Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Episode Cevanol

Vis gorge by Tim Chapman

The rains which had thwarted the Coudouliere project - and had also killed two people in Montpellier the week before we arrived - were not done with us yet.
Overnight, during Rassemblement Caussenard, the heavens opened and a serious storm caused rivers to burst their banks. Drive ways simply slid into rivers, caves were in flood and landslides were everywhere. Roads began closing and the rain showed no sign of stopping.
We decided to head home a day early. 

Gourneyrou by Tim Chapman

Gourneyras by Tim Chapman

Rodel by Tim Chapman

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Rassemblement Caussenard

The weather which had thwarted most of our trip, took a turn for the worst last night. A huge lightening storm hit the Herault and we had rainfall like we had never seen before. 
We woke in the morning and heard it threatening in the low, grey clouds. Caving and diving was most definitely 'off' and our final plan to try and dive the Gourneyras was abandoned.
There was only one thing for it. To go to the Herault's answer to 'Hidden Earth' and buy lots of toys and get drunk in the company of our friends from the CLPA and GERSAM.

Lunch menu!
Ludo's puppy

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Not every doughnut has a hole in the middle...

We had long had an invitation from the French caving club to dive a new sump which was very close to the Foux de la Vis. The group, as ever, helped carry our kit in the heat and set about the entrance of the dry cave with explosives to make passing the gear a little easier.
We had a little information on the sump and in our usual plan of attack, added a little helium to our larger bottles and took some oxygen along too, so that we had all angles covered. In exploration, you never know what the cave will do – if it will go deeper, if it will surface, if it will close down or open up in to caverns measureless to man. 
We knew that someone had been in there before but had very little information on how it ended.
We lowered the cylinders through a boulder choke and kitted up in a narrow rift.
I set off surveying the existing line in very poor, milky visibility (barely 2 metres) and Rich went ahead to try and find the way on.
We came across all sorts of different lines, one of which had broken and was heading back towards the entrance. We spent some time cleaning this up and very shortly came to the end of the line. It was only at a depth of 21m and some 36 metres surveyed distance. 
We had a good poke about in rifts below and above but they were too tight and definitely not worth pursuing. I stuffed Rich into one with the line reel and he laid about 8 metres before climbing back towards me, shaking his head.
The team got the gear out in good time, in between eating lunch and drinking red wine, which had clearly been smuggled past their wives that morning in coca cola bottles……

The walk up hill was hot and my ankle didn’t like it, but we were soon at the cafĂ© in St Maurice de Navacelles drinking cold beers while I entered the survey data and produced a stick map.

Friday, September 11, 2015


Rich in Banquier. Photo: Christine Grosart

Rich and I had the opportunity to have an early morning 60m deep dive yesterday, at a discreet location. We did lunch and chilled out the rest of the day, whilst sorting out directions for the Grotte Banquier.

Rich in Grotte Banquier. Photo: Christine Grosart

Thanks to Elaine Hill and Clive Westlake, we got it together and after driving up some lengthy forestry track, we parked up and did a bit of casting around before finding the right path to the entrance.
A short fixed ladder leads to some well travelled and well decorated passage, which heads down to the lake and then the sump. This would be an easy half an hour carry with dive gear, but quite hot! The sump then leads to 1,600m of apparently quite fine passage beyond.
Definitely one to come back to with dive kit.
Rich in Grotte Banquier. Photo: Christine Grosart

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Pool and wine

St Saturnin vineyard
Having worked our arses off all year, Rich and I try and get some holiday time. As well as caving, diving and exploring, we try to grab some quality time together.
This normally entails Rich snoring on the sunbed while I read, swim, sunbathe and repeat.
I often have to save up annual leave from work to get a decent amount of time in the Herault, as it's a two day journey each way.
Relaxing isn't something we do very much of, but we do try.
Camping val d'Herault is fairly quiet this time of year. The pool is cold but the river is still warm and the vineyards are still open.

St Saturnin vineyard

Our new favourite restaurant
Our new favourite wine!

Fab menu with fantastic food

The restaurant is in the Bueges valley, with a view of the entrance of Garrel, the cave we pushed
over the last few years...

Campsite pool


Rich in action


Christine rigging
I had heard about the cave but had never got around to actually going there. This is not surprising as it really isn’t easy to find. Jean Tarrit met us at St Maurice de Navacelles and we followed him through some winding lanes and through an obscure farm fence and down a track to a clearing. The cave was a short walk up from the parking spot. 
With only 4 hangers between us, rigging it was inventive and I set about it carefully. Ashley followed me down and we set up the radio location aerial on a flat bit of floor on the other side of some big decorations.
Ash then buggered off for half an hour into some wretched, muddy crawl while I set up my camera and tripod to take photos of the pitch.
Meanwhile, Rich and Jean set about doing the location on the surface and, true to form, they got a good 'null' with the help of dive spools in a prickly bush.
Ash on the ascent
Ash came back absolutely plastered in red mud having found the most horrid passage in the cave. I photographed him as he headed up the pitch and followed shortly.
Rich then kitted up and headed down the pitch to have a look around the chamber and retrieve the underground aerial.

Pleased with the job, we were heading back to the camp site when we found Jean searching the car for his lost phone. We searched everywhere but could not find it either at the cave or in the road. Fortunately he eventually found it - in pieces in the road a little further up from where we had stopped.
Not a great ending to an otherwise pleasant day.
Ash heading down L'esquirol

Rich radio locating

Rich in his favourite position!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Pedro pretty much sums it up. Photo: Rick Van Dijk
 The Dutch were eager to head over to Coudouliere and make a few parts of the entrance boulder choke more Suex friendly.
This seemed like a good opportunity for me to deploy my Disto X and PDA combination and get some survey data of the dry passage leading to the sumps.
Over the last 6 months or so I’ve been trying to build up a paperless system and with help from various people, I now have a working upgraded Disto X which measures distance, compass and clinometer readings. 
This talks to a basic PDA via Bluetooth and stores the data in a neat free program called Pocket Topo. This also enables the user to sketch and draw cross sections as they go.
Even better, the data can be transferred via another neat program called Top Parser (Andrew Atkinson’s genius) to Therion survey program. Therion makes my head hurt and we were fortunate to have Jan Mulder (NL) along who was far more confident with it than me.
Gour pools in Coudouliere. Photo Rick van Dijk
One advantage of Therion of other programs is the ability to tie in additional data without having to re-draw – it simply adjusts the drawing as you go. 
But even so, it is not easy to learn and earlier this year I organised a weekend of all things Disto and Therion. It was oversubscribed so I should think we’ll be doing another one over the winter.
I had left my tippex in the car, which I was going to use to mark the survey stations. But we were saved by Pedro Ballordi’s pink nail varnish which Anton took a shine to…

We surveyed the boulder choke down to a junction and took the right hand branch, which led to a different sump, via a steep slope which needed a rope. Pedro set about putting some bolts in and rigged up a rope. The rock was similar to the Perdreau, with poor rock for bolts and we ended up tying into a huge boulder instead.
Anton takes a shine to Pedro's pink nail po
With this part of the survey done, we headed out and were met by a scooter making it’s way up through the boulders. Now that scooters fitted, the next trip would be less problematic.
We retired to the pub in St Jean de Bueges for cold pressions all round.