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Causse Du Gramat Easter 1999

By Vince Simmonds

Those present:

            Vince Simmonds
            Roz Bateman
            Ivan Sandford
            Fi + Jack Lambert
            Pete Bolt
            Debbie
            Rich Blake

The place:

Situated in the South West of France, South of Brive-La-Gaillarde, and lying between the Dordogne and Lot rivers.  The area has long been popular with British cave divers; there are a great many resurgences along the valley bottoms.  On the plateau there is a variety of caving trips available from classic stream passages, older fossil series - many very well decorated to vertical with a range of difficulty.  Also in the area there are many show caves, some better than others, again with mixture of types including some fine painted caves.

The Journey

1-4-99

At 6pm Roz, Vince, Ivan, Fi, Jack and Rich set off for the midnight ferry from Dover, Pete and Debbie were to join us later in the week.  A fairly uneventful journey, most of the traffic was going the other way, so we arrived early and managed to catch a ferry at 10-45pm.

2-4-99

On disembarking we decided to make our separate ways to Gramat. Roz and Vince spent the night and most of the day driving and catching a rest now and again.  Arrived at the campsite at 6.30pm to find it wasn't open until the next day and no sign of the others.  When at a loose end go shopping.  On arrival back at the campsite we were met by Ivan and co. who had sorted out a Gite at very reasonable rates.

That evening we met up with some friends from Oxford Uni.C.C. who gave us some useful info, this was their last day.  A pleasant relaxing evening was had by all.

The Funtime:

3-4-99

GOUFFRE DE ROQUE DE COR (547/285)

Vince, Roz, Rich, Ivan

Located by following the N140 from Gramat to Montvalent road, take a right turn onto the D70 (Goudou). Stop at (T) junction and follow rail track south along path to large doline which is Roque du Cor.

This is an impressive site, a massive doline probably 100 metres across and 50 metres deep.  A descent to the left of a waterfall, handline useful, leads to a stream and low, wide entrance.  Passage continues as stooping size before opening up to walking size.  It's a shame the cave is only 750m before it ends in a sump.

We spent some time looking around the base of the doline where there are some remnants of cave and what would be some interesting dig sites.

GOUFFRE DE PADlRAC (553,68/284,41)

Not a difficult place to find as it is very well signposted.

All went over to the showcave but only Roz and Vince went for a trip.  A very worthwhile place to visit and excellent value for money.

Steps or a lift take you down the 70m deep chasm to a leisurely stroll along a large rift passage with stream before reaching a flooded section and a boat trip.  Then follows a guided tour around the well-decorated "Grand Dome".  A good hour and a half trip.

4-4-99

GOUFFRE DE REVEILLON (546,89/280,80)

Rich, Roz, Vince, Ivan, Pete

After finding Pete and Debbie in Gramat and hearing tales of forgotten passports, dumping their kit at the Gite we went caving.

Location along the N140 Gramat to Montvalent road turning right onto the D673 (Alvignac) before taking the first road on the left.  Stop just after an obvious valley to your right.  Follow the well-used footpath down the valley side to the gob-smacking sight of the Reveillon entrance arch 40m x 40m and home to a great many Jackdaws.

Followed the main stream passage until we came to a sump and no bypass.  We decided to try the Upper entrance, higher up to the left of the main arch.  Followed a stooping, crawling sized passage to a 15m pitch (ladder).  From the bottom of the pitch a crawl, with a fine yellow and black salamander, led to a large chamber with some formations - "Salle du Livre".  From the bottom of the pitch a climb up led after a left turn back to the top of the ladder.  We eventually found the way to "Salle Bernard" (turn right not left) but did not have the kit with us to go further (2x10m ladders).  Still a very enjoyable trip.

5-4-99

GOUFFRE DU SAUT DE LA PUCELLE (547,41/278,08)

Ivan, Vince, Roz, Pete, Rich

Location, could not be simpler, N140 Grarnat to Montvalent road after turn for Roumegouse.  Park in tree lined lay-by with stile leading to cave entrance.

