DIR- GUE Cave 1 report, France

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Leon_2020

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Seeing most of my buddies veer off in the distance with C1 and T1 certifications, I wasn't going to be left behind. After discussing it several times with SWMBO, the long haired general finally gave me her blessing to take up a GUE Cave 1 class.

Looking for instructors, I choose JP Bresser as I did the Human Factors course with him. My initial buddies were two women so my first thought was "with my, not so small SCR, how am I going to fare?". All three met up once to get to know each other and dive that day in a local lake. Regretfully, one of the ladies signed off for the course not much later due to personal reasons.

One buddy gone, a search was launched to find another third member. He was found, having completed a cave intro class by JP at the Willingen mine in Germany.

Long story short, we dove together on a couple occasions, getting the fundies skills sharp and nailed down. We also did some reeling, both on land and in the water, just to get a feel for it. I opted not to practice anything further "advanced" as learning it wrong and having to relearn it correctly can be time-consuming.
My C1 buddies helped me with hints and tips so on September 3rd, I drove off from the northern parts of the Netherlands, down to a town near Amsterdam to pick up team member 1. Member 2 later joined in his own car and we set out to travel 1200 kilometers to the south of France, departement Lot to start our course there.
We opted to arrive one full day earlier than the start of the course, allowing us to acclimatize to the environment (it was HOT, 29 - 34 degrees C) and to get all our grocery shopping done for the entire week.

Day 0, Saturday was spend setting up gear and getting to know the lands, shops, town and instructor.

Day 1, Sunday, easy start at 1200, adminstrative stuff, theory, land drills and swimtest. The one golden rule of always crossing OVER a line is simply enforced with "If you go under it on land or under water, you're buying cake for the rest of the team at the local bakery". There's always one that does it, so I have cake every time told JP. We were adamant it wouldn't happen to us.... yeah right.

Day 2, Monday, Ressel. Three dives. I was very nervous for my first cave dive. I did dove Nuttlar (a germany sleetmine) a couple of times but this felt different. My nervousness was taken serious and we took our time to get set-up, get into the water and do our first reel (ha), cave dive.
After that first one, I was hooked. I love going into dark places and seeing places and things normal mortals will not lay their eyes on. It felt great to be in the cave, even if the water was a bit chilly (11-14C).
The evening was filled with land drills

Day 3, Tuesday, Ressel, two dives, this time with failures on the way out. Debrief in the water and we went back in again. Light failures, valve failures it all came together.

Day 4, Wednesday, 3 dives, Cabouy and St. George. two relatively similar caved in terms of entrance. They're both deep, 30 meter deep entrance after a steep, gravel packed slope down. Cabouy wasn't our brightest moment. The team had a hard time keeping correct trim while searching for a lost diver. The net result was a zero-viz condition. As number 3 I held the line. Communications broke down, mistakes were made and all-in-all, I was not pleased with my own performance. During the debrief we discussed these things and back in the cabin, before our mountain of homework was done, we debriefed even more, relived our underwater communication breakdown and discussed how to improve.
St George is a really nice cave, I thoroughly enjoyed it although, due to its depth and my air consumption, I didn't get to see much of it.
That evening we did lost line land drills and, yes, one of the team mates went under the line, cake for everyone. We cooked dinner together with our instructor and his wife. Pumpkin soup, brazed duck with raspberry sauce, salads and creme brulee as dessert, it was mighty tasty!

Day 5, Thursday, Ressel again. The plan was to dive Landanouse but that didn't materialize. Due to a group of divers having set off the clay deposits at the entrance of the cave, the visibility at the entrance and first 50 - 100 meters was, well, zero-viz.... That's a bit less than the 9 meters of visibility required to do a cave 1 dive :). due to very limited flow, the water level in the pit of Landanouse was low and clay needs a very long time to settle down. All in all, we weren't diving Landanouse this week.

A long dive, almost an hour in, I got to place my first cookie! Went left at the first T, turned a corner, dive was thumbed and mayhem ensued on the way back. Valves failed, gas was donated and lights also failed. the blind exit was a lot faster this time round, control however, was lost and two of us hit the ceiling a bit harder than we would've liked..

An evening filled with more land drills....... another team member crossed under the line, another piece of cake..

Day 6, Friday, Ressel, we meet again..
Last dive of the course, this time we did lost line underwater and although I did get back on the line in a very respectable 4 to 5 minutes or so, I struggled with getting the $@%%#&$^@$% cookie on the line for 7 minutes! It took me almost 13 minutes in total out of 15 minutes max! I was frustrated but also humbled, an acquainted diver had spend the better part of 45 minutes trying to get back on the line in zero-viz conditions during a normal cave dive a year previous, it was not a good experience for him to say the least...
The evening was filled with the cries of agony as we plodded through our theory exam.

Later that same evening, the final debrief and instructor's judgement came. We all passed our Cave 1 class! Happily we went diving Ressel that Saturday and spend well over 1 hour in the cave, enjoying the sights and sounds.

Looking back, I can say that a Cave 1 class is one of the most challenging classes after fundamentals. Physically it wasn't extremely heavy but mentally there's just a freight train of information coming at you and you have to be able to manage all that information as you will need to use it the next dive.
the dives aren't particularly hard, what makes it difficult is that you het your points for improvement and have to show improvement the next dive. This coupled with a lot of theory led me to believe I was missing the train of knowledge and I had to work harder to jump on the train before it left the station.

Training wise I was glad I opted for strengthening my fundies skill and learning some basic line work without going overboard on the more advanced stuff. What you learn in fundamentals really hits home in a Cave 1 class. Why do you do a valve drill in fundamentals? Because you know you can reach your valves, that's it. Now that you know you can reach them, you can apply that knowledge in the valve failure part of the Cave 1 or Tech1 courses!

I just wished I had trained placing cookies blind a bit more, it would've shaved off a considerable amount of time off my lost-line exercise :p..
 

mer

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Congratulations on C1. France is beautiful and the food always a compliment!

Enjoy being officially on the beautiful journey to experience the underground wonders!
 

AJ

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Great report Leon, sounds like quite an experience :) Let's plan a scooter dive together soon.
 

Lorenzoid

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Wow, JP's second post since 2011--you must have made quite the impression, Leon.
 

rduquesnoy

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Nice report.

I am thinking about writing one myself (I was part of the group that was there 2 weeks earlier :) ) but I haven't gotten to it yet. For me the lost line drill was tensive, the thought of having only 15 minutes to fix the problem made it a really a "thing" for me. In the end it all worked out fine though, we all passed :yeahbaby:.
 

BoundForElsewhere

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Now I can't stop thinking about braised duck.

Great report. Congratulations.
 

beester

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Well done! Not an easy course by all means ;-)
 
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