vrijdag 20 mei 2011

Galerie des Sources

Writing a report one month later is pretty challenging for my memory, I will try to dredge up at least some few facts/ info…

When the adventure took place: Friday’s night, 15th of April
Who participate: the same ‘old sea dogs’ Arun, Bram, Ewa, Hans, Renaud
How looked preparations: mainly collecting equipment from the club, asking other cavers about this specific cave, printing “topo”, taking advantage of Dutch genes by eating friten and drinking Triple Karmeliet or at choice chamomile tea
Rule that guide us: safety always before fun
Observed views: a lot of devastation, some formations painted with the red dye, many broken stalagmites, especially one, very big, some nice formations covered with mud, but of course there were also very pleasant scenes to see, calcite ones etc.

Time: for us the longest cave ever, about 5 hours inside
Results: more than 70% of the cave visited, damnably muddy gears, some parts of the body dead e.g. elbows
Conclusions: navigational hell, map completely useless, better physical form could be useful, gymnasium rope training is not the same as using ropes in the cave,
Way of recovery being applied: sleeping all weekend, organizing yourself, doing next cave on Sunday

Few random things that I learned or that for some reasons stayed in my memory:
- roads in Belgium can be very crooked
-do not park your car below or close to the rail track, why…, no idea;) maybe because it’s very hard to have a conversation later on
-cows like running a lot
-always remember to send an SMS before you enter the cave, otherwise you have to go all the way back to the car and do it then which can be quite annoying
- the entrance of the cave is not always located somewhere at the bottom, sometimes you have to go up first
-if you’re able to run 10km, it doesn’t mean you can climb the hill and not loose your breath
-if you move some rocks you should always shout loudly ‘caillou’! as I was taught by Bram
-never get panicking when somebody is not responding after you ask him to do so, maybe he is far away looking for the way to go and at such particular moment he cannot hear you, do not draw black scenario. I don’t know if we told Hans about that situation when we started becoming worried about him…
-there is no one possible way to get somewhere, you can always look for more routes and then choose if you prefer walking next to the brink, with passing the pit or just go for simple oppose
-there is nothing like the best technique you can use at the particular moment, you have to find your own way to do this, sometimes improvisation is really welcomed
- knowing the topo like your own pocket doesn’t mean that you’re not going to be surprised at the cave

The end…
Not really… maybe of part1,
We’re planning to come back and then score an advantage over you, Galerie des Sources…
Better watch out;)

woensdag 11 mei 2011

Gidsing Haquin

"Lustin, 8 mei 2011; 'n prachtig weids landschap, fantastisch weer en... een gat in de grond, 'Le Trou Haquin'. Onder het enthousiasme van Isabelle en Björn trekken we onze waterdichte pakken aan verneem ik dat de ingang en uitgang één en dezelfde zijn. Twijfel en claustrofobische gedachten steken de kop op. Bedenkelijk en zachtjes vloekend ruil ik het zalige zomerweer in voor de zwarte kilte van de grot..waar ben ik toch aan begonnen? De rotsen voelen eerst bedreigend glad aan en onder het motto 'je stopt altijd wel ergens' mogen we ons meteen 'gewoon laten glijden'..tjongejonge! Maar gaandeweg word ik de natte en rustgevende donkerte gewoon en wat is het klimmen, kruipen, glijden en wringen dan leuk! Via de trompette, langs de modderberg en door het koeiengat (nogal letterlijk!) banen we ons een weg de duisternis in. Voor de kenners: het 'neusje van de zalm' laat ik wijselijk aan me voorbijgaan ;-)

Conclusie: Het 'gat' waar ik me eerst met enige twijfel in liet mee leiden heeft een kei toffe, avontuurlijke dag opgeleverd! Dankjewel, Isabelle en Björn!"
Anne-Sophie Bruylants

maandag 2 mei 2011


When it was a usual Friday evening on 29/04/2010 for most of the world, it was an exciting once-in-a-year evening for the few of us from Spekul. It's the day when the historical Fort de Barchon of Liege is open for Cavers from across the world to train on its endless aerial and underground cave-like networks.

It was still bright when 6 of us (Bram, Hans, Ewa, Jochem, Renaud and me) reached Barchon giving us enough time to prepare ourselves for the activities. When Bram and Hans made their tent on a nice 'green' ground on top of the fort, Jochem cooked some nice meal (paella and pan cake). When we were locked and loaded it was almost 10.00 pm. So we decided to do in 2 groups – Bram, Jochem and Hans took the route B while Renaud, Ewa and me decided to take the route D (Miscellaneous route). We agreed to meet again in one and half hours without knowing what's there in store for us.

Route D was quite interesting with various challenges – A ladder climb, lot of narrow crawls, few deep and narrow pitches demanding nice rope techniques. After a while we lost track of the actual route but found some really interesting passages. On the way, a seemingly humble 'Traverse' on the ceiling of a small room made me 'sweat like a cow’:D. After traversing few more pitches and narrow passages we emerged out in the middle of a wall to find some nice 'fractions' and 'parabloes'. As they lead us outside the fort we wandered for few minutes before finding a 'ladder bridge' which would take us across the 'moat' like structure. When we approached the tents in silence assuming the other group would have already gone to sleep, we heard some noise from the 'moat' – it was the other group now joined by Bjorn! Finally when we reached it was almost 2.30 am, just 3 hrs of delay from the agreed time to meet back: D.

