry for the long trek home. It was a reluctant departure from Pokhara as Julian, Mary, Rog, Geoff, Tony and Jan set off by plane and bus with the remainder of the gear, because we could have enjoyed longer searching for caves in the valley. The next day Keith and Roy flew in from Kathmandu and, for the first time since 6 October, all expedition members were in the same place at the same time.

The customs post was closed on the Saturday but we were into India early on the 15th, and, covering what seemed tremendous distances in a day, after our weeks of trekking, we drove past the dried out paddies to Delhi. It took a day for our Afghan visas to be issued and we were glad of an opportunity to see more of this fascinating city. The days were pleasantly warm but the nights were bitterly cold and the sun deck soon lost its attraction. On the plateau of Afghanistan we needed duvets as soon as the sun sank and were loathe to rise before it in the frosty mornings. We soon came to admire the stamina of the desert nomads, with their thin blankets, bare feet and cumbersome black tents. ‘Frozen camels' weren't quite what we had expected after our sweltering journey out. Stops became infrequent. At Herat we admired the mosaic-covered minarets and invested in elaborately embroidered sheepskin coats. Close to the border, police patrols warned of bandit raids and once across we were twice stopped by the ‘Hashish Patrol'.

In Iran we followed a southern route to Teheran across the Great Salt Desert. The monotony of the scenery was more than offset by the nature of the road, with its corrugations, pot-holes and clouds of dust. We were intrigued by the lines of shafts connecting ancient underground irrigation channels, and, belaying to the bumper of our fire engine, laddered a 60 ft. shaft into one of these canaats '. Passing lorry drivers were obviously amused by our apparent efforts to draw water.

Countless stories of snow in Turkey proved to be unfounded. To our relief we only encountered much snow between Agri and Erzurum, and were able to cut straight through the mountains to Ankara, but in Sivas we were held up by festivities celebrating the end of a period of fasting called Ramadan.











Later the same day we unexpectedly drove into a region of gypsum karst around Imranli and Zara. Impressive dolines, sinks and a few caves suggested that the area would repay further examination. (Waltham, A. C, 1971, The gypsum karst of Zara Turkey; Newsl. Cave Res. Gp. n. 125, p. 24).

From there the journey home was speedy, helped by a forced non-stop drive through Bulgaria which the authorities insisted on as there had been outbreaks of cholera in Turkey. It was generally agreed that we couldn't drive straight through Munich without visiting the Hofbrauhaus and a welcome evening was spent anticipating the celebrations when we got home.

Finally, we landed in England on 8 December, seven days ahead of schedule. The speedometer showed we had driven just over 14,000 miles, but, on top of this, most expedition members had walked well over 500 miles in Nepal alone. Before us was the prospect of clearing up and report writing but Christmas loomed large and, after locking up the fire engine at Dorrin Court, all went our separate ways.

Members of the expedition: Roger J. Bowser, John S. Carney, Susan S. Carney, Philip J. Collett, Julian M. H. Coward, Mary J. Coward, Geoffrey N. J. Le Patourel, Keith W. Turnbull, Anthony C. Waltham (leader) and Janet M. Waltham.

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