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.

Other equipment
Depending on the cave and the trip, cavers also find these items useful underground~
~ Gloves to keep your hands warm and minimize cuts and scrapes. Use gardening gloves, thick rubber gloves, or leather-palmed work gloves.
~ 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 out.
~ 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 success
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 death.

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.

Waste removal
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
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.

Underground trails
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 respiratory efficiency.

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.

SAFTEY For the cave
~ Avoid disturbing cave organisms or their environment.
~ Pack out everything you bring with you, and any trash you find.
~ 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 cave pristine.
~ Participate in projects to preserve and rehabilitate caves, such as removing graffiti, picking up litter, and repairing broken formations.
~ Educate landowners about the value of their caves.
~ Clean karst features, such as sinkholes, which have been used as receptacles for rubbish.

SAFTEY For yourself
~ Learn safe caving skills from responsible cavers.
~ Know your limits, rest frequently, and watch for fatigue in others.
~ 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.



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