August 12, 2012

Vertical Caving in Danyang!

You may remember a post about Danyang, a city farther north known for its numerous caves and beautiful national park, Sobaeksan. I went to Gosu dong-gul and got some beautiful pictures in a show cave - one open to the public with nice walkways and railings. I loved it. BUT, it wasn't a challenge. My friends Pat and Michael invited me to do some hardcore vertical caving and I had to accept. It was an adventure!

Michael standing over the opening to the cave, about to go down and set the rope. He is wearing a harness with the rope secured though a device that allows him to rappel down at his own speed. As he goes down, he needs to pay attention to the rocks. The cave entrance twists and turns, and at certain points the rope will rub against sharp rocks - a safety hazard. Michael will attach rope guards, or fabric to protect the rope, at those points. 

At the top of the cave, Pat makes sure everything is going well. From the entrance to the starting cavern, it is about 10 stories underground, so there is a lot of yelling and listening carefully to make sure Michael doesn't run into any problems or need any additional gear. 

A couple of hours later, we are all in the cave! Initially I didn't realize how blurry the pictures were, but once we did, we started using all of our head lamps to focus light for the pictures. They will be more crisp in some instances because of that. Bear in mind that this is not a lit cave, the only source of light at all is on our helmets. 

Michael led the way, I stayed safe in the middle, and Pat followed in the rear. This kept me safe from potential serial killers or falling down a hole into a cavern. It is a bit freaky thinking about how far underground we were and how badly things could go. 

Pat is crawling on his arms here, but a few moments ago he was on his stomach-  see the stalactites? We had to be extra careful to protect the integrity of the cave, since its features were in pristine condition. This meant crawling, face in the sticky clay in the smallest parts of the cave. Gross, but all worth it to allow the next caver the chance to see such an amazing sight. 

A special thanks to Pat, who provided all of the gear, from the helmets and harnesses to the jackets and over-sized jeans. Not only did it make the trip possible, it also saved me hours of cleaning. He's a good friend.

Some rooms were really tall or big, others were tiny. 

As the quality of the pictures improves, I made the images larger. If you want to see beautiful, pristine images of a cave nearby, please look at my post with pictures from the show cave, here. They have lights installed and they turned out more true to color and clear. Of course it is in less pristine condition and less awesome.

Would you want to crawl through this tiny, dark opening? Its a bit intimidating! 

To get out of the cave, we had to use two ascenders attached to the rope. This is basically a handle that the rope goes through, then one is hooked up to the harness, while the other is hooked up to a foot loop. You put your weight into your harness and slide the ascender hooked to your foot loop up, then stand and put your weight in your feet. Next, slide the ascender hooked to your harness up. This process repeats over and over. I counted the first two hundred moves, but wasn't even out of the main cavern. Needless to say, its a workout! 

Vertical caving is easily in my top ten experiences in Korea. I couldn't recommend it enough if you have the proper equipment and an experienced guide to help you safely explore a cave. 

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