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Caving in France, Vercors Massif vs Ardèche

Standard Unit of Tom

Active member
Thinking of going on holiday for a few weeks to do some caving this summer and can't decide between these two regions in France. I've managed to get my hands on a copy of both Spéléo sportive dans le Vercors volume 1 and 2 ... although in French not too much of a problem as I very luckily live with someone who speaks French, and have seen from a few searches on here that information on Ardèche caving in English is quite easy to access.

However my question is if i had to pick one, which is better? I am open to SRT, crawling, walking passage and am quite happy to do some "hard" caving but want to know which region will give me the best overall experience of French caving.

(also any recommendations of trips in either region would be amazing, especially vercors as it saves translating the whole book...)


Active member
Just some personal findings by some caving area's in France

outside very hot in the summer, a lot of tourists ==>imo better in spring
much gas in a lot of caves, which becomes more and more a problem.

More alpine setting ==> colder and more impact of the weather
Some serious pull through can be done here.

Hard caving (if you want) - alpine setting

Hérault - Aude
Aragonite (all colours) caving mekka and some sportive deeps ones too

a lot of sportive caving and cooler for camping; But more change for rain

Sportive caving but again warmer for camping

Causse (noir)
Sportive caving and less tourists, Milder climate due to higher plateau.

Sportive caving, less deep then doubs/vercors/psm/causse
Cooler then the south

Standard Unit of Tom

Active member
Thanks for the overviews! Leaning more towards vercors if the recommendation is ardeche is better in spring but will have a look at the others as well


Well-known member
I did both last year, Ardeche in April and Vercors in August. Overall I enjoyed the Ardeche more although that may have been impacted a bit by the people I was with too. I found Ardeche to be a prettier area with more to explore that felt a bit more 'wild' / off the beaten track, the caves were much prettier (stunning formations, gorgeous bright blue lakes, etc etc). The caving trips were more sporting trips rather than hard caving so it depends if you want a chilled out holiday or an intensive one. There were lots of other fun things to do in the area, kayaking down the Ardeche was amazing and the wild swimming was lovely. Aven de Noel and Grotte Estevan in Ardeche are the two prettiest caves I have seen in my life by far.

The vercors had better canyoning and somewhat harder caving, but tbh I spent most of the time thinking 'this isn't as good as Yorkshire' (apart from in the Gournier, which could possible surpass Yorkshire). If I had to choose which one I'd go back to I'd definitely choose the Ardeche over the Vercors.

But to be honest, the experiences were also different because of other factors. In Ardeche, I was with a group of close friends in my student club, staying in a caving hut, we spent the evenings all sitting together playing Werewolves and cooking communal dinners. Whereas in the Vercors I was with two large adult caving clubs, camping rather than in a hut, and most people were quite anti-social, staying in their own tents or rented caravans rather than socialising as a group. I was more excited for the Berger than I was for any of the caves in Ardeche, but ended up having a significantly better time at the latter. What did I learn from this experience? That going on holiday with the right people is more important than going to the 'right' place. You'll have fun wherever you go, if you're with close, supportive and like-minded friends.

Standard Unit of Tom

Active member
I was actually meant to do my gold dofe expedition canoeing on the river Ardeche but it got cancelled by covid! :(

I think you're right that I'll enjoy both with good company and I'll trust your word that Vercors doesn't compete with Yorkshire... although I know you're the regions biggest hypewoman 🤣 (> South Wales on top). think it might be worth saving Vercors for a time I can do the Berger after narrowly missing the signups for the big open expedition this year

Also take a look at our page of visited caves in Europe with a small description and scale of duration/technical challenges

European caves

I known it’s very brief but I gives an indication
I will thank you :)


Well-known member
Not many places compete with Yorkshire for a day trip, so that’s not why you are going to France on holiday. You can get blase about the Dales, but travel will narrow the mind.

France has food and deeper caves - a trip can be planned around one or both of those. The Vercors is good for both, lots of caves in the 4-700m range (we have done things like the Antre des Damnes with a few people). The Berger is about the easiest and nicest 1000m cave around, so very doable, especially if someone else rigs it for you. The Dent de Crolles is nearby and the obvious companion piece. A lot of the higher areas to the N and E are a bit too epic or dangerous in summer.

The best food is supposed to be around Pau (if you are very techie about it), but you are looking at a big set of mountains. If you do go there, an interesting walk(ish) is the Pic du Midi d’Ossau.


New member
YUCPC went to the Vercors in 2022, not got much to add to what's already here apart from a mention of the Clos d'apres system if you're after some deep big pitch type caving (look for Silence and Blizzard in Speleo Dans). We had a moderately successful trip down Silence, but were woefully under prepared so didn't get much past the 250m mark. We also had a good time in gournier and malaterre.
I've heard lots of good things about the traverse from Trou d’Anciens to Scialet du Brudour, it's certainly on our list this year!

We did also go in 2019, but stayed in Grenoble, this allows easy access to the caves, mountains, and canyons of the Ecrins, Chartreuse (for dent de crolles), and Vercors.


New member
Combe de Fer, just south of Villard de Lans in the Vercor is an excellent vertical system. You will find a survey here. https://www.cosif.fr/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/STAGE-EFS-10-2004-Equipier-de-club.pdf

Used to be a small cabin at the entrance (years ago) which is good for a base, with water supply available a short way into the cave.

Features big pitches and meanders.

Other option is the Chartreuse and the massive Dent de Crolles system, just northeast of the Vercors. Survey here https://www.braemoor.co.uk/crolles/survey.shtml Multiple entrances provide many trip options.

As said by others, these alpine areas are prone to periods of sustained bad weather, even in summer, so an option is to press on south to the Ardeche if the weather turns out to be poor. Only a half day drive further.