This is the cave to visit if you only have time for one trip; it is a real classic streamway

You may have to avoid some French cavers trying to stay out of the water, wear a wetsuit and enjoy yourselves.

Follow the path down to the entrance and easy going to an old fossil passage where the way to the stream is on the left.  There are some pools to cross and I've seen people using boats to cross them, they are not quite waist deep.  Eventually a wet passage that is easier to swim through leads to the first of the climbs and the streamway proper.

The amount of tackle required varies on the water conditions.  We took six 10m ladders plus slings, tapes and ropes/handlines and never quite made the end.  BEWARE! some of the small drops look easy on the way in but are an absolute bastard on the way out especially with a bag full of kit.  Look at the larger pitches.  Some of them are free-climbable depending on conditions.

All said and done this is a fine streamway, just like a long Swildons', with some good formations.

Be prepared for a long trip of 6-8hrs.

6-4-99

IGUE DE LA CROUSA TE (551,53/269,26)

Rich, Roz, Vince

 

Located on the D14 Gramat to Reilhac road, 2.5kms before Reilhac stop in track on left before section of very straight road.  Follow obvious path, roughly north west, to cave entrance.

SRT trip.  Easy passage leads to traverse and drop (I5m rope) which leads to head of first pitch of 26m (30m rope) and then almost immediately to the second pitch of 39m (40m rope).  At the end of the cave is a piddly little dig in a trickle that has seen some half-hearted attempts at digging.  Once these pitches would have been well decorated but overuse and an extreme case of overbolting has resulted in the destruction of the cave formations. The cave has obviously been used as a training ground probably by the outdoor pursuits centre down the road. Maybe it should serve as a warning to all.

Afterwards we followed the road from Reilhac to Caniac-du-Causse (D42) and the Foret du La Braunhie, which is reputedly the site of 150 gouffres, grottes and igues it does, however, have the daylight shaft of ...

PLANAGREZE (546,55/259,56)

which has a large notice board near the entrance complete with survey.


A 74m shaft with a ledge at -30m drops into "La Salle de la Castine."  The way on is through a slot and another pitch.  We did not descend the cave but all the info we have is here.

Tackle:

            One 80m rope
            Two 60m ropes
            22 hangers and a tape

From the bottom of the 2nd pitch is a 60m river ending at a sump that has been passed to further sumps. There then follows a sloping pitch to a lake at -184m.  According to the board on the surface this lake is up to 70m deep.

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GOUFFRE SPOTTING

Roz, Rich, Ivan, Vince

552.60/287.60: Line of Gouffres on map (2136 ET) near town of Magnagues. 4 Shallow dolines with inter-connecting passage up to 10m wide by 6m high all ending as chokes although there are a couple of through trips, one particular passage leading to the middle of a briar patch much to Vince and Richs' chagrin.

550.48/288.78: nr. Noutary. Single gated entrance by side of track.  Again sizeable passage but short and choked.

548.20/282.64 & 548.36/282.22: 2 Gouffres nr. Alvignac(Cantecor) 1 a low wide arch inhabited by critters.  1 was an old dig site.

548.92/284.30: Perte nr. to Miers. Stream sinks in conduit under road.

550.36/284.16: Muddy sink by side of road.  2 sinks Nr. Padirac.

551.94/284.00: Nr. Village of Goubert, 1 mucky sink described as another Bowery Comer with small cave above that had been modified.

552.86/283.16: 1 site in small valley below the last house in Andrieu looked a good spot with a friendly farmer.

The sink marked on the map wasn't all that inspiring until the farmer took us over to see his gouffre, a clean washed entrance 3m deep by 1.5m wide and a good flow of water.

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THEMINETTES (559.84/271.12)

Roz, Rich, Ivan, Vince

Located in the town of Themines on the N140 between Gramat and Figeac, very obvious river sink.

