ProTec goes cave diving in France – Part One

The Area:

The Lot department is an amazingly beautiful country side with a few smaller cities around but all very laid back and quiet. There is some tourism in the summer months and places can get quiet crowded. For non divers there are plenty of things to do ranging from show caves, hiking, canoeing or simply enjoying the landscape and the food.
From a supplies point of view there is no problem what so ever as there are several super markets around where you can get everything you need. Also there are plenty of nice little restaurants with great food and kind people. Speaking French of course is an advantage as one might imagine, since not too many people in the area seem to speak English.
Traffic is also very settled and there are not too many crazy drivers =)

Finding your way around meaning filling station and different caves is a bit tricky though at least the first time until you have them in your GPS =)
They are wide spread and if you take the city Gramat as your starting point they are between 20min and one hour driving. And lots and lots of turns!

I chose Andre Grimal and his filling station called les Vasques du Quercy and also rented and apartment from him, fully equipped also with microwave, fridge, oven etc. There is easy place for up to three to four divers in there and for 45euro the night really affordable. There is Wifi Internet everywhere and generally the atmosphere is amazing. Andre is beyond kind and gives you the feeling to be at home from day one. He can fill what ever you want and his blends are dead on to the comma. He keeps track of everything and you pay at the end which is nice as well. He can do 300 bar and has a booster for the CCR divers. An amazing set up!
On the property you have as well the possibility to rent a mobile home for 10euro or night or crash in your car or put a tent for 5euro a day. For the people in the tend or car there are free toilet, shower, a BBQ grill, yes even a washing machine.

Andres Fillstation

All the time I was there it was full with cave divers and we had super nice evenings with BBQ and cave diving stories. And it is also quiet common to run into some of the elite cave divers of the world, which was very interesting as well.

The Caves:

My first dive I did in Fontaine Saint Georges slightly scared of the temperature I decided to turn the dive as soon as I would feel any sign of cold. Due to 650gramm of undergarment (needed 12 kg weight to descent with two side mounted aluminium 11ltr/80cuf tanks and a 11ltr/80cuf stage) I did a 90min stage dive without any sign of cold what so ever.

The pool of St. Georges is quiet small in diameter and just on the side of a rock face. The water level was pretty low and so the river bed that continues at the end of the pool was pretty dried out.
The line starts as in many places outside of the water and leads you down fairly fast to 30m/100ft through an inclined bedding plane. Floor to ceiling hight is pretty low and so it is important to adjust your horizontal trim to follow the bottom. Also the line is incredible loose and sometimes only “weighted” down by small stones that are attached to the line with snoopy loops.
Once you reached the end of the slope the ceiling is gone and you enter an impressive room. Visibility at this point is about 10m/33ft and I can only recommend to bring a stronger light then 10W HID as  I found it often insufficient.

The tunnel quickly ascents after that to about 12m/40ft and stays there until you almost surface at a gas pocket about 380m/1200ft in. After that the cave stays shallow around 5m/16ft until another gas pocket. 900m/3000ft in the tunnel suddenly rapidly descents below 70m/230ft.
One of the most fascinating things was definitely the thick clay floor. I had never seen so massive clay dunes before but was saddened by the thousands of fin cuts, hand and knee prints left by previous divers. Once you come a bit further in the back it starts to get better but still there is no untouched bit of floor there.

Font del Truffe was my second dive site the day after.

When we arrived at the site the water level was completely down and the water fairly murky. It did not really look inviting. Once down at the bottom of the pool it starts with a pretty small restriction at least from a back mount point of view and once you have past it you arrive in HEAVEN. I really miss the words to describe how much I love this cave. The colours, the configuration and the rhythm are simply amazing. Max depth was 15m/50ft with an average depth far shallower. Unfortunately by the time I was diving it the water level was too low and so the second syphon was dry. I always wanted to do some sump diving in my life and so I was  enjoying a lot to take my gear of,  which in side mount is super easy anyway, and to explore the second syphon on foot. This part of the cave is much smaller and even cooler then the tunnel before that. I was so disappointed not to have the possibility to dive through it, but there is always next year! I walked back to syphon one where the team was waiting for me. We swam back to the entrance and arrived there after about 50min total dive time, we looked at each other checked our pressure gauges and made the very easy decision to turn around and swim back into the cave doing the dive again. We also used the time to take some cool pictures and then finally surfaced after about 130min total dive time in 12.3°C/54°F water temperature.

The cars where parked right next to the entrance and so it didn’t take long for us to be back in the warm bus, eating some lovely sandwiches.

This was the first part of this trip report, stay tuned for the second.

2 comments

1 Shearwater Research Inc.- trimix { 04.25.14 at 12:11 pm }

I heard about some creepy stories about Fontaine Saint Georges but who stopping me the experience i have is so breathtaking opposite to what i known.

2 Patrick { 10.29.14 at 8:43 am }

same here =)

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