Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Ardeche Caving Part 3: Traversée Rochas - Midroï

For me this was the trip of the holiday, a traverse of the Rochas to the Midroi. We had done a previous visit to the Midroi entrance a few days before. This had been an early morning stomp into the gorge, with caving chums Ali and Dom, to rig the lake traverse. However this proved to be quite a bit of frigging with ropes (probably easier to take in a few dry bags for flotation and paddle across - its not that long and the water warmer than Dan yr Ogofs Green Canal!). We had a quick explore beyond the traverse but time was running out and had to return for the afternoons family activity - a mass South Wales Caving Club canoe trip on the Ardeche!

Changing in the Midroi entrance.
South Wales Caving Club Ardeche armada invasion.....
Four days later and we manage to fit in the Rochas - Midroi through trip. Morning was spent doing various family and other club trips, but by around 3.00pm, myself, Ali and Dom were joined by Pete, and we headed off for the Rochas. Armed with lots of rope (a 40m, 60m and 80m) and hangers we set off in the sweltering afternoon heat for the Rochas entrance. Fortunately the entrance was only about 20 minutes from the car, gained by following a track that skirted high cliffs on the side of the Ardeche Gorge.
Glamorous Brit cavers abroad!
Still sweltering even in the shade of the Rochas entrance.
We had a very sweaty change in the cave entrance which seemed little cooler than the outside before sliding through a narrow slot past a selection of large spiders into the cave proper. Almost immediately we are greeted by a feast of fine formations as we follow the chamber to the start of the pitches. Gaining the head of the first pitch needed some care on the polished stall floor. Ali rigged trying to find the best hangs through the range of old spit placements. The P28 is initially a clean hang but soon needs a deviation, followed by a rebelay before hitting a sloping calcite floor. Off here is a fine gallery, whilst the rope is needed to get down the last section of calcite slope.

Ali rigging the P40.
At the base of the pitch a short slippery climb up (better gained by traversing round) gains the head of the P40. Rig along the wall until it seems appropriate to drop the main wall. I think if you are planning to take the P60 off the bottom, then traverse further. We were planning on the P55, but that doesn't seemed to be the recommended route in the current online descriptions. If looking left at the base of the P40 (looking out from the pitch) there was a sort piece of rope coming out of passage and this is probably the route to the P60 option.

The P55 itself is gained by descending the greasy slope at the base of the P40 which needs a bit of care! Rigging started at a suitable stall thread and continued to follow the slippery slope. A few spit placements are encountered, and a bit more rigging added before the pitch goes properly vertical. However spits for good hangs were not in evident, though a piece of 7mm tat in a drilled thread made an excellent deviation (note: there are alot of drilled thread placements so a stock of suitable rigging rope useful). This served for the hang until some steel 10mm hangers were found in place which served for the final part of the hang onto a large calcite flow. From here we rigged the last few metres to the large blocks at the base of the pitch.

The cave here is superb - huge calcite flows and very glittery formations. Very beautiful. We then started to look for the Midroi connection, and hoped the pseudo-siphon was dry! After furtling down a few grotty muddy holes we found the correct route. If facing out from the base of the P55 this is in the rock jumble on your right and has a piece of tat dropping into it. After the short rope climb down the route is then along a rift and the area where the pseudo-siphon is usually found - for us fortunately dry... From here its a case of following the howling draft through a series of small passages until you pop out in decent passage again in the Midroi.
Large areas of passage had these 'knobbly' pendants

A blurry picture of the pools which were very beautiful

Ali on the start of the traverse out of the Midroi.
The passage in the Midroi is superb, with fine formations and blue pools. The way out was found using the description we found on the Cerberus caving clubs site. Too soon we arrive at the traverse which needed some further frigging to de-rig, and then it was a final muddy wade and slither out of the cave.

All that remained was to stomp out of the gorge! Fortunately the setting sun painting the gorge sides a delicate pink provided a serene back drop to our tired but contented stomp, and cold beer was waiting........


  1. No problem - just need to sort a date! I also need to get some paddling going again!