Mark R, Adam, Joe, Simon, Tom L, Luke, Lizzie, Maddie, Mark K
https://www.dropbox.com/s/yptuhzo98d9hjc6/Trip%20report.doc - Full report with pics
The trip down was meticulously planned beforehand, and Joe & Adam had ensured that all 3 cars converged on Dover in plenty of time for our midnight ferry (seriously guys?). The journey through France wasn't too painful however, and by 11am on Saturday we had arrived. Everyone went to explore our Gite in Corrençon en Vercors, apart from Mark, Lizzie, and I who went to visit the Autrans campsite where our illustrious leader would be spending the first week, as part of the Berger team. We took in the sights of Autrans for a while, before receiving a call from the others that they needed a hose to fill the paddling pool. This would set the tone for the fortnight. The pool was readied and the HMS Badger (our sturdy, challenger class dinghy) was launched upon it. The pool was a little nippy for human use so we utilised it as a beer cooler, made dinner (bolognese, yum), and everyone collapsed into bed before 10. We're so cool.
Got up early (well before my usual 'noon'), about 9!! I immediately regretted coming on holiday with a bunch of old people, and prayed that this would be a one-off aberration. We made tea and served it in the thimble-sized cups provided in the Gite, and our first breakfast of Pain au Chocolat and croissants was inhaled. We went for our first shop, before exploring the rest of Corrençon. One of our many observations being that the plant pots that had been placed in the roads, presumably as a traffic calming measure, are bloody annoying, and I resolved that something had to be done. We had a suitably French lunch of saucisson and bleu de Vercors cheese with baguettes, then went for SRT practice at the roadside. I made a tit of myself and lost the respect of my badgery colleagues. We took some dynamic photos, Lizzie & I walked Mark K through SRT basics, and then we returned home for a pleasant evening of wine consumption.
Got up early and hungover. I immediately regretted coming on holiday with a bunch of alcoholic old people. Typical breakfast, and then pre-cave faffage, then drove to our first cave of the trip; Scialet de Malaterre. The cave was already occupied by some of our French caving cousins, so we busied ourselves by building a zipline while waiting for them to get out of our way. Mark lead climbed his way up a precariously tall and thin tree, which bore an odd resemblance to one of his own limbs. A little while later the team had developed quite an impressive little toy to play with. Adam startled a donkey, and Joe, being Joe, decided to go the wrong way up the zipline, and nearly kicked a passing woman's head off in the process. When it came to my turn my epically long cow's tails betrayed me, and I ended up upside down, stuck in a tree. Having decided that I didn't want to make a tit of myself again, I set about shortening them.
As we grew tired of our game, Adam & Simon went off in search of lunch whilst the rest of us dismantled, and by the time they had returned the first pitch of the cave had been rigged. After the consumption of some damn fine pastries and cakes, we set off over the bridge and into Malaterre. Lizzie went first, and I followed closely, but not before muchos backseat-caving from the head of the first pitch. I made it down despite the fact that my arms felt oddly feeble (probably should have done some caving beforehand!), and Lizzie and I waited for Daddy Badger to come and rescue us, as we'd managed to get lost already.
He put us on the right track, and once Lizzie was satisfied she'd finished rigging, they both returned to the surface. Joe, Adam, and Mark K arrived and peer-pressured me into bottoming the cave, despite my protestations of laziness. And although I didn't admit it at the time, I was quite glad that they did, as I probably hadn't seen a bigger chamber before besides GG. The long prusik out really did tire me out quite a lot, and I had deep sympathy for Mark K, our SRT virgin.
I said goodbye to Evil, Simon, and Maddie as they headed down to the bottom, and followed Mark K out up the final prusik. There were 2 ropes rigged for the first pitch so I was able to ascend alongside him, and threaten him with sexual assault by way of motivation. It did the trick, and before long we were at the top, and left Joe to wait for the others, whilst Lizzie, Adam, both Marks, and myself went for a quick shop, enjoying Mark R's rally-stage-esque driving on the way down. Arrived home to prep dinner. At the time of writing, Maddie, Joe, Evil, and The Bead, all missing, presumed dead.
