Primož Jakopin

Boybuloq 2021
Expedition to caves of the Chul-Bair mountain ridge in Uzbekistan
A photo report*


          Boybuloq 2021 was an 18-strong Russian-French-Slovenian-Uzbek caving expedition to the underground of the Chul-Bair mountain ridge in Uzbekistan, it took place from the first to the twenty-first of August 2021 and was conducted in the framework of the Ekaterinburg Speleo Club (SGS) and the Ural Speleological Association (ASU).
          There was the Russian team: Vadim Loginov, the expedition leader, Artëm Šabaršin and Larisa Pozdnjakova from Ekaterinburg, Vasilij Samsonov from Orenburg, Elena Ljubavina from Čeljabinsk, Aleksej Serëgin from Miass, Evgenij Sakulin from Gubaha, Evgenij Rybka from Alabuševo (Moscow oblast) and Valentin Gordienko from Sevastopol', the French team: Arnauld Malard, team leader and Laurence Baudoux d'Hautefeuille from Neuchâtel, Théophile Cailhol and Pauline Georges from Besançon, Alexandre Honiat from Toulouse and Martin Kern from Annecy. From Slovenia came Mitja Mršek of Rakek and Primož Jakopin - Klok of Kamnik pod Krimom; Vladimir Dolgij junior - Volodja, representative of the tour operator Asia Adventures from Tashkent also joined in for five days.
          The main expedition goal was to connect the caves Boybuloq (1415 m deep, 14800 m long) and Višnevskij (1131 m deep, 8004 m long). At the end of the Boybuloq 2019 expedition Russian cavers had to end the exploration of Višnevskij at its bottom, in an open tunnel, due to lack of rope and time. The survey showed that the last point at the bottom came considerably close to the New branch of Boybuloq, the distance was 200 m horizontally and 50 m vertically (above). The tunnel in Višnevskij approached Boybuloq from the southeast, heading northwest, in an almost perpendicular fashion to the southwest-northeast oriented tunnel in the New branch of Boybuloq. In 2020 the expedition was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, while during the Boybuloq 2021 expedition the Višnevskij bottom team explored the cave to the depth of 1283 m, 152 m deeper, and prolonged the cave to 8470 m.
          After the terminal point achieved in 2019 the cave continued with a series of small pits followed by a 30 m abyss, at the bottom of which there were several continuations. The cavers followed the water, and they reached a half-siphon, with 3 cm of air from the water to the ceiling, followed by two more such half-siphons. A tunnel with a drop of 20 m came next, where the water stream, about 10 l/sec., flowed into a large siphon, as a waterfall. The siphon would require diving, a dry bypass could not be found. Other dry continuations at the bottom of the 30 m shaft and onwards mostly ended in impassable meanders, only one had a siphon without inflow (trapped water) at the end. A similar tunnel in Boybuloq, heading towards Višnevskij cave, also ended with a siphon with trapped water, but with a depression in front of it, where the siphon could probably be emptied with a suitable hose.
          The tunnel crossed the New branch of Boybuloq at a substantially lower level. Exploration of the relevant side meanders in both caves yielded one where the intercave distance dwindled to 70 m horizontally at approximately the same altitude above sea level. Getting closer required widening of the meander on both sides and during this operation the expedition ended, due to lack of time and resources.
          In Boybuloq a survey team was also at work which mapped the tunnels in the New branch of the cave, explored in 2016. This part of the cave extended upwards and could increase the amplitude, the difference between the highest and the lowest point of the cave, which stood at 1415 m since 1992. Survey data showed that the highest point achieved, where the tunnel narrows into an as yet impassable hole with very strong air current, is situated 272 m above the cave entrance, and the cave amplitude therefore changed to 1430 m. Boybuloq length increased to 15212 m.
          In the ice cave Voronka, on the Chul-Bair canyon edge above the Base camp, and 70 m above the siphon at -735 m in Višnevskij cave, a small group managed to open a hole with a strong draft at the top of a shaft. Its widening would lead to a possible connection with Višnevskij cave, which would shorten the access time to the bottom of that cave from three to one day.
          Towards the end of expedition days the author visited Hudojnazar Mustafokulovič Zokirov, the youngest surviving son of Mustafo, the first explorer of Boybuloq, in a valley east of Dehibolo. Hudojnazar cleared several facts about Mustafo, such as his real name, Mustafo Zokirovič Holmominov, and the circumstances of his visit to the cave in 1971, which eluded the writers of all previous reports.


Portraits of participants

All but one were taken in the vicinity of the Base camp, at about 3.000 m above sea level.

Elena, in Samarkand
Ženja R.
Ženja S.
Klok, by Larisa Pozdnjakova


List of articles

  1. Getting to Dehibolo, July 31 - August 3
  2. From Dehibolo to the Base camp, August 3
  3. The canyon, August 4 - 5
  4. The grotto at 2880 m above sea level, August 6
  5. To Boybuloq, August 7
  6. The water source, August 8 - 10
  7. Mitja's cave and Voronka ice cave, August 11
  8. Chul-Bair ridge above the Višnevskij cave, August 12
  9. From the Base camp to Dehibolo, August 13
  10. Dehibolo, August 14 - 15
  11. Valley to the east and the surrounding mountains, August 16
  12. The waterfall gorge, Mustafo's son and grandson, August 17
  13. Holidin Kudratulaevič and his family, August 18
  14. Sadik Amiraminovič, expedition's return, August 19
  15. Return from Dehibolo, August 20 - 22


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          *This report was made with rather limited equipment, the author traveled light, he also aimed to interfere with the expedition's primary tasks as little as possible. Often he had to work very fast and on such occasions he was forced to use the phone camera. Therefore many photos are not up to the high standards we all should strive for. He nevertheless hopes that this contribution will add to the common goal of the expedition - to shed new light on the underground and aboveground grace of the beautiful, enchanting land, and of its open, warm-hearted people.
          Cyrillic names in the report were romanized according to the Scientific transliteration of Cyrillic with the pronunciation of the main additional characters as: č = ch, š = sh, ž = zh, y = hard i, ë = yo - i. e. Artëm Šabaršin = Artyom Shabarshin.


This page, text and photos copyright (c) Primož Jakopin, member of the Ljubljana Cave Exploration Society (DZRJL), except the photo of Klok where copyright (c) by Larisa Pozdnjakova of Ekaterinburg Speleo Club (SGS, published with permission). The text was reviewed by Vadim Loginov.
Send inquiries and comments to primoz jakopin guest arnes si (insert dots and at sign as appropriate). Page initiated on August 31, 2021; date of the last change: January 19, 2022.