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What has turned into an annual cave trip for various members of DIR-UK began as usual for me with the 3 1/2 hour drive down from Yorkshire to South London to stay at Bob's swanky new house and to pack the van for the trip.

Since the trip I reported last April we have been building up our supplies of scooters and stage bottles/regs, and therefore the contents of the van included two magnum scooters, two standard scooters, two sets of short bodies and batteries, as well as two sets of twin 18's two sets of twin 12's and 18 stage bottles, along with all the normal gear, spares, and tools required to ensure we never miss a dive. Needless to say the van was a little bigger this time and a Vauxhall Vivaro fitted our requirements perfectly.

The trip down to Pont de Rhodes was straightforward and armed with a tomtom we decided to not go through Paris and instead went towards Le Mans, which resulted in a trip time of about the same, but a chance to see some different parts of France, allbeit at 80 mph!

We arrived at Lynnes at around 9pm having started our journey at 7am UK time, and sat down for dinner, before heading to the little cottage in Soucirac were we were staying for the trip. Rick Huggins and Andy Woodside were meeting up with us the following day so we got chance to pick the rooms first. The cottage itself was nice enough with three bedrooms, bathroom, and kitchen, together with a cellar room which was useful for storing all the gear.

Thursday Shakedown dive, St George


We woke to a cold and foggy morning and proceeded to prepare the gear for the day. We were planning on doing a two stage dive in St George, riding the magnums in and the standards out, so that both sets of scooters would get a run to highlight any stuff which needed changing before the deeper dives we were to undertake in Ressel later on in the trip. By the time we arrived at St George the weather had cleared a bit and it was nice and warm. We met Ralph Willhelm from the EKPP who was instructing a class and he was a nice guy, coming over to ask if we had a helmet he could borrow! He checking over the scooters for us and offered some tips, which was pretty cool. Bob spent a bit of time drooling over the full compressor setup Ralph had brought with him, and then we got ready.

The dive itself went very well. St George drops down to 30 mtrs pretty quickly and then ascends again up a gravel slope to about 15 mtrs, and then the depth goes up and down for around 800-900 mtrs between 6 and 10 mtrs with a really shallow section and a tight restriction at about 400 mtrs, and 2 or 3 mtrs deep. The viz was excellent and it was nice to be in a cave again, riding the magnum, with the standard being towed behind between the legs. St George is a light cave, with white walls and a soft, silty, clay type sand which is easy to kick up and even easier to stir up with a scooter prop if you drop to low when stopping to adjust bouyancy, clear ears, or sort stage bottles. In some places you can see the effects of the cave flooding over many centuries, with shapes cut out of the rock and what looks like a river bed in some places. We made quick progress to the restriction at 400 mtrs, and this is where we dropped the first stage, not because we needed to but because it is easier to get through the restriction with just the one stage rather than two.

After the restriction we continued for another 10 mins or so until we reached the shaft, which goes down to about 80 mtrs. As we were on 32% we descended to about 22 mtrs or so before deciding to turn around, with a dive time so far of 44 mins, and we switched to the standard body scooters for the return trip. What a difference between the standard and the magnum. Whereas the magnum feels like a locomotive and has the turning circle to match, the standards felt like sports cars in comparison, almost twitchy. The viz had deteriorated a little on the way back, and that was probably due to us disturbing some of the fine silt with our scooters, it was still 8-10 mtrs but there was a need to watch the line closely which became very quickly apparent when Bob headed into a small tunnel, about 5-600 mtrs back. I paused before following, as the line didn't run that way, running to the right hand side of the cave. I followed 'my' line for 10 mtrs or so, to see if it was just a case of the tunnel opening up later, like a long archway but it didn't seem to, so I decided to turn back, and let Bob come back and get me. When I arrived back at the entrance to the tunnel Bob had gone into there was still no sign of Bob, and I just hovered there waiting for him to turn back, shining my light at the tunnel entrance. Within 20 seconds I saw Bobs light and he came out of the tunnel, which apparently had led to a dead end, and was very tight and silty, so much so that he had covered his light and saw the faint glow of mine in the distance which helped him get back out. Just goes to show that you need that second brain sometimes, especially when making decisions at 3 to 5 times faster than usual. It is always harder for the first guy though, and it could as easily been me.

