France - Dent de Crolles
Clewin Griffith, Colm Carroll, Darryl Anderson, Mike Rogerson (Goaty), Hugh Penney, Jan Evetts, Jerry Moore, Martin McGowan, Otter, Paul, Pete Jurd, Tim Wright (Shed), Stefan Bennewitz
Fri 23rd to Mon 26th May
We had a great weekend trip in the pristine countryside of the Chartreuse. All was going well with plenty of canyoning and caving until Andy sent a text message from London. Read on for full details..... Photos by Colm.
No problems with the flights from London, we got to St. Pierre de Chartreuse at about 00:30. Hugh's group arrived a short while later after KLM had lost hughs caving kit (This was delivered on saturday).
Darryl, Martin, Stefan and Clewin
Hugh needed to pick up carbide and some spare caving kit from his mate Graham in Crolles, and the weather was fantastic so myself, Martin, Stefan and Clewin went walking, from Perquelin up to the Dent de Crolles summit and back down the GR9 past Trou de Glaz and Guiers Mort caves to the car. The walk lasted about 6 hours and we went for a deserving beer in the village afterwards.
Colm, Goaty, Jan and Pete
Beautiful weather, so abandoned plans to go caving, and decided to try our hand at canyoning instead. L'Infernet canyon is the best in the region, and described as an excellent introduction to the sport. Two car loads drove through the spectacular Chartreuse scenery to the head of the canyon. The canyon starts as a shallow river in a forest, pleasant walking for the first 10 minutes, then a rumbling noise indicates the fun is about to begin. The first obstacle is a short jump off a large boulder into a deep pool. At the far end of the pool, the noise increases, and a short traverse leads to a 30m pitch into the canyon proper. The descent looks quite daunting as the rope is engulfed by the waterfall.
Gullible me (Colm) goes first, the first 5 metres are dry, then suddenly I'm sucked into the heart of the waterfall. The water beating on my helmet is loader than any drum. I continue abbing rapidly, occaisonally leaning into the rock to grab a breath or two. Then, about 5m from the bottom, I let go of the rope, and plunge into the pool at the bottom. The currently quick pulls me away from the waterfall, and I'm soon on dry land. Exhilarating! Three others quickly follow me down, with a large posse of chickens turning around at the top.
We pull our rope down, and continue to the next obstacle, a short abseil/jump. We're now old-hands at this game, so continue quickly downwards. Another abseil, then we come to a gently sloping section where the technique is to slide down like a waterslide. This togoggan is great, so we climb back to the top to repeat it a few times. Further down, after several excellent jumps and toboggans, the gorge effect lessens as the steep sides give way to more gentle slopes, and we're soon at the end of the fun stuff.
Canyoning is great fun, must do it again.
Trou de Glaz to Grotte Chevalier
Darryl, Martin, Stefan and Clewin
The weather turned on sunday from 26 degree sunshine to 11 degree rain so the walk up the hill was perfect for wearing caving kit. Our group decided to do the slightly easier Chevalier through trip. At the entrance we were told that our whole route was rigged for the CAF conference the next week. Excellent, but we still had to take the bags through the cave. This cave has some great pitches, including a 55m one, and also a great traverse where you have to climb down about 4m before stepping over a large hole to a horizontal traverse. A few rifty meanders later (where tacklesacks were bastards) and you drop down into Chevalier, which is a lot different and consists of about 1km of hot, boring, boulder hopping.
On returning we discovered that our car had been broken into and mine and stefan's bags had been taken, including clothes, jackets and my passport. I had had the foresight to put my phone, digi camera and wallet underneath the passenger seat, so retrieved them to find a text message from Andy Jurd saying the flights had been cancelled because of a strike. Cheers andy for making my day
Trou de Glaz to Guiers Mort (1st group)
Hugh, Otter, Pete, Paul, other
Trou de Glaz to Guiers Mort (2nd group)
Jerry, Tim, Jan, Colm, Goaty
Despite having the car packed the night before, we still managed to be last in the cave due to incompetence and faffing at the entrance. Consequently that the CAF rigging team were ahead of us. This meant that the whole trip would be rigged, but also that we'd be stuck behind the rigging group - oh well. Through the cave, Lantern pitches OK, along to the big pitch (36m). The CAF team were still perfecting the hang, so we took the opportunity for a chocolate break. Down the pitch and into some vadose canyon passage, with a small stream at the bottom. Here, again, we caught up with the Frenchies, this time we needed to hang around for about an hour, this included the insertion of a bolt for a deviation. Chocolate, mooing and baaing, we passed the time.
Underway again, we left the canyon, and finally into the fossil phreas. Classic Crolles cave passage. Amazing stuff. We whooped through, taking many photos. We soon started the descent in Gallerie des Champignons, with the little calcite mushrooms adding to the interest. We had this passage to ourselves, the French having zoomed off. We soon met up with them, however, at the Cascade Rocheuse. Bad news. The rope up the pitch was missing. Suggestions that we could climb it seemed a little optimistic. Luckily the French knew of an alternative route. At the base of the cascade, a passage off to the left led to to a tight downward rift. On from this we came to a small pitch, Puits de Cerf (nasty deviation) into a chamber. A canyon passage leading off from this was climbed to the top to reveal phreatic passage (the metro). Following this along, taking the right hand passage at the end, brought us to the base of Puits Noir. Luckily the rope was in place, unluckily, we were 10 th in the queue.
1.5 hours later, up we go. The pitch is appalingly rigged, so it's a bit of an effort to get to the top, but once there we rejoin the main through-route. It was quite late, so we really want to get out. Excellent passage, nice pitch (Puits Pierre), then the squalor of the crawls, soon in the main entrance + outside. Jerry nearly walks off cliff edge. The path is to the right as you exit, but we didn't know this, so veered left. Still, found the path ok and back at the car in 40mins ~11.30pm. Too late for pizza + pivo - damn. Collapse to bed with no dinner.
This day saw us phone BA about our flights but couldn't get back before thursday night. Myself, Martin, Stefan and Hugh visited the gendarmerie to report the theft and when we finished we met the others and decided to drive to Calais and ferry over. After packing up the campsite our group (Myself, Stefan, Martin) had to change the car in Grenoble and visit the British Consulate in Lyon to report my passport loss. Then we steamed up the motorway and arrived in Calais at about 11:30, where we filled up the car and kipped there for the night. The other London group had caught a late ferry and were picked up by Clewin's dad, so they got home about 03:00
We got up at 05:00 to catch the 06:45 ferry which got to Dover at 07:00 BST. A 3 hour coach ride later and we were in London, where we dropped off the kit and went home. The consulate rang me later to confirm that the gendarmerie had found our bags and could we arrange to pick them up, so all wasn't too bad.
Photos by Colm Carroll.