What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?

- Henry David Thoreau



Aug 20, 2013

Caving for beginners – Meghalaya



The Outdoor Journal

Caving is a niche adventure sport with not enough adherents in this part of the world. The Outdoor Journal gives you the ins and outs of this activity for an amateur spelunker

Caving is a sport to check out if you’re excited about exploring hidden spaces, don’t mind crawling in mud or through tight rock niches, and don’t panic when enclosed in a dark, damp holes in the ground. Hiking long distances, sliding over mud and slippery rock surfaces, rappeling down long vents, setting up anchors or jumaring up vertical sections, and sometimes even scuba diving underwater passages are all part of the package when you go caving, all supplemented with a healthy dose of beautiful rock formations, clear pools and other creations of nature you wouldn’t find in the outside world. It is a different place altogether, completely secreted away.
And to help you understand how to go about getting an access to this hidden world, The Outdoor Journal spoke to Ashley Erasmus Lyngdoh (who runs the adventure group Green Route in Meghalaya) and Sagar Sen, a computer wiz and outdoorsman, who share their first cave exploring adventure.
In India, one of the best places to go cave exploring is Meghalaya; with its seemingly never ending networks of caves, which have been included in the list of world’s longest and deepest caves. The most popular cave network among beginners is the Krem Mawmluh or Krem Mawkhyrdo, which has a bit of everything (wading through waist deep water, crawls under just 2 ½ feet of ceiling, stalactite and stalagmite formations, rock fossil formations and best of all..bats!).
The total distance of a beginner’s trek in this cave system is about 5 kms and boasts beautiful formations, the roar of an underground river system, vertical climbs and crystal clear pools with crabs and small fish- these creatures whitish or clear in colour, possibly due to pigmentation.
Krem Ri- Blai, Krem Chympe and other cave systems around Meghalaya are much tougher in terrain, environment and even harder to get to. Krem Ri-Blai is just one way down and one way up stopping to rest on false floors and crevices.
Meghalaya Adventure Association mainly venture and explore these caves for mapping and climatology studies with a team of biologists. One has to be technically qualified in mountaineering skills with ropework for most extreme vertical caves, especially in the Jaintia hills towards Shnongrim, Khliehriat, Pala Range etc.. SRT (Single Rope Technique) kits, harness, descenders and ascenders are normally used.
But the first step is suiting up! The Green Route provides its explorers with workshop dresses (or body suits) to protect against scratches, LED headlamps, gum boots, gloves and helmets. When exploring, the travellers are assisted by professional guides who help you navigate the caves safely. It is important to remember to stay with the group, ask for a helping hand when you need to jump a ledge if necessary, lookout for the person in front and behind you and try not to disturb the rock formations.
People with claustrophobia or other phobias related to darkness better avoid caving. Sometimes the stale air could also be noxious to some people.
The very principle of caving, however, is to explore the caves while avoiding harm to yourself, and to the cave. Unfortunately, caves such as the Krem Mawmluh are terribly polluted due to persistent mining in the area and the nearby cement factory. During monsoons, the caves are flooded with water and with this water, pollutants and plastics also make their way inside the caves. Therefore, it is essential to keep in mind that you minimize the impact of your visit to the caves.
Leave behind nothing but footprints…
Cost of first caving trip: The beginner’s cave will cost Rs 1,800 (USD 30)/- per head (inclusive of batteries, helmets, equipment).
Rs 1,500 (USD 25)/ guide (up to 4 pax).
Extra cost is Rs 1,500/- for transportation of equipment from Shillong to Cherra and back. You also have an option of riding to Cherra on Royal Enfields (as pillion of course) and cheaper at Rs 850 (USD 14)/- per bike. Rentals are Rs 1000 (USD 16)/- per bike.
Place: New Delhi

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Dec 11, 2018

Mike Horn: His Devotion to the ‘Mountain of Mountains’, and the Loves of His Life

The "Explorer of the Decade" on his upcoming documentary "Beyond the Comfort Zone" that follows his attempt to summit K2 with his daughters following the loss of his wife.



Lorenzo Fornari

Mike Horn does not need much of an introduction. From swimming the Amazon river to circumnavigating the world unmotorized, and crossing Antartica, his next challenge is never far away. Mike’s list of accomplishments as a solo explorer is unparalleled, and he was recently acknowledged as the “Explorer of the Decade”. The Outdoor Journal has been fortunate to get to know Mike, having crossed the Namib and Simpson Deserts with him, we caught up for a quick chat ahead of the release of his new movie, Beyond the Comfort Zone.

You’ve been to K2 several times. Why this mountain in particular? What’s your connection with this place?

K2 for me is the mountain of mountains! Amongst many others, ascending K2 has always been a childhood dream for me. That mountain is like a magnet, every time I lay my eyes on it, it intimidates me. The way it stands, similarly to a pyramid, makes it beautiful to observe, especially from the bottom looking up. Technically, it is also one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, 8000-meter summit to climb. Everest might be the highest but a lot more people have made it to the top of Everest than to the top of K2…and that obviously means something. A popular destination doesn’t appeal to me as much as a challenging destination. Higher doesn’t mean better. It’s not because I haven’t yet reached the summit of K2, that I will be giving up on this dream any time soon!