For the first time I was not the last out of bed! L&M could be heard giggling upstairs as we enjoyed our usual Pain au Chocolat + croissants based breakfast. Our choice of cave for the day would require some nautical transportation, and so the HMS Badger was deflated accordingly, in order to fit into a boot. Mark's car set off to Autrans to get a pump so we could re-inflate her. Joe drove Simon's car, and we'd made it almost all the way to Grotte de Gournier, before Mark K piped up that he'd forgotten his wellies (twat). Another round trip later we were all assembled at the cave, and given its name, Lizzie & I searched for the 7 signs of ageing, but to no avail. The good ship Badger was reconstituted, and we traipsed up to the cave entrance, stopping briefly on the way to ask permission at the neighbouring show cave in pigeon French. A group of canyoners were occupying the pitch head at the opposite side of the lake that marks the entrance. We weren't too dismayed as the lake was pretty, so once we'd changed and I'd put my gloves into 'fingerless' mode, I went for a romantic row about the lake with Joe. Eventually the pitch was clear and we began crossing. Before long we were all at the far side, and shimmied up the short pitch and over the traverse, arriving into the cave proper. Bouldering our way through the impressively large chamber, the so called 'fossil gallery' was furnished with a variety of stals and shiny calcite coated formation, but this was outdone when we reached the genuinely awesome flowstone terraces at Salle des Fontaines.
A group of kids caving on carbide passed us on their way out and the eerie orange glow made the place look even more spectacular, and for a moment or two I could appreciate why some luddites still insist on carbide and halogen lighting. Flicking my Duo back on however, I distinctly preferred being able to see where I was going, so we carried on, searching for an entrance that would take us down to a lower streamway, that previous LUPC/BBPC adventurers had failed to locate. After much faffing and craning of necks it was eventually found, so we slipped down and started plodding upstream. After a few tight bits, the river dramatically widened and deepened, and there was much chilling of genitals. We caught up with the canyoning group who were oddly fond of jumping in the deep bits. Where the stream became too deep we traversed along a wall and found some helpfully placed metal rungs. They were very useful, but it didn't occur to us to clip into them, and just as we reached the end Maddie slipped and fell in. Once we'd satisfied ourselves she wasn't too seriously wounded we giggled heartily, and apparently she wasn't impressed! Kept going until at about 15:30 we reached a pool that would require getting neck deep in the icy water in order to cross, and most of the group decided it was lunchtime. The canyoners then passed us on their way out, insisting that it was worth our while going on. It wasn't. One icy immersion, an awkward traverse, and a precarious climb later, we realised that the other group were either mad, lying, or both, so we turned tail, and made an uneventful exit.
Re-entering the upper chamber via a different entrance we got a little confused but eventually found ourselves facing up a very large boulder choke, which we conquered, before pressing on to the familiar sight of the Salle des Fontaines. This time it was dramatically lit by a group of photographers, who invited us to pose for them. Badgers our renowned for their ability to appear dynamic on demand, and our foreign colleagues seemed happy with their work. As we were exiting above the lake, Joe loudly referred to them as 'the French'. Being Swedish they seemed to take exception to this. BBPC's international reputation successfully damaged, the lake was successfully crossed, and we got changed, successfully.
Adam, in an uncharacteristic moment of noisy tactlessness, loudly observed that 'The Germans' were bashing the HMS Badger about, but later made up for this blow to Anglo-Swedish relations by calling one of them 'Sexy'. So that should be of some comfort. By about 19:30 we were back at the cars and had a very late lunch, drove home to shower and order pizza for dinner. We drank wine and reflected on our accomplishments. My favourite cave so far, but still plenty to come!
Day off, but the geriatrics were out of bed by 9 regardless. Mark had disappeared for a guided tour of the Petzl factory by the time I stared. Damp clothes laid out in the sun to dry, we set off to Pont en Royans, today being the start of the heat wave that we would be blessed with for the rest of our holiday. We found ourselves besides the picturesque river, jumped in and out, made an unsuccessful, but highly entertaining zipwire over the river (which hurt Tom's back), sailed about in the HMS Badger, and enjoyed our cheesey, saucissony, bready dejeuner. We de-rigged and went to watch Lizzie and some semi naked children run about in a fountain, before going for a beer and perusing the local outdoor shops.
We were told that Crolls and Pantins were currently unobtainable, and a phone call to Daddy Badger at Petzl confirmed this. On the way home we stopped above the Ponte Noir over the Gourge de la Bourne, to look for the Goule Noir cave. Couldn't see anything cavey, so carried on to the Fromagerie to take on cheese. Back home after yet another visit to the supermarche, then to the pub for some socialising...well, social networking and halloing of bootycalls/loved ones. Enjoyed some light jazz outside the town hall. We made our way back home for dinner and waited for Mark to get back so he could inform our cave choosing debate.
