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Zahne's First Caving Trip

We started this trip as a beginner trip for all the new people who have been coming to our Grotto meetings to check us out. We want to give everyone an opportunity to get underground as soon as they can.
Eventually showing up in Sunday morning was Steve Paylor and his girl friend Debbie. This would be her first caving trip. Amos was there. Marcy was there with there with her 2 nephews, Josh and Even. This was Evans second caving trip. Josh has been caving for several years already. Paul McKenzie was there with his two kids, Connor and Amelia, who have caved a few times before too. I was there with my grandson, Zahne. This was his first caving trip.
By the time we drove there and changed and sorted out gear we entered Carnegie about 12:30. The entrance wasn’t too wet. Fairly normal for this cave. As we entered into the first passage there was more water than the last time we were there. The duck under wasn’t very high, just a puddle and the main room only had water to just below my knee. A lot of this deeper stuff I had Zahne jump on my back as I waded through. It would have been too deep for his comfort and we were just starting out. I didn’t want him getting too cold too soon into the trip.
We divided into two groups. Marcy, Evan, Steve, Debbie, Zahne and I were in one group and we headed for the back of the cave. The rest went high and to the left then were going to where we were headed when they were done.
Evan and Zahne wanted to poke around in every hole they could find. They really had fun doing this. We also got to see a few small but really nice formations in this part of the cave. The only saving grace for sloshing through all that mud and water.
We arrived at the back of the cave and sat down to rest a little. We heard off in the distance some voices as the other group was catching up to us. So we sat there in the dark and waited for them. After they entered the room and sat for a moment they were also all off exploring all the corners of the room. We took advantage of the moment and did a “lights out”. Luckly I still had some Wint-o-Green Lifsavers in my pack from the last trip. We passed them out, sat in a circle and crunched and crunched and examined as each other “sparked” their Lifesavers.
After the mandatory group picture we started out. A few brave souls explored down another passage. It was wet and crawly so I hung back a little. Steve, Debbie, Amos and some of the kids kept going.
As soon as we were all set up again we headed back to the main room and headed towards the long crawly passage. We looked in, but Zahne and I were starting to get cold from being so wet, so we opted to head out of the cave.
We walked back to the cars cold and wet and satisfied that we had a good day underground. Too cold and wet for Zahne? I don’t think so. He’s bugging me to go on another caving trip as soon as he can. I think he’s as addicted to caving as his Papa is. That’s a good thing.

For more pictures on this trip go here.

Caving with Crew 456

Mark this on the calendar. Although I was not the first one there, I was early to a rendezvous point for a caving trip. Molly was already there and Amos was pulling in right after me with Marci, Josh, and Mikey. We were headed out to central PA and meeting up with Andy Field. Meeting us at the cave was Crew 456.
Josh has been caving with us for a while. He has several caves on his resume. This was Mikey's second caving trip. He was excited to try this cave after an enjoyable trip to Wind Cave.
We arrived at the property about 11:30. The owners were there already. After our greetings and suiting up we all gathered in the "cave house" where we divided up into 2 groups, Crew 9 in one group and Crew 456 in the other. Crew 9 went to the Earth Room first. It's tight, but the reward is great. Very well decorated with formations and preserved. Then we headed out towards the bigger passages of the cave. There is a little climbing, and little squeezing, and a little chimneying. For the most part this is an easy cave to get around in and you can see most of the "Historic Section" without much technical caving skills. There are some fragile parts in this section and some wildlife you need to be aware of and take care to not disturb. But this is what makes this cave very worth while to see and enjoy.
We did not get to every part of this section, but we did spend close to four hours in there. The other group was already out and changed by the time we exited the cave. Everyone was hungry and ready to find a place to go for food and to relax before we started our long drive home. We found a pizza place called "Villa Roma Pizza" which accommodated our group of 10 people with no effort. The food was good, probably better than most of the places we've eaten.
Andy File is the Advisor for Crew 456. He's also a member of York Grotto and Philly Grotto. This Crew has been becoming more active in climbing and caving this past year. We invited them to join DBG-Crew 9 on a trip to Ruppert Cave.

The second half of this article is from the Crew 456 group.

For More Info on Crew 456 contact: Andrew Filer - 717 571 9165
Crew 456 Advisor

Venture Crew 456 would like to thank Dragon Breath Grotto and Allen, for inviting us along to Rupert Cave.  Will, Mark, and I went on the trip.  This was Mark's first trip into a cave, and he loved it.  The guys got to enjoy the mud room, and the series of newly discovered pits.  We talked about the various formations in the cave, and checked the bat population for signs of White Nose Syndrome.  The guys are excited to go caving, and want to bring friends next time.
Andy Filer

 To see more pictures of this trip click here.

Go to Dragon Breath Grotto Venturing Crew 9 Home Page.

