Updated: Feb 16
Having recovered from our day off and Oz and Joe having had a great day out in the Mas Raynal, we decided to go to the Gourney-Rou.
Rich and I had planned on a 'big' dive in here to the 70m slope which is on the approach to the infamous 90m, gravel-filled U-bend.
We weren't sure we would get this far as we had sacrificed one bottom stage of 15/55 for use in the Gourney-Ras and another each for use in the Perdreau.
But we had intact trimix in our back-gas and a travel Ali 80 of 32% for the 300m long shallow section.
Oz and Joe only had enough gas to film the 300m level so Rich and I dived first.
I hadn't been here before and after a brief excursion down the wrong path, Oz spotted the correct one and we were shortly joined by the French CLPA members, who had been trying to catch up with us over the last few days. Jean Tarrit and friends had showed up for a day out, to meet up with us in person and to thrust an armful of maps and paperwork into my grasp for a proposed project next year. Another one!!
Chris & Richard lowering cylinders into the Gourney-Rou
Jean is a fantastic guy and I readily compare him to some of the older, eccentric members of the Wessex. He speaks good, fluent English and has a great sense of humour and has us in stitches. He is wonderful for morale. Not least because he invites his mates along, who pick up our cylinders and run off down the hill with them!
The rope is needed for the cave entrance. Water levels are extremely low and there is a dodgy metal ladder in place, but getting twinsets and stages into the water requires ropes and elbow grease.
Everyone got their gear into the water with the help of the French guys - and the amount of banter they were dishing out was great fun too!
We dived along an inclined rift until about 12m depth where the cave became spacious and more interesting. It undulated, between 20m and 30m and we followed allsorts of line, from SRT rope to dental floss. The line clearly breaks in winter floods and allsorts of attempts had been made at finding various types of line.
We came across one line break and Rich put a gap line in - not realising that by barely touching the rock, it would stir up a whole cloud of powder which just sat lingering in mid-passage.
We dived on and dropped our 32% travel gas not far from the drop down to the deep section. We had switched onto trimix and started down the gradually descending passageway and it wasn't long before we met depth...50m, 60m, 70m....That'll do......
We turned on the steeply dipping gravel slope, just short of the 'elbow' which causes all sorts of decompression games for anyone wanting to go beyond it.
We dived home and began our deco at -21m. At which point, during the gas switch, my primary light went out.
Now, anybody who knows me will know what I am like with lights. I can kill anything. I amazed Rich in Ginnie Springs by all my lights going out on one dive - back-ups and all - which was even more inconvenient as it was a night dive!!!
So, a bit annoyed, I deployed my back-up torch and continued my gas switch.
We hovered decompressing while Rich tried to sort the light out. The switch had been somehow knocked off and it soon came back on. I re-stowed my back-up and we carried on working our way up through the decompression stops. Again, we did more than we needed, but took into account the whole picture of the carry, heat etc and aired on the safe side.
Even so, we barely did half an hour in total.
At 12m I saw Rich doing what looked like a flow check.
He had bubbles coming from his right post. Only little ones, so we carried on and switched onto oxygen at 6m in the awkward inclined rift while Oz and Joe passed us heading in for their dive.
Rich and I sat around for a bit doing not-a-lot, which is customary after deep dives which involve hills and hot weather. Jean and his CLPA mates started hauling gear up for us and our stages were out of the water and up on dry land before we were!!
Joe and Oz came back with some amazing film footage of the sump and after sitting around for a bit, we all made the steady plod up the hill with twinsets and stages. It was a bit cooler than our day at the Gourney-Ras and it was noticeably better for it. We managed to pack up, get some fills done and have a bite to eat before I managed to persuade Rich to come skinny dipping in the Viz river! It looked stunning and I thought it would be the same temperature as the Herault. It wasn't!! The beer was cooling on the side and after dipping my big toe in, we decided that a swim once round the 'island', dodging enormous trout, was in order - and then out!
After a beer, we headed back into town to find Joe and Oz who had set off in search of the nearest pub. A grand day out and well worth the effort.
Fantastic Trailer of Cave Diving in the Herault during this trip, by Joe Hesketh