We left on the 5th of June and planned to return, exhausted on the 12th of June. This gave us 5 days of activities with one of those being a shopping in Expe day with a taste of the local culture after, in a local pub.
We stayed at Hugh Penny's place,Le Lapiaz , Presles. It is an excellent place to stay as it is situated miles from any good caves and this makes an excellent excuse for many people !!! Hugh is a good laugh and took very well to our piss taking and practical jokes very well. Be warned, he still thinks he is a student and will eat or drink anything. His bearded conger eel impression is excellent, probably the best in France !!!
While we were there, another group of cavers, the Scarborough Caving Club were also on their annual jolly. As a mark of respect to the only sane one, Chalkie we dedicate these cartoons of his mates to him !!!! Tarquin ! and his mate Humphrey ! after a trip in the Gournier !!
The following extracts are taken from the log book we wrote whilst in France.
No responsibility is taken for material that may offend and the opinions expressed
are not necessarily mine or that of the chiefs of Pendle Caving !!!!
They are funny though.
Stopping on route, we invaded the local supermarket for Pendle's version of Supermarket Sweep. After half an hour of screaming round the aisles we emerged with quality items such as orange tea, gerkins, pineapples and more vegetables than you could shake a shitty stick at, and a couple of top birds courtesy of Andy and Pearshape.
We arrived at Hugh Janus's place, a quasi-derelict cowshed somewhere in the Vercors. Hugh greeted us and showed us around the bunkhouse facilities. Thirty seconds later we got the kit squared away in our stable.
Finally we got round to some healthy outdoor activities and headed off to the Cliffs of Doom, down the road. I had released myself from my plaster and the others were set for some sport routes. No epics, apart from Pearshape running some of our European cousins off the road to shouts of "Drive on the right side of the road you Dago Bastards ! ". To their credit they apologised to us in English for the inconvenience they had caused us.
Back at Caving HQ, the dirty veggie scum, Dave, Maddy, Steve Bloom and Simon made some cous cous stew, whilst Pearshape and I had a cracking bird round for tea.
We set about drinking ourselves blind on red wine. Top stuff at £1.35 a bottle ( for the good stuff !). Several hours of beardy talk later we established that we all thought that Dave Elliot had a huge beard and that Pearshape should step forward as official translator (like!!).
An epic trip over a lake of Conger Eels saw us into the cave. We tramped through a long stretch of dry muddy cave ( nice stal ) and then got into the streamway. This was where the fun started, as did the field maintenance (1) Dave, (2) Pearshape (they really should get a Kirby that can light up the dark side of the moon.)
Heading up the streamway we came to the Traverse of Certain Death. Maddy dropped back to wash her hair, whilst the beards carried on. The rope gave way to coathangers and huge river passages. This proved to be good sport. Steve Bloom gained a self inflicted injury ( just so he could do a bit of beardy talk later ).
We carried on until we came across a traverse made of garden twine which was 50m up, over sharpened stal. Thinking of Maddy we decided to retreat.
Quick journey out, Pearshape tried to drown on the way out but, we weren't impressed.
A few beers later in the sun we all agreed that it was a top cave ( but not as hard as Yorkshire ) and headed back to La Maison de la Toilet Brush.
The Ecouges is a classic canyon that Hugh Janus (Penney) recommended, as did John and our second favourite Welshman, Glenn Jones of the beard.
We set off in high spirits early in the morning with the intention of quickly doing the Ecouges Part One so we could get back to go out for our scoff.
A quick look at the water level initially frightened us into taking Hugh's advice and doing the second part. As usual we ignored him as bravado took over, so off we went to start Part One.
First pitch was easy as was the second, third, fourth and fifth (really a climb, but the water was up !!). The sixth pitch was to almost claim the lives of Pendle's finest......... If you want to know what happened next, ask us, but it isn't a nice story and it wasn't fun. If you want to go canyonning go on a guided trip first, make sure you have all the correct equipment and inform yourself fully. Don't be stupid
A very leisurely day. Spent ages in bed, the shower then chomping on choc ou pain with Nutella !!! Then we flew into Pont-en-Royans where we further debauched ourselves on pizza and wine, yum !!
