Application for Grant Aid

Submitted on: 27 Feb 2015

Expedition details (GPF2015a-004)

Expedition Name (& Club): Speleo Philippines 2015 (Bristol Exploration Club)
Destination country: Philippines
Region: Baggao, Cagayan Valley, Region 2
Lat: 18.0205 Long: 121.9980 Elevation: 192 m
MEF funding: none

Leader: Mr Henry Bennett
Total cavers: 21
Cavers ≤25 yrs old: 4
Cavers 25-35 yrs old: 7
UK/nonUK cavers: 15/6
Eligible for grant aid: 0
Alex Pitcher nominations: 2
Expedition dates: 11th Apr 2015 - 4th May 2015
Duration (days): 24
Man-days in field: 357 Man-days travelling: 102
Brief Expedition objectives:

List a short summary of the main Expedition objectives.

1) Explore Bluewater Cave from what we suspect is the sink.
2) Explore the area immediate around our base camp
3) Push Bluewater Cave from the resurgence beyond the point reached in 2014
4) To collaborate and work with the local caving community and the Philippine Speleological Society
5) Investigate and explore a major resurgence spotted on Google Earth which is estimated to be a full days walk each way to the site.
6) To conduct a dye trace from the sink to resurgence.
How can the GPF support your Expedition?:

Please explain the aspects of the trip which make it eligible for Ghar Parau funding.

The expedition has two main focuses. The first is to explore a virtually virgin area which has only briefly been visited. Access to the area is only possible with the assistance of the municipal Mayor as there is no public transport to the region and is only accessible by an old logging track.
Secondly we are actively working with the Philippine Speleological Society who view the British as the spark which ignited caving in the country.
Our team has been selected to encompass a wide range of ages and abilities to foster future expedition leaders and UK caving outreach. Output from the Expedition will be greatly helped by having a number of acclaimed photographers on the team.
We have a policy of ensuring that our visit to this remote location will materially benefit the few indigenous tribespeople and we are sponsoring 6 local cavers. The remoteness of the expedition means that costs are reasonably high and we therefore feel we would be ideal candidates from a GPF grant.
Detailed description of objectives:

Give a more detailed account of the purpose of the trip, including any particular known caves you intend to visit, specific areas where you will explore for new cave, and scientific experiments you will attempt.