We then headed back through the restriction, which is really a small hole with a big boulder right in the way, so you almost need to go through on your side, watching out for towleashes and stage bottles getting caught. We picked up our dropped stage bottle and switched to that and continued towards the exit, coming across Ralph's group right at the deepest section. I wasn't sure what they were doing and how long they would be so I over took them and then headed to the right hand side out of the way, with Bob closely behind, and we took a steady ascent with a few minutes at 6 mtrs and a 5 min ascent to surface, more to relax and check weighting and stuff then any deco requirement. A good shakedown dive, and this was the furthest Bob and I had been in St George, so the next time we will need to bring some mix and work out some way of working a deco schedule into the cave profile. Total dive time was 100 mins, water temperature of 12 degrees, max depth 29 mtrs.

Friday, Ressel



After the shakedown dive we decided to simply do the dive we did last time which was a two stage dive into the deep section, and this time to ignore the rogue T which caused us a minor problem last time. Rick and Andy had turned up yesterday and this was their first dive of the trip and the plan was that they would drop our AL40's of oxygen at 6 mtrs for us so we could travel in on the scooters with the 50%, drop that at the shaft, and then continue on the stage bottles. We were using 15/55 for backgas as a reserve and using stages only. The only difference was that we were using magnums and standards instead of standards and shorts.

We were also a little sneaky as we thought we would wait for Rick and Andy to do their first dive and let us know what the vis was like before carrying all the scooters down the steep hill to the river bank! The magnums, although they have a great burntime of 140 mins, are very heavy weighing in at over 50Kg each, and carrying them down the hill and back up again at Ressel is no easy matter.

Rick and Andy came back to tell us that the vis was awesome, but that the flow was very strong, and they had hit 6ths before the first T, such was the effort required to swim up the river and into the cave entrance. After a bite to eat and a short surface interval for Rick and Andy, we decided to go for it and headed out on the scooters, towing Rick and Andy to the cave entrance so that they didn't waste all their gas and energy just getting up the river. Heading into the cave I couldn't believe it. Even with the scooter at full pitch it was like going through treacle. As soon as you took your finger off the trigger you were going backwards. It took almost 20 minutes to get to the shaft on the scooters, a journey which would normally take less than 10, but the vis was crystal clear, so I still felt we could go quite far and improve on our previous penetration of 700 mtrs or so.

Heading down the shaft, I started the bottom timer at 40 mtrs and headed into the cave, which was beautiful. You could see as far as the 18 watt HID would go and it is like flying down the Grand canyon in some places. There are steep walls, ad some really big boulders on the floor, and some large slabs which have fallen from the ceiling over the years. After about 10 minutes it was time to drop the first stage, which went OK, but it is something I need to work on, as handling a magnum, towing a standard, and then managing to switch to backgas, tidy up and drop the stage, and at the same time keep an eye on your buddy who is doing the same is quite hard, not to mention that the flow was pushing us backwards. I'm always looking for things that could go better on a dive, and this is one of those things.

It wasn't too long after that when we reached the first T signifying what is called the deep circuit. I placed a marker and then we continued to the right in order to stick to the shallowest part of the circuit, which is at around 50 ish mtrs steadily descending to over 60 mtrs, and continued until we came to a shaft, which ascended to 50 metres and into a smaller tunnel, which was very cool, and completely mad up of scalloped, orange type rock, which you see often at sites like Ginnie Springs. Just as we got going again, it was time to turn the dive as the stage bottle was finished, and we had reached a penetration of 950 ish mtrs, and 50-odd metres deep. Heading back there were no problems and everything went as it should, doing some slow stops from 36 mtrs, during which we switched to backgas and put away the stage bottles on a leash attached to the hip, so that we had room for the 50% and the oxygen which we would be picking up later. At 21 we picked up the 50% and switched, and then started the slow drift out of the cave, just stopping when the profile of the cave ascended too fast for the deco. I had worked out the deco as being about 40 mins bottom time and an average of 51 or so which would normally have meant stops of about 55 mins, and I guessed at an hour, so we went through the stops from 21 to 9 and then had to travel a ways before we could get to the O2 at the mouth of the cave, which we did 20 mins and then a 10 minute ascent. I didn't see the point of any backgas breaks for that kind of exposure and after the dive we both felt fine and were able to carry all the scooters and bottles up the hill with no problems or complaints of tiredness (well, no more complaints than usual! ). Total dive time was 120 mins, water temperature of 12 degrees, max depth 55 mtrs.

