Grotte de la Vipère
Team: Marc, Andreas, Tobias und Wilke
It is almost a tradition that the Cavebase travels to France in March for cave diving.
This year Andreas, Marc. Tobias and Wilke - but this time not only the usual fun diving "Ressel" - "Landenouse" and "St. George" were on the program. This year we had a special plan. A dive of the Vipere cave, if possible up to the 3rd Sump with a penetration distance of approx. 2.2km.
On the boat we got into conversation with the weDIR about this cave, the boys reported about a really beautiful and barely dived cave. Tobias took up the information eagerly and discussed with Sebastian Kuster how a possible penetration with our diving equipment would be possible. We soon noticed that we were certainly not talking about some "fun dive" here. The reports about the access, the towing, the Silt-Outs and the rock formations instilled us with respect and curiosity. The reports about the crystal clear water and the bizarre gait formations made us so curious that we decided to dive this cave this March week.
The challenges at this cave are really remarkable, the access only exists via the river or via a 400m long dirt road. The way over the river is the shorter one, but was in our case no alternative, because the water level of the river was clearly too high and the rapid current made a crossing impossible. Thus only the "land way" over a narrow, badly accessible field way remained. We packed all our things together and transported everything we needed to the entrance, a small climbing passage rounded off the arduous haulage.
All 4 Cavebase members decided to dive until the 3rd Sump, so our equipment consisted of per diver:
- 1x D12 RB80 Frame incl. Rebreather with 18/45
- 1x Suex XK1 Scooter
- 1x Team Backup XK1 Scooter
- 1x 35er Nitrox as bottom gas
We could completely do without decomposition gases, the course of the cave already indicated that we would certainly not carry out a decompression dive. The depths were only between 2 and 28m, nevertheless we deposited a 40uft oxygen as "Safety" in the entrance area.
The lugging was really not to be underestimated, first we had to explore the entrance of the cave, that alone cost us several hours. Now all the diving material had to be transported to the first dry part by four "Double 12 Rebreather/Scooter Divers", in order to immediately overcome a very shallow, almost completely flooded passage. When that was done, we really got down to business; another extremely flat and at the same time steep, completely muddy, transverse shaft had to be overcome again with all the rubble. Only now we reached a place where it was possible to dive down - but at this place the water was again so deep that the equipment had to be put on in the water - also very nice.
Despite the difficult access we were really lucky! Normally the water is much shallower in the cave, so that actually two more dry spots arise in the cave - and if this is the case, the towing becomes bigger by factors, more complex and muddier by dimensions. We were overjoyed to find such a high water level on this tour. We were able to dive all the swamps almost comfortably.
We actually wanted to carry the equipment into the cave on the first day to dive in the afternoon. Well, that was a good, but unfortunately much too ambitious plan. The first Vipere day ended with a complete towing and assembling of the equipment. We decided to place the equipment overnight in the cave in order to be able to complete the dive the following day rested. Afterwards a very good and stress-free plan, which we can only recommend to everyone.
At the beginning the cave shows its "teeth" in every respect. Difficult access, extremely much mud and very strong Silt-Out situations - but, as so often with cave diving, the mud evaporates with increasing penetration depth. From about 100m on there was almost no silt visible. The water became crystal clear and offered visibility beyond the 20 meters. The course of the corridors went up and down, changed direction again and again and were unbelievably markedly washed out. Here scooters were a lot of fun!
Tobias and Wilke had a look at the third ascent point after more than 2km scooter distance, the air was extremely bad, already after a few minutes on the surface dizziness and nausea started. The two decided not to get off the scooter and started their way back after a few minutes. Marc and Andreas dived as a second team and did the same dive.
Our XK1 scooters pulled us in and out reliably, we had a backup scooter with us, but we drove the distance of a little more than 4km each on one scooter.
After the dive we were all happy about the successful trip, we used our 2 hour surface lunch break to tell the story - and we had a lot to talk about, but had to keep it short, finally all the equipment had to be transported out again - a bone job after such a long dive. But in the meantime something like routine had started and the transport of the materials worked much better than the day before.
A heartfelt and big thank you goes to the weDIR, who informed us without reservation about this great cave and gave us really beautiful and unforgettable two days.
Of course we also had some fun dives this week. Marc and Andreas dived the Landenouse to the end and went through the deep loop in the raft. Unfortunately Wilke and Tobias had to stop a dive at the Cabouy because of bad visibility, but at the end of the week both of them were able to do a nice dive in the raft to the waterfall.
Altogether a great week, with a lot of fun, joy and a little bit of positive sweat:-). A great trip!
In this sense,