Saturday, April 3, 2010

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” www.caves.org.

A forum to read and asks question about vertical caving go to the “On Rope” forum at http://www.forums.caves.org/viewforum.php?f=5&sid=53b1fdd4ec8eb1c8bd2000101e2f61e5.

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