NPC Newsletter (2nd New Series) No. 19 - Jan 1988


by Giscard D'anistagne

"When I read the list of their names I tremble.
I only hope that when they read the list they tremble also."

The 1st Duke of Wellington.
Not talking about the meets list
which included Waterloo.

Readers of this august periodical may recall in the not too dim and distant past a brief note concerning an undertaking of an expeditionary nature to be aimed at France. There was perhaps nothing unusual about this except that hidden away in the text there was a request for money to secure places. Is there anywhere a member who did not secretly snigger up his sleeve at this ridiculous proposition? What sort of member of the noble Northern Perinine Club would possibly part with beer money just to go to France? Damn it all they would allow women members next!!!

Dear reader, brace yourself for a shock. One member paid! Others followed at irregular intervals until, at last, the bus was full. J Harris (motor bodies) Ltd. of Barnsley once more supplied the transport for an NPC expedition: a twelve seat Transit Minibus with extra large roof rack. By the time the charabanc reached Ramsgate it contained ten paid up members (Kay "Am I a member" Brunger, Dani "The less said the better" lewicz, The Venerable Mr. Hoole, The Right Reverend Mr. Pybus, Simon "Pretty" Harland, Peter "Handline" Riley, Rick "Nostril" Stanton, Mike "hahahaha" Thomas, Angie "Eat it, or else!" Timms and Chalkie "No really, its mine" White), a mountain of gear and a unified notion of not fulfilling the expedition aim to bottom the Gouffre Amin Dada.

Despite the best efforts of the navigating team we finally landed at Thorens-Glières in Haute Savoie where Paul "I'm better than Paul Ibb....." Eastwood (The Eleventh Man) had already established his shanty. The only thing left to do was to go shopping in Annecy and dine out. Ah! Steak Tartare. Plans were layed. Our new aim was to complete a through trip of the Tanne du Bel Espoir - Grotte de la Diau system: over 600m deep and 4km long.

The main problem appeared to be that none of us knew any of the system; not even the location of the entrances. The solution was obvious: two up and bags of smoke. One group would find the Grotte de la Diau and explore as far as possible upstream, another group would find the Tanne du Bel Espoir and mark the route as necessary. Nothing could be simp1er.

The next day we found out. Nothing was simpler despite a drive over the edge of the world to Chalet de l'Anglette on the Parmelan Plateau. All augured well for the through trip the next day. The weather was blistering hot, water levels were low, it was all quiet on the cold front. The logistic details for the through: trip were settled in a manner that made the UN look efficient but settled they were. All was set for the big push.

The day dawned early (poetic). Breakfast was wolfed down and kept down despite the precipitous drive to the Parmelan Plateau. We planned to do the through trip as two groups separated by about two hours. Group I departed in high spirits. Pitch one, 23m, hung direct from a tree. Five souls abseiled down to a ledge and pitch two 24m and the rope got stuck. Two hours later group II arrived and released it. On pitch two the rope got stuck again but this was soon sorted out after a short, pious sermon from the Venerable Mr. Hoole. Pitch three, 16m, was gained from a ledge part way down pitch two and pitch four, 37m, followed immediately. A pendule 10m above the floor to a ledge was the way on to more pitches and the dreaded toboggan, a narrow, muddy, descending tube full of tight, viscous meanders; and I mean viscous. By the time we emerged from the toboggan we were coated head to foot-loop in thick adhesive mud as were our ropes. Eventually a flying take-off dropped onto a 27m pitch into the stupendous Salle des Rhomboèdres using mud balls for descenders. A game of Pennine Roulette followed: who would get the Mars bar and who would get a mouthful of mud?

Refreshments completed we perambulated around this huge chamber in search of the way on to the Puits des Echos, successive pitches of 6m, 20m and 45m. At this point group II caught up with group I just as the rope got stuck on the 6m pitch. The way on was not at first obvious as we traversed over 30m drops on friable ledges but eventually a magnificent Dales-like streamway was gained. Pitch followed pitch and cascade followed cascade in an exciting and envigourating procession. After a total of 23 pitches we emerged into the main Diau streamway, a true river cave. Over 2.4 km of wading, traversing and walking followed through several complex areas to eventually emerge in a huge cirque at mid-night into a warm, balmy, pine scented, star lit night. We were so exhilarated that back at camp even the Right Reverend Mr. Pybus enjoyed the vegetarian Spag. Bol.

The rest of the week was spent failing to go caving for numerous valid reasons: failed to find entrance, went swimming, went shopping, had to go to the bank, left kit at campsite, not enough rope anyhow, went down the right cave but thought it was the wrong cave so we came out etc.

The culmination of the expedition was an epic drive from Les Carroz to Dunkirk in under twelve hours with only three stops for petrol.

The future:- There is a club meet to Spain in 1988 from 23 July to 14 August to bottom Sima Cabeza Muxa (-900.) and push on into the unknown. Anyone interested send £50 and sanity certificate to Dani.

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