Frequently Asked Questions - Caving
What can I expect on a typical SOC caving trip?
We usually meet en route and car share when we can, then typical trips start with a rendezvous at a cafe at around 10am (the most popular being either of those in Ingleton). This enables us to discuss the planned trip and pre-load bodies with the energy required for the rest of the day. Departure for the parking spot for the trip is usually around 11am. We change into caving gear, pack the necessary tackle for the cave (ropes, etc.) and walk to the cave. A variable period of underground adventure follows (usually 2 or 3 hours for an easier trip, 3 to 6 hours for moderate and longer for the harder trips). We emerge at some point, walk back to the parking spot, get changed and usually rehydrate at a local pub before heading home.
What is available for a beginner?
The caving section welcomes beginners and we have a good record of enabling people to develop their skills and realise their caving potential. Not every trip will be suitable for beginners and it is always best to check with the trip or section organiser for appropriate trips. Absolutely no previous experience is necessary, but any experience in other outdoor activities will be taken into account when selecting appropriate trips. The main requirement is a keen sense of adventure!
Beginners trips will tend to be around 2 to 3 hours' duration and will be predominantly horizontal caves. Pitches (vertical drops requiring ladders & ropes) will sometimes feature on beginners trips, but these will only be short and suitable for beginners. As beginners progress, more advanced techniques can be learnt, allowing deeper caves to be explored. We have regular sessions at the climbing wall, where single rope techniques (SRT) can be learnt in safety prior to using them underground.
The caving section maintains a small stock of clothing, helmets, lamps and SRT kits to enable beginners to give caving a try. All you'll need is a pair of wellies, a pair of woolly socks, a change of underwear and a sense of humour!
What is available for an experienced caver?
The caving section plans a trip every weekend with one or two weekday evening trips or wall sessions per month too. Most of our caving takes place in the classic Yorkshire caving area (loosely centred on Ingleton, North Yorkshire). We have considerable experience within the section with good knowledge of the complex systems (e.g. Easegill, Gaping Gill) and competent riggers. We arrange a varied programme offering descents of the 'classic'pots, traverses of major systems and adventurous trips into less popular caves. We'll usually feature the challenge of one 'hardish' or 'hard' trip per month, the remainder of trips being suitable for all reasonably experienced cavers.
We maintain a stock of ropes and equipment to allow us to tackle most trips in the region including exchange trips between, for example, Gaping Gill entrances, Easegill or Leck Fell. Experienced cavers are usually expected to have their own clothing, lights and SRT kit, but we can lend these for a short term if needed.
What equipment can SOC provide?
We can provide a range of suitable clothing (undersuits, oversuits, knee pads), lights and helmets. We keep a well-maintained stock of ropes, ladders and rigging kit to enable us to tackle any of the country's caves (including exchange trips in some of the more complex systems). We have 2 SRT kits for those new to 'vertical caving'.
How risky is caving?
As with most of SOC's activities, caving is a potentially hazardous activity. Part of the enjoyment of such activities is to assess and manage the risks involved. This includes monitoring previous, current and forecast weather, knowledge of the cave to be visited, use of up to date techniques and plain common sense. If all these are applied, the most risky part of a trip is probably the drive there and back (not that our driving is particularly bad, just that many more people come to grief on the roads than in caves).
What do grades shown on the programme mean?
Easy - suitable for cavers with little or no previous experience. The trip will usually be short (up to 2 or 3 hours) and involve no major difficulties.
Moderate - longer trips (generally 4 to 6 hours), which may have strenuous sections or require competence in SRT (single rope technique).
Hard - long trips (perhaps 7 to 12 hours) requiring significant stamina and experience.
There is significant variation within the grades and it is often worth checking the suitability of a particular trip with the trip or section organiser. Sometimes plans are changed owing to weather or the composition of a group or easier or harder variants may be possible from the programmed trip.
What other activities come under the aegis of caving section?
There are some outdoor activities that don't have their own section in SOC. Canyonning is one such activity, but the equipment and techniques have a great deal in common with caving, so caving section are best set up to cover this activity. Please read our Canyonning article.
Is any guidance available for trip organisers and participants?
Please read our Guidance Note.