All of us relaxed a bit with some snacks and beer. As the other group decided to lay down enjoying their beer, we (Renaud, Ewa and me) along with Bjorn decided to go ahead and do more. As, we have already decided to leave by Saturday afternoon, it was obvious that we cannot do all the routes. So we decided to do the most demanding of all the routes B. Lead by Ewa ;), we took a narrow passage which kept going. After walking in the bent position for several minutes we reached a ladder (what a sign of relief :)). From there we have to walk to a tower outside the fort which was 20-25 meters with lot of traverse and parabloes around it (at the top) pinnacling with 50 meters long rope to down to the ground. By now tiredness was evident with each of us. While Ewa took the stairs, Bjorn took a shortcut to the top circumventing few ropes. Undaunted, Renaud took the rope and I followed him. But few minutes later I retracted back with a muscular cramp in the leg. But finally every one of us was on the top ready to do the 50m rope to the ground. Bjorn led us followed by Ewa, me and Renaud. It was quite thrilling at the start (for the first few meters) but after a while it was annoying as you have to pull yourself hard to reach the ground. Finally by 5.30 in the morning we decided to call it the day. Renaud and Bjorn deciding to sleep in the car, Ewa and me returned to the tent. We went to sleep with the early birds chirping and the dark sky turning orange. My tiredness took a toll on all, as I left a zip open in both the tents (unknowingly, of course). It was my cell phone alarm which woke us up I guess. It took us some time to crawl out of our tents. But by the time we were out breakfast was awaiting us thanks to Renaud, some nice croissants from Carefour. As Hans and Jochem decided to leave for home, five of us decided to do the route D which we missed yesterday. After taking the same route we arrived at the well from where we missed the route. This time we could see a marking that lead us to a watery slump with a steel cable. After, crossing that and one more pitch we arrived at a narrow network of 'twisted' plastic pipes. With Renaud taking the lead and Ewa following they made it with some ease. Next comes our ‘100-kg man’, Bjorn who tried his best but could not bend his knees through a too narrow turn. Standing at the bottom all I could hear were some crazy noises of him ramming against the walls of the pipes. After fighting for a while he has to come down leaving the way for us (and a group that was following us). Finally, we were glad to see the sun. We went straight to our tents looking for water. As we were running low on our supply in the tents, we had to head to the water pipe at the toilet which unfortunately read 'Non-Potable'. driven by the monstrous thirst we ignored the sign and filled all the cans. Then we lay down under sun for several minutes near the tent hoping Bjorn would return there. After a while Renaud went down to have sausages at the bar found him enjoying a beer :D.

As everyone was tired and the weather was perfect we decided to lie down for a while and do the aquatic route before leaving home. In the meantime Bram, Ewa and me where trying our hands at a line connecting the tower on one side of the moat to the other side whereas Bjorn managed to get us some spare neoprene to enter the ice cold water. By 1.30 we were finally ready to do the final part of the trip – the aquatic route. In the orange suit I was quite eye-catching I must admit :D. When we reached a pipe half-filled with water we were almost sure that it's the way. So Renaud taking the lead and Bram following him started the adventure. By the time they reached the end of the pipe, a nice gentleman (passer-by) pointed out that it's the end of the route and the start is few meters away. Drenched in the ice-cold water Renaud and Bram have to get out of an emergency window to reach there. Later we noticed that the entrance was also a pipe but was too steep that it might be impossible to climb it if we could have continued the tout in the wrong direction. This route was also narrow as every other but deliberately half-filled with water (with the help of artificial walls) to keep up the name. After a narrow passage we reached a room with a narrow passage which might be 30 cms high, 50-60 cms wide and 8-10 m long filled 2/3 with water. Again undaunted Renaud took the lead while Ewa (by chanting some curse words :D)and Bram followed. As we could see a clear shortcut Bjorn and me (who was scared to death :D) took that way. Then comes a supposedly once-a-septic- tank below a toilet like structure. It was again 10m long but with more width and breathing space. With Bjorn holding me I managed to float across the tank (thanks to my orange suit!). Then a couple of narrow passages with water flowing through it, we almost reached the end of the route. But then comes the last but not the least challenge – narrow entrance completely filled with water. We were left with no choice but to take a dip. Uh, finally we reached out through the pipe which we first mistook for the entrance. Emerging successful with completely drenched suits we walked through the street (or the moat) inside the fort with people on both sides cheering and congratulating us! (a rare or an impossible event when you emerge from a cave).

I guess it was challenging enough to be fun for everyone. If you can be sure about one thing in Spelunking (even in a makeshift cave like Barchon) it's that it will beat your expectations.

With lots of expectations......!!

Here is a link to a movie on Barchon 2011 from some other cavers!


(Courtesy: Bjorn)