Saturday, Trou Madame


Trou Madame is my favourite cave. It is an adventure just getting all the gear to the cave and in every opportunity I have had to dive the cave it has been perfect viz. For this dive we planned to use short body scooters and two stage bottles, scootering the first 30 mins and then dropping the scooter, continuing on the stage bottles. Rick and Andy were doing the Cave 1 sixths thing so had planned on doing two dives.

The dive went well, scootering the first 30 mins went without a hitch and I felt we had travelled quite far before dropping it at 30 mins. We then swam on, dropping the first stage at about 40 mins and then continuing for another 30 minutes or so with the second before turning round at what we think was about 1400 mtrs penetration, so about half way to the end.

Trou madame is a shallow cave and its deepest point is only 16 mtrs deep, but it is quite long really, and our plans next time are to go in with a standard scooter and an extra stage bottle to see how much farther we can get. It is a really pretty cave and I especially like the shallower sections where you can see the reflections of the bubbles hitting the surface giving the passage a flickering effect. It is truly spectacular. There are few shafts which then turn back on themselves which can seem a bit disorienting.

Looking at the profile after the dive and comparing it to Ricks we found that were they had swam to in 30 mins, we had scootered to in 8 mins, which just puts into perspective how much further you can go and how much trouble you can get yourself in if you are not comfortable with scooters and do not plan your dive (and gas reserves) properly. As we had a full set of twin 12's just for reserve we were happy that we could swim out should both scooters fail. Howver, if both scooters failed and we had to exit for 90 minutes sharing gas in zero viz, then I am not so sure! Total dive time was 139 mins, water temperature of 12 degrees, max depth 16 mtrs.

Sunday, Landenouse


Sunday was to be a relaxing day, and the dive plan was similar to Trou Madame, scootering on the short bodies and taking two stages, as the level was high and therefore easier to get scooters in and out of the cave, which is really a square concrete enclosure at the side of the road, with the cave heading under the road and into the mountains. When we arrived at the site Rick had decided to sit out the day due to a tummy upset and so Bob and I changed our plan to fit in with Andy, so our plan was then to dive on a single stage and Andy had sixths on twin 18's.

Kitting up was easy enough, as we had already prepared all our gear at the cottage so that we could simply stop at the site, unload the gear quickly, and then park the van down the road out of the way before walking back to change and get ready. After lowering the gear in Bob decided to take the slow route to the water, climbing down the ladder, whereas Andy and I chose to take the quicker route.



The dive went very well, and we swam in for about 27 mins before Bob and I dropped the stages and it was only a couple of minutes after that when Andy called the dive on gas. This cave is similar to some of the other caves in France, with a sharp descent, followed by a gradual slope upwards and then settling at between 10 and 20 mtrs depth really. There are some nice twists and turns and some really large rooms in the cave, with soft sandy beaches and some clay deposits. I led the exit and on the way out managed to find a dead rat which I then dangled in front of Bobs mask to see his reaction who then dropped it in front of Andy, but as that didn't cause enough trouble I endowed Bob with a new set of antlers for his twinset, with a handy branch nearby. We left the kit floating in the cave and climbed out for lunch. Before climbing out Bob decided to relieve himself and subsequently regretted the conversation the night before when he proclaimed to have never suffered from P-valve problems.



Oh how we laughed. Needless to say Bob sat out the next dive drying out his undersuit and it was just myself and Andy to dive. The diveplan was the same as before except I led and asked Andy to copy me through the cave and we would see if we could get a bit further, despite Andy having less gas now as he was still on his twinset from the previous dive. This worked but we still only just got a few mtrs further than the previous dive before we had to turn around, although Andy had gone the same distance on only 3/4 of the gas, so that was still cool.

Arriving at the ascent I managed to find the rat again and gave it a perch on Andy's twinset, but sadly it was missing by the time it came to hoist the twins out of the water. Glorious sunshine, exceptional vis, and good company. A great day. Total dive time was 51 mins and 47 mins, water temperature of 12 degrees, max depth 23.5 mtrs.

Monday, Ressel



This was the big dive of the trip. Taking the info I had learnt from the earlier dive I worked out that we didn't really have quite enough deco gas for a 4 stage dive, and we would need to either sort out another 50% bottle each, or do three stages. We decided to do three stages instead to give ourselves a chance to get used to diving with more than two stages in a cave, as this is the first time we would be using a leash, and it makes the drop offs and pickups a little more complicated, and it would also allow us to see how warm or cold we would get diving in 12 degress water for over 3 hours.

