Reminders For Safe Caving

By Miriam Cuddington, NSS #13078 (Moulton, AL)

We all should know that in order to do any sport safely, we should use "common sense". Sometimes we get so excited about our enjoyment of the sport, we seemingly forget some basic guidelines concerning safety.

I know the below reminders are few, but maybe it will help us to think of more ways to be safe, depending on one's situation. Some reminders are:

  1. Take proper care of your equipment. Make a habit of checking all parts for wear and tear. Replace or repair as needed. Keep it as clean as possible. Try to make a habit of cleaning it after each trip so it will be ready for the next trip. It may also be a good idea to pack it in a bag of your choice in case of emergency and/or a friend calls you unexpectedly and invites you on a trip.
  2. Keep your ropes clean. Aluminum may not come off, but most grit can be washed off with a rope washer or whatever "tools" you find useful. Of course, avoid sharp objects, edges, etc., with whatever you use to wash the rope. Try to avoid strong detergents and fabric conditioners.
  3. Ropes should be padded as well as possible. The width of the pad should allow for any movement side to side that may occur during use. Length of pad depends on the "drop conditions" and length. We have pads of different lengths, so we can choose what we need for the drop. Also, we have a shorter rope, just to tie the pads on. This is helpful in some situations and clears the main line for full usage. It is tied securely , in case someone may need to attach to it.
  4. Speaking of attachments, I feel it's a good idea to carry a quick attachment safety (QAS) on you. It should be in addition to your climbing system. It should be readily available at any time. Murphy's Law never takes a vacation!
  5. Be very familiar with your climbing and rappelling device. Try to choose a "rope friendly" rappel device. Be sure you can control your descent without having to use a lot of energy. Be sure you have control close to the ground. You will need energy to do the cave, climb out and get back to your vehicle or camp, etc. Also, if an emergency arises, you can be an asset. Being in good physical condition can always be of help.
  6. Check before you leave home to make sure that your destination is accessible. When you arrive, be sure to park your vehicle where the landowner(s) wish. Be an environmental conscious person as well as a properly behaved person. Don't assume that no one else is around.
  7. Take appropriate caving gear, lights, food, water, clothing and foot wear, according to your destination.. Don't assume that someone will provide them for you.
  8. I strongly suggest one should avoid alcoholic beverages while caving. They could dehydrate you and affect your reaction time and "judgment" which in turn, affect your safety and the safety of others. There are many other places away from the ropes and trips where one can "partake" more safely.
  9. Sometimes I won't go caving with a person or persons because I feel they aren't safe and /or would make the trip unpleasant for other reasons. Each person has to decide on this matter themselves.

Check the weather forecast as thoroughly as possible. Some places are deadly, for whatever reason. I'd abort a trip rather than chance that someone could bet hurt or killed. There are a million other things one could think of to help cave safely. Take care out there.


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