Debutant caving – Vercors

Debutant caving – Vercors

The Vercors is famous for its caves, the Grotte de Choranche is a remarkable show cave, and of course there is the Gouffre Berger, the first cave in the world to be explored beyond 1000m depth. Unfortunately it lacks a good dedicated caving guidebook. There are several old, out-of-print guides, even one in English and some of these cost over a hundred euros second-hand. There is a also a new comprehensive listing of the caves in the Autrans area, “Grottes et gouffres du Vercors Inventaire spéléologique, Tome 1”. For the beginner though the best book is a really super Pascal Sombardier guidebook, “Vercors Secret”, which has a mixture of hikes and caving trips.

The following caves are in Pascal’s book:

La Cheminée d’Herbouilly

Short cave needing no special equipment with a 5min approach (GPX file indicates longer hike from marked parking). Easy passage leads down to a large cavern with a lake.

GPX trace of the approach

Glacière d’Autrans

We visited this in February which required a longer walk than Pascal’s book describes because the route forestière was a ski de fond piste. 50m of rope was very useful for the descent into the glacière. Unfortunately it had been very dry so there was not a lot of ice.

GPX trace of our hike

La Grotte de Gournier

This is a fantastic trip, although the traverse from the top of the entrance climb is quite difficult for children (35m of rope and 8 maillons, it has P hangers). Crossing the entrance lake is exciting (we used a Stand-Up-Paddleboard) and once you are in the main passageway the formations and gour pools are beautiful. There are ways down to a streamway but we didn’t have time to explore them, definitely a cave to return to. The entrance is just a little beyond the Grotte de Choranche showcave. You are encouraged to park at the bottom of the car park, leaving space for the paying visitors.

La Grotte Favot

The entrance tunnel of this cave is incredible, it looks like some massive tunnelling machine has been used to bore down into the ground at an angle of 45°. You do need a lot of rope (80m) to protect the entrance tunnel, and another rope of 30m plus abseiling equipment is useful for exploring the bottom of the cave.

To find the cave, park here and take faint path which leaves from the south end of the layby. GPX trace.

La Glacière de Font d’Urle

No ice in October, no difficulties but not especially interesting.

The following caves are not in Pascal’s book:

Grotte de Gaulois

This cave is in a picturesque gorge near Saint Julien-en-Vercors. The entrance is a few meters up a cliff, and not that easy for children to safely enter. We used 30m of rope and 7m of flexible wire ladder. The cave is basically one long muddy passageway, mostly too low to stand up, and with a quite difficult squeeze about halfway along (the children had no problem of course and great fun laughing at me). At the far end the passage opens at a window in the cliff, from where you can make a 30m abseil to the ground from P-hangers.

Coordinates of the cave are 45.056356, 5.437606

Grotte de l’Ours

Really nice cave, no equipment needed, lots of pretty formations, and two quite tight squeezes, but short and not really so difficult. Park here, and hike south to where the IGN map shows the cave, at 44.982520, 5.464723. GPX trace.

Grotte de l’Olette, Gorges du Furon

This is a short canyon descent in summer and an ice climb in winter. We parked here, entered at the bottom and scrambled (rope for children) up one short ice fall to reach a chamber with an impressive icicle. Coordinates are 45.143336, 5.596439.