The gear for this dive was quite considerable. We each had a magnum scooter and a standard as backup, 3 AL80's of 15/55, a 7 ltr of 35/25, and an AL80 of 50% and Oxygen. I expected us to do about an hours bottom time, with a further 20 ish mins for the initial scooter ride in, the deep stops would start at 45 and then we would switch to 35/25 at 36 mtrs to kickstart the deco and also to allow us the chance to move all the empties to the leash so we could get rid of them at the 50% bottle, then we would just allow the flow to send us out of the cave nice and easy, only stopping when the profile of the cave became too shallow for the stops.

Rick and Andy used our standard body scooters to scooter up the river for their dive, taking the oxygen and 50% for us as well. They dropped the scooters in the cavern at 6 mtrs with the O2, and then did their normal dive dropping the 50% before the second T, so that was the extent of our setup. Bob and I scootered in around 30 mins later, breathing the 35/25 bottle and picking up the standards on the way. Bob had a problem with his ears during this section and also seemed a lot slower than me getting to the shaft, getting tangled with the line a bit on the way, so it was all a bit disconcerting, but as soon as we got to the shaft we switched to 15/55 and dropped quickly down to 36 mtrs where we dropped the stage bottle, and Bob seemed a lot happier and was soon speeding ahead of me in the deep section.

For some reason the standard body scooter I was towing was more negative than perhaps it should have been and was causing more drag which was a pain, but still manageable. The flow was still significant in this section and when we dropped the first stage after 10 mins or so, it was a surprise to see yourself drifting backwards as soon as your finger was off the trigger. We had learnt a lot from the previous dive and I think perhaps I was a bit more relaxed, or that bit of extra familiarity meant we were travelling faster, as we dropped the second stage bottle ten minutes later, well beyond the point were we had called the previous dive, so this was new territory again for us.



We switched to the final stage bottle which was fun, as the line in that section of the cave was very slack and we just couldn't stop the bottles floating up putting line across the middle of the cave (15/55 bottles are very light). We continued into the cave, ascending into a small tunnel which was orange coloured and full of scalloped type rock, and then disaster, as I saw the line was broken, the loose end just fluttering in the breeze. Bugger! I looked ahead with my light but could not see the other end. Instead of thumbing immediately I just hovered there to let Bob see what I could see, as we would either decide to call it, or I was going to get my spool out to go line searching. He signalled me to hold on the line whilst he went ahead a little to see if he could find the other end, and luckily enough, within a few mtrs he found it. We both tied our respective ends to rocks about 12 inches apart, and left it there, which isn't strictly what we should have done as we should really have got a spool out and joined it up to make it continuous, but with the section of passage being as clean and narrow as it was and the vis being as clear as it was I don't think it was totally out of order. Hmm, decisions, decisions.

We then continued on into the cave for another 7 or 8 minutes before reaching our turn pressure, 60 minutes into the dive, 1100 mtrs back, and nearly 60 mtrs deep. A sobering thought. We wasted no time in turning round and getting on the trigger for the exit. We passed the small section with the broken line and then picked up our stages from the slack line which was a pain, as the stages had floated up and the line was right across the passage. This all went wiithout a hitch and we continued pass the T junction, where I picked up the marker and then to the final stage bottle, during which I moved two to the leash and one on my chest, ready to pick up the 35/25 bottle. We slowed down at 45 mtrs or so and started our deco, before picking up the 35/25 bottle and extending the stops a little, giving me the chance to get rid of the last stage bottle on the leash so I had room to clip on the 50% bottle. By this time I had worked out we had done about an hours bottom time, and that the depth was about 54 mtrs. Looking at the profile afterwards, we could have probably got away with 51 mtrs, but who cares about 10 mins? especially when a chamber is about 7 hours drive away, the mobile phone signal is not so good at Ressel, and after the dive you need to lift all the gear up the steep hill. The top of the shaft is at about 21 mtrs, but we had asked the guys to drop the 50% bottle a little further into the cave were it drops to about 23 but gives us a lot more room to unclip all of our gear and switch. I picked up the 50% bottle and switched, and then clipped my leash to the line which now had 5 bottles, and then clipped my standard scooter to it, leaving me with just the 50% bottle and a magnum to come out on.

