Here is some information and guidelines about caving that the
National Speological Society published in their GUIDE TO
RESPONSIBLE CAVING – we stand behind and on top of the
principles of such serious caving and hope you will understand
and respect that this is to ensure your safety in the experience
you have with Pathways.
You and your group are responsible for protecting yourselves,
other cavers, and the caves you visit. We’re all in this
together. You don’t want your actions to cause other cavers to
remember you as “that caver who got killed” or “that caver who
was careless and irresponsible around formations.” Being a
responsible caver involves planning a trip, moving through the
cave, and returning safely, on time.
Carry at least
three independent sources of light per person. Mount the primary
light on the helmet, so that you automatically have light
wherever you turn your head and your hands are free to climb
safely. The second and third light sources must be equivalent to
the primary light. Spare parts, including batteries and bulbs,
are necessary components of each source of light. Lights
employing light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are now so inexpensive,
small, and energy efficient, that their advantages outweigh
those of candles and glow sticks, which have never been reliable
or even adequate sources of light.
Wear a helmet that meets standards of the Union Internationale
des Associations d’Alpinisme (UIAA) or of the European Committee
for Standardization (“CE”) equivalent, and buckle the chin
strap. Your helmet protects your head and offers a mount for
your lights. When you buy an inferior helmet, you reveal the
value you place on your life.
Depending on the cave and the trip, cavers also find these items
~ Gloves to keep your hands warm and minimize cuts and scrapes.
Use gardening gloves, thick rubber gloves, or leather-palmed
~ A large, plastic trash bag, carried in your helmet. Wearing
this bag can help prevent hypothermia, or it can keep you dry.
~ Knee pads.
~ Food sufficient for the length of the trip, and an extra
amount in case the trip takes longer than expected.
~ Drinking water.
~ A crush-proof container for human wastes. Pack it in, pack it
~ A small, strong, lightweight pack made from a fabric that does
not absorb water.
Clothes and comfort
Caves tend to be cold, so dress warmly. Wet clothes keep you
colder than dry clothes, so avoid getting wet. Except in the
driest, warmest caves, avoid wearing cotton clothing, because it
absorbs and retains more water than synthetic fabrics.
Polypropylene, nylon, and polyester tend to be more
abrasion-resistant, absorb less water, dry more quickly, and
retain heat better than natural fabrics.
Dress for the expected environment in the cave. Layers of
clothing made from synthetic fabrics are suitable for colder
caves. The outer layer needs to be able to withstand the
abrasive and sharp rocks of a cave. Some caves are so cold and
wet that they require more than just layers of warm clothes; do
not attempt such caves without proper training.
Responsible caving is a team activity and not a competition.
Responsible cavers think and act as a unit underground to ensure
a safe trip. The actions or attitude of a single member can
jeopardize the safety of the whole team, resulting in injury or
Move only as fast as the
team’s slowest member. Stop periodically for a rest, a drink of
water, and perhaps a snack. Stay in voice contact with your
teammates. After negotiating a tricky obstacle, remain there
until the next team member arrives, and offer help. Do not be
reluctant to offer, ask for, or accept help.
Most caving trips are short enough that you can avoid relieving
yourself underground. However, when you must relieve yourself,
do so in an appropriate container or containers, and remove the
waste from the cave. Not doing so forces the next caver to
encounter it; even more importantly, your waste can affect the
delicate ecosystems that exist in the cave.
Fire and smoke (including that from burning tobacco) fouls the
air in caves, and it irritates the organisms that live there and
other people who visit. Therefore, do not smoke or create fires
in or near caves.
When established trails exist, stay on them to help keep other
areas of the cave pristine. If you visit new or less-traveled
passages, keep your team to one route to minimize your impact on
the cave and establish a trail for future visitors.
Caving can be physically demanding. When you are in poor
condition or poor health, you tire more quickly, you slow the
team, and you endanger yourself. Fatigue or weakness makes you
prone to accidents. Know your limits, and do not attempt trips
beyond your abilities. Restrict new cavers to short trips. If
you have doubts about the demands of a trip, consult an
experienced caver who knows the cave. Tell your team members
when you feel it is time to turn back. As it does in any
physical activity, smoking diminishes your stamina and
Caves are frequently wet and sometimes breezy, and such
conditions promote hypothermia, which can be deadly. Dress
warmly, keep moving, stay out of breezes when not moving, and
avoid getting wet.
For the cave
~ Avoid disturbing cave organisms or their environment.
~ Pack out everything you bring with you, and any trash you
~ Carry an appropriate container or containers to remove your
urine and feces from a cave.
~ Do not smoke or light fires in caves or near their entrances.
~ Do not disturb archeological or paleontological artifacts.
~ Do not damage formations or other surfaces of the cave.
~ Stay on established trails to help keep other areas of the
~ Participate in projects to preserve and rehabilitate caves,
such as removing graffiti, picking up litter, and repairing
~ Educate landowners about the value of their caves.
~ Clean karst features, such as sinkholes, which have been used
as receptacles for rubbish.
~ Learn safe caving skills from responsible cavers.
~ Know your limits, rest frequently, and watch for fatigue in
~ Be properly dressed and equipped.
~ Check the weather forecast before entering a cave.
~ Keep moving and dress warmly to avoid hypothermia.
~ Let the slowest caver set the pace.
~ If an immobilizing injury occurs, keep the injured caver warm,
and seek help from a local cave rescue organization.
~ If you get lost, conserve your light.
~ If you have no light, avoid trying to go anywhere, and stay
warm and dry.
~ Practice rope work on the surface under the guidance of an
expert before engaging in vertical caving.