Category — Travel

ProTec goes cave diving in France – Part Two

Time is passing very fast when you come back from vacation and jump right away to work and have just opened a new dive shop. Sorry if I kept you waiting but here we go again continuing Part One.

The next day we went diving in Cabouy. So far the biggest open water area by far although the water level was way down due to the dry season. What was very cool though was that we revisited the site a couple of rainy days later and the little pond of water had turned into a river.

Line starts outside of the water and leads you straight down. It is yet another example where the cave drops very fast relatively deep down to 30m/100ft before slowly ascending to an average of about 15m/50ft. It is one huge tunnel which makes your jaw drop. Even the most powerful light doesn’t manage to illuminate it all. What was specifically cool on this dive was a 1m/3ft long fresh water eel with its HUGE eyes that kept us busy for some time.

As in quiet a few places I would recommend to bring a stage to further the penetration a bit and Nitrox is a definite must in my opinion.
What I found also super cool is that it was the first cave I had visited with actual jumps in it. Unfortunately it was not part of our dive plan and so we didn’t have the chance to check them out, but there is always a next time.

It is also really cool when you come back with a little bit of deco as the entrance pool is warmer then the cave which makes a huge difference. We actually did the longest dive there with almost 150min.

The following day we tried to go to Marche Pied which was supposed to be one of the top sidemount places but unfortunately they closed the entrance with trees and a huge NO DIVING warning sign. So we skipped plans and went to Landenouse instead. This at first very annoying situation turned out to be fantastic as this cave is simply amazing. I guess I could go there several days back to back. The cave configuration and colors are breathtaking.
Already when you arrive and you see the entrance with the steep leader and rope to lower the tanks you get an immediate adrenalin rush.

The cave starts with a pretty narrow entrance which opens up very fast and reveals this marvelous place. The first about 400m/1300ft the cave stays shallower then 20m/65ft and averages at about 15m/50ft, before slowly sloping down the depths that require helium in the breathing mixture.It is for sure a great place for training as well with with even a line paralleling the mainline to practice navigation. We did a 2h dive from which I enjoyed every second.

Finally the next day we went to dive in the Ressel, a place so legendary in the cave diving world and THE name for Cave Diving in France. As it was the first reconnaissance dive we chose Nitrox as breathing gas and had a look first at the deep line all the way to the shaft (Puis4) where we stopped as the cave dropped below 30m/100ft.

On the way back we recalculated gas at the T to look at the shallow line. Both are spectacular, especially the first 100m is so impressive due to the brick like boulders, the extremely sharp edges  and the color of the rock in the HID light. And of course the shaft just kicks your ass. To hover above it and look down is just an incredible feeling. Checking both tunnels and keeping track of time and gas consumption was crucial as it provided important information for a new dive plan involving helium based breathing mixtures and longer bottom times.
It was the only dive were I felt a bit cold and so it was super nice to get back to the river that was significantly warmer and put a huge smile on my face. I left the place very impressed and looking fwd to do a trimix dive there!!!

The next day we took a day off, at least during the day as we were planing to do a night cave dive at a site that was a bit farther away. La Doux de Coly. Unquestionable one of the coolest dives I have ever done in my life. To begin, a night cave dive is already cool, doing it on trimix to max 56m/180ft even better and all of that in sidemount in pretty cold water. Needless to say I was so excited that the hours of the day passed like months.

The open water area is by far the prettiest with fresh water plants and crystal clear water right next to the street. Line starts inside the cave which was a new one, so we actually had to run a line from the open water. Cave stays super shallow around 6m/20ft dropping sometimes to 9m/30ft for about 30min swimming. Then there is a little hill that brings you shallow about to 3m/10ft before dropping through the most wickedest shaft you can possibly imagine!!! I literally lack the words to describe how awesome this place is.

On the bottom of the shaft there is a huge case filled with concrete weight that used to hold the habitat in place which used a cinch system which made a slow ascent in it possible. We spend quite a time swimming around in 55m/180ft and even found a permanent T-Intersection and here I thought there was no navigation in France =)
The floor consists of bigger sand grains in all different color shades of brown which looked very cool also!
My favorite cave and favorite dive hands down all 120min long!!! We were back at Andre Grimals at around 4h in the morning, tired but happy and so we took it a bit slower on the next day only diving in the late afternoon.
We went back to the Ressel to do the trimix dive we had set up one day before. We used the shallow route to safe on gas and one can only say that the Ressel has the perfect profile for deep diving when it comes to swimming back out almost doing all your deco on the fly. No long and cold hanging around, NICE!

We dropped down through the Puis4 and turned at about 700m/2300ft in. Once you are at the deeper level the cave is still nice but honestly not as cool as the shallow part. I will nonetheless though definitely come back with scooters to cruise through the deeper sections as this is going to rock beyond anything! We spend quiet some time on the bottom causing quiet some decompression obligation and so it became our longest dive just short of 180min run time.

The last day we went to St. Sauveur which is an extremely deep place and it descents very rapidly. I did my deepest dive there to 60m/200ft mainly as I was not equipped for deeper dives. The open water area is just gorges.

St Sauvuer entrance pool in the Lot France

Nice big pond, super clear and just fantastic for open water training. Also quiet deep already in the pool but there is a great possibility to a line circuit for training in about 6m. There is also a super pretty park around to practice on land fining techniques, line laying and zero visibility drills.
The cave it self I found not so pretty but interesting to see the habitat in the open water as well as the electric cable that serves as guideline.

As it was raining the last days I heard that Trou Madame was flooded enough to dive straight from the beginning and so I decided to yet do another dive although I was going on the 5h drive back to Marseille the same day. Something I haven’t regretted!!!
Just the nature around the cave entrance is stunning, a little river descending from the cave entrance and huge break down area and then a tiny entrance. I would definitely not like to dive the site in back mounted doubles as it is quiet a distance from the car and so easy path. Also the entrance area is super shallow and has a low ceiling so side-mounting is definitely the way to go!

Trou Madame are several gas pockets connected to each other and general a very shallow cave with mostly 6m/20ft max depth. One of the highlights for me was thundering sound that became louder and louder as we progressed. Something I have never heard before under water. I looked up and realized that is was an underground waterfall hitting the surface of the water. I surfaced in the gas pocket and marveled at the waterfall…indoor waterfall…sooooo coooooool!!!!

After the dive it was back to Andres, packing fast and back to Marseille.

All in all I had an AMAZING time there from meeting wonderful people, having insanely awesome dives and great BBQ s with some of the worlds finest cave divers. The City Gramat and Rocamadour have also a great character and I cant wait for next year to go back there.

I am going to be in the area from mid may on for a months or so of diving and teaching. If you are interested to join send me an email to

I hope you enjoyed the report and sorry for the delay of the part two =)

If you want to see some Pics from U/W click here.

Have a good one,

September 4, 2011   2 Comments

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.

July 29, 2011   2 Comments