"...a nice easy flop in a resurgence..." by Richard Walker
Updated: Feb 16
Yesterday we went on a nice easy resurgence flop. The cave entrance is no more than 100m from the road. How hard could it be?
Trouble is, that 100m is about 20m horizontal, and 97m vertical. The cave was Gourneyras, in the Viz gorge. 20 minutes down a dirt track next to some breathtaking drop-offs where your front wheels are spitting stones off the side into oblivion, you come to a tree. Actually hundreds of trees. One of them marks the path down to the cave. You just have to know which tree. And we sort of did, and sort of didn't. The giveaway was the steel cable-run that had been set up to transport gear down to the pool. But we were too clever to look for that. An hour later we gave up the hunting and went down the right path for a quick look. The cave was right there where we left it in 2012.
There was only 2 of us, so we had travelled light. One twinset, one rebreather, 4 stages, drysuits, undersuits and some other bags of stuff. Christine went down the track and started setting up the hand-lines that we use to stop ourselves plummeting into the oblivion. This track has just about every type of terrain you can imagine. It starts with a steep gravel path, with some 2ft high rock steps to negotiate. Then it changes direction and traverses across the hill on a scree slope, which slips and slides under your feet. Then it goes into a gentle forest path, and you think that it isn't so bad. It's of course lulling you into a false sense of security. Next is a combination of steep mud path, brambles, eye level branches, ankle level knotweed, and some unstable pebbles. Then you break out into the sunshine again at the level of the river, and feel happy that your 100m decent is over and it must now get easier.
Now the fear starts. There is a field of unstable, slippery, weed covered boulders, just right to break an ankle. You slither and slide over these and finally arrive at the pool. Which is truly delightful. It's sparkly blue, the sunshine lights it up and the entrance to the cave beckons they eye from a depth of 6m.
We chained the gear down the hill, 10m steps at a time, which was significantly easier we thought, than running up and down the hill 8 times. We got all the gear down to the pool in about 90 minutes, and were pleased with ourselves.
Gear assembled, camera checked and we were off. The 32C air temperature was oppressive, and it was great to get into the 13C water. We hung about on the surface for a few minutes just to relax and get that hot-and-bothered feeling gone, and then began our dive. The entrance is obvious at a depth of about 6m, and we dropped our decompression cylinders at 6m, and swam into the cave. It starts with a 45 degree, stepped drop into the cave. Lots of boulders and rocks are all around, and you soon come to the 21m dropoff, convenient for leaving the second decompression cylinders.
Christine at about 50m
Now the cave gets interesting. There's a large circular room as you descend, almost impossible to see from one side to the other. The walls are white, but the place sucks up light. If you look back now, from a depth of about 40m, you see the blue entrance above you. More about that later. Now, you arrive on a pebble floor, and the passage turns sharply to the left, under a huge overhang.
You're now at about 50m depth, and in a passage like a railway tunnel. Bigger actually. It's probably 30m wide and 20m high. There are beautiful scalloped formations of the floor, sharp knives of rock 10m across on the floor, and air-clear visibility. Again, it's hard to see across the tunnel, and I had travel all over the cave tunnel to see it, and still didn't see it all! After about 10-15 minutes, it was time to turn, and I turned on the camera, lit the lights and started to shoot some stills. Light was getting sucked up and to get any sort of perspective was difficult. The thought of some new 4000 Lumen lights has started to hit my radar. Hope the bank manager isn't reading this...
I shot some half decent pictures of Christine, and by 30 minutes we were back at the corner to start heading back up the slope. Here is where you get your first real view of the entrance. 50m deep, looking uphill to a turquoise blue window into the fresh air. You can see the green trees around the pool, it's an amazing sight.
We worked our way up the slope, taking pictures, swapping cameras, managing the decompression for the next hour - way more time than we need, but it's a beautiful place, we had the gas, a camera and no pressing engagements that evening. After a 90 minute dive, we surfaced to some French ramblers, who informed us that they also dived there, and had we seen the view from 30m of the surface pool. They didn't offer to help us carry our gear back though, for some reason.
Chris heading down the slope
We got out of our gear, relaxed for half an hour and started the long haul back to the road. Only 100m away, most of it vertical, back through the ankle breakers, up the forest mud path, across the scree slope and up the stone steps. PFO test formally passed.
As the light faded, we realised we needed to make tracks if we wanted to eat that night. We headed to Laroque as they have a row of tourist trap restaurants. Takeaway pizza. But it was past 9pm when we got there. "Fini" came the reply from the chef. No discussion. We had spied a caravan that had "pizza" written on the side, a mile back down the road, so we headed back there, and to our delight, he cooked us 3, Yes 3, pizzas in about 20 minutes flat. Joy of Joy, he also sold us 2 Pelforth Blondes.
Life is good on a day like that!
Richard in the Gourney Ras