Participants: Marcel Schüssler, Mats Pape, Steffen Burger, Steffen Kiesecker, Olli Ober, Max Fahr, Oliver Schöll, Marc Große, Heinke Teichmann, Wilke Reints
Guests: Christopher Menzel, Dierk Schwieck, Frank Vasseur
Project management: Steffen Burger, Wilke Reints
To better prepare for the quite physically demanding project, we held regular fitness sessions together. In addition to sports, the focus was also on skills.
Marcel Schüssler took part in 11 of the 20 sports sessions and won the trophy.
SteffenB was in contact with Frank Vasseur who wanted to accompany us on two dives the week. He provided us with pictures of the conditions on site and got the fire governor to do a practice dive in the Gourneyrou 4 days before our arrival to check the line for us right away up to 200m (more penetration is not allowed for the French fire fighters).
Since we received the new Seacraft scooters shortly before the project, the conditions on the DPV side were also very good. The scooters are perfect for our explorations in remote caves due to their light weight with long burn time. With the ability to plug in either lights or suit heaters via E/O cord, we hope to bring light to new passages, as well as not have to freeze on the return trips.
Some participants took advantage of the Corpus Christi holiday to arrive already on Thursday.
Since we wanted to take the big cable car incl. rack for the middle station this time, we borrowed a 2T trailer. Unfortunately, the trailer rental had mixed up the inside and outside dimensions. Unfortunately, the trailer turned out to be much too big. In the short term, this could not be changed now, we had to load and go. Fear that we with the trailer not around the narrow curves, as well as the overhanging rocks we had in any case. In case of need, however, we wanted to leave it and transport the equipment on foot / by car the last kilometer. The Cavebase has written exploration in exposed locations on the flag - you have to accept that ;-)
With three cars we set off Friday morning. Around 6 p.m. we reached the gate to the EDF site.
From here on, the co-drivers were allowed to walk in front of the cars to clear sharp stones out of the way. Last year there were flat tires, which had to be avoided. At first we thought the drivers will not get to their 10,000 steps / day today. As it turned out later, we will all break the 10,000 steps by far.
Our foot crew sounded out the way, but after a few meters a whistling noise could be heard. The right front tire was quickly located as the culprit and was quickly replaced. Fortunately, Christopher had all the tools including jack handy, in the full with 4 men occupied T4 would have had to unload a lot of luggage first.
30 minutes later the convoy rolled on. The first overhanging rock was no problem, at the second one Christopher jumped on the trailer to pulverize the rock there with a hammer to make it possible to continue here as well. Two turns later, the team was too long for the turn. Despite slightly sloping rocky ground, we had to unhitch the trailer. Would that go well? SteffenB had great doubts, but had to surrender to the facts. We steered the trailer by hand around the curve and could successfully couple it again. About 200m later again a whistling noise. This time it hit a tire of the trailer. We did not have any spare wheels for this. Fortunately, the trailer had two axles and we drove on for the time being. After maybe 100 meters we had to give up, the next curve and the smell of the clutch left no other option. It had become dark in the meantime and we had still good 600m up to the camp. The mood threatened to tip. Perplexity. Heated discussions.
A solution had to come quickly, so that the rest of motivation remains upright. Quickly hold a crisis meeting, OlliO and SteffenB agreed to unload all the equipment and push the trailer by hand on its planned destination location in a bend along the way, quite close to the Gourneyrou. No one felt like it anymore, but we were able to show team spirit already on the approach and everyone pitched in.
50% of the equipment we carried to the rappel point Gourneyrou until 0:00am. The rest was carried to the trailer. Part of it had to go to camp (generator, beer bench, pavilion, food, etc.) At 1:00 am we started the grill half-starved and ended up in bed at 2:30 am. SteffenB allowed the team to get up at 9am the next day ;-)
Friday: Construction of the ropeway
We had arranged to meet Frank Vasseur at 10am at the ropeway. On the way there, we took the last parts - which had mistakenly landed on the trailer during the night - with us, and got to work on the middle station with steel girders, a spike and a percussion drill.
Due to the terrain, the ropeway requires a mid station where the rope is deflected by about 40°. Here the gradient also becomes steeper. Christopher, SteffenB, Mats took care of the middle station. The frame was quickly set up, we pulled the steel rope through the middle station and then noticed that we couldn't tighten it. It was jammed in the deflection. After losing a lot of time here, we decided to change the construction and transfer each piece of luggage from one rope to the other at the middle station. (Just like the year before - why then this story with the trailer? This was mainly needed because of the long steel beams).
While the ropeway was being worked on, OlliO and SteffenK set up the cave pool. Tarps were put up to provide shade as well as clotheslines. We started rappelling the equipment from 3pm.