Welcome Joey Fagan as the NSS YGLC Regional Coordinator for VAR

The NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee has been looking to fill volunteer positions of Regional Coordinator for each of the NSS Regions. Joey Fagan has stepped up to the plate and offered his extensive knowledge of caving and cavers in Virginia and West Virginia, Joey is also active and knowledgeable in both Boy and Girl Scouts.
Instead of telling you about Joey here, read his web page at .

Harmony Days 2010

Dragon Breath Grotto took the squeeze box to Harmony Days in Honey Brook, PA to promote the caving club. there was some interest and some brave souls who squeezed down rather small. Maybe they'll come join us in a real cave and see what it's really like.

Dragon Breath and Philly Grottos Go Caving

PICT0003I got to our usual McDonald’s that we meet and Amos and Andy were already there and finished their breakfast. A little while later Steve arrived, then Katy and Pete. As we were getting ready to pack up the cars Krista arrived, just in time. Don’t trust those online directions.
We divided into two vehicles and took off to meet up with Bill near the cave. Of course I’m running behind schedule and was about 15 minutes late. But we all did get together and got to the cave, suited up, and carefully walked through the rows of corn find the entrance to our adventure for the day.
No one had been there for about a year and a half. The “gate” was filled with all kinds of debris. There’s not enough room for more than one person to work in there. It took Bill about 20 minutes or so to clean out the entrance and unlock the gate. Then one at a time we slid down the tube into the cave.
Many years ago before I had a chance to get into this cave I heard someone describe it as “sporty”. I now know that “sporty” means tight and a lot of work to move around in. A good bit of the passages are tight enough I just fit chest-to-back between the walls. There are some passages that open up a little more and one fare sized room. There’s also a lot of opportunity for scrambling.
Sliding down the “cork screw” is not so bad. Just push your shoulders into the walls and slid down. But climbing back up is, well, challenging, especially for us bigger guys. All in all a well worth the effort. A great little cave to spend a hot Sunday afternoon in.
Take a look at the pictures and you’ll get an idea how tight this little cave is.

Dragon Breath Grotto Venturing Crew 9

Philadelphia Grotto

Laurel Caverns Episode 1

A few years back, in a previous life when I was a Scoutmaster, I had finally talked our Troop into going on a wild cave trip. We went to Laurel Caverns in western Pennsylvania ( This is really the ideal first time trip for Scouts to experience a dark cave tour. They supply most of what you need including the guides and the cave. They also have other activities than the dark tour like Climbing and Geology Merit Badge. They also offer a few Girl Scout badges as well.
We took the three hour dark tour. I'm trying to condense all the video into a one or two short glimpse of the tour. By the way, the kids in this video are all grow up adults now.

Meet Crew 77 Vertical Caving Team

Venturing Crew 77 is out of Edmond, OK. They've been doing vertical caving for a while and have developed a pretty good program around it. Check out their video on YouTube.

The Crew 77 caving program has been going on for about 7 years. We have explored small caves in Oklahoma, and have graduated to major caving expeditions to the Carlsbad Caverns area over spring break for the past several years. The vertical caving is a direct offshoot to our BSA rock climbing program. It combines the Single Rope Techniques we learn in climbing, and put them in a different and darker context.

We will typically have horizontal caving opportunities for younger crew members and scouts. These will have hiking and navigation opportunities in addition to very scenic and geologically important caves. Training will include trips to Oklahoma caves such as Culp Cave and the Selman Cave System in northwest Oklahoma. Professor Dr. John Bowen is our contact/liaison with UCO for access to the Selman Caves.

For crew members and scouts over 16 years of age, vertical caving is the next step in our program. We spend time in January, February, and March upgrading the participant's SRT skills from simple climbing techniques to the specific performance levels in ascending and descending ropes that enable them to safely and efficiently navigate in the vertical environment. Our minimum requirements for vertical cave proficiency are the same entrance standards that the National Cave Rescue Commission has for their entry level cave rescue training. See: and click on the Level 1 requirements for the complete 11 page PDF file. We undergo a rigorous training program in our sponsoring organization's Christian Activity Center each available Monday night for three months to provide the training and develop participant's confidence to allow a fun and safe caving adventure. Participants must also demonstrate compatibility with their caving partners, willingness to preserve all features of the karst environment visited, and an overall high level of maturity and safety-consciousness.

Our program is modeled to comply with the requirements in the BSA publication Guide to Safe Scouting at . We also subscribe to the guidelines in BSA publication Caving, No. 19-102B found at . More references to a safe youth caving program can be found in the links at . There is information there for parents and participants alike on what is expected of Venture Crew cavers.

Our base camp is typically a commercial campground in Carlsbad, New Mexico. That gives us good access to clean showers, local retail shops, and a secure car camping area so we can focus on the caving on the trip. Most food is prepared in camp, but generally there are two evening meals at restaurants in Carlsbad to unwind from and bask in the cave adventures of the day. We plan for a 10 hour drive between Edmond and Carlsbad, with a whole day of the trip dedicated to safe travel each way.

