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.


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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.

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