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Vercors 2011 Exped - Blog, Report & Pictures

by PCW ~, 26 July 2011

SWCC exploration of some of the great caves of the Vercors 23rd July - 6th August 2011
Wed 3 Yesterday, we visited Grotte de Gournier, and it was without doubt the most beautiful cave we've ever seen. From the turquoise entrance lake to the huge formations and the very nice streamway, it was one of the highlights of our time in the Vercors. ~ Velma
Tue 2 Knibbs and French contingent watched Gournier fun and games at underground lac then walked to Presles and superb views over Vercors and Rhone Valley. ~ Tony
Tue 2 Today Gary and Tony to Grotte Gournier. Fantastic huge fossil passage, then really magical streamway. We went as far as Salle Chevalier and back in 5 hours. Top trip! ~ Tony
Mon 1 Today's trip was superb! Cuvees de Sassenage [where the Gouffre Berger water resurges], got key from Tourist Office and let ourselves in to show cave. Over rail at the end as in DYO. Amazing river passages and lots of short pitches. Tony Gary and Michel as far as Salle Carelle and back in 8 hr 30min. One of best caving trips I've done in France. Brian and Dobsons not quite as far but took photos. Miri and Velma to Salle a Manger and back, 4 hrs. ~ Tony
Mon 1 Yesterday - Canyoning! I joined the party at the last possible moment, we had some trouble figuring out when to leave the canyon (called the Furon), we got really, really cold, lost one tackle bag, and finally ended up at the wrong car park! It was fun, though! After that epic first encounter with canyoning yesterday,we did a short trip in Cuves de Sassenage today. An interesting cave, would be nice to visit it again some day. ~ Velma
Sun 31 Tony, Harvey and Michel taking photos in Grotte Favot, very impressive fossil resurgence on cliff face in Bourne Gorge. Huge stal and fine phreatic passages.Dobsons, Brian, Velma and canyoning in Furon gorge. Vaughans walking in woods. Others at local cheese festival! Glorious sunny day. ~ Tony
Sun 31 Visited Grotte Roche [earlier in the week]. Nice big entrance, after a few crawls and climbs opened up into the main chamber. Traverse line going up a slope at the side. It led to some reasonably tight crawls and awkward climbs. Route was marked with arrows and tape. Steel ladder rungs driven into the wall leading down to another traverse. Then we just walked through a large passage where could hear a stream. As it went on the floor got slippery and could see tide mark on wall where water builds up into a lake. Ended in a sump so went back to main chamber and followed it on for less than 2 mins until it just stopped. The only way on was up a ladder and through a very tight crawl which we decided not to go through. In general thought it was a nice cave and glad we made the detour as the trip would've been very short. Also quite challenging. ~ Josh
Sat 30 Ben and Josh dropped to minus 250m in Saints de Glace, into Salle Hydrokarst, completed an exchange in Gour Fumant and made their way to the terminal sump in Grotte Roche. ~ Gary
Sat 30
Today while the others were doing through trips in the same system, we visited the Salle Hydrokarst in Les Saints de Glace. SRT is beginning to feel a normal part of caving instead of "oh no, a pitch!" ~ Velma
Sat 30
The through trip is a bit like the Mendips meets Vercors! Series of short pitches down to a short muddy section with a tight squeeze and a horrible wet pool. Then into Galerie Francois Nord, lots of traverse lines in roof of meander passage. Pitch then drops into Conciergerie, big dry impressive passage with lots of boulder-hopping. Into Galerie des Marmites with lots of pretty pots. Then huge Salle Hydrokarst and steep exit via stream passage into Saints de Glace. ~ Gary
Sat 30
Gary, Tony and Michel, Trou qui Souffle to Saints de Glace through trip, 5 hrs. with Miri and Velma to Salle Hydrokarst in Saints de Glace. Dobsons and Brian doing through trip behind Gary's team. Weather still changeable. ~ Tony
Fri 29
We've just returned from Grotte Roche. Had very nice trip despite some route finding trouble (it was just the two of us and I was trying to read the survey and the directions which were in French). The cave has impressively big passages and beautiful formations, no SRT, but some fun with cow's tails. ~ Velma
Fri 29
Yesterday lots of folk to Grotte Roche in Bourne Gorge, raining. Today I cycled up Alpe d'Huez. Dobsons and Brian to Grotte Favot taking photos. Gary and Anne and his boys cycling. ~ Tony
Wed 27
The Finns are really enjoying the amazing views and numerous caves of Vercors, including our first proper SRT trips, which have been a learning experience but good fun as well! ~ Velma
Wed 27
Big trip to Grotte de Bournillon today. Tony B and dave Dob taking photos. Rain again this evening. Harvey L has arrived. ~ Tony
Tue 26
Camp life is currently wet! Mass exodus to pizza resaurant tonight. Trips today to Gour Fumant and Scialet de Toboggan. ~ Tony
Mon 25
Further explore of Les Saints de Glas ready for through trips. Dobsons to Trou qui Souffle, to base of pitches. Rain in afternoon. Today better already, warm sun. ~ Tony
Sun 24
Trou Qui Souffle and Les Saints de Glas rigged in prep for through trips. Bournillon visited and is very impressive as it has been wet here. Knibbs' have arrived. Temp a bit cool! ~ Tony
Various direputable members of the Club, under the leadership of Mr Gary Vaughan . . .
Two Finns in France - the 2011 Vercors expedition ~ by Velma Aho see Miri's photographs

Before the SWCC expedition to the Vercors, Miri and I had only been caving in Finland (if you can call that caving), Sweden and South Wales, so this was our first shot at continental caving. We had known to expect big and impressive caves, but we were still blown away by it all! For us, it was an expedition full of superlatives.

Our first trip was a bit of a shock: an SRT trip to Trou qui Souffle, which was basically in the backyard of our comfy mobile home at Camping les Eymes. Before the expedition, we had only ever done single practice pitches, at climbing walls and in OFD, but now we were faced with seven proper pitches, from 5 to 30 meters in height. It was hard work, but we made it, and on subsequent trips to Gour Fumant and Saints de Glace, SRT began to feel like the most straightforward bit of caving, compared to squeezes, crawls, traverses, climbs and whatnot. We particularly enjoyed abseiling to the Salle Hydrokarst, the biggest chamber in the Trou qui Souffle - Saints de Glace system.

We learned plenty of other things aside from SRT. On the trips to Grotte Roche and Cuves de Sassenage, where we were on our own, we found out how easy it is to accidentally go around in circles. I also tried canyoning for the first time, and found it to be fun, quite different from caving, and really cold if you stop moving.

As for the superlatives, we saw the largest cave entrance in Europe at Grotte de Bournillon, which also had one of the biggest chambers we've seen, and the Grand Dme in Grotte Favot must've been the biggest formation we've come across so far. These two caves also had the most scenic (Bournillon) and the most strenuous (Favot) approaches we've done. When we were on our way out of Grotte Favot, the sun was shining through the superb pentagonal entrance passage, and we managed to take one of the best cave photos we've ever done.

Last but not least, Grotte de Gournier was without doubt the most beautiful cave we've ever visited, and had a very nice streamway as well. Entering this wonderful cave was quite a memorable experience, since the entrance consists of a very cold lake, which we crossed on a slightly leaky lilo. Pumping more air into it while standing on a ledge with my cowstails clipped to a traverse line was one of the strangest things I've done in a cave. The nearby Choranche showcave was one of the best showcaves we've visited, a definite must for a day off.