Real photographs of cats practicing their caving techniques.
All the pictures below are linked to pop-up windows – to see the original pic just click on it.
Before getting into caving it's a good idea to read up on it. Some caving manuals have big words you might need help reading. Just don't try to take your caving manual into the cave with you – it'll just end up a mess.
The Internet can be a good source of information.
Cavers depend on their equipment being reliable and predictable, so if you don't understand how your equipment works, stop and think it through to make sure you understand it fully before you leave home. Always be on the lookout for equipment failure. If you can't get it to work right, get a friend to check it out with you beforehand.
The first thing a caver needs is a helmet. Helmets can be made of many materials but a certified one is probably safest.
You probably have lots of old shoes to choose from that you can wear in the cave, but some shoes are just not suitable.
Pre-trip and During the Trip
When you go on a long trip getting up early is a good idea, and make sure you have a good drink before setting out, since caving is thirsty work.
Drive carefully on your way to the cave, and be prepared to walk across farmland to get to cave entrances. In the cave drink water only, because caffeine is a diuretic, which is a bad thing in a cave.
Take food with you, and if the cave you are exploring is especially cold, take extra food so you'll have the energy to keep warm.
Cave formations such as stalactites and stalagmites are known as speleothems. When they join they're calling columns. And then there's speleouses, which are cave formations that just look pretty weird.
Moving Around in Caves
Have fun exploring – you never know where a cave might come out. Having an attitude of enjoying confined spaces and strange holes is more important than being tall and skinny, but that certainly helps.
Often just crouching will make you low enough to get through. Move carefully around the cave and don't let go with your hands until you find good footholds. Progress is sometimes easiest lying on one's back; you may need to feel your way. Cave intelligently – use your head. Sometimes you'll find yourself places which aren't big enough for everyone to stand at once.
All good caves have squeezes, although sometimes you'll find yourself face to face with an unexpected bug. It's lots of fun to try to get through the squeezes, so don't be afraid of weird little tight spots... although some squeezes really are too small to get through, and might have formations in the way.
Some squeezes really are too small. Some squeezes are eye-poppingly tight (so tight they don't even leave any room for apostrophes).
Sometimes a vertical sort of squeezing called "chimneying" will be required. Going head first through squeezes can sometimes make them easier, and sometimes it just makes it more awkward. A tight squeeze at the end of a cave can prevent you from getting out of the cave.
If you cave for long enough, especially if you abseil (rappel), or if you find funny holes, or if the cave has lots of water, or there are deep drop offs, you'll probably get into a situation where you have to call for help. Needing help is fine, but please don't scream when you find you need it.
Give it a Go
Getting stuck is all part of the fun while caving. Don't be afraid to experiment with your rope technique – be prepared to hang around for a while. Reach for the unobtainable. Go for the difficult squeezes. Don't be afraid of looking plain silly.
Caves and drugs don't mix – they make squeezes seem smaller. Keep calm at all times. Making cave openings bigger is frowned upon unless it's really necessary – it might collapse on you.
Don't eat just any old thing you find in a cave as some are toxic.
Never cave alone. Watch your step (Alexander!).
Daylight can seem very bright when you exit the cave. Treat yourself on the way home. You'll probably be glad to get back to your nice warm home and have a shower before you catch a cold.
After checking the state of your equipment, don't be surprised if you fall asleep soon after. Caving is very tiring.