At the same time Christopher M. set up our winch. Tom Bub had an old 6.5hp motor from a Bauer compressor lying around. With a few additional parts we constructed a gasoline engine driven capstan winch. Christopher M had the necessary connections to weld the frame and to connect the rest of the parts. First tests at home were successful. The device was also convincing on site. After Christopher M. successfully completed the first test runs, the rest of the team was briefed. From now on we could transport equipment upstairs without sweating.
At 9:30 p.m. we could finally stoke up the grill. It was again a long day, which cost us again more energy than planned. Hopefully this will not continue.
Frank Vasseur kindly took our two broken bikes and was going to bring them back on Wednesday. Many thanks for that!
Saturday: First line check
Marcel S., Christopher M. and Mats P. were the first team to dive down to check the line situation up to 80m.
Unfortunately Christopher M. had to abort already during the descent due to a stuck inflator. Marcel and Mats continued the dive. They followed the line and fixed an interruption at 80m depth. After 2h they were out of the water.
As second team followed Olli O. and Steffen B., they wanted to follow the line after the patched spot as far as possible. Limitation was 3h dive time. They unrolled 2 reels and extended the line end from last year. After 2:50h they were out of the water. There almost would have gone another reel ;)
In the evening we could welcome the last stragglers OlliS, Marc G., Heinke, Max. They brought their equipment with the cable car already in the course of the late afternoon into the valley. We could eat together in the evening and set the daily goal for Sunday.
Sunday: Survey Workshop + Habitat
Unfortunately Marcel as well as SteffenK dropped out today. They lay flat with cold (man flu) and stomach/intestine. As it turned out the following days it was not possible for both of them to dive again during the week. Unfortunately they were both only fit for the trip home. So we lost a complete push team for this week. Also with Marcel we lost an energetic support.
After breakfast, a survey workshop by Oliver Ober took place at 8am. Our new acquisition ENC3 from Seacraft was not yet in use and was briefly explained to the team how to use it. Thankfully we received the new survey tool from Seacraft before the official release, so that the ENC3 can also be used to survey the line, similar to the MNemo.
Each buddy team completed a dry run with ENC3, Ping as well as writing board and form sheets.
We had already used the Mnemo on our previous year's Gourneyrou project, here a short repetition was planned, unfortunately the device could not be switched on, but only flashed red/green. Too bad! We had included it in our planned survey work. Now only one team can survey at a time. We hoped that the battery would soon run out and the subsequent charging process served like a reset. Wrong. But at home everything was OK again. Annoying.
This year the worm was in it. At the Habitat set it went with similar complications. We brought the equipment for 6 divers into the cave pool. Heinke and Oliver Schöll went into the water first to film the habitat installation from "inside". Next Marc as well as Christopher. They were supposed to dive bottles for the 24m depot, as well as the habitat into the cave afterwards. Wilke told about his experiences from the last cavebase projects at Gourneyrou and the difficult maneuvering of the habitat into the cave pool. The rocky entrance was quite narrow. But here it slipped. After less than 10 seconds it was in the water. Max and OlliO sank it and dived after it. Unfortunately, we had cut the entrance on the wrong side when cutting the IBC container. So the top had no metal grid. The result was a plastic container on the cave ceiling, a metal cage on the floor. Teams had to deflate the habitat, turn the cage upside down, put the cubic yard of plastic in, and refill with a new 12L Stage. By 4PM, the habitat was successfully set. After some cleanup, bottle filling, and review of the video footage, we fired up the grill at 7pm.
Monday: Check-TG Max and OlliO, finish depots
Max and OlliO wanted to dive first to be back at daylight after a 4-5h dive. Unfortunately there were various problems. Beside the loss of the speed sensor wheel of the ENC3 there were problems with the scooter saddle of Max (torn cable tie), problems with the RoLock gloves as well as a missing screw at the backplate at OlliO. For the attachment of Max's Liberty, a sliding D-ring was also lost during transport, which could be replaced thanks to an XDeep Harness lying around. Max and OlliO performed a mutual check according to Cavebase standards and dived 2h later than planned.
Afterwards Mats and Christopher equipped the remaining depots on 24m (Trimix 50/25) as well as benches, breakgas (18/45) and O2 at the habitat.
Due to the enormous effort with several tours between the cave pool and the habitat, Christopher had pressure equalization problems and the actually planned dive to behind the restriction "barn door" could not be done anymore. As a result the depot was not equipped after the 80m bend on 24m.
We were quite surprised when a short time later we saw light again in the cave pool. Mats was not yet out of the water and inquired whether with Max and OlliO everything was OK. The two had still 40min deco on 6m to sit down. Max had called a dive in a cave for the first time. His lamp failed, his right glove filled with water, as well as 1 of 3 of his O2 sensors showed strange values. Due to all the stress at 60m he noticed his breathing rate increasing, the time to stop the dive was absolutely right. Luckily we had spare sensors with us and were able to solve the problem. Also the rest was no problem to replace.
