Caving Convener

Caving is a highly physical adventure activity conducted where natural processes have created passages and caverns of varying sizes and complexity. The conditions and remoteness of caves means that there is some risk involved when caving. The general public perceives caving as a dangerous activity and thus the sport can suffer greatly from 'bad press': access privileges can be removed and legal restrictions placed on cave leaders, such as a requirement of some 'official' certificate of cave leadership.

As such, caving trips with LUMC adhere to several guidelines to ensure we maintain good relations with land owners, that we keep safety standards high and that we instill beginner cavers with a sense of respect for, and conservation of the cave environment.


Cave Selection

Selecting a cave to visit has to factor in the fitness and experience of the participants. Most caves that the club visits are suitable for beginners with a moderate level of fitness. The access details for the caves should not be made accessible to the general public to avoid inexperienced people damaging the cave environment or risking their own neck.

The restricted committee website has a caving section that describes a number of caves we regularly visit. The National Karst Index Database (KID) is an invaluable source of information for cavers. All known caves are recorded by the Australian Speleological Federation (ASF) and published in the KID. The index provides a description of each cave with length, depth, number of pitches (and their heights), level of decoration and fauna present. A general location only is given to protect the caves.

Each cave in the index is given a number (i.e. M-123) and each of the state's speleological societies is responsible for placing a tag on each cave. This can help you identify a cave you are trying to find. The tags are not obvious, they are usually a small aluminum disc about 1cm across with the number stamped into it, and found somewhere around the cave entrance; often at head height if the entrance is big enough.

Another source of information is old issues of the VSA's newsletter "Nargun". The club has a number of Narguns and at Homeleigh there is a collection of all Narguns ever printed with indexes. These can provide information on most caves and often have cave maps.

Trip Intentions

A cave leader should always leave notification of exactly which caves are being visited and when they expect to return. In the event of an accident, a cave rescue can not be carried out if you could be in any one of hundreds of caves. In Buchan, an intentions board is provided at the front of Homeleigh where you should enter details prior to exploring a cave and remove the entry on completion of the particular cave(s). It is also a good idea to leave written note indicating the cave entered, in the window of a vehicle at the cave site.

Equipment

The selection of correct equipment for a trip is dependent on the type of cave (i.e. vertical or horizontal, wet or dry, short or long) and participants experience. The best reference for equipment selection is the equipment section of the Australian Speleological Federation's "Cave Safety Guidelines".

In general it is recommended that each participant carry the following equipment;

  • Appropriate cave clothing. Durable long sleeved, long legged clothes are required. Often overalls are the best form of cave wear. Thermals should be worn underneath if the cave warrants it (i.e. a wet cave)
  • Appropriate cave shoes. Typically sturdy boots are best.
  • A helmet designed for caving or mountaineering and approved by the UIAA.
  • At least two independent light sources at least one of which is helmet mounted. A third chemical based light source is not a bad idea in smaller groups.
  • Personal medication.

In the group it is recommended that the following be carried;

  • A watch (so that the group can determine when to exit the cave)
  • First aid kit. A basic kit to be taken into the cave and an accessible comprehensive kit.
  • An appropriate “thermal” (e.g. thermal blanket, bivvy bag) wrapping are considered essential in wet caves and are recommended in all cave systems
  • Several lengths of tape (5m x 50mm webbing is recommended).
  • A pocket-knife.

Group Size and Ratio

When entering a cave it is recommended that there be no fewer than four people in the group, two of which are capable of leading. This is to ensure that if an accident occurs, one person can stay with the injured party and two people can exit the cave to get help. Two leaders are required in case the injured party is a leader; those exiting the cave need to be able to get out safely.

Most caves have limits on the number of people and groups that can enter at any one time. These limits are usually set by the landowners or managing authorities (i.e. the Department of Sustainability and Environment ) and are usually set to protect the environment or for safety reasons. Some caves have restrictions on the number of visits per year and the capabilities of the people visiting the caves. To enter these caves you may need to seek permission from the appropriate authorities. If there is no explicit limits on groups size for cave then the group size should be limited to eight people.

Respect Landowners

Many caves in Victoria are on private property or access requires that you cross private property. Private property should only be entered with the prior permission of the land owners. Failure to do this will give cavers a bad name in the area and only serve to reduce the number of caves that we are allowed to enter.

