“Only meant for the brave hearts, the adventure lovers and the ones that remain undaunted by obstacles that come in the form of height, depth, darkness, tight shrunk spaces and bugs, caving is not everyone’s cup of tea. It is emerging as a popular sport in many parts of the world. It is the activity of exploring wild cave systems. Caving is also called spelunking in some parts of the world such as the United States and Canada. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, it is known as potholing.
Caving involves high levels of risks and poses a threat to the life of the person pursuing it which is why it comes under the category of “”Extreme Sports””. Caving can be fun as you get to delve into the unexplored secrets of nature. Caving in some of the most dangerous, unmapped and unevaluated caves have led to many scientific and geological discoveries. It has also been helpful in uncovering the secrets of ancient civilizations that may have existed there. People who get an adrenaline rush through adventure pursue caving because it gives them an experience of a different world without any speck of everything that is human. A successful caving experience can be one of the best and most thrilling experiences of your life, but the risks involved in the activity are immensely grave too.
When it comes to the demands of caving, then it is essential to know that it is both mentally and physically challenging. You have no connections with outside world. The only humans you see are the ones in your group. At times, you have to crawl in tight crooked spaces from more than a hundred feet. They are full of muddy water and cave creatures that include bats, centipedes, packrats, spiders and since you are in their territory it is essential that you respect their space and co-exist with them. From rock climbing and prusiking to duck walking to squeezing yourself through narrow pathways, caving has it all. It can lead to injuries and even death. It is, therefore, necessary to prepare yourself for any and every circumstance. Once you are inside the caves, all communication with the outside world is severed, and you are on your own. It is, therefore, advisable to be self-sufficient before you set out on your venture.
Before you simply grab your flashlight and head out for an adventure, it is important for you to learn about how you should go caving, the caving procedures and etiquettes.
1. Make plans in a group– Caving is one activity where two is always better than one. If you think you have enough experience, you should still make plans with a group because in no way will the next cave be the same as the previous one. If there is any emergency say in the form of an injury, then the presence of more than one people can be quite helpful.
If you are inexperienced, and this is going to be your first caving experience, then it is extremely important that you choose a guided tour. These tours offer you trained professionals who have studied the caves in depth, been in them before and have a thorough knowledge of what to do in which emergency.
You can also start out with smaller and less dangerous caves that are present on a government owned property.
2. Be fully equipped– Preparation is the key to a successfully concluded caving adventure. You need to prepare yourself for any and every adversity by being equipped with whatever you think you might need on the trip. Thorough preparation saves you the misery of being stuck on the bad side of nature and escaping life challenging situations.
– Helmet- All throughout your journey you have to walk and at times crawl through narrow and dark spaces. With a flashlight, there is only so much that you can see. You never know where you might bump your head. Therefore, it is exceedingly important that you wear a helmet for caving. Even better, use one with a headlamp, so you do not have to carry a flashlight, and your hands are free to drive your body forward, especially when you are crawling. Put a fresh set of batteries in them and carry an extra pair of fresh batteries with you. Also take alternative sources of light in case anything happens to the headlight.
– Clothes- Instead of wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts you must wear full-length pants and full sleeves shirt. There are two main reasons for this
-Caves are cool because they are underground or inside the mountains. You don’t want to be shivering.
-Most of the caves have very tight routes and are packed with bugs like spiders and centipedes etc. they also have muddy water in them. You don’t want to have scratches all over your body or expose it to a bite from any cave creature. Coveralls are a good option
Pack extra non-cotton clothing along with a plastic bag and an emergency blanket. Cotton clothes are not preferable because cotton absorbs and hold water. Cotton clothes can cool your body at a fast rate. So wear clothes, undergarments and socks made of a synthetic fabric. They will help in retaining your body heat.
– Safety covers- It is advisable to wear knee pads, elbow pads and gloves to safeguard yourself from a potential injury.
Wear sports shoes that are not slippery.