We also spend a percentage of our trip on cave restoration and conservation. The karst environment is a fragile one, and our efforts have been used to clean man's pollution in caves ranging from Virgin Cave and Hell's Below Cave in the Lincoln Nations Forrest (in partnership with the High Guadelupe Restoration Project) to the main trail through Carlsbad Cavern in the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Encore: Dragon Breath Grotto at Hershey Cave 11-18-07

Since Geocities is closing down, I have to move all my trip reports. They are in a sort of blog form, so I'll be moving them over here, one at a time.
========================================================================================The Dragon Breath Grotto ( is an Independent Youth Grotto for young men and women 14 y/o (or13 and graduated the 8th grade) to 21 y/o. This was the first official caving trip for this grotto. Most of the members have caved in one form or another before, but this was the first trip as a group. The members from Dragon Breath that were there were Paul S., John L., Dan W., and Dan G. Members of the Philadelphia Grotto who were along were Amos, Marci, Steve Gadd, and myself (Allen) who is registered in both grottos.
Hershey10-17-07 001
It was in the low thirties and slight drizzle outside as we were suiting up to go inside the cave. We were looking forward to the relatively warmer fifty-five degree cave temperature. The newer guys did well with coming up with suitable clothing for caving. Most of it did wear well, but I'm wondering how it all cleaned up.
Hershey Cave does not have a lot of climbing. There is some, but not as much as others in the same area. Mostly there is crawling. Some hands and knees crawling and some belly crawling. Some crawling seems to go on forever.
Hershey10-17-07 044
And there’s the mud. Some sticky mud and some slippery mud. The water table was low for this trip. The pit with the pool was empty and made a nice climbing exercise. Another advantage of the low water table is that all that crawling was not in 1 to 2 inches of water. Just a little muddy.
One section was a long crawl to dividing line for Coy Cave. We got up to that line and turned around. It gets really tight at that point and Coy is still off limits.
Hershey10-17-07 050
Some of the guys went through the front maze. I don’t fit, so I have to take their word for it that it was nice. Overall we were in Hershey Cave about two and half-hours.
This was a great cave for our first trip as a team and things just clicked into place. There were no issues and everyone seemed to really enjoy the challenge and the company. It seemed like every one in Dragon Breath has a friend that they’d like to bring on the next trip. We’ll have to get together and with everybody and see when and where we’ll go next. Hopefully it’ll be next month. I don’t want to wait too long before I get these guys underground again.

For more pictures from the photo album click here.
Back to Dragon Breath Grotto Venturing Crew 9 Home Page.

Encore: Corker Hill and Frustration Pit with Chester County Council VOA 2-25-06

Since Geocities is closing down, I have to move all my trip reports. They are in a sort of blog form, so I'll be moving them over here, one at a time.
Kim’s Venturing Crew had caved with Philly Grotto before. While talking with her she told me she would like to talk to and set up a caving trip for the Venturers Officers Association. She spent considerable time and effort talking to the VOA and setting up this trip for them to Frustration Pit and Corker Hill. Their plan was to meet Philly Grotto at the Morgantown McDonald’s on Saturday morning.
I’d like to say the usual were there, but we were missing a few. Steve, Hanna, Paul, and I were there. I was able to borrow an extended cab truck from a friend so we could all ride together in relative comfort. The VOA was ready to go when I got there. They had a couple people drop out at the last minute, but we still had a good group. We loaded all the grotto and personal gear in the back of the truck headed off to the caves.
When we arrived at the property, the other Steve, his son John, and his son’s friend Kevin were ready waiting, and suited up to cave. The rest of us got suited up and we handed out helmets and headlamps to the VOA and they divided themselves into two groups. One group was lead by me, Steve (the other one), John, and Kevin. We had 4 youths and an adult leader from the VOA in our group. Steve, Hanna, and Paul lead the other group with 5 youth and an adult as well. I started in Corker and Steve stared in Frustration Pit. The plan was to swap caves after a few hours.
I went first and sat at the bottom of the entrance to put light into the hole so the group could see what they were getting into. John went next and waited halfway to help guide our guests down. As our guests came down to the bottom of the entrance, they seemed a little apprehensive. One even expressed concerns of possible claustrophobia. So as they came down I talked to them and described exactly what they were going to do and see. They decided they wanted to continue and I proceeded through the pinch and to light up the next room and guide them through it. As I’m counting them coming through, my sweep, Steve, came through before I expected. Yup, one dropped out before entering the cave. I guess it’s better to decide there than in the cave.
I have unsuccessfully tried to describe this cave before, so I won’t bore you with that again. What I found inspiring was the effort of these young folks to overcome a fear and proceed, not just with enduring the trip, but with an enthusiasm of wanting to poke in every hole and thoroughly enjoying the trip. They really developed their team and helped each other through the tight stuff and over the high stuff, smiling all the way.
After a few hours we exited Corker to take a break and try Frustration Pit. What was actually kind of nice was that the folks who were not caving set up a stove and had hot drinks waiting for us. This was a real pleasant surprise.
As we went off to find Frustration Pit, one of our group decided they were too tired to try the second cave that day. It takes courage to realize and voice your limits. Of course Steve had to show them the original entrance and asked “who’s first”. As they looked down that hole and listened to his description they looked at each other then back at Steve. “Just kidding”. Off to the entrance we were going to use. As we looked in this one and described the entrance, we asked again, who’s first. This time with out hesitation the one who had expressed concerns of claustrophobia jumped in and slid down after the leader like a pro.
We covered just about every inch of that cave we knew of and pocked around a little more. John volunteered to slide in a hole none of us had been in before and shouted back reports of more cave. Next time we’ll have to look more into this part. After a few hours we exited the cave.
Over all it was a good day caving. Some people knew their limits and when to say “when”. Other’s made significant personal gains that day. I think that everyone enjoyed the day out, whether they got underground or not. These youth, being representative from different Venturing Crews, where taking back first hand information to their home Crews on planing and executing a safe, ethical, and fun caving adventure. That was my goal.