In a drunken moment of madness the previous night I decided I wanted to see the inside of the patisserie from which we'd been getting breakfast so volunteered to be the fetcher for the day. Consequently breakfast was served much later than usual, but Mark, and a chap from Bradford PC called Adam arrived late anyway, so after the usual faffery we set off, Des' instructions in hand, in search of Grotte Favot, somewhere near the Pont Noir where we had been the previous day. Des was on form, and instead of parking in the 1st bay on the left after the bridge and walking left, we parked in the 2nd bay on the right after the bridge, and walked right. One day Des, one day. BPC's Adam spoke enough Frog to be able to point us vaguely in the right direction using the French guide books. Des warned that the half hour walk to the cave was “a bit of a slog”. At least an hour later we were at the mouth of the cave. We'd walked up a steep and scrambly mountainside in the 27° heat, either carrying or wearing our bulky caving shizzle. Sweating, scratched, bitten, and more than a little frustrated, we eventually heard huzzahs from the head of the group as Daddy Badger let us know he'd made it.
What seemed like an eternity later I caught him up and before long we were all swallowing countless pints of water as we finally had a chance to take in our surroundings as we changed. The entrance was in your standard issue mountainside limestone alcove, with a low walk/bit of a crawl over the dry mud. I saw daylight at the far end of the short crawl and for a horrible moment thought someone was playing a sick joke, but this turned out to be coming from a window in the side of the cliff to the left. To the right was the pentagon shaped downward sloping “Grand Tunnel”. Des reckoned the slog up the hill was worth it for this tunnel alone. At the time of writing I'm still sore and smelly from the long walk so not too sure, but I've a sneaking suspicion that on later reflection I might be inclined to agree with him. The rest of the cave it has to be said was a little unremarkable. Handline down entrance slope, quick walk around some large stalls broken up by the odd boulder, then onto a pitch head. Quite an attractive large formation on the opposing wall here, before following the pitch down a slope (where I knocked off a couple of rope protectors and got a telling off from Adam).
Final pitch down to the muddy bottom. Some mud coated stals but not much else to see besides a crawl to nowhere in particular – which the bullies of the club tried to convince me down, but I know better than to squeeze into Evil's muddy passage. Volunteering to de-rig I had plenty of time to poke around whilst waiting for people to leave, and noted a shovel embedded in the mud, suggesting that some lunatic has actually been digging in that godforsaken place. Another unremarkable exit, and then an ankle devastating descent down the scrambly slope to change in the sun at the roadside. Home for a quick pub session, Adam flirted with the grumpy garçon, then home for dinner and polite conversation, as L&M went off to hear Mark Wright give a talk in Autrans. A good day's caving (in retrospect!). Would certainly recommend returning, but on a cooler day and preferably with a smaller group.
Reflections on Thursday, an interlude from Mr Parkes
We awoke with song in our hearts and beer in our livers ready to face a new day.
Luke in a fit of guilt had awoken early enough to buy breakfast. Fortunately Joe had given him some tips on ordering in French so all passed well.
After a quick breakfast Mark arrived with a new friend, Adam (2). A nice enough, if slightly beardy man. Our group complete we set off for Grotte Favot following Des's directions to the letter. After 30 mins we were lost so referred to a more reliable source and were off.
A pleasant stroll up the hill resulted in only moderate weight loss and dehydration and left us at the cave entrance struggling for air.
A good cave was found with a fine entrance and some easy pitches, though was marked down for 2m of stooping, and a rope versus Adam (1)'s crotch incident resulting in penile dislocation (Parkes' syndrome).
We returned home for a fine meal prepared by Maddie & Joe. Plenty of beer and a fly murder spree.
Up the badgers.
Day off again, usual breakfast then after faff we drove to Jurassic Park. Mark R left us, and Evil played a game called 'fire arrows off into the alpine meadow and spend hours searching for them again' (I helped come up with the name). Joe and Simon needed help with their suncream, and I begrudgingly accepted the role of back massager. We read, got sunburnt, and searched for caves, as is the badger's natural impulse. Some walking etc then after lunch we headed off into Villard de Lans and bought ingredients for dinner as well as ice cream and drinks. Adam shouted at someone on the phone, then we headed home. Drink consumption began at 6ish.