Arrived at the entrance only to find lots of water disappearing into a flood prone cave decided to give it a miss.  We decided to head over to THEMINETTES (561,64/268,05) to locate the sink there. After a little driving/walking about we managed to locate the entrance-very impressive!  The river pours into a hole 2m x 2m and disappears into a rift too wet to attempt to follow it.  Across the entrance is a gate made of sleepers and telegraph poles to stop the debris.  We walked up the river valley where there are several lesser sites of interest.

Took a drive along the Cele valley where we looked at a couple of things but nothing worth a mention

9-4-99

VALLE DU L' ALZOU

Vince, Roz

Cracking day just right for a stroll.  Followed the GR6 path from Grarnat to Rocamadour through the Alzou river valley. The gorge is quite spectacular with high cliffs of limestone and several old ruined mills.  The paths and maps are of a high quality, this walk there and back is 25kms.  Rocamadour is a place you must see if visiting the area with its Chateau built high on the cliffs and narrow medieval streets, and a good place to have a beer break.

The return:

10-4-99

After tidying the Gite we again decided to make our separate ways back to dear old Blighty.  All managed to catch earlier ferries and made the Hunters for drinks Sunday lunchtime.

On the journey to and fro' we passed through an interesting little town called Loches, south of Tours on the N143 to Chateauroux.  Each house that was built into a hillside, seemed to have its own stone mine.  Some of the houses were built into the rock complete with windows and doors.  It merits a stop and a look maybe to break the journey.

Maps:

Serie Bleue 2136ET (top 25) Rocarnadour-Padirac

Serie Bleue 2137E Grarnat-Rocarnadour

IGN (Institut Geographique National) 2236 Ouest; 2237 Ouest; 2238; 2138 Est; 2136 Ouest; 2137 Ouest; 2138 Ouest.

These were the ones we used most of all but it is a large area and other maps may be required. Maps can be purchased in the Superrnarche (Leclerc at Gramat) or in the Tobacconists (Tabac).

Some other caves:

Igue de Toulze

564.28/245.64: From Figeac take the D19 to Grealou and on towards Carjac, after lkm turn left towards Cadrieux.  4km further, turn into the path on your left.  The cave is 300m further at the top of the hill.


6m entrance leads down a slope to a 10m pitch.  From the bottom of the pitch a large passage ends at an 8m drop followed by a 20m ledge. A 15m lake starts here, which according to the French description requires a boat.

Tackle

60m rope; 15m rope; 40m rope; 10m rope; and a boat!

IGue de Viazac:

547.82/261.10: Take the D42 Fontanes to Caniac road. 3km before Fontanes, turn left at the football ground.  Go on and do not take the path on the right.  100m past a 90-degree turn path on your right, cross a fence on your right, and follow the path southwards.  Take a small path to the left that leads to an open area, where you will find the cave (hopefully!).

Start from the south of the hole.  The 65m pitch is divided into two sections.  At the bottom of the pitch, the rope used as a line is followed to a 15m pitch and a 6m step leads to the Martel passage and hole.  A ledge crosses the Martel hole up to the top of the 81m Echo pitch.  At the bottom of this the Mud Room leads to a 24m pitch.  Climb down the rocks until the pier, you can cross the lake up to the landing stage.

Tackle:

90m rope for the 65m pitch; 70m rope for the line and 15m pitch; 50m rope for the ledge; 100m rope for the 81 m pitch; 2x60m ropes up to end of the trip; 16 hangers and 2 tapes up to Martel passage; 15 hangers and 2 tapes for the 81m pitch; 20 hangers and a deviation from the 81 m pitch up to the lake

The previous two descriptions have been taken from a French translation (Speleo Club de Figeac ).

There are of course many other caves in the region, i.e. Igue de St. Sol (539,54/282,71) with a fine 75m entrance shaft and superb formations, Grotte de Combe Cullier (539,06/283,13) bit of a grovel but worth a visit if you're at St. Sol and the showcave at Lacave (bit naff, too much lighting) that are well documented in various club publications.

More information:

Taviner, R. Wessex Journals

Simmonds, V. M.C.G. journals

Speleo Club de Figeac, Website (try caving links)

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