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Grotte de Pène Blanque reccie trip

Grotte de Pène Blanque reccie trip
Sunday, 21 August 2005

(This being the first of several trips underground during 10 days spent exploring the Felix Trombe system)

Cavers: Caroline Fretwell, Footleg, Gary Cullen, Martin Jahnke, Olly Betts, Paul Dold
Having arrived at the campsite the previous afternoon, and then needing to collect Caroline and Olly from the airport at lunchtime, we were itching to get underground for the first time on our holiday. So an evening trip to reccie the Grotte de Pène Blanque was decided upon. The plan being to descend as far as the ‘letter box’ pitch to check whether it was permanently rigged like the previous year.
A good hours walk to the entrance saw us a little out of breath. It felt like we had climbed and re-descended the mountain almost back to the car, but in fact the entrance is on the opposite side of the mountain to the nearest parking spot. The easy walk in entrance is guarded by an 8m climb up a knotted rope, but once inside this is classic Dr. Who caving, the flat horizontal floor posing no difficulties for Daleks until the roof lowers to crawling height some way in.

Around 300m in the fun begins when the first major junction is reached, and from that point onwards the cave spirals down relentlessly for around 150m elevation via a series of steep toboggans with numerous wrong turnings beckoning. Eventually reaching the ominous sumping squeeze of the Pène Blanque. We made good progress, although I had forgotten just how steep and endless the descent was, and it was hard going to reach the pitch head and get back out again in 3 hours. The squeeze was slightly damp, and very windy. I swear my back nearly touched the roof at one point! Beyond we found the pitch rigged, and it appears to be permanently so. Good news for through trips from other entrances. An hour of brisk walking back over the hill got us to the car and down for a late evening meal with copious amounts of fine cheese and red wine.

Caroline braves the sumping squeeze (Photo by Paul Dold)
Posted by: Dr Footleg
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Posted: 15 September 2005


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