Volume 38 Number 1 Article 5
24 July 2000
Andy Powell, Paul Wilkinson, Robert Bialek
Long walk up to col of about half hour followed by 15 minutes down leafy scree slope to the cliff-face of Pène Blanque. The large double entrance lies at the top of an 8 metre climb up the cliff. We pulled all the gear up the fixed hand line. Mel and Sandra decided to come up and experience a few metres of the easy stuff. The first section of passage is mainly walking and stooping, well decorated passage, but after about 250m degenerates to crawling and splashing through muddy pools. Down the slopes to multiple ways on. Using the survey, common sense and fixed aids we got ourselves down to the Chafiene itself. A few ponderables and we realised that no 8m pitch was present.
We reached the 30m Letterbox ramp and decided not to rig it because the rope already there looked in relatively good condition. We reached our "rock bottom' for a while. An hour or so spent looking up/down various climbs to eventually realise the main way on was up a 7m climb on the LHS of an exposed slab. Steady going above here followed various cairns and tape markers past Salle Bivouac (large cairn) and along to Dromedary Chamber, flat roofed and block strewn. We climbed down the far side again following blocks and cairns to reach a steep slope and flat floored passage, which split in two at the bottom with no indication of the correct way on. Here we turned back as Paul was particularly worried about our deadline of 5 hours. It took us 1.5 hours to get out, uphill most of the way and very hot work. Emerged to a lovely evening but a hard walk back up the hill to the col took us half an hour.
Summary: Just like Ease Gill Caverns high level route but at 45° , no water. An exhausting trying trip!