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Caving in Scialet Pot 2 - 5 June 2002

By Mathias

The speleoteam was in good shape after the highly successful untick of A2 by Martin and myself, and we were fired up after successful bottoming of this highly recommendable set of shafts. So out attention turned towards a long sought objective: Scialet Pot 2.

Ever since the first opening the pages of the Speleo Vercors volume 2, I had been fired up to do this baby. But since we had ventured into the depths of the Vercors it was clear that an attempt on descending Pot 2 would require an absolute well oiled machine of speleology and I think Martin and I was pretty fired up by having Tim unboard completing a normally pretty strong team. We had set the clocks for a morning 6'o'clock start and Martin was packing his bags the night before. Tim and I packed our back the next morning and retrospectively this is where the first screw up could be identified. Since we were packing individually and without the usual "get all the gear out on the floor and lets pack together" we didn't really know what eachother was bringing and was therefore individually assuming that the other ones had taken bits of critical gear. Not good when the cave is a 1 hour drive and 3 hours hard walk from our basecamp.

We set off in moderate spirits as the weather was quite horrific - stormy and occasional showers. After about an hour drive we reached the end of the forest road and started racking up. It was here we realized a grim fact: we had not brought any food (except 3 croissants and 1.5 bar of chocolate) and maybe even worse we had not brought the guidebook or the fine copies we'd made the day before. Not a well oiled machine at all. Had we not been under a time pressure (which we were because of evening commitments) we would of course have gone back to get the critical bits needed for an successful descent. Since we were already in principal running late there was no alternative but to push on and try to locate the pothole in one of the most difficult to reach places of the Vercors. I had brought a map and a compass and Martin and Tim had their altimeters.

After about 3 hours of extreme hiking mostly following an excellently marked hunting boundary (red paint on trees and rock) deep in the forest we reached the limestone slabs underneath Pass Morta - a very remote and somewhat hostile environment unless you are a speleologist. For the speleologist this place is like a little piece of heaven - a place littered with potholes and since the weather had improved a little - the wind had died down and the rain was infrequent we were all pretty excited to be up there. We fired up the radios (which had proven extremely valuable on the hike already) and split out in search of Pot 2. Without the guide book this was going to take some time, although luckily I had meticulously marked the cave on the map we had brought with us. This proved the key to success. After a good deal of spotholing and finding many interesting sites we reassembled for our croissant and Martin (who had found the A2 two days earlier in a stroke of pure inspiration) sat down, to a careful look at the map and he headed of in the direction he thought it would be most likely to be in. Some 10 minutes later Tim and I heard it on the radio: "I've got it, I can see a spit and Pot 2 written on the face of the rock". Brilliant. We got our sacks from basecamp and moved over to what was unmistakably the Pot 2 some of us had been dreaming about for a long time. An excellent looking spot underneath some big pine trees and with marks of previous speleological presence on the ground.

If we hadn't had the time pressure I'm convinced we would have bottomed this baby. Even with the lack of food I think we all felt down for it and was ready to go on reserves and beyond, for it is not everyday that you get a chance of descending a straight minus 320 meter shaft created by mother nature herself - how, nobody really knows for sure.

We did however have time running against us and therefore had to accept the fact already at the surface, that we couldn't get to the bottom and up in time, and therefore decided to get to at least scratch the surface, and get to a point of around -90 meters. Martin headed down in determined style while Tim and I got a fire going in the camp. We soon heard on the radio that the shaft was already rigged which came as a huge surprise and was unfortunately not ideal, although it didn't really pose a problem as such. We would just rig on top these ghost speleologist, and this was what was done.

Tim went second and after putting a good number of logs on the fire I followed.

I reached the bottom of the initial 15 meter shaft where the entrance to the 300 meter straight shaft starts. I radioed Martin to hear what was going on since it seemed there was a halt in the progress and Tim was hanging on a y-hang some 50 meters below. I couldn't quite figure out what was going on since communications to the surface was for some reason sparse but it sounded like Martin was contemplating bolting a y-hang somewhere down there on a shelf he had svung into. This sounded odd to me and I was anxious to go down and have a look at things. I many times considered going down on the second rope already in place, but I thought I better keep my place in the line. Eventually Martin put a spit in on the ledge on which he was standing, and we could all have a look at the affair.

It was obvious that there was something wrong in the rig. Martin had swung in on this ledge which seemed like quite a deviation from the straight line which, guidebook or no guidebook, just couldn't be right. It was obvious to me that one had to go straight down and perhaps search for a y-hang on the main wall of the shaft. This sometimes means going all the way to the end of the rope which is pretty mentally demanding - especially in a shaft the size of p2. But for some reason Martin seem fixed on this ledge, and anyway, since we had decided on the surface, that we were not going to go any further down, and we now had a new spit insitu there was one only thing to do. Get back up. Going further down establishing a new route would be rather pointless as we would essentially just create a "false line" which would serve no purpose.

After a bit of discussion we decided to leave the cave for another day, and we started the ascent and got up and then down (the hill), back with the car in perfect time for celebrating Martin's birthday. Céline had with usual splendor fired up some French dishes and everybody in the hut had been busy making the evening special. We had a great evening in the cozy hut singing birthday songs and drinking champagne all the while the Vercors was thundering and lighting outside almost in a triumph of another straight win to this fascinating place.

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