A monster kit buying episode in Expe, the French equivalent of Inglesport, saw us emerge with several kilos of carbide and shiny kit !!! Pearshape beat all of us in the kit buying contest, £400 or thereabout !!!
After a further set of beers in the stable, Dave, Simon, Maddy and Steve Bloom found an enticing cave entrance hidden in the forest. We rushed back to get some lights and knee-pads (jessies!) only to get lost in the woods, before we eventually found the hole again. Being the most intrepid I lept down the entrance climb, through the spiders I dreamt about every night, onto a sloping ledge of rocks that led down to a flowstone floored chamber and a pile of bones. Crawling through a small opening led us to a parallel aven and lots of prettyish stal. I then turned around to look back up the aven and shock, horror there were some initials carbided into the aven wall !!!! Arrgggghhhhh, bloody French cavers !! They've got far to much of a good thing.
We named the cave the L'abime de la Corne, or the Abyss of the Horn as we found a cow's horn close to the entrance (apologies to the French for my bad spelling).
Another pleasant day was spent driving around and looking for the Scialet de Mallaterre. We found the impressive entrance in the woods with a stream running in the entrance and spreading out to fill the shaft. Bollocks to getting wet and cold again.
Off we went to a bar and talked beards 'till hunger forced us to return to the cow-shed for some silage.
A quick photographic trip to the Grotte de Bournllion saw us return to a local hostelry for dinner.
Unfortunately the locals cooked up a foul concoction of chickens and recently caught crayfish from the local toilet bowl masquerading as a lake. These people don't seem to view crustaceans or poultry as a problem to vegetarians.
Off we flew, early in the morning to do battle with the Mallaterre. After a long drive and a quick change in the rain, Pearshape found he had forgotten the ropes !!!!
After lunch back at the shed we were all fit and ready to leap into action. Pearshape rigged to the ledge, then bailed out after seeing the Frenchies version of P-hangers, ie. rusty 8mm spits and bits of thread with rusty nuts stuck on.
Simon then took the lead (while me and Andy attempted to extinguish his carbide from above!!) and Steve Bloom and myself quickly got to the bottom. After a look at the disgusting way on at the bottom we decided discretion was the best part of valour and flew up the pitches as a thunderstorm passed overhead.
We then returned to the cow-shed, pleased with ourselves that we had finally managed a cave of at least some repute. Another cous cous delight saw us talking beards and pants with the head-honcho, Hugh Janus / G. Rection in his student like pit until he threw us out in a desperate attempt to get some sleep.
An early rise saw us square away all the kit in the smuggling machine. Hugh found and removed the cock's head Andy had very kindly nailed to his door.
Off we flew into the wilderness, dreaming of whirlpools and when we can next return to the beautiful area known as the
Beard two - " How many meters to your toilet from here Hugh ? ",
Hugh - " !?"*%! ".
(Ed's note: Told you Steve Bloom was mad !!)
|2).||Conger Eels (AP)|
|3).||Pearshape, the kit monster (DK)|
|4).||Steve Bloom, the human dormouse (DK)|
|5).||Ecouges, our escape from death and the fact that Hugh forgot to tell us that the water levels might be too high !! (SW)|
|6).||Maddy's hatstand, dog-loaf French (SW)|
|7).||Hugh Janus/ G. Rection and his quasi-derelict cow shed (DK)|
|8).||Huge Janus (?AP)|
|9).||Andy's blood curdling, swashbuckling, stomach churning, hair raising driving (MH)|
|10).||Reasons not to go caving. eg. Death by Conger Eels (DK)|
|eg. Rain, snow, hail, thunder, lightning (SW)|
|eg. To upset Pearshape (AP)|
|eg. No rope (AP)|
|eg. It's easier to talk a good cave (AP)|
|eg. Chickens (SW) (Ed. Come on then, tosser !!)|