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  • Christine Grosart

Aven de Rocas

Updated: Feb 16, 2020

In 2012, the CLPA discovered several holes in a rough field, very close to Jean’s house in Le Besses.

For a few years I had joked that he had a cave in his garden.

The digging efforts of ‘Academie de Rocas’ had discovered several pitches, some with waterfalls and two of impressive dimensions.

The front cover of the most recent journal of the CLPA was adorned with the biggest pitch.

Phillipe Vernant kindly offered to take us down Rocas and show us around. As part of the digging team, he knew the place extremely well.

Rick Van Dijk was up for his 3rd SRT trip here and Ashley and Rich stayed on the surface to sort out the radio location equipment, trying to get an accurate fix on a known chamber with a known survey.

Graham Naylor had built us a Nicola 3 prototype and two aerials to try to radio locate the large chamber a the end of the big sump in Coudouliere.

Now that the trip was off, we went to get a bit more practice and get a few more people trained in its use.

The entrance was a typical, muddy dig, with red slime everywhere. The ropes were bit quick too, covered in a layer of thick mud.

Still with a wobbly ankle and a newly damaged shoulder (from getting the boulder choke wrong in Coudouliere), I took my time. Some easy meandres later and the impressive pitches were met.

Christine in the entrance

At the bottom of the final major pitch, we unpacked the radio location aerial and switched it on. The surface team began laying spools of line among bushes and, despite a fluctuating signal, thought they had got a fix.

Phillipe and I sat around for an hour putting the caving world to rights, while Rick sat in a higher chamber sorting out his camera for the return trip.

It was somewhat unfortunate that he had left his ‘pains au chocolate’ in our daren drum!

Once the hour was up, we switched it off, packed it up and made our way steadily out of the cave.

My right shoulder was becoming fairly useless at this stage and I took quite a while to get off pitch heads, but this seemed to please Rick who was happily snapping away with his camera and achieving nice results.

Once back in daylight, the surface team looked a bit sheepish.

They thought they had got a fix, but the numbers and signal had been fluctuating wildly and they couldn’t work out why.

This rang a bell.

I looked up and to my horror, the cave entrance was completely surrounded by overhead powerlines.

In fact, three of them created a perfect triangle and the cave was right in the middle of it!

Graham had warned us that overhead lines would cause big fluctuations in the signal and he wasn’t wrong!

Chris at one of the pitch heads. Photo: Rick Van Dijk

It would not have been an issue over Coudouliere – but here, the village was infested with them…

In any case, the fix point was GPS tagged and the co-ordinates given to Phillipe. He took them home and put an overlay if the cave survey onto Google Earth and …voila!

The fix was smack bang on top of the chamber we had been in.

This seemed far too good to be true…so we made plans to visit another cave – L’Esquirol – where I had never been before, to try again and make sure it was not a fluke.

We retired to the café in St Maurice de Navacelles which is always a welcome refuge after caving and diving trips.

Chris ascending

Main pitch in Aven de Rocas

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