Label EuroSpeleo Protection FSE

La Commission ECPC (European Cave Protection Commission) de la Fédération Européenne (European Speleological Federation FSE) nous a annoncé qu'ils ont évalué notre projet "Réseau du G.A.S.O.I.L., cave conservation from Day-minus-one of exploration.Well managed cave conservation, exploration and scientifical research go hand in hand." (La conservation à partir de la journée avant la découverte: la protection bien menée, l'exploration et l'étude scientifique main dans la main.)
Suite à cette évaluation, notre projet obtient le Label EuroSpéléo Protection et le Bureau de la FSE a confirmé que notrecollectif G.A.S.O.I.L. (Groupement Associatif de Spéléologues d'Orgnac, Issirac et Labastide) gagne le deuxième prix. Nous avons opté pour un échange de ce prix en cordes de progression pour continuer à équiper le réseau, qui contient déjà plus que 300 m de cordes.

Cet encouragement nous motive à continuer le travail de notre collectif.

Our project has obtained the 2nd prize and the Euro Spéléo Cave Protection Label 2013 of the European Federation of Speleology (EFS-FSE) for our conservation project on this particular cave:

"Well managed cave conservation, exploration and scientifical research go hand in hand."

The entrance of the cave was discovered in 1973, which led to a rich decorated chamber and descent on flowstone, ending at -28 m in a large dry rimstone pool. From early years, speleologists from Orgnac marked up a unique pathway througout the 130 m of development until the terminus. This pathway, together with the fact that the landowner has always given out the key of the gate to confirmed speleologists, has enabled an exemplary conservation of the known part of the cave, which is still as nice as 40 years ago.

During recent years, airdraught was found above the terminal rimstone pool, accessible through a triple squeeze, and the local cavers, belonging to the clubs of Orgnac and Issirac, planned on the September 2012 meeting to organise the enlargement of the way up.
This action was well prepared, and desobstruction started on 17th November 2012, leading to 11 further squeezes before reaching a big chamber, la Salle du G.A.S.O.I.L., on 6th December 2012. This chamber was only shortly explored over 20 m, and immediately showed the need for adequate protective measures.
Our group came back  3 days later, after minutiously preparing exploration for minimal impact on the new-discovered and unknown cave part: boots and overalls were taken out before walking in the chamber, and only one path was followed and immediately marked up with red-white tapings, which served as temporary markup. Exploration was immediately followed by a surveying and photographing team, to enable as-found site-inventory. Belaying was carried out by using natural anchors and rope-anchors.
Thus, our exploration was totally responding to regional conventions on exploration, belaying and conservation of caves, as designated by the FFS (Fédération Française de Spéléologie) and the C.D.S. 07 and 30 (Comité Départemental de Spéléologie de l’Ardèche et du Gard).

Further explorations between December 2012 and March 2013 by our small teams,with usually 2 to 3 speleologists only at a time, led to discovery of about 1,5 km of new passages.
An upper cave level of several hundreds of meters was leading to a series of passages with a huge quantity of gypsum crusts and other fine but vulnerable formations, which are quite unusual in urgonien context. In the upper Réseau de la Neige, the presence of Liesegang aureoles was discovered, this cave thus becoming the world’s second underground site only where these phenomena can be found. A further exploration of the upper level passages showed that the cave is vocally connecting with a nearby cave, which is containing nice formations at both its endings, also too vulnerable to ever open a physical junction between both caves, which would inevitably destroy these formations.
The new passageway is also leading to a lower level, through two big parallel aven-shafts, which belong clearly to the same per ascensum paragenetic origins.
The lower level, as the first ever discovered part of the long sought active streamway between Orgnac and the river Cèze, consists of several important volumes with severe mud filling, seperated by several squeezes, rope climbs and descents, which inevitabely stay on clothes and equipment. These make the way up and especially the way out very difficult, not only physically but certainly visually threatening to stay on the ropes, the path and the formations on the way back out, if one is not taking care.
Therefore, as a preliminary measure, boots and clothes were changed before traversing the sensible parts of the cave, and a boots-washing station was installed in the Salle du G.A.S.O.I.L. – also, once been in the lower part, our team was not accessing the upper level anymore, to prevent the sensible Réseau de la Neige from being spoiled.
Steady on, our group was rethinking the preliminary markup tapings, which were soon changed by discrete and durable 2mm weatherproof rope markup on fiberglass or PVC supports.
But also the exploration ropes were changed into a fixed rope equipment with maximal usage of natural and rope belays where possible, if not stainless steel belay anchors, which are insensible for corrosion by the chemical agressive and slightly acid nature of the ambient cave-air.
The last measure needed detailed surveying and negociation with the landowner, who agreed on us opening a secondary entrance which is bypassing an extensive sensible zone of the old cave part plus the Salle du G.A.S.O.I.L., so that changing clothes after exploration in the deep zone is no longer necessary. It has to be said that the new access is kept closed at all times by a wind- and airproof shield, to prevent the cave airflow from being changed by letting the gate open.

These three important measures, which have been realised between January and April 2013, make optimal cave conservation possible and are keeping impact on the cave minimal. This way, our team can make exploration and research in the cave possible in a respective and durable way, thus ensuring access and conservation of this exceptional underground site for future generations.

In the mean time, we have been re-evaluating on regular basis the efficiency of the rope equipment and belaying, but especially the markup pathway through the cave, for keeping an optimal result of conservation.

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