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After You've Caved a Mile in His Boots, Then You Can...

Phillip Rykwalder wrote an excellent article on "Cave Now" about BOOTS ( He says that when asked what to wear when caving his first answer is "boots".

Good Answer.
I've not thought about that as the number one answer until now. After all when we take Scouts and other youth groups caving we supply helmets and lights. The rest of the gear they must supply themselves. So he's saying not worry about the helmet and light, I'm taking care of and worrying about that. Here's your number one concern for personal safety equipment. BOOTS!!

What He Said!!
He goes on to explain, "The correct footwear can literally save you underground. Boots offer great traction to save you from spills, slips and falls - and the wrong footwear leaves you more prone to all of the above. Caves are full of mud, loose rocks and crumbly dirt that are properly dealt with by footwear with deep, open lugs and a firm (but compliant) sole. Overly soft shoes (tennis shoes/sneakers) don’t grip the dirt, while overly rigid boots (mountaineering boots) don’t flex around obstacles to grip them and equally as bad...."

I've also found that the deep open lugs can release mud better that sneakers. After a while caving in sneakers they get so caked with mud you're literally walking on mud to mud which has no traction.  Your chance of a slip and fall dramatically increases at this point.

What Else Is There??
Phillip goes on to talk about the different types of footwear, both good and bad, that folks take in caves. Hiking boots, tennis shoes, military / desert storm boots, cleats, and mountaineering boots are covered and his opinions and observations are very well thought out and informative. One that I've been asked about that Phillip didn't cover is rock climbing shoes. To that I'd say NO! Once they get muddy there's no traction and they don't really protect your feet from the abuse that a cave offers. Cave walls are generally wet which will reduce your friction as well. Maybe Phillip will give his opinion on rock climbing shoes.

Wanna Know What I Think??
I did write an article about cave cloths which included footwear. You can read it here I do have my personal preference as well. But then it all depends on the cave.
Generally these days I wear a rubber boot. I use to wear work boots, hiking boots, and jungle jump boots. They all worked very well, at least when new. These days caving gear needs to be thoroughly cleaned and decontaminated. Leather and nylon just does not hold up well to this. I was destroying boots not because of the abuse in the cave but the abuse in the cleaning and decon process.
I bought a pair of cheap rubber boots. They seem to hold up in the cave and clean up really nice. Most of them are designed to be used in a wet, muddy stable cleaning up poop without slipping. Huumm, sound familiar??

Read It At Cave Now..
If you haven't already, read Phillip's article Let me know what you think with a comment below, I'd be glad to hear from you and will try to answer all comments. Click on the "share" button below and share this with your friends. And if you haven't already, in the upper right column subscribe to YOUcave's eNewsletter and get each article sent to your email inbox.



Take nothing but picture, leave nothing but well placed footprints, kill nothing but time.” – cavers’ creed

I ‘m a Dirty Boy

I was looking through my notes and realized I never told you all about my adventure with Troop 8 from Downingtown, PA ( Yeah, I know. Troop 8 meets in Gutheriesville at the Township Building, but more people know Downingtown, PA. Or do they???

The Cave Talk
I was invited to go talk to them at one of Troop 8’s meetings. All my gear and other stuff I had to carry up to the second floor, but it was worth it. These guys were great to be around. They asked questions and put up with my talk about cave geology and biology. They just wanted the adventure and get underground. That’s normal for this age group.

The Cave
We went to one of our favorite caves and distributed helmets and lights and suited up. Heading inside and up to the first room they soon understood what I was talking about when I told them to maintain three points of contact. We divided into smaller groups and headed on into different parts of the cave.

The guys in my group you could tell had done high adventure together before. They joked and ribbed each other, but they watched out for each other, too. They moved well together as a team. This is critical when caving and they got it and did it.

I could tell you all about the details from the whole trip, but it’s just better to watch the two clips I’ve included to see how well they did while having fun. Hopefully they’ll want to do this again. Maybe we can find a slightly more difficult cave for them next time.

Dirty Boy???
Oh yeah, the title??? You have to watch the videos to understand.

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Take nothing but picture, leave nothing but well placed footprints, kill nothing but time.” – cavers’ creed

Girl Scouts in Service to the Lewis and Clark Caverns

This article was originally posted on the Caving News on 11/7/12. This is re-posted with permission.

