Laos 2012 Khammouane expedition

Laos 2012

After three superb weeks spend in the Khammouane karst, in the central part of Laos, the team, 14 french and swedish cavers, is back home now. The february expedition was a direct sequel of 2011, with the same caves as targets. 16 km of new passages have been added to the 25 km already surveyed last year.

Not far from Thakhek, the province capital, the Khoun Dôn-Houay Saï system is now 27 km long, and going… Soon to be the longest cave in Laos. Our most outstanding
exploration has been undoubtedly the Houay Saï river found in Tham Kouan Kaohong, a new cave discovered in the wake of the Houay Saï cave. The navigation in 40 m large
passages will remain a great caving moment in our memories. The exaltation of gradually building up one of the largest cave system of South-East Asia cannot be told, it has to be experienced.

But other explorations have also been rewarding. During the second week, the caves in the large mountain range south of the Hin Boun river have been extended. Tham Lom is now 5.8 km long, and 5 other caves are over 2 km. Explorations there were more difficult, requiring systematic climbs to access upper fossil passages. The third week was devoted to the exploration of the Hin Boun river lower valley. Tham Deng, a cave used for its phosphate deposits by nearby villagers, is now over 4.2 km long.

However, the biggest challenge to come is probably to help our Laotian friends to invent their way to preserve this magnificent karst while developing tourism in a balanced and responsible way. But that’s another story…

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