The arrows down there somewhere
We had Raclette for dinner and it was generally agreed that Raclette is yummy. More drinks, and we sat outside until it was distinctly dark. We tried candle, then powerful head torches, before remembering that we had lights indoors. We had debated many topics, but the highlight of the event was what I like to call 'the Astronomical Disagreement'. Long story short everyone was wrong about the moon and mocked me, before checking the interwebs and I was right once again.
At this point news came from the Berger team that the weather was about to turn nasty so they'd had to postpone their photography expo. We were sympathetic and drank thinking of them. The next bit is a bit of a blur. There was definitely drinking involved, pretty lightning, more drinking, Mark K and I rearranged the plant pots in the village, more drinking, hiding from the Gendarme (I hid behind Mark – genius I know), more drinking, and the next thing I remember I was waking up lying on top of Lizzie.
Massive, massive hangovers. Mark K being impressively poorly. Faffing took even longer than usual, then Mark R, Robbie, Gina, and French Marc turned up, and 2 cars left for the days caves. We were left behind to look after a drunk Mark K and get his stuff together for him.
A long time later we arrived and followed the Bergery people down Grotte de Fée Anglais. Nice and dangly with plenty of interesting boulders, formations etc etc, all the way down to the lake at the bottom. The lake being smaller than I'd expected given the fact that Mark R had lugged the HMS Badger down with him. My confusion was quickly resolved when Robbie whipped out his impressive tool and started doing what he does best.
The usual photography malarkey took place. We spent a while here and I was getting a little cold, but decided to keep my bitching to myself as poor Daddy Badger was having to paddle the HMS Badger around the freezing water with his giant shovel hands, whilst positioning the boat in various places to appease Robbie. After a long time Robbie decided the first picture that he took was the best, and warned me not to tell Mark, as it would upset him. Long prusik out, more photography faff on the way of course, and met the other group at the . We had a roadside lunch, and said goodbye to the Berger team who were off to Gournier for more photography phun.
My group headed down Grotte Jouffles which the others had left rigged for us. A little dangly and really quite squeezy so I didn't see much of the others until we'd all made it down to the big(ish) chamber at the bottom of the pitch. It was mildly impressive but nobody seemed to think it was worth the effort of squeezing in, particularly the still very hungover Mark K. As the noobs started the prusik out, Adam and I had a look around the crawl at the bottom before heading out too.
I would definitely like to return one day to push that a little further, despite Adam's warnings that it wasn't really worth it. Exiting was a struggle, particularly as Adam and I were de-rigging. “Pissing tackle sack” was declared many times. Eventually out though, changed, home, BBQ for tea and not as much drinking as the previous evening – much to the relief of poor Mark, even though it was his last night (sob).
Ms Davies' musings on Sunday
A much needed day of rest was anticipated by all, although unfortunately the caveomatic had made contact in the wee hours the night before demanding rope for the Berger, therefore Simon, Lizzie, and Luke foolishly agreed to spend a few hours lugging it over. After a tearful farewell to Mark K (especially from Luke) Fuck off! Mark and Adam headed to Lyon.
As it was such a terrible day (only 28 degrees and slightly cloudy), Joe declared that he wanted to be alone and left on a 300 mile hike.
Finally Tom + Maddie also decided to spend the day outdoors and go for a walk (possibly not being able to translate any of the maps). All was well though as we eventually found our way back just in time to join Joe and Adam (now back from Lyon) in the bar.
After a look around the local artwork, and some particularly scary animé teddy pictures (in the morning these no longer held much interest) and wifi was much enjoyed in the bar over a beer. The barmen after a week was also possibly less surly. Also having discovered that all the supermarkets were closed and there was no meat in the house the executive decision to eat out was made.
Over particularly tasty veal we did start to wonder what had become of the Berger crew and whether they would be expecting food...A few more beers were consumed before confirmation was received that Simon at least was alive. Still not sure if they will be expecting food though, there may be some raw courgettes in the cupboard...
Emotionally charged goodbyes over with, team Gouffre Berger set out to Autrans. Our first obstacle was encountered when it turned out that the main road out of Corrençon was closed for some sort of fayre, so Simon, Lizzie, and I struggled to even leave the village. We eventually navigated the windy backroads but the going was slow and frustrating, especially knowing that Mark was waiting for us – This set the tone for the day! Stopping in Méaudre we obtained a very tasty breakfast and consumed it in Mark's campsite once we reached Autrans.