Bluewater Cave was first visited by the BEC in 2005 during a side trip from an ajacent area. Access at the time was only possible from an old logging track and we were assisted by an all-wheel drive truck provided by the Municipal Mayor in the nearest small town some hours away. Encouraged by reports of improvement to the track a small recce took place last year when we managed to push the large river resurgence for 2km in mainly swimming passage. During 2005 we also briefly visited a river sink some 4km in the jungle as the bat flies from the resurgence. At the sink we pushed the cave for under 50m until we met a technical obstacle and ran out of time. Before returning to the resurgence we did a large scale dye trace which was never seen again. We presumed that this was due to the huge volumes of deep water in the cave.
The sink was not visited during the recce as we focused on pushing upstream. After 2km we were stopped by a ~20m waterfall in 60m high passage. Our plan is to establish a base camp near the sink and explore from there. Its much easier to descend a pitch than climb it from the bottom.
1. Explore Bluewater Cave from what we suspect is the sink.
The unnamed river. which flows at a rate of approximately 2-3 cumecs during the dry season, disappears into a canyon involving 2 approximately 10m pitches before entering the cave proper. In 2005 when we visited this site, we entered the cave, negotiated the obligatory jumble of tree trunks before the water disappeared into a sump. The passage continued over the top and then the stream reappeared at the bottom of a ~5m wide chasm before sumping again. The main passage however by this stage was at least 20m high by maybe 10m wide and continued into the distance as far as we could see. We turned around as we had no gear to climb across the gap and no time to come back.
In the 10 years since nobody has been back down this sink.
This is the main focus of our expedition.
2. Explore the area immediate around our base camp.
The area is on the northern end of the Sierra Madre mountains which run for several hundred kilometres along the north east of Luzon. Much of these mountains is limestone and there have been expeditions and exploration of some of the easier to reach areas. I have personally spent around 2 months visiting some of these regions in the past.
On the other side of the mountains is the sea and almost 200km of uninhabited coastline. In fact our logging track is the only route across the mountains.
The is considerable scope for finding cave in this area and there is an intriguing “hole” in the jungle canopy viewable on Google Earth which is consistent over many years. We intend to scour the area to see if it is possible to find a roof level entrance into Bluewater. From the sink (~420m elevation) to the sink (~180m) is only a fall of 240m. Given that the roof is commonly around 40-60m above river level it is anticipated that a high level route may be possible.
3. Push Bluewater Cave from the resurgence beyond the point reached in 2014.
We left a couple of often well decorated side passages and a climb at the end of the resurgence. We plan to revisit this area and pay our respects to the few families that live near this area.
4. To collaborate and work with the local caving community and the Philippine Speleological Society (PSS).
During our recce last year we attended their annual Congress and provided workshops on Rescue, Surveying, Cave Registry and Conservation. We are unable to attend this years’ Congress due to it being held in an area which is experiencing political upheaval from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILFs). I’ve been in communication with several members of the PSS including the current President and his two predecessors.
During our trip we will be joined by the local Sierra Madre Outdoor Club who are assisting with our logistics and planning. In return we will sponsor 6 of their team to join us and will share our knowledge training and all data collected.
We intend to hire guides, cooks and buy a generator which we will leave for the hamlet. The families living near the resurgence are trying to attract tourists to the resurgance pool and earn a living from guiding. We gave them our spare gear last year (life jackets, etc) and this year we are printing a banner survey for them to display.
5. Investigate and explore a major resurgence spotted on Google Earth which is estimated to be a full days walk each way to the site.
We have spotted an even larger resurgence from satellite imagery emerging from another nearby mountain. Enquires about this last year indicated that no one knew anyone who had been to this area and it was estimated to be a days walk from our base camp. Time permitting we plan to send a team to look at this.
6. To conduct a dye trace from the sink to resurgence.
In 2005 we used enough dye for about 50k litres and this was never seen again.
Previous work in this area:

Give details of any previous work in this area by your own and other teams. Include references to reports and articles published on the area, and the names of any local cavers or academics with whom you have discussed the Expedition.

SpeleoPhilippines 1992 report -
SpeleoPhilippines 1995 report -
SpeleoPhilippines 2014 report -

The Bristol Exploration Club (BEC) have a long history of exploration the Philippines a number of expeditions since 1992. This area was first identified in 1992 and again in 1995 during expedition to an area to the south called Penablanca near Tugueagarao. The local Sierra Madre Outdoor Club (SMOC) talked about a major resurgence in the jungle several days hike to the north which was not accessible via public transport.
The 1992 expedition is seen by the local cavers as the spark that ignited caving I the country

“Twenty-two years ago, or in January 1992 to be exact, outdoors folk from all over the country converged in Tuguegarao, Cagayan to participate in an expedition. The expedition was organized by the Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines, Inc. (MFPI) and the Bristol Exploration Club (BEC). The host for this leg was the Sierra Madre Outdoor Club (SMOC).

There were many of us. Rock climbers, mountaineers, some who already go caving... some who were just curious, some who wanted to learn new things, some who wanted to meet old friends and make new ones. One thing we all had in common was the DNA of exploration and adventure. The expedition was the first Philippine-British caving expedition that would span months and cover Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Eventually there would be more of these expeditions, and I can truly say that from here, the Philippine caving community was born. Most of us learned our basic skills in these expeditions. We established lifelong friendships, shared unforgettable experiences, made first descents in some of the longest and deepest caves in the country. Some would go on to form their own groups...Western Visayas Caving Association, Speleo Mindanao, Speleo Cebu, Gaia Exploration Club... eight years later the veterans of this expedition would form the Philippine Speleological Society.

And who were those Brits? They were from the Bristol Exploration Club. Same to many of us, my mentors in caving came from this club. I learned the basics of rigging and bolting, cave diving, sump diving, mapping and surveying from these guys. I even put on my bucket list to visit the BEC hang out in Mendip, UK - the Belfry - the \"Center of the Universe\".

