Monday, February 25, 2013

JSS at NSS Convention 2013

I’m going to be helping with the Junior Speleological Society program during the NSS Convention this year. In addition to all the great caving trips there have been a lot of good activities over the years. The themed trips like “Caving with the President” have been popular. The “Early Bird Science” programs and “Vertical Instruction and Practice” were also popular. There were also non-caving events like the JSS BBQ, the Swim Party, Movie Night, and an assortment of day hikes and trips.

1999 Schedule

2000 Schedule

2001 Schedule


2002 Schedule

2003 Schedule

2004 Schedule

2005 Schedule

2006 Schedule

2007 Schedule

2008 Schedule








I would like to hear from those who have participated in any of these programs. I would like to know what your one favorite activity was. Just pick one, if you can. The one activity you are really looking forward to doing again. If your kids are not on the list, please ask them and reply here for them. What was it that made it your favorite activity? Even if they are no longer a kid but had a great experience at JSS years ago. What did you get out of it or bring away from it?
I’m looking forward to hearing input especially from the kids. It’s their program. I’d like to see them participate and enjoy their week at Convention 2013.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Bright Idea For Caving

Cavers' Headlamps
Philip Rykwalder wrote an excellent review on caver headlamps on his blog post for Cave Now (http://cavenow.com/?p=1401). I’d like to invite you to read this before you read my post here. I’ll wait…..

You Get What You Pay For
Philip does cover a wide range of lamps in his article. The high end ones are generally for cavers who do cave a lot. Yes they are expensive, but they do last. In the long run they are not that much more expensive than other cheaper lights by the time you start replacing them. There is this notion that light is important while in the cave. It is considered necessary life support of equipment. If it fails you have a big problem. Reliability is very important. You do want a light that will not fail for the duration of your trip. You want to be able to see well for the whole of the trip.

What Can You Afford to Pay For?
If you are a first time caver or supplying a dozen lights to a youth group for a trip are you going to be able or willing to spend this kind of money? Maybe not. The mid range lights are good for this purpose. Youth Groups will be going in mostly easier caves for shorter duration trips than the avid caver. You may not need 10 hours of dependable light. But don’t go too cheap.
A cheap light will have inherited problems because of it’s construction and design. Lower lumens means that maybe it’s good for watching where your feet and hands go, but much more than 20 feet and you’ll have difficulty seeing things. If you’re in a room that’s 50 feet across and just as high, you will not be able to see your route out of that room. Poor design may not reflect a wide enough beam to see what’s ahead of you, at your feet and sides at the same time. This tunnel vision effect is disturbing and promotes claustrophobia while performing tasks like climbing a large breakdown. The housing and electronics may not endure the harsh cave environment. If you bang it on a wall or ceiling is it going to break or hold up? If you accidently get dunked is it going to short out and die while you’re climbing back up a muddy slope?
Yes you may only want something for your first 3 hour caving trip, but that light could make the difference between an exciting adventure and a miserable experience.

If you are a youth group leader, don’t risk your kids welfare on a $15 convenience store flashlight. If you can't buy then borrow or rent at least a mid range headlamp. If your Grotto is buying a stash of lights for beginners or youth groups, buy lights that you are not going to have to replace every other trip.

How Many?
And remember to always carry at least 3 independent sources of light with at lease one mounted to your helmet. With any one of these three light sources you should be able to see enough to exit the cave.


Please subscribe to the YOUCave email list. Tweet us at @youcave. Check us out on Face Book and Google+. And share us with your friends. If you ask a question in the comment section I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.


Thanks,
Allen

“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but well placed footsteps, kill nothing but time.” – cavers’ creed

National Speleological Society Youth Group Liaison Committee. The youth group’s connection to caves and caving.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Young Cavers’ Challenge

What To Do With Kids That Outgrow Thier Sandbox
Dragon Breath Grotto Venturing Crew 9 is a caving focused Venturing Crew. I’ve been taking these kids caving for a while now. We’ve hit just about every beginner cave with them that we can get into. They have been very helpful when we take other Boy Scout Troops and Venturing Crews underground. But I think they are capable of doing so much more. I want to challenge them to stretch their caving skills and see what more will open up to them if they push themselves. I needed to find a cave that we would enjoy and test them. Frankly, they’re flexibility, endurance, ability to climb and squeeze was surpassing my own. I needed to make sure they were with experienced cavers that were far better than I am and can push them further than I can.

Calling Out the Big Dogs
I consulted with my friends from Philly Grotto, Amos Mincin and Andy Field. There is a cave out near Lewistown, PA that might fit the bill. They both have been throughout this cave. They’ve been in places in this cave that I’ve not been able to get to yet. So I presented this idea to Catie and Alex. I told them about the challenges they would face. The one big challenge was getting the trip to reality. They needed to pick a date that they both would be available. As Catie was away at college this needed to be over a school break and still make sure Amos, Andy and I are available and we can get permission to enter the cave.