We delivered the rope he'd asked for and examined some of the dead rope that had been brought out of the Berger. It was really in a bad way and the thought that people had been prusiking up a rope whose core was exposed in multiple places, including over the Y-hang, was a little stomach turning . After taking some comfort from observing that even the most experienced cavers faff in extremis before caving, we set off in the BeadMobile to the Berger. Packed and kitted up, we set off on the long walk over the La Moliere plateau to the cave, passing many fascinating trees and limestone clints etc on the way.
A couple of pints of sweat later we were at the entrance, and as we composed ourselves the rigging team disappeared off down the first pitch. A little while later we followed them, not entirely sure how far we were going to go down; everyone else being much more prepared than us! The first pitch isn't particularly fascinating, and the entrance itself really doesn't reflect the magnitude of what lies beneath. Passing the metal gate that guards the entrance and squeezing into the first passage it seemed unthinkable that this was once thought to be the deepest cave in the world.
The top of the next pitch is a little awkward but there are a couple of dodgy looking bits of wood to stand on in order to get at it. Handy! The following pitches were more like what I was expecting; scarily big, and my thoughts turned quickly to how painful getting out was going to be. But the vastness of the chambers and the speed at which the team were efficiently pressing through the cave were impressing me enough to keep me distracted. Then came the squeezy, traversy meanders. The less said about which the better. A couple more scary pitches, the odd meandering passage, and we had reached the long Puits Aldo pitch, which we were told might be wet, but was completely dry, very dangly, and hugely imposing.
Entering the enormous Grand Galerie we scrambled and clawed our way down, until Lizzie warned me that we were about the reach the Starless River, which might slow us down, as she remembered it as a raging torrent. Again, it wasn't, the river being more of a pathetic trickle, and I had to admit I was a little disappointed. Not only because it meant that we were going to keep up the same challenging rate of progress, but also as it would have been cool to hear what a cascade of water would have sounded like in a chamber as big as this.
The mud had the consistency (and frictional coefficient – that's right bitches, I went there) of a bar of soap, which resulted in much slipping and girlish screaming, as we crossed the dry bed where Lake Cadoux should have been. The Little General pitch was dry as well. Finally we reached The Great Rubble Heap, at the top of which we regrouped, and listened to some of the French members of the team tell a story, whilst those of us who don't speak Frog made impressed/amused/serious noises at what seemed like appropriate times. Down the heap and we'd reached Camp 1, at the head of the Hall of the 13.
The stalls are truly imposing and vaguely remember a group of penguins huddling, only they're 16ft tall solid limestone penguins. Robbie set about taking a commemorative photo for a French couple who had gotten engaged there a few days previously. Simon, Lizzie, and I had a cup of tea and left them to it.
The way out really was hard work, and I was dripping, but we soldiered on, collecting battered rope to take out with us as we went. By the time we'd reached the meanders the loose rope was being a real nuisance, and I may have said some naughty words. I took out my frustration on it by chopping it up into smaller, slightly less annoying pieces, laughing maniacally as I hacked it up. Lizzie came back to see what all the fuss was about and monitor the progress of my mental breakdown, and then Daddy Badger caught us up and raised our spirits. We finished off our limited juicy supplies and continued out, passing the final few pitches, and remaining bits of meandering.
Out, changed, and very very tired, the long walk back to the cars nearly killed me, but we made it back to the camp to drop off the dead rope and steal water. We got home and enjoyed a sandwich (the closest thing that day to a proper meal!). We slept well that night, and dreamt of big caves.
I'd really like to return to the Berger before too long – I'd gone further underground than ever before and barely scratched the surface of what that cave has to offer. Many thanks to our Badgery Höhlenführer for the opportunity!
Very achey from the previous day, Simon, Lizzie, and I decided to take a day off, but a bit of peep pressure from Adam and Joe and I soon caved (see what I did there?). Usual morning routine, then left Simon and Lizzie behind to wait in for Mark to return from Autrans, but not before breaking the dishwasher. Scialet de Pot de Loup at the end of Jurassic Park is a roadside cave, and not overly demanding – ideal for a Berger cooldown.
The entrance pitch leads to a small patch of earth, also accessible by climbing down the side of a hill, but why take the easy option when you could be sat watching Joe struggling with awkwardly placed spits? Down, then up a short climb to a brief passageway before the first proper pitch. Rigging took a while here due to the dodgyness of the spits in situ, but once Joe was satisfied with his 'Robinson Tri-Hang™ ' we zipped down and made quick progress through the quite dangly cave, until the last pitch.
