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Flight Goes Caving

This is a guest post from Christopher Edenbo. Chris is the Chair and Youth Group Liaison for the York Grotto in Pennsylvania.. Chris works at the Diakon Wilderness Center, a part of Diakon Youth Services, which has been a leading provider of specialized services for children and youths from across Pennsylvania. Primarily serving at-risk youths referred by county juvenile probation departments or children and youth services.

I arranged to take the students from one of our programs at work caving. This program is the youth-aging-out-program for young men who are out of high school and still looking for help to beat their tough backgrounds. All of these young men in their past have stood before a judge as a juvenile and received some sort of punishment. Now they are in a program called Flight, to which they had to apply, and be accepted. The Flight program requires of them that they get out of their communities and help others in the greater world through community service projects and outreach. It requires of them that they push themselves and support each other in tough situations. Caving fits in nicely to their yearly plans. Each student in return receives experiences that help them broaden their world view. They receive support finding a job, and in transitioning into a life independent of the families who may not have been there as much as they would have liked. They receive support applying for a college or a trade school. In general they receive a life coach and a hell of a good brotherhood.

Many of these same boys came through programs in which they went caving with me to Carnegie or to Wind Cave. Some of them have even been to Peipers. Last year I took this group to McAlisterville Cave where I pushed them a bit too far past their comfort zone when we went through the Rabbit Hole and traversed that fissure passage. But several of them returned for this year’s caving outing. So I asked around for suggestions for where to bring them. It was Andrew Filer of York Grotto who pointed me toward Whitings Neck Cave in Berkeley County, West Virginia. It’s the sacrificial cave for the D.C. area. It is the Carnegie for Tri-State Grotto. It sounded perfect. I punched in the name of the cave on YouTube and found plenty of amateur videos showing pretty darn close to the exact location, and what people do in there. It looked good for my purposes.

I met them at their lodge on Saturday morning of the 25th. We went over the plan for the day. I handed out supplies for them. (I provided coveralls, helmets, boots, knee pads, lights, gloves). We jumped in vehicles. By 9:30 we were in the parking lot of Yankauer Nature Preserve, North of Martinsburg. We dressed, and walked the road to the dirt path off of Carlysle Road, and walked up that to the cave entrance. I sent a text message to our top cover, Rob Kivlan at 10:30 announcing that we were entering the cave. We were out by 12:20. By my math that was just over 2 hours travelling and just under 2 hours in the cave. I’m cool with that.

We entered the South entrance, found the ladders in the 20’ room to be quite adequate. We moved through the crawls to the large room. There we ducked below into the first drop room. I went ahead to scout. I then brought two students with me and we made a loop. We chose not to exit the cave with a through trip because I did not want to match the skill required for the passage as I saw it with the lesser skill of some of my students. We took a break at the 40’ repel where we sat in the dark and shared some stories while relaxing. Then we headed out the way we came.

While in the cave we saw 2 other groups. The first was a group of 5 from JMU. The second was a “meet up group” of 12 folks who met online in a forum. The meet up was sponsored by a company who supplied everyone with similar cloths to what I supplied my boys with. This meet up group was an eclectic group from D.C.

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If You Just Had One Caving Book To Read

You're going to read only one book on caving it must be “Caving Basics; A Comprehensive Guide for Beginner Cavers” edited by G. Thomas Rea. There are other good books on caving, but this covers a wide verity of aspects and disciplines in caving and is written by experts in those fields. The topics are not only covered well but explained with the beginner in mind just getting interested in the subject.

This is a great book to use for the Cave Exploration Elective for the Venturing Ranger Award


1 Carbide or Electric Lighting - Donald G. Davis
2 The Carbide Lamp - Donald G. Davis
3 Electric Lighting Systems for Caving - Tom Kaye
4 Cave Lamp Battery Charging - Ray Cole
5 Additional Light Sources - Jim Pisarowicz
6 Your Caving Helmet - Jim Pisarowicz
7 Cave Packs - Alan Williams
8 Caver’s Clothing and Insulation - Thomas Miller
9 The Selection, Use, and Care of Ropes for Caving - Kyle Isenhart
10 General Equipment for Each Caver - Ed LaRock
11 Caving Safely - Ray Cole
12 Driving to the Cave - Tom Rea
13 Moving Through a Cave - Roger W. Bruker
14 Fitness and Nutrition - Louise Hose
15 First Aid - Ellen Carol
16 Single Rope Techniques – Vertical Caving - William Storage
17 Cave Conservation - Mark Laing
18 Land Owner Relations - Bill Tozer
19 Risk Management for Cavers and Cave Owners - Joel Stevenson
20 Reading Cave Maps - Langford G. Brod, Jr.
21 Reading Topographical Maps - Tom Rea
22 Locating Caves on Topographical Maps - Tom Rea
23 Electronics in Caving - Frank Reid
24 Why You Should Join an Organized Caving Group - David McClurg
25 The Geology of Caves - John E. Mylroie and William B. White
26 An Introduction to Biospelology - William R. Wlliott
27 Archeology in Caves

This edition was last updated in 1992. The last 20 years has seen some fantastic advancement in technology that affects much of the equipment used by cavers. Clothing materials, electronics, batteries in particular, and an assortment of new devices used in current caving practices are not mentioned. It is due for an update and I’ve heard rumblings of one in the works, but that’s only rumors. I do hope this is updated soon to keep it on top of the list of “must reads” for cavers, both experienced and novice.

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Wanna Play With the Squeeze Box?

No, not that Squeeze Box!!
A Squeeze Box is a device that is designed, built, and used by cavers to practice and determine how small of a space we can get into. While this is originally intended as a tool to be use for serious preparation for cave exploration it is also a source of entertaining competition that can get impassioned.
Squeeze Box Collage 02
The basic squeeze box is just two parallel “walls” that lay horizontal. The bottom one is fixed and the top one is adjustable up and down in one quarter inch increments. The one we use is about four feet wide by 6 feet long. This is large enough to encompass most people.
There are many variations on the squeeze box. Some are larger, some have turns, some have obstacles between the two walls, and some are even vertical. I have some ideas of my own that someday I’ll implement, but for now what we use is relatively easy to transport and set up and help novices to understand what they are really capable of achieving.
Squeeze Box Collage 01

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CLIF Kids Backyard Games

From the makes of the CLIF Bar, a contest to get kids outside and having fun... Share with kids 6 to 12 y/o and enjoy...

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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...