La Pucelle
Thursday, 27 July 2006

After a few days relaxing at the family home near Limoges, we decided to head down to the Dordogne to join Antony and the Shepton for a day’s potholing.
We arrived on the wednesday evening and in true mendip fashion drank a lot of beer. The most recommended cave was La Pucelle but it seemed to be a definite wetsuit trip. Given that we had acclimatised to the previous fortnight of temperatures in excess of 30 degrees we reckoned that winging it in furries was probably not a wise idea. Fortunately Matt Butcher was able to lend me his neofleece, which I was only too happy to clean for him, and Antony had a spare wetsuit for Laura.

From an unlikely layby by a busy N road, we crossed over a style and into a depression where a camped party of French 10 year olds gave us expert directions to the cave entrance. Outside the imposing entrance arch a plaque warned of flood risk.

After a short walking dry section where the cave quickly reaches impressive proportions, a series of wading pools are met and a streamway begins. If you were to splice Swildons and OFD together it would probably be an apt description of the cave to follow. A series of short climbs follow which can be rigged. We took 6 ladders with us to use as lifelines which served us perfectly. You could get away with fewer but, as some of the return climbs are following short swims we were grateful for the extra help. Alternatively one could take 2 ladders, 4 short ropes and a few slings and be perfectly happy.

The cave is adequately p-bolted.

Total trip time to the sump and back: 6 hours (Antony is keen to stress that he got out a ‘little’ before 6 hours therefore ‘smashing’ the previous Shepton record of 6 hours). Well recommended – take a carbide lamp as the walls are dark and it will show up the beautiful reds and oranges in the lower streamway. We felt that our LEDs didn’t do it justice.

Came out and it started to rain. Later that evening came a massive thunderstorm during which the local town of Rocamadour was struck by lightning and caught fire. Mmmm, yes definitely a trip for settled weather. Many thanks to the Shepton for their hospitality.