Gouffre Raymonde rigging lesson
Saturday, 27 August 2005

Footleg, Martin Jahnke, Olly Betts, Paul Dold

Our next aim for our holiday was to descend the 133m shaft Puits Delteil at the bottom of the Gouffre Raymonde. I remembered the Gouffre Raymonde entrance series pitches and streamway to be particularly photogenic from a trip down there last year, so the camera kit came along too. We decided to get the entrance pitches rigged and take photographs in this part of the cave on this trip, and then return prepared to descend the huge shaft at the bottom on the following day. This also enabled me to give Martin a rigging lesson, as there was no hurry to bottom the cave today. What better place to start learning than a 29m pitch straight down from the surface?

Having gone over some caving knot tying in the campsite the day before, we sat in the sunshine at the entrance and covered the basics of what job the rigging should be doing (protecting the approach to the pitch head, providing a safe descent taking into account dangers of rope rub points, bolt failure, flood risk, etc.). Martin then set about putting it all into practice, and doing a superb job of rigging the rather exposed Y-hang across the entrance shaft. I dont think he forgot a single thing I had told him, and did a really excellent job.

At the bottom of the first pitch we descended the steep slope into a chamber. By the time I caught up with the others here they had all squeezed down into a obvious rift leading on. Unfortunately it was not the right way! Calling them back, I had a quick look round the chamber to try and remember the right way on. I knew it was over the boulders, but there was another obvious rift there that did not look quite right, and had a big cross of carbide soot marking the wall. Yet another cave that the guidebook completely failed to describe properly! We will have to write a better set of cave descriptions for the ULSA website.

We soon found the third, and least obvious rift leading out of the chamber, hidden right behind a large boulder. This rift leads straight into an easy crawling traverse. Seeing as this was a rigging lesson and also I expected us to be pretty exhausted on the trip planned for the following day, I got Martin to rig this traverse. Finding the best bolts was one of the most difficult things. Being a French cave there were loads of them everywhere, but most were crap placements or knackered. Eventually we pointed out a couple of excellent bolts in the big boulder behind us, and Martin tied the Y-hang to back up the traverse and went to screw in the bolts. At this point he noticed one of the rare cave millipedes actually crawling across the spit he was about to put the bolt in. Im sure it was taunting him!
The traverse soon opens up into a wider rift with large ledges and an aven. You step across the rift in the floor and continue into narrower but beautifully shaped rift passage, which provided an excellent opportunity to photograph Martin rigging. This leads to the head of the second pitch, a 15m drop into a circular chamber. This pitch was also very photogenic. The third pitch follows almost immediately, and is more awkward to rig. The roof is a wide sloping bedding but the pitch drops through a narrow slot into a large passage below. This requires a well adjusted Y-hang to avoid rope rub, using bolts placed in the ceiling. We had no hangers suitable for a roof placement, so opted instead for a reasonable but not fully embedded spit placed on the edge of the slot. The hanger sat horizontal, but the maillon just extended far enough over the edge of the rock to allow the rope to hang free. The hanger rotated freely on the spit as the bolt did not go all the way in due to rust or rubbish in the threads! Deciding that we had achieved enough for one day, and with it getting late, we left the ropes here and made our way out, ready to return the next day for the attempt on the big shaft.

Images
Martin rigging the entrance drop of the Gouffre Raymonde
Posted by: Dr Footleg
Size: 96kb
Width: 600 pixels
Height: 581 pixels
Posted: 04 November 2005
Martin rigging in the rift
Posted by: Dr Footleg
Size: 97kb
Width: 600 pixels
Height: 800 pixels
Posted: 04 November 2005
Paul D. on the 2nd pitch
Posted by: Dr Footleg
Size: 89kb
Width: 600 pixels
Height: 634 pixels
Posted: 04 November 2005