Access procedures for St. Sauveur (Dept. du Lot) / infos as of 05.06.2004

The organiser of the yearly "Stages Spéléo Suisses" *), Beat Müller, member of the CMAS Cave Diving Working Group, had the unique opportunity to be invited to a round table discussion with representatives of the Conseil Général du Lot (landowner of St. Sauveur) and journalists. Topics were the general intention of the authorities with the park, access procedures (present and future), parking lot management and possible future measures intended to be introduced by the Conseil. At the same time, the author was given the chance to present the cave divers view.

A publication (report ?) will be made and also sent to the author who will distribute it further to all intersted members of the cave diving community.

*) The cave diving section of the Swiss federation CMAS.CH runs such "stages de formation" since 1988, has certified approx. 180 cave divers of all levels and carried out approx. 4000-5000 training dives without any incident in the Dept. du Lot.

The preservation of the natural environment, the safety of the cave diving activities and the accident prevention are the key topics on this authority's agenda.

The author got reasonable signals during this talks that it is NOT the general intention of the Conseil to just ban any diving activities, closing all cave entries and try to create a natural museum. They know very well the importance of tourism. The author took the occasion not only to express his personal fear of such measures and its deadly consequences for our stages but also to present some figures, showing how much money his own group spends in France every year.

The author also showed the Swiss federation's system of safety measures around and during all cave diving activities which seemed to impress the Conseil's representatives (s. attachment)

Following the actual access procedures for St. Sauveur:
1. Compulsory:
Call les sapeurs pompiers (112 without any area code) in time
2. Present yourself politely and tell that you want to announce a dive in the St. Sauveur. It may be a good sign of politness if one adds the question if your intention is OK.

The following information is requested:
- number of persons who dive
- level of the divers (plongeur spéléo 1,2,3, instructeur)
- planned entry time (make enough allowance for gearing up and briefings!)
- planned duration of your dive (again make enough allowance…, specially for long decompression stops, debriefings etc)
- your own mobile Nr. (sometimes you will be asked for the serial number of your phone)
- sometimes you will be asked if you plan to enter the cave area or if you simply stay in the vasque, sometimes they also want to know the planned max. depth.

4. Voluntarily (but sometimes helpful):
- inform about the number of cars in your own group; ask the operator to communicate this to follow-up groups
- inform the operator if a person stays on land ("safety officer", "beachmaster", "surfacemanager"); in the future this may be requested for all diving activities
5. Again compulsory:
As soon as possible after the dive, call again les sapeurs pompiers (112) and let them know that (hopefully) everything went well.

- only 2 vehicles at a time are allowed to drive down to the little parking area and being parked there (random checks by the authorities are intended)
- the gate at the entrance must be closed immediately after every passage
- all trails leading to and from the St. Sauveur must never be blocked for the traffic of local farmers and their vehicles. Free access to their fields must be guaranteed at all times.

A personal impression of the author: It seems that the sapeurs pompiers do not yet handle the parking lot management efficiently (it's not their core business of course!).

It may be helpful for the caller to tell the operator how many vehicles his group has and to give this number to the next following group.

It is also a good idea to ask the operator, if there is already another group present at the same time, in order to avoid traffic congestions and parking problems.

These or similar procedures are under discussion and intended to be introduced for further caves, certainly for those under the jurisdiction of the Conseil.

It is most deplorable that there are still individual cave divers and groups (at least we ourselves made the not very pleasant aquintance of one Italian and one English group) who put themselves above all others.

They do not announce their presence as required, they park 3-4 cars down at the St. Sauver and they respond in a very aggressive way if politely informed on the proper procedures.

At the time of our recent séjour there were rumors that one park guard was physically attacked by cave divers !! This is a catastrophy if true.

For the sake of future (almost free) access to this and other caves in the Lot area we kindly ask any involved organisation and any individual cave diver:
a) to strictly apply these rules
b) to communicate these rules to further members of the cave diving community
c) please show a decent attitude and the behaviour of well-educated people and NOT that of huns in neoprene!

Beat Müller
Head Cave Diving Section CMAS.CH
Member CMAS Cave Diving Working Group

For any further information please contact the author (Beat Müller)