Getting Started

Sea CaveYou’ve seen the pictures, read about the world underground and possibly wondered why cavers are so enthusiastic about their sport. This page is for you if you wish to take this interest further and try caving for yourself. Doing so is not difficult or expensive, and you will get to see sights most people never see, have a lot of fun and meet others with your sense of adventure. Teamwork is an essential part of caving and working together to negotiate the underground terrain is all part of the fun.

Joining the Club

To try caving with the Craven you will need to join us as a prospective member. Your membership entitles you to attend club meets, stay in the cottage at Horton in Ribblesdale, receive the Record (the club journal) and puts in place the necessary insurance cover. See the How to Join page for more information.

Selecting Meets

Once you have joined the club you will need to decide which meets are suitable for you. The Meets listing on this site gives a brief description of each venue and indicates if a meet is suitable for beginners. The Membership Secretary will be pleased to discuss this with you or you can contact the relevant Meet Leader to discuss the suitability of the meet for you.

Gear

This section covers the essentials for starting caving and is not intended to be a complete guide to caving equipment. A more comprehensive list appears elsewhere on this site. You must have a caving helmet and suitable lamp. These can be hired from Inglesport in Ingleton. Contact details for suppliers are on our links page. A few easy caves can be tackled wearing old clothes and waterproofs. Please be aware that caving can easily wreck a good waterproof, so don’t take a nice new expensive outdoor jacket underground. Most cavers wear a hard wearing all in one outer-suit with an all in one fleece under-suit for warmth. As a starter, you could get by with thermals, an old tracksuit and an inexpensive boiler (or workwear) suit.

Wellies are the preferred footwear for most cavers. Boots with a hook type lacing system are not recommended as the hooks get fast on wire ladders. Wetsocks, neoprene socks that keep your toes warm(ish) even when wet are worth having for the luxury of warm feet, otherwise a couple of pairs of hiking socks would be OK.

A towel and a full change of dry clothing is essential for after the trip – Caves tend to be wet, so everything you wear is liable to become damp, it’s all part of the fun.

The Meet Leader or Membership Secretary will be happy to discuss the suitability of equipment for a particular cave in more detail.

The Meet

Trips suitable for beginners are likely to be in the Yorkshire Dales, meeting places are indicated in the meets card. Please check with the Leader if you are unsure of the location. If you have a long way to travel, you can stay overnight at the cottage in Horton in Ribblesdale. When you arrive at the meet please give your name to the leader and tell him or her that you are a prospective member. It’s good practice to offer to carry a share of the tackle to the cave – but don’t overdo it!

Going Underground – The Magical Bit

Lights on and one by one the party slips beneath the surface. The outside world recedes and the underground world beckons as eyes grow accustomed to the dark. The party moves through the entrance passages. Just ask if there is anything you would like to know. Watch how others in the party tackle obstacles. Soak up the atmosphere and enjoy making your way through the cave environment.

Most caves are a combination of horizontal passages and vertical drops or pitches. Pitches are descended using either wire ladders and lifelines or by descending a single rope using specialised equipment, this is known as single rope technique (SRT).

Trips suitable for beginners will use wire ladders. Fellow cavers will be happy to show you how to use the ladder, and you will be on the end of a lifeline. Knowing how to tie a bowline knot is useful.

Passages may include rifts (tall and often narrow passages), active streamways, dry passages, large chambers, crawls and squeezes. You may hear experienced cavers banging on about how terrible such and such a crawl is - just ignore them - if it was that bad they wouldn’t do it.

The sights underground include many different types of calcite formation: stalactites, stalagmites, columns, helectites, calcite curtains, gour dams, pools, waterfalls and many other wonders. Take time to look around to make sure you see everything.

A few caves are through trips, emerging from a different entrance to the one used to enter the cave; however most involve reaching the bottom or the end and then retracing the route back to the surface.

Common Concerns

Many people ask about the risk of caves flooding. Club meets tend to take place at popular caves where, if there is any risk of flooding, the risk is known and understood. The leader will consider any risk of flooding and the weather forecast taking into account recent rainfall or drought, and make a decision about whether to proceed with the trip or divert to a different cave. It is worth noting that flooding in caves tends to make only some sections of the cave impassable, but leaves many dry parts where caving parties can wait for the flood to recede.

Cavers are often asked about the risk of getting stuck in the tight bits of a cave. Whilst some caves do involve an element of squeezing through tight passages, few cavers have serious problems doing so. In any case your fellow cavers are there to help you, and often some simple advice will help a beginner through an underground obstacle.

After the Trip

After changing into dry gear, the team often adjourns to the cafes of Ingleton for pints of tea and food before going home or returning to the cottages. Those staying at the cottages can enjoy a hot shower, dry their gear in the drying room, cook a meal in the kitchen and appreciate a pint or two in one of the two pubs in the village.

Finally …

If there is anything not covered here please contact the Membership Secretary for more information. Enjoy your caving!