Report From Steve,

I went in first and helped guide the scouts down as they came into the front end of the Halloween room. Soon enough Hannah, who was sweeping at the time, showed up short one adult leader. We then did the standard tour of
Frustration Pit, including the cellar where we did the Wint-o-Green
Lifesaver bit. As we slowly climbed our way back up and out of the cellar, I let Paul take one of the Venture scouts, I think it was Gary, up to the bottom of the smaller entrance. They both climbed up and out.
As we got the rest of the pack up from the cellar, we all moved up to see that small opening as well. We then went to the bottom of the original entrance. Hannah chimneyed up most of the way to the top and found out exactly what makes the pit so frustrating! We then turned to exit. I let
Paul and the scouts lead. They did a fine job. Although there was a little disagreement at first when we returned to the junction room, one of them quickly pointed out that we were supposed to climb up at that point.
I was in the middle. As we moved up, a very large rock sitting on the slope decided that friction was no longer sufficient to hold it in place, and it slid a foot or so. That put it in a spot where it was more likely to fall the last little bit and hurt somebody, so we helped it over the edge once everyone was out of harm's way. Then we exited to warm beverages and a rapidly cooling wind. One other lesson learned by the scouts was that Tyvek does not good caving coveralls make.
As with your group, we lost one more scout before going in the second cave. Going down went smoothly. We poked around pretty thoroughly, seeing just about everything except the A3 lead. A couple of the scouts,
Gary and Molly (the tall, thin one), even went up into the Stairway to
Heaven with much more ease than can I. This was our last stop before exiting. Hannah (with Paul sweeping) took most of the scouts up over the rock to just below the plug hole, while I took one other guy around the way we had come. I then spotted for the scouts as they climbed over the rock and went up through the hole. Soon enough, the last scout and I were all that remained. He tried to get up through the hole about three times, but kept having difficulties. As I could hear the tension in his voice rise, I suggested he back off and watch me go up through it to see how
I moved and where I placed my legs. After I popped up and out, he went at it again, and with a little help pulling on my arm made it up and through the hole. He then went up and out, spotted below by Hannah.
Meanwhile, I rolled up the ladder and started up and out myself. We then all went quickly back to the cars, as it had gotten quite cold by that time.


For more pictures from the photo album click here.
Back to Dragon Breath Grotto Venturing Crew 9 Home Page.

Dragon Breath Grotto Caving in Central Pennsylvania 5-23-10

It’s been over a year and a half since I’ve been underground. We have some new blood in the Crew and they are ready to go,op6 too. We met up at the McDonald’s at Morgantown. Pete, Katie, Steve, and Andy were there before me. Marcy, Matt, and Andrew showed up just after I got there.
Pete’s been on two caving trips with us. Katie caved with another group once. This is the first for Matt and Andrew. Along to help out was Mindy, Steve, Andy, Ed, and Marcy, so we were well covered.
We arrived at the cave around 11 and were underground by 11:30. Took a moment to get our eyes adjusted then went to the first room. From here on in we pushed all the tight squeezes we could find. Did a little bloudering and scrambling, too. I think we covered almost every part of that cave. Over all it was over four hours and everyone was whipped by the end.
There was lots of mud on this trip. With all the rain we’ve been having and all the snow over the winter, the water table is a little high. Normally things are a little sticky and there were times when this cave was actually dry. But this time there were even standing puddles, which made it a bit more challenging and fun.