MARK DIA Gaia Exploration Club and past President of the Philippine Speleological Society. 2014

In 2005 the Philippine Speleological Society invited the BEC to join the 5th National Caving Congress which was taking place in the same municipality as Bluewater cave. A team of six BEC went to the week long congress and managed to negotiate a 5 days side trip to Bluewater with the aid of transport from the district mayor. Part of the condition of travelling to the area which was still very remote was being accompanied by two heavily armed teams from both the Police and Army due to alleged communist guerrilla activity in the area. This severely hampered our efforts as our movement was restricted to the point that it took two days to negotiate being allowed to leave camp and enter caves. We left with the knowledge that there was a major river sink in the area which appeared to resurge 4km away although a die trace was inconclusive.
Last year a team of 7 mainly BEC returned for a recce to the area to establish if it was now feasible to mount a full scale expedition to the area. Prior to going to the area we attended the 14th National Caving Congress and worked with the Philippine Speleological Society on a range of subjects including running a rescue practice, surveying workshops and discussing the importance of starting a cave registry.

In an aim to promote Filipino caving I\'m also working with Mat Voysey to create a site similar to Mendip Cave Registry for the Philippine Speleo Soc.

Expedition Finances


Travel plans:
Flight from London to Manila
flight to Tuguegarao
Private hire jeepney to Baggao
Dumper truck c/o local mayor to camp (if road is passable)
The last five miles is an old logging track from the 80s which last year was impassable but being repaired. If we can\'t transit the last few miles by truck we will use a local carabao (water buffalo) with a litter for gear and walk.
Return in reverse.

# from UK: 15 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from UK: £11,595 International Flights £649 per person
Internal Flights £80 per person
Car Parking £160
UK Coach £120
UK Taxi from London to Heathrow return £80
Philippines Mini Bus / Taxi £100

# from outside UK: 7 Travel costs breakdown (for personnel leaving from the UK):
Total costs from outside UK: £184 PLEASE NOTE
The expedition is sponsoring the complete costs of SIX local cavers. This has a knock on effect on the total shortfall shown at the end of this form
Mini Bus from Tugugarao to Baggao £22 each way
Flight from Cebu to Tugugarao £140

Travel total: £11,779 Travel p.p. from UK: £773
Travel p.p. from outside UK: £26


Total: £2,970 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £135 £6 per person per day for 459 man days - we are sponsoring the Filippinos
Hotels 3 nights at an average cost of £15 per night for 15 people. = £675


Total: £960 Comments:
Subsistence p.p.: £44 1 x 10m ladder
300m rope
1 spreader
20 aluminium mallions
3 x bolting kit
10 x long slings
10 x short slings
20 x Hangers
50 x Spits

Special 1

Total: £4,000 Comments:
Special 1 p.p.: £182 Generator and power distribution, fuel etc £250
Insurance for UK participants ~£250 per person x15

Special 2

Total: £400 Comments:
Special 2 p.p.: £18 Health is incredibly important in remote locations and good water is a central part of that.
Water purification system capable of handling the needs of 20 people and estimated 10 litres a day.

Ideally a Katadyn Expedition would fit the bill but these cost ~£1000. Lyon Equipment are UK distributors so it maybe possible to get one for less. Would the GPF have an appetite to buy one of these to be returned to the GPF for future expeditions?

Alternatively we are looking at an expenditure of ar
Exped Total: £20,109 Exped cost p.p. travelling from UK: £1,151
Exped cost p.p. travelling from outside UK: £404
Mean Exped cost per person: £914

Other Funding

Total: £0 Comments:
Applied to BEC Expedition Fund and Sidetracked Magazines\' The Adventure Fund
no info back as yet

Total shortfall: £20,109 Mean shortfall per person: £914

Referees and Report

Please give the names, addresses and phone numbers of two suitably qualified people whom the Committee can contact. You should ensure that they are aware of the objectives of your trip, and that you have their permission for the Committee to contact them.

Referee 1: Mr Chris Jewell
Affiliation: Bristol Exploration Club

Reason: Secretary of the BEC. Recent expedition leadership experience. Assisted on our Training sessions.

Permission obtained?: Yes
Referee 2: Mr Tony Seddon
Affiliation: Starless River

Reason: Tony has been an enthusiastic supporter of our expedition since the recce last year and has provide equipment, support and advice.

Permission obtained?: Yes

Expedition report author: Henry Bennett