Caving Guidelines

General guidelines relevant to all activities including trip introduction

Caving is a highly physical adventure activity conducted where natural processes have created passages and caverns of varying sizes and complexity. Caving can potentially be a dangerous activity due to the conditions and remoteness of where it takes place. As such, all caving trips with the mountaineering club must follow strict guidelines.

Restrictions to Caving
Restrictions to a caving trip include weather, equipment, land manager/owners’ requirements, type of cave and restrictions dictated by environmental factors as advised by the land manager or otherwise (including seasonal flora and fauna).

Consider communication requirements

Individual restrictions to a caving trip apply to participants deemed to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs which may affect performance and to participants who are unable or unwilling to follow instructions. In a very tight cave or where long reach is essential, individual size may also restrict inclusion.

Group Size and Ratio
It is recommended that on caving trips of the Mountaineering Club that the maximum ratio of experience:less experiemnced is 1:6. However, there should always be at least 2 people on any trip capable of leading. Furthermore, the size of any one group should not exceed 8 participants (if the group is larger, it should be divided and enter the cave separately). Additionally, the size of a group on a caving trip should never be less than 3-4. These numbers allow for the safe navigation of caving passages.

Equipment
The following equipment must be accessible during any caving trip involving dependant groups:
- First aid kit (Basic kit to be taken into the cave and an accessible comprehensive kit).
- Food and water if cave system warrants it (eating in a cave system should be avoided where possible).
- 2 watches.
- A pocket-knife.
The following additional equipment must be available in the cave for any vertical caving trip involving dependant groups:
- An appropriate rescue system spare ‘emergency’ rope should be accessible when engaging in vertical caving
- Both ascending and descending equipment should be carried and be arranged in such a way that it can be quickly reversed. This is regardless of the intended direction of travel.
- Unless using equipment that specifies otherwise, there must always be two points of attachment when ascending or transferring on ropes.
- Appropriate descending devices must be used when abseiling.
- Appropriate steel wire caving ladders and attachments used in conjunction with belay lines.
The following equipment requirements apply to all dependant participants:
- Helmet with securely attached and fitted chinstrap and a well fitting cradle (construction helmet for example) must be worn in horizontal caves
- Each participant must carry reliable and independent primary and secondary light sources appropriate to the cave. In most caves within Victoria It is recommended that the primary light source be helmet mounted or hands free.
- Clothing should be long sleeved, long legged (shorts are not suitable) and should be appropriate to the cave and conditions.
- Footwear must have a substantial tread and must be appropriate for the cave and conditions. No open footwear such as sandals or thongs can be worn in caves and it is recommended that boots with a sound tread are worn.
- Spare globes and batteries should be carried according to trip leaders experience and knowledge of group and conditions.
- The participant must carry any personal medication and others in the group must understand their requirement.

Equipment Maintenance and Storage
All equipment used in caving activities must be used, maintained and stored according to manufacturers’ specifications where applicable.
- All equipment used must be checked before and after each trip.
- All equipment should be provided in a clean and serviceable condition.
- All ropes used must be carefully checked during the activity.

General Cave Visitation
1. Remember EVERY caving trip has an impact. Is this trip into this cave necessary? If it is just for recreation, is there another cave that is less vulnerable to damage that can be visited? Make this assessment depending on the purpose of your visit, the size and experience of the proposed party, and IF THE TRIP IS LIKELY to damage the cave.
2. Where possible the party leader should have visited the cave previously and hence should be aware of sensitive features of the cave, the best anchor points, and generally reduce the need for unnecessary exploration.
3. Cave slowly. You will see and enjoy more, and there will be less chance of damage to the cave and to yourself. This especially applies when you are tired and exiting a cave.
4. If there are beginners on a trip, make sure that they are close to an experienced caver, so that the experienced caver can help them when required, e.g. in difficult sections. Ensure that the party caves at the pace of the slowest caver.
5. Keep your party size small - 4 is a good party size.
6. Cave as a team - help each other through the cave. Don't split up unless impact is reduced by doing so.
7. Constantly watch your head placement AND that of your party members. Let them know before they are likely to do any damage.
8. Keep caving packs as small as possible or don't use them in sensitive caves or extensions.
9. Ensure that party members don't wander about the cave unnecessarily.
10. Stay on all marked or obvious paths. If no paths are marked or none is obvious - define ONE!
11. Learn to recognise cave deposits or features that may be damaged by walking or crawling on them.
Examples are:- Drip Holes, Stream Sediments, Paleo soils, Soil Cones, Crusts,
Flowstone, Cave Pearls, Asphodilites, Bone material, Potential Archaeological sites,
Cave Fauna, Coffee & Cream, Tree Roots
12. Take care in the placement of hands and feet throughout a cave.
13. Wash your caving overalls and boots regularly so that the spread of bacteria and fungi are minimised.
14. If a site is obviously being degraded examine the site carefully to determine if an alternative route is possible. Any alternative route MUST not cause the same or greater degradation than the currently used route. If an alternative is available suggest the alternative route to the appropriate management authority and report the degradation.
15. Carry in-cave marking materials while caving and restore any missing markers. Tape off sensitive areas you believe are being damaged and report the damage to the appropriate management authority.
16. If it is necessary to walk on flowstone in a cave remove any muddied boots and or clothing before proceeding OR DON'T PROCEED! Sometimes it is better to assess the situation and return at a later date with the appropriate equipment.
17. Treat the cave biota with respect, watch out for them, and avoid damaging them and their "traps", webs, etc. Also avoid directly lighting cave biota if possible.
18. If bone material is found on existing or proposed tracks it should be moved off the track to a safer location if at all possible. Collection should only be undertaken with appropriate permission.
19. If you eat food in a cave ensure that small food fragments are not dropped as this may impact the cave biota. One way is to carry a plastic bag to eat over and catch the food fragments. This can then be folded up and removed from the cave.
20. Ensure that all foreign matter is removed from caves. This includes human waste. If long trips are to be made into a cave, ensure that containers for the removal of liquid and solid waste are included on the trip inventory.
21. When rigging caves with artificial anchors, e.g. traces, tapes, rope etc, ensure that minimal damage occurs to the anchor site by protecting the site. For example protect frequently used anchors, e.g. trees, with carpet, packs, cloth, etc. Bolts should only be used where natural anchors are inappropriate.
22. CAVE SOFTLY!

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