We need to compile and exchange pictures and see what everyone has. Hopefully there’s plenty to show off to friends so they can see what they missed out on. Maybe the next trip we’ll have a few more new people. If you’d like to join us, let us know.

For more pictures go here.

To Dragon Breath Grotto Venturing Crew 9 go here.

Encore: Big V Day 2007

S7301331Big V Day was an event, held by Chester County Council, BSA, that was open to the public and FREE. At this event there were several different activities that people could try. These activities were focused for the interest of High School and College aged young men and women.
I was there to promote caving, and in particular Dragon Breath Grotto, which has recently been chartered. Amos brought the Philly Grotto Squeeze box and I had set up a “dark” obstacle course. Terry was over at the C.O.P.E. Course demonstrating vertical caving skills.

In the begining a few people just walked by looking at the squeeze box kind of puzzled. I was able to talk a couple people into try it set up high at 12 inches. Once they got the knack of it, there was a continuous line to try it one more notch lower.

By the middle of the afternoon I had to take off, but we did have a three way tie for six inches. Here's a video of one of the those.

S7301317Most people did seem to enjoy it and most who tried were challenged by the tight space. I hope that some will look us up in the future and take us up on our offer to take them caving.

Here's the rest of the pictures I have for the day. Enjoy.

NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee Regional Coordinators

The purpose of an NSS Youth Regional Coordinator is to provide informational assistance to cavers, grottos, and youth group leaders so they may conduct safe and appropriate cave-related experiences. In addition to caving trips, these experiences may include presentations on ethics, geology, biology, techniques, and safety, as well as other topics of speleology.

Regional Coordinators:
  • adhere to all guidelines, policies, and requirements of the National Speleological Society (NSS).
  • adhere to all guidelines, policies, and requirements of the appropriate youth group organization.
  • treat all youth groups with equal consideration.
  • make themselves available to grottos within their region, to assist them in working with youth groups.
  • make themselves available to youth groups within their region, to assist them in conducting safe caving trips and learning about caves.
  • promote responsible caving practices for youth groups.
  • promote responsible caving practices by grottos and cavers when working with youth groups.

Regional Coordinators do not:
  • receive any certifications in horizontal or vertical caving techniques that are recognized by the NSS, and that would allow them to promote themselves as specially qualified to lead youth groups caving on behalf of the Society or for any other organization.
  • conduct activities as a Regional Coordinator.
  • have any obligation to take youth groups into caves.
  • have any obligation to give presentations to youth groups or grottos.
  • pressure grottos or cavers into working with youth groups.
  • set policy for grottos or for youth groups outside of those established by the NSS and the appropriate youth group.
  • receive compensation or require donations for time, equipment, land use, or expertise for themselves or for any other individual or organization. However, individuals who are also Regional Coordinators may decide for themselves whether to accept meals, lodging, and gas from youth groups to help offset any trip expenses they incur.
Regional Coordinators encourage youth group leaders to:
  • take youth groups into a commercial cave before entering a wild cave.
  • learn how to conduct safe and responsible wild-cave trips for youths
  • know and adhere to the national and local policies and guidelines established by their parent organization and the National Speleological Society.
  • follow responsible caving practices.
Regional Coordinators encourage grottos to:
  • develop a policy on youth group caving
    • Does the grotto take youth groups into caves?
    • Is the grotto willing to give presentations about speleology?
    • Establish a grotto contact for youth groups.
    • What, if any, equipment does the grotto provide?
    • How often will the grotto work with youth groups?
    • How, if at all, will the grotto work with the Regional Coordinator?
    • Establish any specific requirements for working with youth groups.
  • Dedicate a portion of the grotto Web site for Youth Group inquiries, including a policy statement:
    • State the grotto policy for working with youth groups
    • List a contact person (this could be the Regional Coordinator, especially if the grotto does not take youth groups caving)
    • Include a link to the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee Web site.
    • Include a link to the Youth Groups section on the NSS discussion board
    • Include a link to local commercial caves and those offering "wild" caving trips; perhaps linking to the. "Wild Cave Tours and Sightseeing Trips" section of the NSS Youth Groups Web page.

BoG Candidate's reply on Youth Group Liaison Committee

The elections for the National Speleological Society Board of Governors is coming up. I sent an open letter to all the candidates asking them for their views on the role of the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee and how they would support it if elected to the BoG. You an see in other post the reply from John Hoffelt, Bill Putman, Herman Miller, Jay Clark, and Gary Bush.

Even though I posted this invitation to comment on Cave Chat and emailed each candidate individually, I have not, as of the time of writing this post, heard from;
John LaMar Cole 35457RE
Debra Young 44886RE
Dr. Dean Wiseman 32690RL

I hope this has helped members understand the candidates position on youth groups and caving and will help you in your decision for electing the next Board of Governors of the National Speleological Society.

