Attended: Darren, Alex R, Chris K, Chris S, John P
Dates: 21st to 26th (For me), everyone else stayed later
Thought I would write my report for this big trip, hastily planned as the UK and France came out of lock-down. I obviously cant comment on the last week as a wasn’t there but here’s my write up for the above dates
Tuesday 21st July: Travel
A long journey for me via Amsterdam and Lyon airports followed by two buses saw me arrive in Villard-De-Lans at 18:00 meeting Remy who gave me a lift to camp. Once there I settled in with a beer and waited for Alex and John who were scheduled to arrive about the same time. They finally arrived later and we all celebrated with a BBQ courtesy of our French hosts.
Wednesday 22nd July: Walk to Villard De Lans / Bounillion
The next morning dawned bright and sunny, as the Chris’s weren’t due to arrive till midday Alex and John went for a bike ride while I decided to scout the local area and went for a walk to Villard-De-Lans as I had some stuff to buy and transport home to arrange. It was a nice forest walk and a lovely town to have a wonder round but not much else to say…
Once I got back Alex and John returned about the same time and shortly after the Chris’s turned up after their long trek, the pub onsite provided a ravioli lunch and we decided to have an introduction to French caving by going the biggest entrance in Europe “The Bounillion”
The drive up through the valley was epic with great views and drops on either side, arriving at the power station we decided to head up in normal clothing as their is no crawling, srt etc. Again the walk up was excellent and the entrance has to be seen for such vast scale and depth. The passage follows up over the hydro plant to a bridge and the way on is to climb over and traverse some deep pools and drops leading to yet more epic passage and some great formations. We knew at some point we would hit water but carried on a far as possible having some good climbs and scrambles. Once we reached the wading section we stopped for a break and chat before heading back out with no problems. Once at the entrance the sound of thunder echoing down the passage told us the weather had changed and then as we left the cave the heavens opened with thunder, lightning and sideways rain of biblical proportions. Its sobering how quick the weather can change up there, after a wet walk back to the car we got changed and headed back to camp to prepare for tea.
Getting tea this evening was hard work and we found every local resturant was either A) Full B)Closed or C) both but we finally found food in Villard-De-Lans
Thursday 23rd July: Guoffre Berger: The descent
Speaking to the organizers they asked us to wait until 18:00 before our decent in order to confirm the weather and permission to be granted, most the day was spent organizing gear, finalizing plans and eating. This was a lovely chilled day as the nerves went up for the evening, once 18:00 came about we dutifully went to the tent and began some intense negotiations as the weather the next day was slightly iffy. We finally came to an arrangement where we could go the Vestiaire pitch at -640m. Once organised we decided to take the same gear as our initial plan (Bottoming trip – 2 nights underground). Finally we set off for the car-park, after some sat-nav fails trying to send us straight over a mountain we arrived at the parking spot which had some of the best views ever and set off on the long walk to the entrance
Once at the entrance Alex got changed (everyone else wore their gear en-route) and we were ready, a note at this point that Alex was not feeling very well at all and had been ill the week before the trip and to go as far as he did should be commended . The trip starts with a good little gully leading to the proper entrance pitch, at this point another team was coming up and advised us the pitches were double rigged with the white rope all being direct drops (for decending) and the orange rope via re-belays (for quicker ascent). We all quickly got down to Ruiz pitch which is the first of some excellent big pitches, the next obstacle was the holiday slides with no ice unfortunately and this leads straight onto the Cairn pitch where we all caught up, unfortunately Alex didn’t get the message about the ropes and got slightly strung up on the re-belay. Once we all met up I left a drink in the chamber for the way back up and we headed into the next obstacle, The Meandres. This is an interesting area with narrow traverses all the way along but nothing to difficult, without heavy bags this would be trivial however swearing and kicking our bags finally got us through to the next pitch which was the excellent Garby’s pitch leading to yet more Meandres, these ones are shorter and easier with Stemples to step over all the way to the Gontards pitch and the Relay Pitches, these short(er) pitches were a taster for the excellent largest pitch of the cave “Aldos” The top of this pitch freaked me out and does need a good head for heights but once down a short rift follows to the end of the entrance series (-256m)
The next section of cave is epic, the size of this passage is huge with some stunning formations and some huge house sized boulders, we were coming up to midnight at this point so I shot ahead to set up camp and make a brew at camp 1, however its not a cave to rush and the formations, situations and views demand time to stop and look and it was awesome, I really enjoyed this section and was almost disappointed to arrive a camp. Once their I may us all a brew and Chris K set up his tent (Yes he took a whole Tent down there ) Our dreams of a good night sleep were shattered by some french cavers on their way up who decided to wake up for a conversation every hour of the night :negative:) Ugh….
Friday 24th July: Gouffre Berger Day 2
We woke up about 08:00 and made breakfast, I had a freeze dried Eggs, Onions and cheese which was legitimately the worst thing I had every eaten but seemed to give me a good energy boost, Alex was still feeling rough and Chris K wanted to sort his Citidel out so it was left to me and Chris S to head deeper, the Hall of the Thirteen followed leading to some short pitches down to the Enormous Cascade which was very cool and the most unique formation I have ever seen, envisioning a long trip out if Alex was feeling bad we decided to turn around at this point meeting the others back at Camp 1. Here the others decided to do some photography while I wanted to ride the energy I had and began to head out.
For a cave like this the way out was rather uneventful but long, the pitches took some time with the bags and the Meandres sucked just as much on the way out, but taking it slow and steady was defiantly the best strategy. I did did strung up on one Re-belay when I missed my chest Jammer not locking and Alex had a problem with his ascended on the orange rope leading to some long prossiks out, aside from that all went well and we arrived back on surface at about 17:00. After getting out there is a long uphill walk back to the car which was like doing a run after just finishing a marathon and we all ran out of water Once back at the carpark Chris made us all a brew in the campervan (like nectar :cry:) and me and Alex went to meet John and had Pizza in Maudre, once back at camp we had an early night
Saturday 25th July: Grottes De Choranche, Grotto Roche
After a latish start we went to the local show-cave which was nice and has a bizarre light show… After that relaxed enjoyment we went to show the entrance of Grotto De Gournier and discussed ways of borrowing a boat to get across and visit this excellent trip :mail:. Afterwards me and John went swimming and then we found a lovely little cave behind a nearby waterfall with some excellent views and a climb to a higher level which me and Alex turned into a round trip.
As it was by last day and I wanted to make the most of it Alex suggested a cave under the road in the valley with big walking passage (Grotto Roche) , we decided to take a look. Armed with torch light we had a good exlore however the short crawl Alex suggested turned out to be flat out and I messed up my last T-shirt However this was a good trip and a great way to end the holiday
Sunday 26th July: Home
Chris K gave me a lift to Grenoble and I went home
Berger Top tips
* Plan: I spent month deciding what gear to take and everything I took I used, Chris K probably didnt need a tent and Chris S said he should not have taken a roll mat
* Book pleanty of time to go down and give weather options
* Ear plugs
* Remeber the walk back – Take a 1/2L bottle of water for the team purely for the walk back to the car
Looking forward to hearing what everyone got up to the next week after I left
I was actually feeling far better on the way out, so much so I took lots of photo’s some of which came out. I plan to release them when I do my report on this and the next week of caving.
Can someone write a report of the other bits as well? It would be good to have a record of this for the next journal.
On it gradually it takes me a while to write these things and it’s a big report as I was including the stuff covered by Darren, I needed a report to go with the pictures I took.