Cave Course in France

Like every summer I made my way to Europe for the months of July and August to teach and see my family. As usual my trip started in France where I taught a cave course together with Tristan. Our glorious Team consisted of Alain, Stefaan, Joerg, Hans and Karel who was there to assist. Truth be told I had quiet some butterflies in my stomach as I had never before taught a basic cave class there, only stage and dpv. So we made sure to arrive at sight 3 days before course start to check the conditions of the caves as well as where we would make what exercise to maximize learning while minimizing the risk to the student. Also skills like lost line or touch contact had to be practiced to see if we would have to adjust our technique from the Mexican warm water cenotes to the French cold(er) water resurgences. Generally it is very important that one knows the sites as well as possible before conducting any training in them, so Tristan and I spend about 3h daily inspecting, rehearsing and practicing which as it turned out paid off massively.

Tristan prior to dive in Landenouse

Funny enough we met the gang for the first time in the local super market after ending our dive day. The next day we started bright and early with our first classroom session just meters away from our rooms and fill station. Really one cant deny how perfect Olis place in Gramat is. After some getting to know each other and talking about some basics we started to look at gear and practiced some fining techniques. We got some pretty skeptic looks when we asked them to lie belly down on the camping tables wearing their fins. But latest when we jumped in the water and the difference between trying to swim backwards and actually swimming backwards became evident and they realized how far one can go with a proper modified frog kick, all doubts were lifted. The day ended around 8pm and we all returned tired but happy to our rooms.

sidemount divers

On the next morning we headed right away of to St. Sauveur which has a big open water space and is perfect for open water line practice. A small detail was overseen, it was Sunday and so after about one hour of line drills between the trees people started to pour in like there was food for free. Mostly french cave divers from all corners of France, all equipped with full pick nick gear and everything the wine cellar had to offer. Now the skeptic looks came from them as they didn’t quiet seem to understand what we were doing with all the lines between the trees and less with all the lines in the open water. We did our first longer water sessions which cooled us down enough to spend a full hour outside the water in 30° weather without removing our dry suits =). We spend hours practicing as doing a proper touch contact with dry gloves and a 24# braided nylon line can be quiet tricky without the necessary practice.  That day we finished even later and therefore decided to not do any theory in the evening.

Day Three and finally we are ready to go for our first cave dive and what place would be better to start than the iconic emergence de Ressel. Conditions where pretty good, with moderate flow, “ok” viz and not too much traffic. We started with doing a demo dive, slowly demonstrating predive checks, s-drill and line laying techniques. We managed to get two more dives in that day which given the temperature was quit challenging, at least for Tristan and I. In the last dive we performed our first 0 viz exit which worked amazingly good just confirming that the hours we spent the day before practicing was time well spent. This day we came back late as well but had to suck it up and spend some time in the classroom to finish at around 9pm.

Line Laying

Day Four was emergency drill day. Again three dives, plenty of touch contact, out of gas drills, valve failures, free flows and combinations. Its an important day as all the basic emergency responses are practiced at close proximity to the entrance while on each dive proper predive procedures, team protocols and line laying techniques are reviewed and perfected. The guys picked up at a good pace and so we could do ever longer and more challenging dives. Back at the shop we continued with theory and yes again it was 9pm when we stopped or maybe a bit after =)

St. George

Day Five was dedicated to Lost Line and Lost Diver Drills. We spend a good amount of time discussing and practicing these situations on land before trying them in the cave. Both of those situation can be easily avoided with proper awareness but are extremely important to be completely understood as if the diver follows a strict set of protocols they are very solvable situations but if not they can be disastrous. Only two dives this day but with a total of almost 5h of in water time. Brr. Back at the shop some more theory and well…I think it was almost 10pm.

Day Six NAVIGATION baby, most Mexican cave divers specialty. We chose St. George for that, as we had left a spool in that created a permanent T for practice as well as there is a Jump in the back. But to as there is not so much navigation to do in France and as we wanted to prepare them as well for cave diving in Mexico we decided to spend an entire morning dry running any type or kind of navigation. We did all sorts of Jumps, Ts and Gaps in visibility as well as exiting without visibility. All different types of markers and their use was discussed and rehearsed which at the end created a quit good understanding of the basics. All in all the day went very well and we covered lots of ground always throwing out of gas and zero viz drills in the mix together with some leaks and free flows.

Navigation

Day Seven, almost done! Today’s plan, restriction training while setting up and executing a complex circuit. And what an epic dive that was! If you can combine training with doing some seriously awesome dive its almost to good to be true. We did a 87min dive followed by a 84min dive and by now everything starts to fall in its place and we are a smooth well oiled machine. Finishing most of the theory that night with a record braking finish time of 10:30pm.

Last day, time for some well deserved delights, Landenouse and Fontaine du Truffe. Some last drills to fine tune but mostly just focusing on the team awareness and enjoying some breathtaking cave.

All in all an amazing time with long but awesome days, lots of laughter and vicious badminton matches at night.

Thanks to all the guys for their hard work and dedication.

For info’s on the 2014 France schedule please contact me at patrick@protecplaya.com

Patrick

cheers
P

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