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Getting Started in Caving: Why You Should Go, Essential Gear, and Key Preparations

The video, "SheJumps Online Event: Introduction to Caving," provides an overview of a virtual gathering hosted by SheJumps, a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering women in outdoor activities. The event aimed to introduce women to the exhilarating world of caving and inspire them to explore the depths beneath the Earth's surface.


The video begins by highlighting the importance of increasing female participation in outdoor pursuits. SheJumps seeks to create a supportive and inclusive environment where women can challenge themselves, build confidence, and foster a sense of adventure. The Introduction to Caving event served as a platform to introduce participants to the wonders of cave exploration.


Catherine Smith, SheJumps Wyoming Event Coordinator, shares her caving passion and knowledge in this online event.



Why go caving?


There are many reasons to go caving, including being able to recreate in any season, a unique outdoor experience, a way to gain confidence and new skills, all with an endless variety of options. What’s even better is that there is a low cost of entry to start caving–use old gear you already have, buy a helmet and a headlamp.


Types of caves


Starting at 2:36, learn the types of caves you can explore. The most common type is the Karst Landscapes, which are formed by the dissolution of minerals. Other types of caves include lava tubes, sea/littoral caves, talus caves, and ice caves.


The event began with an introduction to the history and evolution of caving. Participants learned about the geological processes that create caves and the diverse ecosystems that exist within them. These presentations provided a solid foundation of understanding for participants to appreciate the complexities and beauty of caves.


Getting started caving


Safety and practicality were key focuses of the event. Catherine discussed important aspects such as proper equipment selection, navigation techniques, and safety protocols for cave exploration. Participants were equipped with knowledge to address potential challenges and overcome their fears associated with caving, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience. Risks include hypothermia, falling, flooding, rock falls, physical exhaustion, light failure, and getting lost to name a few.


A main way to reduce risk is to PREPARE! Have a preplanned and shared emergency plan–in other words: tell people where you are going and what time they expect you to return. Know cave terrain and skill level. Check the closure dates and never cave alone. The ideal size group is 4 to 6 people with 1 to 2 being familiar with the cave you’re exploring. Check that everyone in your group has working light sources.



Basic caving gear


Listen to the full context of the gear you'll need starting at 16:16.

  • Helmet

  • Helmet mounted light

  • Boots

  • Knee & elbow pads

  • Backpack

  • Gloves

  • Tall socks

  • Long pants

  • Thermal undergarments

  • Shirt

  • Light jacket/sweatshirt

  • Extra change of clothes, preferably in a dry bag


In addition to the list above, you’ll want food and water, along with extra survival gear that is shared at 19:53.


Leave no trace in caves


The ecosystem in caves are fragile, so leave not trace practices are even more important. Minimize your impact by following National White-nose Syndrome Decontamination Protocols, touch as little as possible, remove all waste, and stay on established trails. Don’t forget to pack it in and out of the cave. Don’t leave anything behind. Take solid waste away with you and consider bringing a designed bottle for urination.


Conservation


Even more important to leave no trace in caves is to protect the animals, like bats, living in the caves. Some of the animals may not have exposure to the outside world and what you bring in could greatly impact what’s in the cave. So if you are planning on visiting multiple caves, bring enough clean clothes to wear different ones in different caves.


Join caving clubs or grottos


Caving clubs and grottos are great ways to find knowledgeable mentors and resources to learn how to cave. These groups allow you to meet other cavers, join caving trips, gain new skills, and help with surveying, conservation and cleanup projects.


Know before you go: Respectful access


Research closure dates and seasons of caves. Understand what permissions you may need to enter a cave as some caves are on private property and you’ll need to gain permission from the landowner. It’s important to register with the local authorities, such as the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service will have forms you have to fill out before you enter. Don’t forget to sign into the log at the cave entrance if there is one.



Online resources


Find links to resources at 43:56.

  • National Speleological Society (NSS)

  • White-Nose Syndrome Response Team

  • Caving Groups and Grottos

  • Online forums or Facebook Groups

Check out upcoming SheJumps events or watch any of our online event videos on YouTube.


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