In the end we spent 2h transporting the not, as well as no longer, needed equipment up with the cable car.
Completely exhausted, we then continued with the transport of the trailer to the beginning of the dirt road. Determinedly with light kamikaze tracks Max drove the trailer up to the top. The feared maneuvering maneuvers did not occur, but we were able to record encounters with the rock wall and the bridge railing. Apparently the trailer was hanging over the abyss. We better didn't follow that more closely ;-)
Today, besides surveying, also pictures + video were on the schedule. Heinke, Mats, OlliS, SteffenB drove behind the first part of the cave to take pictures in the "Restriction" and further, where the cave drops to the second bend. There was a larger room, which we wanted to stage with light.
Max and OlliO were currently setting up their equipment for the push dive the next day. JJ with 2x 7L (Diluent + O2), as well as 2x 3L Tarriergas (Olli), Max had a 40cft for buoyancy ready rigged. Both dived as bailout a 20L bottle with Tmx10/70 as well as a Liberty SM CCR.
Max and OlliO got up at 4.55am and first refreshed in the river to wake up and get fit for their 10h dive.
After a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, they headed to the cave together with Wilke and Marcel, who was a bit fitter again. There they both changed in peace, checked their equipment again before they put it on and jumped into the cave. After the obligatory checks of the equipment they dived at 8:40am. The return was planned for 6pm.
Now the long time of waiting began for the rest of the team. Around noon SteffenK delivered some food to the cave pool.
Frank Vasseur was also back today. However, he could only get one wheel repaired. The other tire was so defective and had to be replaced. Unfortunately, his tire dealer did not have a suitable size there. We had to look for a solution ourselves. Or drive only on one axle?
We had planned to send a team into the cave in time to meet Max and OlliO on the way back or in the deeper deco and support them. So Marc and Christopher set off for the cave around 12 noon. As planned the 2 push divers could be picked up. After a two hours dive Max and OlliO reached the habitat around 2pm and were transported into it by Marc, Christopher as well as Heinke. SteffenB cooked the food and tea for the two and packed another magazine in the dry box. The food was then transported step by step to the habitat.
It was now further wait at the pool. Heinke took over the medical role as team doctor, Wilke coordinated the individual squads that looked after the two from time to time and used wetnotes for communication.
Unfortunately, there was also an interpretation problem with the wetnotes and they had to stay in the habitat for just under an hour longer than they actually wanted to, which was no problem thanks to generous reserves in the OC gas supply. The Seacraft scooters also had enough power to supply both heaters. Christopher escorted them out of the cave and the rest of the team supported them both as they made their way out of the cave pool.
At 21:30 Max and OlliO appeared at the base camp. They had taken plenty of time to change clothes and then walk up the steep slope over boulders to the trail that led to the base camp. Once there, they reported on their dive. Unfortunately, they could not find a continuation of the cave but were totally fascinated by the cave.
At the barbecue and campfire we ended the evening with a round of "conclusion and comment". Everyone gave their observations, praise and criticism, so that we have documented what was good and what we can do better for the next time. Project work always means to grow beyond oneself, to grow together even stronger as a team in order to be prepared for the next adventure, for which open communication is the key.
After bad luck pursued us and we could not make a survey, Mats and SteffenB decided to make a joint dive into the cave. They wanted to follow the course and dive to the deep point in the second bend. It was great fun to use the Seacraft scooters. Scootering without torque, in an illuminated cave - a cave diver's heart beats faster. The two enjoyed the ride and were out of the water after about 3.5h.
The rest of the team had already started to bring the equipment up with the cable car. Max and OlliS already had to leave for home today, so their equipment had priority.
Nothing exciting happened today. We had to clean up and pack for the trip home. One troop set out to have the defective tire changed. Due to the poor cell phone reception in the Vis Valley, we had asked our Cavebase member Guy Berg, who had stayed at home, to call the tire dealers in the area. He had found one in about 1.5h distance.
The cable car was running for hours, the ears were already starting to hurt from the rattling wind. Next time pack ear protection! When the rope got caught in the winch, Marc tried to untie it. Unfortunately, he was a bit careless after the many rides and so his thumb was pulled through the winch once. Luckily he had leather gloves on and the damage was limited.
Approximately 25 rides were mastered that day to transport certainly 2 tons of material from the cave pool to the top.
We used the late afternoon to drive a few loads of material up to the trailer and reassemble its wheel.
The rest of the team headed home. Some met briefly at the nearest supermarket to bring back panaché or cheese for the family members who had stayed at home.
The team bus with SteffenK, SteffenB, OlliO, Dierk drove on the way home to the Goul de Pont. This lies by chance on the way ;-)
There, by chance, they met Xavier Meniscus and exchanged briefly. OlliO as well as SteffenB dived the cave up to 100m. Afterwards the last ones went home.
in this sense