Words: Andy C Photos: Imo
After a long train journey from Delhi, Bridget Hall and I arrived in the Indian city of Shillong, in order to meet with the other members of the 2010 Meghalayan expedition. Two days were spent amassing gear, supplies and musical instruments for the camp in the Jaintia hills. This was followed by an 4 hour jeep journey which finally clocked in at 9 hours, after problems with suspension failure on one of the jeeps.
We eventually arrived at the campsite, pitched tents and began planning the caving to be done over the next three weeks.
Next morning, Tom Chapman (Wessex) and myself (Father and adopted son!!) decided to push Pala shaft in order to connect it to the river system, Krem Diengjem. A team of myself, Tom, Erfan (Iran), Leila (Both Iranian cavers) and Cookie (Wessex) were assembled to push the system and set off on the back of a jeep to the cave entrance. 3 hours later, we arrived at the depression where Pala shaft is located. However, after looking at the map, it was found that the camp lay around about an hours walk away and we could have saved ourselves a number of bruises caused by being thrown around in the back of a jeep.
We pushed Pala shaft through a particularly dubious boulder choke, reminiscent of Eastwater, leading on to a 15 metre pitch. After sitting at the top, waiting for the team, I eventually decided it could be free climbed and set off downclimbing, on slightly dubious footholds, eventually managing to get to the bottom unharmed. Tom followed and we climbed through a hole into a large passage, which continued on. Tom and I decided to leave it for tomorrow and both freeclimbed up the pitch, stopping to quickly rig a rope for faster and safer descent. Whilst Tom and I rigged, Cookie, Leila and Erfan surveyed the cave to the continuing passage using a DistoX and notebook.
The day after, Tom, myself, Erfan and Leila decided to push Pala shaft further. We followed the continuing passage until we hit 3 large shafts. After closer inspection, it was decided to rig the final shaft. We descended and discovered a short duck which surfaced in the Diengjem streamway. As no-one was wearing wetsuits, the team backed off and headed out for beer and curry back at camp.
Tom and I decided to head back to the streamway on the next trip, so suitably clad in wetsuits, we went through the duck, donned buoyancy aids and floated off downstream using Tom’s ‘force’ to find the way on into the mainstream passage leading to the Diengjem entrance. Whilst finding the way, Tom and I found a large amount of unsurveyed passage, which we made a mental note of and decided to return to.
The next trip, a team of myself, Simon (Brooks), Tom and Rashan (Indian Navy) returned to survey the new passage. A long day was spent surveying, floating in very cold water. A tired but happy team surfaced at 10pm, having surveyed some very complicated passage way.
Further trips revealed more side passages but other teams pushed the main passage while we concentrated on other cave systems in and around the Jaintia Hills for the rest of the expedition.
A successful expedition was concluded by an excellent party for Simon’s 50th Birthday, held on a beach by a river in a nearby village.
Meghalaya 2010 discovered over 25km of passage in numerous cave systems, with going leads being left for next year, so it is hoped the 2011 expedition will be equally as successful.