The deco was quite straightforward, just 10 minute stops from 21 to 9, floating slowly along examining the cave and virtually every nook and cranny along the way. I had always though that it would just be boring but actually it was kind of relaxing and nice to calm down a bit after the tension of a fast scooter dive. There is a section at about 9 mtrs, 200 mtrs into the cave where Olivier Isler had positioned his habitat for his big dives, and so we stopped here to wait for the 9 mtr stop to end, before using the scooters to travel to the end of the cave and pick up the oxygen, after a few minutes at 9 mtrs on backgas. After picking up and switching to oxygen we headed to the right hand side where it is sheltered and I could secure myself against a bit of rock and fill up my suit with argon to stay warm. Bob found a secure place opposite and we just relaxed, keeping an eye on each other for any problems. We did two sets of 12on, 6off which is where we breathe O2 for 12 mins and then breathe our 15/55 for 6 mins to give the lungs a break, and then finished with a final 12 minutes on o2 and a 10 minute ascent on o2 to the surface, all in all my longest dive at 214 minutes, and the furthest I have been in Ressel. The temp was 12 degrees and the max depth was 59.6 mtrs. Knowing what we know now, I don't think there is anything stopping us doing the run to the end of sump one, which ascends to the surface, so we shall keep you posted next time.

Arriving at the surface Rick and Andy had already carried most of the stage bottles to the van and we were left with our 18's and the four scooters, which, after a 30 minute rest on the surface, we carried up the hill without incident, in fact, Bob felt so great after the dive he decided to do some shoulder presses with a magnum!



A fantastic trip during which we had some great dives and some great laughs. The best quote for me was when Andy stated after seeing Bob's little photo album of MOD stickers all neatly organised, 'I bet the long winter nights just fly by for you don't they Bob'. There were other quotes, but as most of them were from Rick Huggins, they are not family friendly, and I am not sure even decipherable.

Hopefully I will be able to go again later in the year, and next April is already in the diary, when we hope to build on the knowledge gained from this trip and entice some more DIR divers along for some fun dives in France, but thanks to Andy and Rick for helping so much, and of course, thanks to Bob for looking after me.
 

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life is too short
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wow - thats a trip report and a half....excellent :thumbsup:
 

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A short fat well off crap cave diver. Likes wrecks
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Fantastic read M8, realy enjoyed it thankyou very much for putting so much effor in. Ill be printing it out and reading it again later.

ATB

Mark Chase
 

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And you guys didn't even told me you were going to France, tssssss, shame.
Nice report!
I saw the water was still high. How were the sumps in True Madame? All flooded or stil a walk?
Cu,

A-M
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
And you guys didn't even told me you were going to France, tssssss, shame.
Nice report!
I saw the water was still high. How were the sumps in True Madame? All flooded or stil a walk?
Cu,

A-M
Hi Anne Marie

Trou Madame was all flooded, no walking necessary :)

Andy
 

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Nice!!
Hope it stays that way for the next weeks :))
I hope to go back beginning of May (without the scooters so can be a nice swim if I see your report :))
Cu,

A-M
 

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Awesome report - a friend who lives in Paris is talking about getting us some
cave diving near to there but yours sounded great.
Great pics as well.

Sally :teeth:
 

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Great report Andy, thanks a lot for posting. It reminded me my climbing times and made envy indeed :)

Cheers
Alex
 

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TDI Trimix trained and used to own a pony
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Great report Andy - glad you all had fun and got in some good dives. Laundenouse looked seriously full compared to the last time!

Hope to catch up with you soon.

Cheers
Al
 

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An excellent report mate, a good read.

Safe diving,
Steve
 

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Andy

your email prompted me to read this report and i must say it sounds excellent, however it is a dive that i could never do the thought of not being able to just call it and come up does fill me with dread. I did do a tin mine dive to about 70m in Cornwall but that was the first and most defiantly the last dive i shall do in a mine/cave

fantastic report good luck with the future dives (Missions :))

Graham
 

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Great report Andy, made me even more keen to try out some cave diving!

I might have to have a chat about next April and see what happens :)

...actually made me keen just to get out and dive :(
 

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Tin mines

Andy

your email prompted me to read this report and i must say it sounds excellent, however it is a dive that i could never do the thought of not being able to just call it and come up does fill me with dread. I did do a tin mine dive to about 70m in Cornwall but that was the first and most defiantly the last dive i shall do in a mine/cave

fantastic report good luck with the future dives (Missions :))

Graham
Graham ,was that 70m depth or peneration:)

Andy
 
G

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Hi Anne Marie

Trou Madame was all flooded, no walking necessary :)

Andy
But did you find the pig roast we left for you? Bet he was a little too decomposed by the time you got there! Any questions ask Chrisch....

Fantastic trip report. I am now bowing down to your Godlikeness - from lowly learner caver.......
 
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