grotte la verna



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A few dates

Short historical resumé


  • 1950-51 : discovery and exploration of the 320 meters deep chasm Lépineux, in the massif of La Pierre Saint Martin (at the time the deepest cave-pit ever descended).


  • 13 august 1952 : death of caver Marcel Loubens during the explorations.


  • 13 august 1953 : Georges Lépineux, Jimmy Théodor, Daniel Eppely, Michel Letrône and Georges Ballandraux, divided into two groups, discover cave-room La Verna. One group opens the way, the other follows, doing the topographical survey. They join in La Verna, where they inscribe their names. They had found what was at the time -and remained for many years- the world’s largest underground volume. They had also set a depth-record.


  • 1956-60 : the French National Electricity Company (EDF) decides to construct a tunnel. The plan is to capture the underground river that runs through La Verna for the production of electricity. It takes 4 years to dig the tunnel. For technical reasons the project is abandoned. The tunnel provides a great shortcut for cavers, who continue their explorations.


  •  2000 :  a private company, the SHEM (Société Hydroélectrique du Midi) re-launches the hydro-electric power project.


  • January 2006 :  work begins. An access-road is constructed and the tunnel is restored. A dam is build across the river where it enters la Verna, creating a small reservoir of 200 m3. Cliffs separate the dam and the tunnel. A bridge spanning the gap needs to be build. More than 3 km’s of pressure pipe are led across the bridge, out through the tunnel, down to the bottom of the valley, where a hydro-electric power-plant is built. The project is innovating and totally integrated into the landscape. Tight cooperation between the SHEM and the local authorities has led to the opening of la Verna to the public.


  • June 2007 : the local authorities (united in one organism, called a SIVU) validate the exploitation of the site by the Cavers of the Atlantic Pyrenees.


  • 1st July 2010 : La Verna opens to the public.


For more detailed explanations see

Animated historical overview





la verna

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