Gouffre De La Baume Des Cretes
Saturday, 18 October 2014
We had met up with our friend Joe for a weekend of caving in the Doubs region in France, a nice stop-off to break up the journey home from Southern Europe. We stayed in an excellent “Gite Speleo in Montrond-Le-Chateau.
Baume Des Cretes is a classic trip that descends to -181m where it enters the main collector of the Verneau, upstream of the famous traverse, and separated from this by a series of sumps. The entrance pitch was a nice open shaft of around 40m that landed in a large chamber at the top of a large slope descending down around another 60m through large impressive stalagmites. The cave got smaller and passed down a series of polished dry mud tubes, pitches and hand-lines (P-anchored to death) to a mud-floored area called China Passage. This is the turnaround point for many groups, and the end of the dry passages.
We changed into full wetsuits here (Holly had “wetsuit problems and spent a little bit of time stuck in the nude) and continued through a low but deep water tube to the last pitch, which was rigged from naturals and spits. This lands spectacularly in the main collector of the Verneau, not far upstream from the sumps that block access to the through trip (apparently Joe had visited in wetter weather and the sumps had backed up meaning this pitch landed in a deep pool). Instead, the streamway continues upstream, which we followed for some way up a series of wet climbs and through deep pools in large, fun sporting streamway ‘ Wetsuit essential. An exposed slippery climb led back down out of a boulder pile and soon led to a pretty chamber where water entered from two waterfalls ‘ an inlet and the main streamway.
The way on continued up a traverse, roped climb then small pitch up the main waterfall. Unfortunately the traverse rope was severely “cored and the climb rope was totally destroyed, which would have made for a very exposed slippery free climb in a large amount of water. Common sense prevailed (especially as wed left SRT kits behind so wouldnt have got up the next bit anyway, which looked like a short prussick) and we turned around.
Back at the bottom of the last pitch, Holly performed an impressive “vanishing act, one minute standing on a slippery mud bank setting up the camera tripod, and an instant later having vanished. Joe ran over with one welly on to find her crumpled about 5 meters away in the bottom of the streamway, having slipped and gone flying down the slope. The wetsuit had suffered a slit through to a small but deep little gash from what must have been a very sharp rock.
Changing back into dry furrys was very pleasant, and we applied SERIOUS EMERGENY WILDERNESS FIRST AID on Holly. I stuck a plaster on, and she was very brave. Thank god for my first aid certificate!
We got out after a 7ish hour trip, and headed for dinner in the local cheese factory. It perhaps unsurprisingly involved A LOT of cheese!
Nice day out worth doing if in the area for a Verneau traverse etc. Also worth bearing in mind is the cavers Gite in Montrond, which was cheap and had space for many, many cavers.