A week in the Felix Trombe
Friday, 25 May 2007 – Sunday, 3 June 2007
A fun-filled week of caving in the longest cave in France, being well over 100km in length with around 45 entrances and a vertical range of over 1000m.
Arrived in the pissing rain on saturday 26th, and established ourselves in a nearby campsite for a couple of nights.
Sunday saw us down the Gouffre Pont du Gerbout on a rigging and route-familiarisation trip. The PDG involves a large entrance shaft, and then several short pitches which brings one into some large, dry and complex galleries. Several hours were spent playing in the well-watered PDG streamway and also in the large galleries going round in circles. Exited after a pleasant 9hr trip to rain and 4 degrees (according to the car thermometer).
On monday, a few of us did the short Gouffre Pyrenois – Penne Blanque through trip, which was a little tricky to find being a body-sized hole in the middle of the forest!! Several short pitches led to an awesome 100m shaft which you descend around 25m before swinging on to a ledge and continuing up some fixed ropes to the start of the large galleries. Impressive spot. Several small pitches and climbs in the large gallery took us to the Penne Blanque where we exited after around 1hr 45mins (guidebook time ~4hrs). Then back to the very comfortable chalet/refuge which we had now moved into.
Tuesday saw a group of us trying to find the entrance to the Gouffre Henne Morte. After around 6hrs, we found the bugger and dumped the gear for a return the next day.
An early start on wednesday morning saw myself, Mark Madden, Simon Cornhill, Dave Lacey and Ian and Liz Lawton back up at the Henne Morte for a through trip to the Pont du Gerbout. The henne morte consists of several pitches down to the excellent and very large Puits de la Mort (“Pitch of death”) and the huge Salle du Camp where the streamway continued down a 75m pitch. A short prussic took us into the higher level galleries where around 3hrs of traverses, pitches, climbs, sandy crawls and stomping passage took us to the 115m Puits de l’ogre, where two fixed ropes allowed an impressive and very airy abseil across the 20 or so metre wide shaft. On the other side, more short pitches quickly led to familiar territory and an exit was made from the Pont after an excellent 9hr trip.
Thursday saw us on a Trou Mile – Gouffre des Heretiques through trip. The Trou Mile consists of a superb, steeply descending streamway with pretty white cascades and short pitches to around 200m depth. From here, a squalid muddy tube was the start of the connection with the Salle du Trou du Vent – an awesome and very, very large chamber. At the end of this was the connection with the Heretiques, and several short pitches brought us back into the forest after a pleasant and very varied 3hr trip.
Friday was supposed to be a trip to the Henne Morte sump at around 340m depth, but the weather dictated otherwise, and the cave was de-rigged. The pitch of death was being very well watered today!
On saturday, we had a quick trip into the resurgence cave. As the first sump was, erm, sumped, we did the sump bypass which was a bit grotty but enjoyable with several narrow sections. The supposedly 20m pitch at the other side was found to be around 11m, with 6-8m of water at the bottom indicating a very backed-up sump…..so not fancing drowning we headed out!
Then the long drive back. Even though the weather was pretty dire, most of us still had an excellent week of caving, and there is certainly plenty to go back for.