How to get into caving

Are you thinking about starting caving? Are you keen to feast your eyes on the incredible geology deep underground? Then you’re in the right place!

Here, we explore what caving is, the techniques you’ll need to learn and the essential equipment required for this thrilling activity.

What is caving?

Caving, often referred to as spelunking in the United States and potholing in the UK, is the recreational activity of exploring underground caves.

It’s both mentally and physically challenging, often requiring climbing rock faces, squeezing through small gaps and crawling along narrow tunnels.

It’s a great way to discover fascinating geology in underground caves, such as stalactites, stalagmites, bodies of water and salt deposits (depending on the region).

You can go caving in both natural and manmade systems which all offer something unique.

What techniques do you need to learn?

While every underground system is different, there are certain caving techniques you’ll use time and time again.

In passages with a low head height, you may need to take a semi-squat position or crawl on all fours.

Traversing may be required if you’re navigating routes that are a significant height from the ground. This typically involves placing your feet and hands on either side of the passage in a star-like shape and shuffling forward.

Chimneying is another useful technique used often by cavers to move up and down narrow passages. Pressing your back into one wall, you put both feet on the opposite wall and push off with your legs.

For additional safety, belaying techniques can be used. This involves a safety rope that catches cavers if they suffer a fall. There are several different options here including mechanical belays and self-belays.

Abseiling or rappelling may be useful for vertical passages, as well as scrambling and hand line.

What equipment do you need?

If you’re heading on an underground caving adventure, there are certain pieces of equipment you’ll need.

This includes a first aid kit, bottle of water, snacks and durable clothing that can withstand the conditions. It’s wise to avoid baggy clothing or anything that trails as this could get caught on rocks as you explore.

It’s important to wear a helmet for the duration of your activity as well as a high-quality headtorch from a company like RS Components.

You’ll also need comfortable, waterproof footwear such as rubber boots. Knee and elbow pads may also be handy if you’ll be crawling for extended periods!

If you’re keen to start caving, it’s important to go with a qualified instructor. They can ensure your well-being throughout the experience and teach you how to navigate different sections of the route safely. Never go caving on your own or without an experienced guide.

If you enjoy a series of guided caving adventures and want to continue with this hobby, you could join a local caving club. This will put you in touch with other cavers who go on regular trips – giving you the opportunity to head off on fun underground adventures with like-minded people.

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