Caving 101: for first-time Cavers


Gear Checklist


Wear clothes suitable for 54-degrees.
Ideally, you should have an under layer made up of wicking material (polypropylene, capilene, wool) against your body, with some durable material over it; such as jeans and a sturdy cotton sweatshirt.

High-top boots with a lug sole are ideal, or an old pair of sneakers, anything with traction. Don't even THINK about wearing sandals!

This is a REQUIRED item for all members to use when underground.
The best kind are gardening gloves/utility gloves. They are cotton with a coating of plastic on the palms and fingers. They will provide warmth, traction and protect the cave from your skin's oils.

Aditional Items
— You may want to invest in some coveralls in order to save your cloths (usually can find a cheap jumpsuit for $20.) Just remember: any exposed skin is subject to coming in contact with hard (maybe jagged) rock, so the more you cover up, the better!
— For some wet caves, you'll need to bring a towel and swimsuit.

Helmet & Headlamp
Members can use the club's helmets and headlamps.
Three independent light sources should be taken into the cave. Typically, each caver will have a helmet-mounted light (electric or carbide), and two other light sources such as a flashlight and lighter. Remember to bring batteries, too!

Cave Pack
The trip leader will typically bring their own, but it will not fit all the food and water for everyone on the trip. So you should bring your own pack.

Food & Water
— Bring some easily-carried high energy food such as candy bars or energy bars. On longer trips, a sandwich is recommended.
— Bring something to drink. Use only plastic or aluminum bottles... NO GLASS.

*** After The Trip ***
— Bring a set of clean clothes that you can change into after caving so you don't mess up the car you're riding in. You'll appreciate this if you're the one driving!
— Plastic garbage bags to put your dirty clothes and shoes in.
— A few dollars to help out the driver with the cost of gas money. Also, it is standard to stop for dinner after long trips.
— Snacks for after your trip. Cavers can get quite ravenous after a long trip on the ride home!


Caving Safety


Caving - like all other outdoor sports- it's as safe as you make it. Here are some simple rules and procedures that have been worked out over the years. If you follow them, you (and everyone else) will have more fun.

Absolutely the most important thing is to let someone know:
— Which cave you are visiting
— How many people are in your group
— When you should be back from the cave
— Have a callout person, so he/she can start a cave rescue if the group isn't out at a certain time
— Be sure that you and all the members of your group are properly equipped
— Once inside the cave, keep together. Make sure you keep track of the person in front of you and the person behind you, and let them know if they are getting too far ahead.
— Always keep 3 points of contact with the cave. This could be any combination of your hands, feet, and butt. The reason for this is that a point of contact could break off at any time, and you need to have something else holding you in place.
— Don't overdo it. If you feel uncomfortable doing something, say so. Everyone has been in this situation before. Caving is not a competition! When you are part of a caving trip, you are part of a team, and it's a team goal to get everyone through the cave.
— Always keep your helmet on, you never know when something might fall, or when you might accidentally bang your head.
— If anything falls, whether it is a person, rock, or other object, the correct term to yell is "Rock!" When you hear this, try and get under your helmet as much as possible.
— Pay attention to your surroundings. This is extremely useful in remembering your route in the cave.

Remember the Rules of 3
— Caving groups should consist of at least 3 people
— You should always have 3 sources of light
— Maintain 3 points of contact


Caving Etiquette


The caves we visit are owned by other people who are nice enough to let us use their property, and so we need to remember that we are their guests. It has happened that one rude person has led to a cave being permanently closed. Also, we must protect the cave habitats that we are entering, as many creatures live in and use caves. To keep everyone happy, here are a few rules that we always follow:

— Always be sure you have the permission of the landowner before crossing any land or entering any cave.
Be careful where you park. A lot of caves are owned by farmers who hate finding cars parked in front of their farm/field gates.
— "Take nothing but pictures" - Whatever natural formations we find in the cave, we leave in the cave, even ones that have broken off and are lying on the ground. In fact, it is illegal to remove formations from a cave in both Virginia and West Virginia.
— "Leave nothing but footprints" - whatever we bring into the cave, we take out again. For example, we never leave behind the spent carbide from our lamps.
— "Kill nothing but time" - do nothing to harm the cave environment. Other creatures including bats inhabit caves. It is important that we do not disturb them, especially during the winter when bats hibernate.
When you talk to someone while caving, make sure you turn your headlamp to the ceiling or to the floor, as you might blind them for a few moments.
— It is customary to say "Flash!" before taking a picture so that everyone else is prepared for the bright flash from the camera.


Caving Links


VAR Closed Caves List
TAG Closed Caves List
NSS WNS Page - everything you need to know about white-nose syndrome (disease killing the bats)

Gonzo Guano Gear
Inner Mountian Outfitters
Karst Sports
On Rope 1
Swaygo Gear
West Virginia Underground

Area Grottoes
BRG - blue ridge grotto (va)
CG - charlottesville grotto (va)
DCG - district of columbia grotto (dc)
FG - flittermouse grotto (nc)
FRG - front royal grotto (va)
JRG - james river grotto (va)
MAR - mid-atlantic region of the nss
MONO - monongahela grotto (wv)
PG - philadelphia grotto (pa)
PSC - potomac speleological club (va)
RASS - richmond area speleological society (va)
TSG - tri-state grotto (wv, va, md)
VPI - virginia polytechnic institute (va)
WVUSG - west virginia university student grotto (wv)

Cave Safety
NCRC - national cave rescue commission
ER of NCRC - eastern region of the national cave rescue commission
Brochure (pdf) - nss guide to responsible caving
Safety and Techniques - nss guidelines

Member Links
Caving Videos - nikki fox's youtube channel

Caving Lingo

Art room
A section of cave where the mud can be made into shapes, often galleries of past cavers' sculptures can be found
Cave formation that resembles bacon
Birth Canal
A tight, uncomfortable passage that requires a caver to squeeze through
The sport of exploring caves
  When a stalagmite and stalactite grow together
  A cave formation that is a flat, wavy sheet that hangs from the ceiling, sometimes even resonates
  A section in the cave where there is a danger of falling
Flow stone
Sheetlike deposits of calcite formed from water flowing down walls or floors of caves
The passage continues
Bat excrement
Helmet Check!
Said when someone bangs their helmet against the ceiling or something else inadvertently, usually making a sound that seems worse than it really is
Lights Out
When everyone turns their lights off and you experience true pitch-darkness. Usually done at the beginning of a trip so your eyes can adjust
Pieces of flagging in caves at junctions to mark the way
When a cave has a complex network of passages, making it easy to get lost
Mud Room
Sometimes called a mud arena, battles ensue here
  Not a food, but really a jagged formation on walls that will tear your fingers/clothes apart.
  A plastic tube with paper inside found near the entrance of caves where cavers can sign
The universal word to mean that something has just fallen, and you should get under your helmet as much as possible. NEVER look up if you hear this!
Soda Straw
A long, thin (usually white) formation that is hollow in the middle
      The scientific study of caves and cave environments
       A cave formation, usually made from mineral deposits
    Formations hanging from the ceiling
      Formations on the ground, growing upwards towards the ceiling
White Nose Syndrome, a fatal disease that is rapidly killing off the bats in the East
The use of ropes in caves, where cavers wear harnesses and other gear to rappel and climb out of pits in the cave