Again, it didn't look much fun to rig, so there was another minor bottleneck. We encouraged Joe with useful bits of advice such as “Hmm I wouldn't do it like that” and “Hurry up, stop complaining”. Eventually we were all at the bottom, where a beautiful 10m wade through knee-deep mud led to a solid wall of limestone, which I decided was a job for another day. Back up and leaving Adam to de-rig, with Evil 'helping'. We'd gotten about halfway up, and Joe & I were discussing how guilty you'd feel if someone died on your rigging. Adam then made a sound from the bottom of the cave which very closely approximated the noise I imagine you'd make if all the hangers popped out of the wall and you'd fallen to your death; “Oh fuck!...THUMP!” Joe and I, being attached to various bits of rope, had a quiet moment of reflection, contemplating how guilty Joe was going to feel having killed Adam with his rigging. In the end it seems Adam had survived, the sound merely being that of his helmet falling off. So we called him a twat and carried on out without further cause for excitement.
At the top Joe showed me how you could escape up the side of the hill, and we bumped into a young French couple whom Maddie was sending down, presumably to their deaths, as Tom later told us that they didn't look convinced when he informed them that they might need a rope or two to get past the 45m pitch that they were precariously peering over. Out, changed, home, and another BBQ dinner. Horse tastes quite nice, who knew? The dishwasher had been replaced by the time we'd gotten home.
Good old Gite Lady.
Mark R being with us, and everyone (bar me!) in the mood for a challenge, we'd thumbed through the guide books the night before and decided that Scialet de Gay Bunny would be suitably sporting, despite the admittedly unusual name.
The large amount of rope required (for the 400m+ deep cave) however, took an unforeseeably long time to prepare. That, combined with the amount of time it took to break/fiddle with/temporarily fix the new dishwasher, meant that it was approaching midday by the time we'd left Corrençon. Following Des' 20 year old instructions, by 2 O'clock we had almost given up hope of finding the cave. He'd led us to a path on the summit of a picturesque Rhône-Alpes foothill, and promised that a cairn somewhere along it would signify the start of “a well-marked path leading to the cave's entrance”.
Evil Tom sprinted off down the path, which was impressive given the heat and steepness of the path. I watched him disappear over the horizon and pictured myself being held in his athletic arms...Awaking from my daydream and wiping myself down, Tom had returned and declared there to be no cairn. We drove around a bit more, and spotted some lumberjack types with whom Maddie flirted expertly, but they weren't able to point us in the direction of a cave. We returned to the path, and tried again.
Adam decided he might have spotted the promised path, so Daddy Badger plodded off down it, and miraculously a cave was discovered. We briefly contemplated rigging, but it was hot, and we were hungry, and the path back to the cars was steep, so we decided to go and mess about in the river at Pont en Royans again.
The plan being to return earlier the next day now that we knew where we were going. We enjoyed the river for a bit – Simon caught and ate a live fish, and then we went for a beer. We willed some children to kill themselves by jumping from the bridge into the river. Home, and Tartiflette for dinner omnomnom. Oh and the dishwasher was broken again.
BBPC in action - thanks to our kind sponsor KingsBrau
The previous night we read a trip report for Gay Bunny written by Imperial College in 2009, and concluded 2 important things. Firstly that ICCC sound like a sad bunch of bastards, and secondly (and perhaps more pressingly) that Gay Bunny sounds really horrible, so we abandoned our original plans, and over breakfast flicked through the guide books again, in search for something more suitable. We settle on Glacier de Carri, and headed out, leaving Maddie behind as she was poorly.
Bit of a drive, and a short hot walk later we were changing outside the entrance, surrounded by what I can only assume to be every insect in Western Europe. The cave itself is the most reminiscent of a Yorkshire cave that I did in the Vercors. Nice and dangly, good fun crawling through the narrower bits, and not to mention cold!
At the bottom of the entrance pitch was a patch of snow, surviving just a couple of metres below the heat of the sun on the surface above.
The rigging however was challenging, and some odd spits made for slow progress, so the chaps at the back were starting to shiver by the time we'd made it to the bottom of the last pitch. We stopped at the end of the SRTy bit as we were getting nippy and noone other than Lizzie fancied getting on their hands and knees. That and we'd run out of rope anyway. We stood around for a while and everyone bullied me for not putting chocolate in the rescue bag. As punishment I was made to de-rig, so everyone carried out whilst I employed even more naughty words to describe both my colleagues, and the tackle sack which repeatedly managed to irk me.