After about a month of planning and going back and forth on dates we finally had it pulled together. January 5, 2013 was going to be the day for a great caving trip.

The More the Better
Meanwhile we had a couple other kids climbing up in caving ability. Gretchen had only been on a few trips but showed more than enough natural abilities. Damian was getting better and better with each trip. We decided to bring them along. Catie asked to bring Peter along too. She said he was accomplished in rock climbing and other outdoor high adventure activities. At a Philly Grotto meeting Andy suggested that Gianni come along too. He’s a very accomplish caver and would be an asset on this trip. Now we had a good crew of cavers ready to get underground.

Let's Go Caving
The day of the trip was normal. We all met up in the morning to carpool out to the cave. Everyone was eager to get going. We made the two hour drive to where we would park to go to the cave. The ground was snow covered and it was cold. Getting suited up went quick and we tramped on down to the cave gate.

Andy had it unlocked by the time I arrived and Amos and Catie were already inside. One at a time Peter, Gretchen, Damian, Alex, Gianni and Andy entered. I was last and locked the gate behind us. Underground at last. As I descended down the slop the stable cave temperate of 55 was warming me up. It had been over a year since I was in this cave and I forgot how much I enjoyed its challenges.
I wanted to document this trip as much as I possibly could. I tried an assortment of cameras for this. I had a helmet cam, a pocket video camera, my old digital still camera and my iPhone in a protected case. With as much as I test this equipment before hand something always quits working. The digital still camera must have reached the end of life on the ride there. It just did not want to take pictures. Later on I found out how poorly the helmet cam works underground. It’s difficult to aim and needs a lot of light. Being cheap doesn’t help either as the sound just did not work well at all. But I did get some pictures from my iPhone and pocket video camera. At least I had something.

What They Got To Do
We got to play on “the slide” and in the hole at the bottom of the slide. Climbing out was fun. Peter and Catie I was not keeping up with at all. Alex and Gretchen I saw every once in a while. Damian was doing better than I thought he would be able to do. I was so impressed with all of them and thankful I had Andy, Amos and Gianni there to guide, teach and help them push their limits safely.
At one point I handed my pocket video cam to Alex because I knew I was not going to be able to go where they were headed. I wanted some pictures of what they were doing.

Pictures to Prove It
The videos can be found on YouTube here, here, here, here and here. Please rate them and leave a comment. And of couse the stills are here

Headin' Out
Damian and I were the first to exit the cave. Tired, cold and wet we changed and started warming up in the car while we waited for the others. But we didn't wait long when right after us Gretchen and Gianni were walking up the hill. Gretchen was exhausted but grinning ear to ear and covered in mud. Then moments later Andy, Amos, Peter, Catie and Alex walked up through the trees. They too were tired but energized by the trip.
We stopped at our normal pizza place, devoured three large pies and talked and talked. They all seemed to have a great time and wanted to do it again, later of course. So we need to find another cave they would enjoy. Maybe over another school break we can get them all together again. Sounds like a good plan to me.


Please subscribe to the YOUCave email list. Tweet us at @youcave. Check us out on Face Book and Google+. And share us with your friends. If you ask a question in the comment section I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.


Thanks,
Allen

“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but well placed footsteps, kill nothing but time.” – cavers’ creed

National Speleological Society Youth Group Liaison Committee. The youth group’s connection to caves and caving.

Monday, February 4, 2013

What Would You Ask??

This past week I tweeted (@YOUCave) “If you could ask a panel of experts anything about taking kids caving, what you would ask?” I had a couple really good replies.

@A1TopCatDesign asked, “Any one thing would be, what is my liability?” This question I hear all the time. I would like this to be an easy answer, but it all depends. There are a lot of “ifs” and variables to consider and no one answer, much less a tweet, can answer this question.

@silvermanphoto asked, “What age is appropriate to start vertical training for a kid that’s been caving since a young age?” I’ve been pondering this myself. Even the question of what age to start kids caving is a common question. I’m going to fall back on my all inclusive answer, it all depends. There are a lot of things to consider other than just the age of the child. I’m assuming we’re talking about our own kids. But this question comes up with youth groups too. And again that question of liability comes into play again.

I’m going to hold onto these questions for our “panel of experts” video podcast that’s being put together along with other questions to be presented to them. We are still accepting questions if you still have them. I’ll post and tweet when panel discusses these topics and more live.

Please subscribe to the YOUCave email list. Tweet us at @youcave. Check us out on Face Book and Google+. And share us with your friends. If you ask a question in the comment section I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Thanks,
Allen

“Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but well placed footsteps, kill nothing but time.” – cavers’ creed

National Speleological Society Youth Group Liaison Committee. The youth group’s connection to caves and caving.