Aven Des Pèbres

Ardèche

"This cave is rather casually stal-ed."
"I don't think that's how the word ‘casually’ is used."


I was stooping in a small chamber, taking up the last bit of its space that was not already occupied by speleothems --- I have found this word which would rescue this post from repetitive mentions of cave formations --- as I imagined how people might have tried to tape them all out of bound if this were in Yorkshire. But this was not Yorkshire, nor Wales nor Derbyshire. The dry smooth floor of the entrance series, as though paved by the same workers surfacing the toll road when Tony and Fiona drove us towards Lyon a day ago; the pitches I descended that shaped like giant steep steps made of stacked mud-glazed doughnuts, all strongly suggested that. And the warm air. My first French cave contrasted markedly with my impression of cave passages, with its curvilinearity, temperature higher than the raining world overground, and formations whose placement did not seem deliberate like an exhibition, but rather, nonchalantly right in your way.

I wanted to be admiring the scene while I waited for Fiona, however Tony ushered me to follow Clive through to the next section. (On a completely unrelated note, he might have found my English amusing or bemusing.) I supposed I should keep up, so I manoeuvred through what was really just the opening note of a whole symphony, into the chamber right next to it. I was dumbfounded. Stalagmites were everywhere; 10-metre-tall wedding cakes towered above my head, many melted together, to various degree. Fiona had moved further down the theatre while I examined the crystally helictites colonies on the walls, to where the cave glistened even more. Where the CO2 was more concentrated, Tony warned. My heart was palpitating only due to excitement. I could dance among these elegant white or copper giants, press my face right up to the glistening gypsum, to its content. Meanwhile Clive had completed his setup on the balcony.

When the business case was successfully closed, we turned back. I slithered out from a gap among the stalagmite fence of the balcony, which offered spectacular view. Then down the pitch, kicking the drapery below the bolt many times to try get my cowstail off, such that it echoed its monotonous note. Finally began the tedious derig of the slope. Half way up, I was panting heavily in my furry, impatiently unclipped my jammers and wrapped the rope around my forearm, once again forgetting how many times I had switched between the two techniques, finding neither of satisfactory efficiency. I was much relieved when I finally got to pass the bag to Fiona. We went swiftly out of the cave, and I immediately tore off the top of my oversuit and furry. The fresh air did my brain good. My thought drifted to the chocolate madeleines not too far away in the car.

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