BoG Candidate Wm. Gary Bush's reply on Youth Group Liaison Committee

The elections for the National Speleological Society Board of Governors is coming up. I sent an open letter to all the candidates asking them for their views on the role of the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee and how they would support it if elected to the BoG. I'm posting their replies in no particular order.

Your question about the Youth Group Liaison Committee’s role has special interest to me. One of your predecessors in the Chair position was my good friend, Jack Hissong. Jack passed away this past January. He had a very strong interest in working with and training youth groups in responsible caving. No doubt, his long association and efforts with the Boy Scouts fed his passion for the topic. Jack started the Youth Group training in the Greater Cincinnati Group and expanded its scope to lead scores of scout and youth group trips every year. Many were combined on matching weekends, so we could accommodate more groups. Jack recognized that the youth groups would be turning out many of our future NSS members. Once he became Chair of the YG Committee he did attempt to disseminate his information. But, I must admit, I don’t know how successful that was.

A real strength of the GCG YG training is a comprehensive and consistent program given to each group before, during, and after their trips. He, or one of us trained by him, would go out to each youth group several weeks in advance of their trips to give a slide presentation and discuss overall equipment and behavioral requirements for safe and fun caving. We’d go back to them just a few days prior to their trip for an equipment check-out and review. We’d have enough trip leaders to ensure adequate coverage for the group’s size. Trips were set for caves equal to the group’s age and experience. After their trip, we’d go back and discuss their reactions and/or any problems they may’ve had during the weekend. The basic elements of Jack’s program are still used by GCG today, some 30 years later.

I’m relating the history of Jack’s efforts because I saw it as a really effective way to meet the needs of both the youth groups and the NSS. The kids who came through these weekends had a good and safe trip and they gained valuable information about caves, caving, and the cave life. Hopefully, those who later served as adult youth leaders passed on what they’d learned.

My vision for your committee would include development of a consistent youth group orientation program curriculum, similar to what Jack developed. It would include discussion topics, related information for the adult leaders, and perhaps a basic slide or Powerpoint presentation for local grottos to start with for their programs. The Vertical Section did this for both Basic and Intermediate Vertical Training programs for grottos. Hopefully, a more consistent message would then be presented across the country to ensure all major topics and talking-points are presented to the young cavers.

With a few email requests to the major grottos I’m sure a wide range of existing programs could be assembled. Your committee could compile the best of the best into a common curriculum to serve as an outline, realizing of course, that regional changes might be required for the differences faced locally. Holding regional workshops would be an additional way to spread a consistent message to grotto leaders who currently don’t have a youth group program.

Once you have a chance to discuss this idea with your committee and settle on a direction for your efforts, I’d provide as much support as I could gather on the Board to help you complete your plans. Discussions with the JSS Chair could also benefit both committees.

I’d be glad to discuss this idea further, if you’d like.

Thanks again for your request,

BoG Candidate Jay Clark's reply on Youth Group Liaison Committee

The elections for the National Speleological Society Board of Governors is coming up. I sent an open letter to all the candidates asking them for their views on the role of the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee and how they would support it if elected to the BoG. I'm posting their replies in no particular order.

I see education and conservation as 2 of our main goals. Education starts at a young age and never ends. Proper education teaches conservation. Many youth groups have misconceptions about caves and the critters therein- that may have seen the descent and think there are creatures who reside there. I am in favor of starting cave education and conservation at a young age. I am the preserve manager for Tumbling Rock cave for the SCCi and we seen a great deal of traffic from young groups. I and the other manager work with each group to teach them about the cave and cave life. I am also in favor of trying to recruit new members from the ranks of weekend cavers who are not affiliated with any organized group. I am against openly advertising and trying to solicit members off the street to join a caving group. My feeling is that there are an infinite number of potential cavers or “spelunkers” and only a finite number of caves, so confine our efforts to those who will enjoy and respect our resources. Education at a young age can perhaps prevent vandalism, accidents or other problems. I would see your group working with scouts and outdoor groups at schools or church groups to encourage trips to caves where they could get the experience without causing any overuse problems. Unfortunately access is becoming a problem because of the WNS problems and again education plays a big role here. I have been on the Board before and I don’t recall any issues with the Youth Group coming up then. I am a lawyer and specialize in defending people who get sued. I do risk management for non-profit groups. I am reluctant to have the NSS assume any risk that it should not for a lot of reasons and would not be in favor of the NSS sponsoring trips for youth groups without analyzing the recreational use statutes of the State where the trip was to take place. I have and will continue to give advice to such groups on potential legal issues. I am in favor of representatives of your group giving educational talks to various groups and going on trips—not leading as such. I hope this answers your inquiry. Jay Clark

BoG Candidate Herman Miller's reply on Youth Group Liaison Committee

The elections for the National Speleological Society Board of Governors is coming up. I sent an open letter to all the candidates asking them for their views on the role of the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee and how they would support it if elected to the BoG. I'm posting their replies in no particular order.

