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Le Deuxieme Festival International Du Film De Speleologie

La Chapelle en Vercors, 23 - 27 August '78

Following the successful trip to the Dachstein two of our intrepid explorers went to the cinema…

a report by Ross White…..

The 18th August 1978 saw Andy Sparrow and myself plodding down the road out of Salzberg; having left Graham Wilton-Jones et. al who were returning home after the expedition to the Dachstein.  We were on our way to Le Vercors via Italy, using our thumbs.

Some time later, after surviving a dose of food poisoning and the odd occasion when our sense of humour broke down, we arrived in La Chapelle - En Vercors, a small village situated about 50km south-west of Grenoble.  We met up with Ben Lyon, who had been invited to help judge the films, and Dave Morris, George Bee, Paul Atkinson and families who were over to dive some sumps.  Although we didn't have any caving gear (a prime excuse you might think) as we carried everything on our backs, we did end up doing some caving.

The first trip was with Ben to La Crotte de Bruder, which had a large entrance chamber leading into impressive rift passage.  We only covered a few hundred feet as we weren’t equipped properly and there was a lot of swimming aided by a few dubious looking traverse lines.

We also did some sherpering for the divers into La Grotto de Bournillon.  We’d been well primed with alcohol the night before but the effort was well worth it.  The entrance is immensely impressive (largest in Europe) with a stonking great passage going half mile into the mountainside to the sump pool, which is large, crystal clear and very cold.  D. Morris and P. Atkinson dived 700ft to -70ft then returned, due to the cold and setting tangled in old broken line.

On the opposite side of the valley is a show cave - La Grotte de Choranche, which is an absolute must if you're in the area.  It is exceptionally well decorated and un-commercialised.

As for the festival itself, the second of its kind, the French had obviously put a lot of time and effort into it.  There was an assortment of French, English, German, Belgian, American and Swiss films, 23 in all.  A jury of seven, including Nick Barrington and Ben Lyon studiously sat through all these and eventually awarded Sid Perou's 'Alum Pot' the winning title. 'Pippikin Pot' was also a runner up.

There were a number of remarkable films, the most memorable being, I think; a German film entitled. 'Taucher Im Fels' by W. Mann featuring Joohen Hasenmayer, a cave diver.  It tells of a big push into a large resurgence. The visibility was superb, the passage huge and you can imagine the diver wearing a twin set backpack, four side mounted bottles PLUS a camera in an English sump!  It effectively captured some of the tension and loneliness of long cave.

Another film dealt with the problems of cave conservation in Belgium, problems caused by major quarrying and rubbish tips etc.  Of course, there were a couple of ‘joke’ films - they were so bad, that you had to laugh.

The festival was spread over five days with trips to local show caves and a wine co-operative thrown in for good measure.  It wound up with a dinner and a re-run of the winning films.  As a whole it was worth seeing despite logistic problems and it also gave one a chance to meet foreign cavers.

The cost?  Admittedly not cheap: 10f for an afternoon session, 15f an evening session but you could buy a season ticket for 50f which worked out much cheaper.  Camping fess were nominal.

If anyone is in the area next year I can recommend a visit.  It certainly provides an interesting new dimension to armchair caving! for the dedicated.  The local barman is very friendly and keeps liberal opening hours and some strange reason likes cavers!