Jessica, Annika, and Mike, followed by sherpas, approach K2. By Dmitry Sharomov

“Sherpas often feel ignored and under-appreciated, even by their own government. This to me, is not the essence of adventure travel.”

Why not Everest?

I love that more and more people are encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and travel to remote places to achieve challenging feats, but not at the cost of having a negative impact on our environment… Unfortunately, Everest is now suffering from the effects of adventure-tourism. The commercialization of the mountain has resulted in an increasing number of visitors over the years. Camps and hiking tracks are now suffering from mass-tourism during the high seasons, which naturally leads to an increase in the amount of waste disposal (oxygen cylinders, food cans, tents and other equipment), which in turn impacts the environment and the experience of future travelers. I believe too many adventurers wish to add the summiting of Everest to their bucket lists simply for the sake of ascending the world’s highest peak, without necessarily respecting what the mountain has to offer. Locals are also affected by this vicious cycle, Sherpas often feel ignored and under-appreciated, even by their own government. This to me, is not the essence of adventure travel. Thankfully, K2 does not suffer from these problems…at least not yet.

Mike Horn and Fred Roux attempting the summit of K2. © Mike Horn

“My daughters and I planned this expedition at a fragile moment of our lives… some of the best moments for me were the times I shared with my daughters Annika and Jessica”

Can you give us a preview of the best moment from this expedition?

This expedition was filled with great moments. My daughters and I planned this expedition at a fragile moment of our lives. They had just lost their mother, and me my wife, together we agreed to go on an adventure to change our minds and to regain faith and trust in the world. I’d therefore say that some of the best moments for me were the times I shared with my daughters Annika and Jessica, driving across countries or walking up to the base camp of K2. I also deeply value the times shared with Fred and Köbi, my long-time climbing partners!

Just don’t look down. © Mike Horn

“There is a very fine line between carrying on and giving up,”

You didn’t manage to summit again. What stopped you? Will there be another attempt?

Unfortunately, despite making it over the 8000-meter mark, we took the difficult decision to turn back due to poor weather conditions. The abundance of snow resulted in high avalanche risks. After years of exploring, I am aware that one bad choice can result in losing my life. There is a very fine line between carrying on and giving up, too often we want to push a little further simply because we know we are physically capable of it. However, at that time more than ever, it was essential for me to make it back home to my daughters. Mountaineering is for the patient. Only when all the stars are aligned (weather, snow conditions, season, physical aptitude, etc.) can one summit successfully. As mentioned earlier, I will not be giving up on K2 quite yet, I definitely plan on going back!

The unforgiving terrain encountered trying to get to K2. by Dmitry Sharomov

“The Unknown Adds Spice to Life”

We saw the trailer, it’s awe-inspiring. When is the movie coming out and where will be able to see it?

The movie has just been screened at the Toronto Film Festival and will be released in different theatres around the world next year, in 2019. As soon as we have detailed release dates we will communicate these on social media:
Facebook: @PangaeaMikeHorn | Instagram: @mikehornexplorer

Mike Horn and Fred Roux. © Mike Horn

“THE UNKNOWN ADDS SPICE TO LIFE” stood out from the trailer. What’s next for Mike? What do we have to look forward to after this? How much “spice” to expect?

Indeed, you can expect lots of spice! My next big expedition will be the crossing of the Arctic Ocean via the North Pole. I plan on doing this next year with my Norwegian friend and fellow polar explorer: Borge Ousland. Until then, I plan on sailing around Asia and up north to Alaska to explore different remote locations along the way. You’re going to have to stay tuned to discover exactly what I’ll be up to.

You’ve crossed one of the Poles in your current « Pole2Pole » expedition with a stunning world record, what’s the plan for the second Pole and when?

As mentioned above, I plan on rallying the second pole next summer (2019). The idea is to sail as far north as possible up the Bering Strait with my boat Pangaea, then to be dropped off onto the ice shelf and make my way to the North Pole and cross over to meet my boat again on the other side near the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. The crossing should take us up to 3 months during which we except a lot of open waters given the summer season. We thus plan on equipping ourselves with rafts, paddle boards and impermeable wetsuits to secure safe progress between the floating ice shelfs we will encounter along the way.

Dromedary having a staring contest with Mike. By Dmitry Sharomov

When we traveled together across the Simpson Desert in Australia you mentioned that you’d like to concentrate future expeditions toward discovering the mysteries of the depths of the seas and oceans. Any updates you can give us on this?

No news on that front.

Camping with a view. by Dmitry Sharomov

You can follow Mike on his website, or via his social media channels below:
Website: MikeHorn.com
Facebook: @PangaeaMikeHorn
Instagram: @mikehornexplorer

Read Next: Taming the Munga-Thirri Desert with Mike HornRacing Across Namibia with Mike Horn or Mike Horn Completes Solo Traverse of Antarctica

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