Volume 38 Number 1 Article 15
The Hole in the Wall Trip
1 August 2000
Alan Richardson, Ray Breakell, Samuel Davis, Milton Grimshaw, Jim Davis, Helen Sergeant, Pete Harvey, Benjamin Davis.
At last, we had all decided where we were going before we set off, so we arrived at our starting point after various diversions for provisions and l'argent.
We arrived at the end of the tarmac road within minutes of each other and inspected the continuing route which we had planned to use, but the rickety wooded bridge was a definite turn off. The ford across the mountain stream seemed OK, as was the first hairpin on the forest track.
Eight into one, plus gear, wouldn't go, so Pete volunteered (thought we were mad to use a good van) to walk. So being die-hard drive-to-all-entrance sorts we all piled in, but only after Jim had got the van over the ford, round the first hairpin and beyond the barrier. We had spent some time trying to figure out what a red ring on a white circle meant, but all the French had shaken their heads and said the track was "impossible" and shook their heads until their berets fell off; "Les Brits ------- Loco." And it said nothing about cars on the notices about the forest - just the dog eating dogs bit.
The track levelled out and everyone piled in again until we reached another wooden bridge. All out, and a structural report revealed various acrow jacks and supports underneath. Speed and go for it. Blue van still intact. A reverse up the next hairpin got us back to fairly level stuff again and we all continued along the open valley floor until we reached a chain across the track. The annoying thing was that the track beyond was easy and in better condition.
Here the guys split. The famous five still wanted to use the hole in the wall, whereas Pete already had, and Helen and Benjamin weren't interested in a long bash up the hill in the heat.
There was a lot of "shall I wear this or take that" but after a quick bite, five set off in various sorts of attire from furry and wellies to "I've got it all in my sack". The track was well graded and partially shaded as we plodded up. Glimpses of the cascades around the valley head and butterflies we don't see in Britain gave some breaks until we broke out of the trees, and then it was head down, brain off.
Then, there it was, definitely, a hole in a wall and there was a car just below it, but as we drew closer it turned out that it was probably some EDF (Electricite de France) workmen's car. We climbed the boulder pile to the entrance. Well, what a cool place! This certainly was some hole in the wall and, guess what, it needed a key! Key? Who said anything about a key?
Well, we hadn't come this far not to be able to use the hole in the wall, and it seemed obvious that some other method had been left on purpose. The logic being "If your could get in, you had to be able to get out, and if you had to be able to get out, you had to do it without a key." (You have to be VALIDATED to understand this!)
Various efforts with long arms pointed to the need for a tent peg, but a wide search was pointless. Something rang a bell, a bit of wire revealed itself, and a replica tent peg was made, the door slowly opened. "COOL" man!
"Hey, we're in, come on!" and then "Clang", the door latched back. There seemed to be someone there using the facilities as well, but there was room for everyone, so we set off.
Down a boulder slope, to find a stream with sloping mud banks in a large chamber, or was it a passage? Up out of the stream and around the side. Yes, it was a big chamber 40m wide and 30m high, but the passage was pretty big 10m wide 15m high as well. The roof and walls had thin layers of stal and flowstone, and had that nice cave feeling even though there were no individually impressive formations. The floor was a mixture of flowing stream over gravel, and mudbanks which had the odd remnant of Gypsum formation. We had to go a long way to find any decent gypsum, but just past a sump there was a small grotto, but even this was not pristine. At this point we turned back and retraced our steps downstream in an easy walking passage with hints of high level and side passages off in the roof. We passed a ladder up into the roof (obviously the other visitors) and turned right off the big chamber across mud banks into another inlet which we followed up for 100m to a cascade with water entering 15m up in the roof. An old pipe, presumably the original scaling pole, lay on one side. We could see that this place would have been good to find.
Well our time was running out, so we left empty handed, but not without something to remember. The door clanged shut behind us. The weather had deteriorated and the cloud had descended. We had to hurry - if it thundered we could be "cut off at the ford". We stepped out, and at a good pace were soon down in the woods, where we found Helen and Benjamin waiting on mountain bikes. Soon we were down at the van and with the rain starting to become heavy, we hastily retraced our journey down the track. The water hadn't risen, but Pete had left a note to say he'd gone. We had arranged to have a meal and Pete was to park in an obvious place so we could join him. Well, it wasn't obvious enough. The first place we stopped at 8.30pm had signs out etc, so we waited to be seated. The waiter waited until we were all together (after about 5 minutes) asked us if we wanted a meal and then said they were "finish". Bastard! We were not impressed and various derogatory comments were uttered. Eventually, we stopped at the Larreche, in the square where we had a very nice meal in a very friendly restaurant.
We got back before 12 o'clock, the time on the trip sheet, but not the time Roy thought we were going to be back. He was supposed to be taking Monique out for a meal at 6pm! He was a married man and, when we got back, she was waiting. The tent zip sung behind him. In the morning, he found his dinner hidden away.
For a true description of the Hole in the Wall, either go to the bank, borrow some money and buy the book, or borrow it from the club library.