Caving is the sport in which non commercial (i.e. not open to the general public) caves are explored. It is not to be confused with speleology, which involves caving for scientific research rather than a sport. Generally, cavers will try to find some very challenging caves that include squeezes, pitches and water as they gain experience.
Risks Associated with Caving
The four greatest risks involved with caving are hypothermia, physical exhaustion, falls and floods. If an accident does happen, being able to be rescued is very precarious and requires experienced cavers to be involved in the rescue operation itself. Falling is the most likely way to die whilst caving, followed by drowning through flooding.
Reducing the Risks Associated with Caving
To minimise the risks of falling, it is very important that cavers have the right equipment for the cave that they are exploring, including protective gear and ropes. Being fully aware of weather conditions is also very important, to reduce the risk of being caught in a flood.
Of course, there are certain other precautions you should take. A caving expedition is best done in teams of four. This way, if there is an accident, one person can stay with the injured party, whilst the other two go and get help, meaning nobody is left alone. It is also very important to ensure that people know where you are and when to expect you back. Researching the cave you are exploring is also very important, so you can have some idea of what to expect and ensure your equipment is appropriate for this.
Lastly, it is important to recognise your own limitations – never push yourself beyond your limits. Caving is perhaps not the most dangerous of the extreme sports, but it is physically demanding and exhaustion is a very common problem with caving, although often not fatal.
Reducing the Risk of Ecological Damage
Many caves are protected and have intricate systems inside that have taken hundreds and thousands of years to make. This means that it is incredibly important for cavers to take great care in all that they touch so as not to destroy any of the interior of the cave.
A second ecological issue concerns pollution. All water in caves will come out of the cave at some point, meaning that if it has been touched by cavers, there will be a certain degree of pollution in the water. Of course, many creatures also live in caves, including bats and other organisms that should not be disturbed.
There are many other issues in relation to the possible destruction of caves, meaning that cavers need to be committed to the understanding that the well-being of the cave is more important than their enjoyment. Often, cavers will leave markers behind to indicate certain areas should not be accessed due to ecological concerns and will suggest alternative routes. Most members of the caving community will always respect these markers.
Caving is a tremendously physical sport that is very unusual in the fact that it is underground in conditions that will push you to your limit. With the right team and the right equipment, caving is a sport that is safe and enjoyable.
If you fancy going caving why not head to the UK and stay in one of the many Yorkshire cottages? A cottage is the ideal place to relax after a long day of caving, and Yorkshire is an ideal caving location!
Creative Commons Photo by Lee