Environmental Considerations

Finely balanced chemical processes form cave decoration (stalactites, stalagmites, helicitites, shawls, flowstone, etc) over a great length of time. So you should take great care in caves that contain decoration. Simply touching the end of a stactite can leave oils or dirt from your finger and you may have stopped a thousand years of growth dead in it's tracks!

You should learn to recognize cave decorations that are damaged by contact and avoid walking or sliding over such decorations with muddy clothes or contaminating features with oily hands (wear gloves!). Care should be taken with the placement of hands, feet and do not forget to watch where your head is.

The Australian Speleological Federation developed some guidelines for "Minimal Impact Caving". These guidelines should be adhered to for any club trips to ensure caves are preserved for future generations.

Bats are mainly found in larger caves with fairly large entrances. During the winter months, bats go into a state of torpor (extreme little activity) and if disturbed will fly around, using up their energy reserves and as a result will die before seeing out the winter. Thus, caves known to contain bats should only be visited between November and April.

At Buchan, the Department of Sustainability and Environment monitors the use of caves on public land. This includes all those in the Caves reserve, Wyatt's Reserve and Potholes Paddock as well as "Slocombe's Cave" (BA-1) and "Wilson's Cave" (EB-4). After visiting any of these caves, you should fill out a Cave Use Sheet, which can be found in front of Homeleigh, near the intentions Board.

How To Run a Caving Trip

Running a caving trip is much like running any other trip. i.e. See the main "How To Run a Trip" document. You need to determine where you are going, what skills will be required and then send out an email. Below is the template of an email that was sent out for a beginner Buchan trip.

Hi all,

There is a caving trip planned for the _ down to Buchan. Buchan is about 330km from Melbourne and one of the best places to cave in Victoria and home to many interesting limestone caves. The parks vic website describes it by;

"Near the township of Buchan, lies a honeycomb of caves full of spectacular limestone formations. Buchan Caves were formed by underground rivers cutting through limestone rock. The formations are created by rain water seeping through cracks and dissolving some of the limestone. As each droplet comes through the roof it deposits calcite which crystallises in a small ring. In time, stalactites are formed on the roof of the cave, and stalagmites build up from droplets which fall to the floor."


We will be leaving _ and returning _. Most likely we will be staying at Homeleigh [1]. We will be caving all day on _ and most likely go into some caves that LUMC has not been through in recent history. The cost is likely to be ~$_ (_ x $13 for accommodation + $15 gear hire + petrol + shared food on _).

You would need to feel comfortable underground and climbing around in mud, dirt and squeezing through all sorts of small places. To get a feel for what we do you can check out the pictures at [2].

There will be limited places available so if you are interested then best to get in soon. Any questions feel free to ask on the forum [3].

[1] http://www.rimstone.org.au/
[2] http://lumc.smugmug.com/Caving/548468
[3] http://forum.lumc.org.au/index.php/topic,_.0.html

If the trip requires any special skills (i.e. SRT skills) then you need to state this. If you are planning to head out to Buchan and stay in Homeleigh then you need to book ahead by emailing the booking coordinator. Details are listed on the Rimstone web site. Preferably the booking should be made a week in advance. If you are planning on visiting any caves on private property then you should contact the land owner at least a week in advance.

Once the participants are confirmed you should send out another email detailing where and when you are going to meet (often the sports center at 6pm on Friday for a weekend trip), what gear they need to bring (on the website), how food is going to be organized etc. If you are not leaving when the Sports Center is open you will also need to organize someone to pick up gear before hand. If you are organizing a weekend trip then it is often a good idea to borrow the uni ute as you can carry 5 people in the vehicle and keep all the muddy gear in the tray.

Other Contacts

Note: Last trip we were down there we met a few outdoor ed instructors. They were interested to tag along on some of our caving trips in exchange for us tagging along on paddling trips down that way. In particular "medium grade" sections of mitta. If we go down in near future we should contact them. Contact details are;

  • "George Scorgie"<ua.ude.civ.clm|dgigrocs#ua.ude.civ.clm|dgigrocs>
  • "Andy Somerville"<moc.liamtoh|ellivremosba#moc.liamtoh|ellivremosba>

Victorian Speleological Society

The Victorian Speleological Society (VSA) is largely responsible for the management of Victoria's caves and encouragement of good caving practices; they also have regular training for a cave rescue team. LUMC should always be affiliated with the VSA and it would be a good idea for cave leaders to become members so that they can take advantage of the wealth of experience and cave knowledge.

References

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