Cave Safety

Cave Safety

All undeveloped caves, by their very nature, contain some risks. Make your trip a safe and enjoyable one by being prepared and careful. Just about all caves contain some risks which are common to the underground environment, such as loose rocks, low ceilings, low tight passages, slippery surfaces, and unstable and uneven floors. Be prepared by wearing the proper cloths and carrying the proper equipment, staying within your group’s capabilities, and using common sense. 

  • Leave word with someone stating what cave you will be visiting and an approximate return time.
  • Never go caving alone. Always have 3-4 people in a group.
  • Each person in the group must have three independent light sources and extra batteries. Matches, candles and glowsticks are not considered light sources.
  • Wear a helmet, preferably UIAA approved, to protect against low ceilings and falling rocks. Use a chinstrap to prevent losing your helmet and light.
  • Mount your main source of light on your helmet to free your hands for climbing.
  • Wear sturdy footwear such as boots that protect the ankle and have non-leather, non-skid, non-marking soles.
  • Bring gloves and kneepads if necessary.
  • If your are going to in the cave for an extended period, carry water and food for each person.
  • Stay within your abilities and experience level to avoid injuring yourself and to avoid damaging the cave.
  • Avoid drowning by not entering gypsum caves or other storm drain types of caves if there is a threat of rain.
  • Bring your own ascending and descending devices and be experienced in their use, for caves requiring rope work.
  • Always watch for and avoid poisonous creatures such as snakes and insects.

Information courtesy of US BLM

Cave Etiquette.Below are some suggestions to protect both you and the caves you visit:

  • Before you cave, be prepared.
  • Obtain a cave map, if available.
  • Obtain permission to enter from the landowner.
  • Be aware that every cave is unique with its own special conditions and hazards. Some may include flash floods, cold temperatures, vertical drops, and bad air.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you should return.

Gearing Up

  • Obtain a good helmet. How much is your head worth?
  • Carry a minimum of three reliable light sources, including a headlamp attached to a helmet.
  • Wear comfortable, durable, foot gear appropriate for caving.
  • Wear gloves.
  • Bring a first aid kit.
  • Bring enough food and water for an unexpected stay in the cave.
  • Bring marking or flagging tape for marking your route. Nothing permanent.
  • Inspect your gear to ensure proper operation.

In The Cave

  • Avoid touching or walking on any cave formation. Disturbance may destroy these formations forever.
  • Stay on established trails. Avoid trampling new areas and impacting the cave environment. Respect closed areas.
  • Do not mark on the walls of the caves.
  • If a passage is too fragile, turn back.
  • If you discover any prehistoric or historic artifacts, leave them alone.

Pack It In, Pack It Out:

  • Used carbide is poisonous to cave inhabitants. Pack it out.
  • Trash. Use plastic containers or doubled plastic bags. Take out all food scraps so animals do not associate food with human presence.

Avoid becoming lost

  • Pay attention to your route and the way out.
  • Look backward occasionally, the cave looks different coming back that way.
  • Use temporary flagging to mark your way and remove them all on the way out.

Information courtesy of US Forest Service