I feel that educating and involving our youth is paramount to our goals in the NSS and even having a Youth Group Liaison Committee (YGLC) should hint at such. I believe the YGLC should offer direction and advisement to the local grottoes whom ultimately either involve local youth or don't. At a national level I feel the YGLC could offer a voice to other organizations whose primary purpose is in getting our youth outside and away from the . If elected I would like to offer further support to both the YGLC and the JSS as I have already stated I feel our youth is our key to future success of the NSS and of our goals.
Herman Miller NSS# 55273SU BOG Candidate 2010

BoG Candidate Bill Putman's reply on Youth Group Liaison Committee

The elections for the National Speleological Society Board of Governors is coming up. I sent an open letter to all the candidates asking them for their views on the role of the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee and how they would support it if elected to the BoG. I'm posting their replies in no particular order.

I believe the YGLC is a critical component of the NSS outreach efforts. I began my caving career as a Boy Scout, and we had no input or guidance form the NSS. We managed, but we could have been safer, better equipped, and more conservation=oriented if we had had some guidance. The YGLC has waxed and waned in effectiveness over the years. Overall, however, we have come a long, long way. Bill Steele knows all about that, since he has been an executive with BSA. Many good volunteers have made this progress possible. There are also many other groups that need our guidance - schools, churches, and summer camps, for example, often feature caving trips in the summer months.

It is a fact, however, that the leaders of youth organizations change over time, requiring near-constant communication and reinforcement of the contacts between the NSS and the youth organizations regarding safe caving practices. Youth group caving liaison activities are an essential component of promoting safe and responsible caving, and educating the public about the value and special nature of caves.

We are in the midst of a very difficult financial situation, but one things we must support and perhaps even expand is our outreach efforts, not just for youth organizations but to all non-NSScavers. While other areas may have to suffer decreased support and activity, I do not want to see the key areas of outreach and education scaled back. I would rather see them expanded, because I believe in the long term they will benefit not just caves and caving, but the NSS as well, by increasing our member base.
Bill Putnam, NSS 21117 RL/FE

BoG Candidate John Hoffelt's reply on Youth Group Liaison Committee

The elections for the National Speleological Society Board of Governors is coming up. I sent an open letter to all the candidates asking them for their views on the role of the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee and how they would support it if elected to the BoG. I'm posting their replies in no particular order.

I do thank you for your contact and concern for support to youth groups. As for all organizations, the future of the NSS lies with the youth and upcoming generations; otherwise, we stagnate, grow old, and wither away. It is critical that we support parents and group leaders that are interested in showing youth proper and safe cave techniques and appropriate conservation ethics. Literally, the efforts we expend and invest today are the dividends and future we reap tomorrow. These dividends, if invested wisely in our youth, will reap benefits far beyond yours and my tenure in the organization.

The NSS should continue to provide information and local contacts to youth groups interested in learning about caves and in experiencing the great wonders of going underground. Our primary focus should be to facilitate and assist those groups to find appropriate and qualified cave leaders and mentors. Clearly, we should integrate information sources and efforts between the Youth Groups Committee and other committees in the Education Division. I would certainly be interested in learning what efforts or changes you recommend for the Youth Group Liaison Committee.

Again, thank you for your interest in this matter, and please contact me if you wish to discuss the issue further.

John Hoffelt
NSS 20058F

The North East Region 6 Venturing Quest 2010 Caving Demonstration

It actually turned out to be a pleasant day. A little chilly, especially in the morning, but the sun stayed out and warmed up a little in the afternoon.S7305312

This year it was at Horseshoe Scout Reservation which is part of Chester County Council, BSA. Back in the old days when I was a Scoutmaster, this is where our Troop went to summer camp. This weekend it was transformed to accommodate over 400 Venturers and their leaders. The theme for the weekend was “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. There were a lot of activities for these high school aged people to do from a climbing wall, zip line, Velcro walk, rang shooting, cooking and a mess of other things to my little old caving demo. Of course I loaded up the squeeze box along with the “cave in a box”, my laptop, and brochures from the National Speleological Society and Bats Conservancy International.

As usual the squeeze box became a hit and the competition for the smallest squeeze was in full swing. Not to bore you with all the details here, just look at the pictures and the video. You’ll see how much fun we all had.
It was really good to see and catch up with some old friends and it was good meet new friends I made that day.

