Volume 38 Number 1 Article 3
Grotte de Pène Blanque
24 July 2000
Andy H, Slug, Bill H, Roy, Swanny.
Expecting a long, arduous thrash up through steep slopes and fighting vegetation, I was pleased to find the entrance right next to the track just above the French camping field. Hundreds of spits round the entrance were ignored and we put a ladder round one of several trees at the entrance. The pool above the entrance, which would flow down it in flood, contained leaches and newts (and on exiting, a Frenchman!) The streamway was a delight. Narrow but never tight, it went down and down and down. The pitches are mainly near the start and all full of spits. All easily climbable if an exit was required when not rigged. The bottom 10m pitch has a pull back line on it as it is a bit dodgy to free climb.
Most of the streamway is calcite floored with black limestone walls. In several places there are calcite slopes in the stream which provide exciting climbs, possibly treacherous in wet conditions or for tired individuals. The sump was reached after meeting four French people who were covered in mud! French cavers aren't supposed to get muddy!
The connection to the Salle de Trou de Vent is interesting. First, a low muddy crawl to a chamber, then up a fixed rope to a climb through a tube, and then another climb, then an obvious polished rift passage leads to a rope climb down and another short length of passage to the bottom of the Salle. Swanny and Slug were confused by finding the pitch down into the Réseau de Bernadette but soon realised that they were at the bottom of the Salle. We made our way up the long boulder slope, up through the chamber. At the top we met the Irish team, who had entered via Heretiques. They had sat in a GG sized chamber, thinking it was the main Salle, before going over a house-sized boulder and discovering the enormous Salle de Trou de Vent. An exchange then took place. Swanny, exited via Heretiques, in half an hour, while Slug and the others went back out Trou Mile in two hours. An excellent introduction to the system.