Picture From Hungry Horse News

A local Girl Scout troop recently ventured underground to help clean up Montana’s Lewis and Clark Caverns.
Lewis and Clark Caverns, the main attraction of a state park of the same name, have been open for tourists off and on for more than a century. During the years lint from thousands of visitors has accumulated inside the cave.
Comprised of clothing fibers, hair, dead skin cells, dust, and other foreign objects, the build up of lint negatively impact the cave environment by interfering with formation growth, and adding an artificial food source for cave life.
Equipped with toothbrushes, dustpans, brushes and garbage bags the Girl Scouts worked meticulously removing the unnatural deposits.
"It was so satisfying to me to look up from my own meticulous work and see the headlamps of our troop scattered about this amazing place, all intent on their chosen area," - Ann Brooks, Girl Scout Troop 3964 Leader

Here's the link to the original post  

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Three Stitches Later

A Little History With Crew 94
I had met some of the members ofVenturing Crew 94 when we all went to Phenomenon 2012 this pastspring. Some of us from Dragon Breath Grotto Venturing Crew 9, andVenturing Crew 23, along with Venturing Crew 94 went there with theSqueeze Box to promote caving to other Venturing Crews. You can checkout that trip report and pictures here.

Over the summer Our Crew and Crew 94did a geocaching trip in Center City Philadelphia. Again over the summer when I went tothe Chester County Council Powder Horn to talk about the VenturingCave Exploring Elective I ran into a few of my friends from Crew 94again. Christen attended one of my sessions there and decided thatCrew 94 needed to do an actual caving trip. So I was a littlesurprised when Salina, who I had not met before, contacted me about acaving trip.

The Cave Talk
A week or so ago Damian and I went to aCrew 94 meeting to talk about caving and what to expect and how toprepare for it. Like most of these talks we had fun talking andmeeting people and convincing them that it was a fun and safeactivity.

The Caving Trip
The day of the trip we all met up atour standard meeting place. Eight of them showed up. I was glad thatKatrina was with them as she has caved with our Crew a couple oftimes before. Damian was also there to help out and give a hand whereneeded. I can’t get past here without mentioning that Amos wasthere as well and these caving trips would just not go as smooth orsafe without him.

We arrived at the cave about 11:30 andsuited up. Everybody fit their helmets and checked their lights andwe went inside the main entrance to talk and get our eyes adjusted tothe cave.

Everybody did really well with gettingup to the main breakdown room. We talked for a little more andrechecked everyone’s gear. Amos suggested we get our “cave legs”.We headed towards the back of the cave using as much walking passageas we could. We went through our first squeeze and did real well. Wehad one person discover she is claustrophobic. Amos quickly adaptedtheir route to help her gain some confidence while the others playedin the backroom exploring more passage.

We went through another squeeze exitingthat room and everyone did very well. Some I would even sayexceptional. Standing in large passage now one by one they climbingover a big bolder to head on into the next challenge.

Then It Happened
I was sweeping at this point and stoodback a little to give Barb, Crew 94’s Associate Advisor, some roomto maneuver as she was doing exceptional with all the squeezes andclimbs. That’s when Amos yells, “Grab her, grab her!” I wasjust too far away and in too awkward position to get in place to stopher fall. Barb hit hard. As she lifted herself up I saw blood comingfrom her eyebrow.

By that point Amos was down there withus and we had her sit right where she was to asses her wound. Thefirst aid kit cam out and we cleaned her up and bandaged her the bestwe could at that point. Barb said she was OK, but we didn’t want totake her word for it. Not in a cave. We all exited the cave with me,then Barb, then Amos in the lead.

Outside we were better able to take alook at her eye. We spent a little more time cleaning it up and put abutterfly on it. Barb thought she would be OK with the butterfly, butwe insisted she go to the ER to have it looked at. Bill, the Advisorfor Crew 94, drove her and they were off.

We were all just a little shook bythis. Barb and Bill insisted that Amos and I take the kids back inand continue the caving trip. Everyone seemed a little quiet enteringthe cave again. We went back to the “key hole” and soon everyonewas joking and laughing again. We explored the cave some more andbefore we realized it, it was 4:00 and we started heading out oncemore.

We took the obligatory muddy picturesand walked back to the cars. Barb and Bill were there waiting. Barbwas sporting three stitches on her eyebrow with some swelling thereand on here cheek. None of that seemed to spoil her mood. We alldecided it was time to get something to eat, changed into out streetclothes and set out to find a place we could all sit, relax and grubout.

Now that it’s all over I haveaccident and incident reports to file. This is the first time we’veexperienced an accident inside a cave on one of these youth grouptrips. I received and email from Barb and she is doing OK. She wassore and apologizing for spoiling the trip. Of course she didn’tspoil it, but it was a wake up call for how quickly things can go badand that we need to be ready for this and diligent to prevent them.

Will We Do It Again?
Crew 94 only saw about half, if that,of the cave. They want to go back and see the rest. Even after thatthey are all looking to get back underground as soon as they can. Iam too. A few of them want to work on earning the Venturing CaveExploring Elective. I think they are hooked.

If you'd like to see more pictures from this trip please take a look at my photo album.

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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...