Vertical Caving Skills

OK, so you’ve done a few wild caves. Belly crawled in the mud, squeezed through the keyholes, chimneyed horizontal cracks. What’s next?
Vertical Caving adds a whole new dimension to the sport. You’ve seen those drops. Twenty or 30 feet or more. There are no handholds to climb in and out. But if you could climb a rope, that would work. You’re going to leave your rock climbing skills behind and join in a new group of “pit bouncers”.
Vertical Caving is where you rappel down a on a rope and climb back on a rope. There’s special equipment and skills needed to do this safely and efficiently. While there are some BSA Climbing Instructors and Climbing Directors that are vertical cavers and they can teach you these skills, generally it is better to find and join a Grotto (local chapter of the National Speleological Society) that has a strong vertical training and practice program. They will teach you what you need to know and will give you opportunities to practice and hone these skills above ground so when your looking into the abyss of your first in cave drop you really do know what your doing.
You will have to purchase some new gear. But don’t do that right away. Talk to the folks who will be teaching you. Heed their recommendations. Lean how to make your own harness from webbing. Learn the basics of ascending with prussic knots.
You know not all caves are the same. The same goes for drops. There are different types of vertical caving gear that are more ideal for some drops than others. All vertical cavers have their favorite setup and it may not be the same as the next caver. But luckily most cavers will explain why they chose what they did and most will let you try they have set up so you can get a good sampling of what you would like to purchase first. But again, listen to the advice of these experienced cavers. Find out what they would prefer for the specific drop they will be taking you to first.
Once you do your first in cave drop you be hooked in a whole new aspect caving and enter in whole new worlds you’ve never been in before, nor would be able to get there without these vertical caving skills.

Suggested links:
To find a local Grotto, go the National Speleological Society’s web page and click on “FIND A LOCAL CAVING CLUB”

A forum to read and asks question about vertical caving go to the “On Rope” forum at

BSA Climbing Instructor Course

Anyone who is 18 y/o or older and getting involved with BSA Troops and Crews caving should consider taking the BSA Climbing and Rappelling Instructor Course. I know what you’re thinking; climbing and caving are two different activities. And I’ll add that they are similar and I’d like to explain my thoughts on this.
Those of you who have done wild cave trips understand that there is a fare bit of crawling and squeezing into cracks and holes. There is also a fair amount of scrambling over breakdown, climbing over boulders, and chimining through cracks. In climbing terms this may resemble “bouldering”. Bouldering occurs where you need to spot someone who is not climbing more than shoulder high. There is no need for a belay while doing this. Sometimes you’ll be faced with having to belay someone who is climbing higher than you can safely spot them. When belaying you must to be anchored so you don’t get pulled off balance and fall yourself.
The BSA Climbing Instructors Course teaches you the basics and theory behind safe anchoring of a belayer, climber, and rappeler. It also teaches how to quickly asses when a belay is and is not necessary. Even though you may not have a caving activity that requires a Climbing Instructor to be present, the Climbing Instructor Course will give you the tools and skills to tell the difference between when you do and do not need a Climbing Instructor.
As a BSA Unit any time a rope or webbing is used for a climbing aid you must have someone with current “Climb On Safely” training present. Anytime more than one Unit or your friend from another Troop or Crew comes along with your Troop or Crew you will need to have a BSA Climbing Instructor.

Taking the BSA Climbing Instructor is not all that hard either. Most Councils offer this course sometime during the year. If not, check a neighboring Council for courses. It’s generally a two weekend course. You walk away with a lot of material and a better understanding on what you will need to do to be safe while on rope. This is not a “how to rock climb” course, but a “how to safely climb and rappel” course. And like most BSA courses it’s a lot of fun, you get to meet some great people and gain some incredible recourses.

NSS Youth Group Liaison Regional Coordinator for NCA and OVR

The National Speleological Society Youth Group Liaison Committee ( is connecting this generation of cave explorers and the next through youth groups seeking to include the sciences and arts of speleology and cave exploration in their program, by involving the Regional Coordinators, partners, associates, and Grottos.

We are developing the position of Regional Coordinator. There is an opening for a Regional Coordinator in the Ohio Valley Region and the Northwest Caving Association. This person will connect safe and ethical cavers and youth groups together. You can read what a Regional Coordinator does and does not do on our web site at .

If you are, or know a person who cares for the quality of youth group programs. They may be cavers that are already involved with programs such as Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, Boys and Girls Club, 4-H, Awanna, and others. I'd like to strongly encouraging each NSS Region to make this Regional Coordinator a part of your Section's make up.

The next generation of cavers depend on what they experience now.

Allen Maddox
NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee, Chair

New Mexico has a new Regional Coordinator

Deanna Younger is the new Regional Coordinator for the Southwestern Region of the NSS Youth Group Liaison Committee. Deanna has a lot of enthusiasm when it comes to caving as well as helping youth organizations with their caving program. Got questions about getting your youth group underground in New Mexico, check out

Let's Move

This sounds like we need to get more kids out caving :-)

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Brandywine Red Clay Summer Camp Caving Trip 2019

Every year I take kids from the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance Summer Camp Program on a cave exploring trip. I look forward to this trips ever...