For future reference; If you're down prusiking 10m because your tackle is simultaneously stuck and weighting the rope, you're doing something wrong. Eventually out, passing some unorthodox rigging again, we nipped down the hill to regroup by the cars and eat lunch whilst changing. Home to wash rope in the paddling pool, Mark shouted at me for coiling (my!) rope improperly, and we took pictures of that recalcitrant moon. We then got nicely drunk using up our vodka supply, and cuddled until the early hours.
An excellent cave to round off the trip!
Last full day for L&M, and I awoke with a hangover that could down a bull rhino. We decided that canyoning would be a good idea, and we settled on Pont en Royans as a destination. After another scenic journey through the Gourge de la Bourne at speed, we arrived, and everyone jumped into wetsuits as I scoffed, donning my fabulous pink swimming shorts.
In total we probably covered less than a couple of hundred metres, but it really was very good fun pressing our way upstream through the quick-moving water. Then we turned around and moving downstream was even more exciting, but resulted in more than its share of bruises and scrapes. I decided that both of my legs were broken and insisted the others left me there to die, but Adam said I was being dramatic and I was forced once again to press onwards. Simon had a good go at drowning himself by wedging his foot between two rocks, but Mark pulled him free before too long.
Clambering over the damn and a few boulders (not much fun for barefoot Tom apparently) we continued swimming until we passed under the bridge, which dripped on us from a suspicious looking pipe. We then plodded back through the village on foot, and got glared at by a few disgruntled Frenchmen. Changed and went for a pint, contemplated food but the waitress was too slow, so we drove to Villard de Lans for a crêpe and another drink. We bought an unimaginable amount of food and returned home for one last BBQ. Mark and Lizzie packed their car, then went upstairs to giggle.
The rest of us drank, and tried to think of how we'd spend our last full day tomorrow.
Having risen late I was greeted by a goodbye note from L&M on the coffee table. We slowly readied ourselves and decided what we'd get up to. Adam was naturally keen on expanding his cheese collection which he was smuggling back to the UK. Maddie wanted wine, Joe wanted to sleep, and Evil, Simon and I wanted to climb a mountain. So we all did accordingly.
A makeshift lunch was thrown together and we set off on the road towards Villard de Lans and caught the cable car up the first 1720m of the nearest mountain from Le Balcon. Cheating I know, but it was hot still. And besides there was still plenty of walking to be done. Tom glanced fleetingly at the map, and decided that upways was rightways. About an hour or so's vertical plodding later we reached the lake, having crossed over a ski resort in summertime (they look really weird!).
Lac de la Moucherolle is at 1916m, where we admired the fish, and hoped Simon could resist the urge to decimate the population, before turning round to inspect the ominous lump of rock behind us. La Grande Moucherolle towered above us, and there didn't appear to be any obvious route up it that wasn't suicidal, but being the intrepid badgery sorts that we are we carried on up, and by 1 0'Clock we had conquered her, with only minimal panicked scrambling required to reach the summit at 2285m.
We took photos, ate the traditional lunch of our people (saucisson and bleu de Vercors baguettes), and waved at a passing man in a glider, which was a little surreal to say the least. Plodding back down we passed a lump of snow, which again was miraculously surviving the baking heat. Simon tried sledging for a bit, but to no avail, and by 3 O’Clock we were back at the telecabine station enjoying an expensive beer. We nipped back down in the cable car, and back home to our Gite.
One last visit to the bar with the charming staff and free wifi, and then back for some sedate packing, tidying, and dinner prep. Very conscious that we were leaving the next day at 4am.
Saturday and home
The early start wasn't as bad as we feared, and we made quick progress through the delightful French motorway system, reaching Calais quickly enough to get an earlier ferry at 1:30. Off the ferry we said our goodbyes at Becky's mansion, and the Badgers dissipated to their respective corners of their country. The Vercors is a really great place, and a bit of organisational success and good luck with the weather made for an amazing trip. We learnt a few lessons and I genuinely can't wait to return to explore further.
Many thanks to everyone involved, and here's hoping that I haven't been so spoilt by the big French caves that the humble peaks and dales bore me.
The Littlest Badger x