– First Aid- You must have first aid supplies in your backpack in case you or anyone else in the group has an injury.
2. Keep track of your track– Caves are as confusing as they are intriguing. If you are not careful enough you can lose track of where you are coming from and where you are going. Therefore, it is necessary to look back as you move ahead to capture the mental image of the path you are following. This way if you lose track you can identify if you have been on this particular path or not.
– Be aware of your surroundings at all times and if possible leave stones or glow sticks to mark the route you have been taking.
– You can also leave notes for yourself.
– Don’t get misguided by the arrows scratched or painted on the walls. Remain on the path.
– Avoid scratching on the caves, if possible. Remember the golden rule: leave nothing but footprints.
– Before setting out, let someone on the outside know when to expect you back. If due to any reason you are late then a rescue team will be sent to get you out. Your notes or marks can be useful for them in locating you, too.
4. Explore at your risk– If you are caving with the purpose of making a discovery or conducting research, you might want to do a little exploration of your own. If that is the case, you must be aware of the risks involved. If you are an expert geologist, and you have all the necessary equipment for detecting the temperature and pressure, you might be able to identify if you are moving towards or away from an opening. Despite this, exploration involves deadly risks.
5. Protect yourself– One of the best ways of protecting yourself is keeping warm and dry. Caves are extremely cool. Therefore, it is advisable to be properly insulated when you are inside a cave. Cotton clothes can take all the heat away from the body, and prolonged cold can pose a threat to health and well-being. There is a high chance of suffering from hypothermia. You might come to a cave that is flooding with water, or there is a small water body that you need to swim across. In such a case, it is always preferable to take off your clothes, pack them in a plastic bag and then get into the water. Once you have crossed, you can dry yourself off and then wear your clothes back again.
If you do get wet and do not have extra clothes, then take them off and wring them so that they do not have any extra water in them.
6. Food and Water– Having an adequate amount of food and water is a must when you are caving. You have no contact with the outside world and no way of getting fresh supplies in case your supplies have exhausted. Caving is strenuous as it requires a lot of physical effort. Activities like rock climbing, crawling, and duck walking among others can take up a lot of energy. Therefore, it is essential to keep your body hydrated and your energy bar full. As you have to carry all your supplies in a backpack, you have to choose options that are not heavy weight yet fulfill your need all the same.
In case, there is a cave collapse or flooding you might get stuck in the cave for more time than you expected. So you must have enough food and water to last that long. Carrying canned and packaged food adds extra weight and may not last for long caving trips.
-An amazing source of food and water is MRE also known as Meals, Ready to Eat.
– MREs are self-contained, individual field ration. A single packet of MRE contains the rations for an entire day. It has three meals along with snacks. It also contains eating utensils. For water it contains beverages like tea, coffee, shakes along with water.
– Each meal consists of a dessert too and approximately 1,250 calories.
– MREs or Meals, Ready to Eat are hermetically sealed and retain their nutritional value for as long as they are made to last. You can buy MREs that last from 3 days to even a year.
– MRE’s are lightweight, impact resistant and waterproof making them an effective alternative to canned and packaged foods.
– Another advantage of MREs is that you don’t have to heat them before consuming. Most of them come with a self-heating system that heats the meal up before you consume it. You can consume MREs on the go.
– You can buy MREs from particular retail stores. They are also available in military stores because they are a prime source of food for the military too. So you can buy them from a nearby military store as you plan for a caving trip.
7. Save light– As caves are dark, and the only source of light is the headlight on your helmet or the flashlight in your hand, you need to conserve light as much as you can.
– If you are not moving then, you must turn it off. If you are in a group, then move forward by forming a chain of people with the first person using light to see the path ahead. Also, use the lowest output setting for the headlamp on your helmet.
– If the batteries drain and light goes out, you must not move unless help from outside arrives. Caves are deep, dark and dangerous, more so without the lights.
Preparation is the bedrock of any adventure. As long as you have prepared yourself for the worst situations you can always have a good time!”