I find it very hard to describe why I love caving. Ever since my first attempt at it I know I love it, and so does Ellie. One of the more obvious reasons is that the bigger the challenge the bigger the sense of adventure.
CAVING IS PRIMAL
Moreover, I like that caving feels primal. Our ancestors were cavemen and women. You can’t get much closer to nature than literally immersing yourself into Mother Earth.
WHY I LOVE CAVING: IT COMBINES MANY DIFFERENT SPORTS
I love that caving combines so many different sports and techniques. Climbing and caving are heavily interlinked. Not just in that caving does usually include a fair bit of climbing. Both sports involve scrambling and vertical work using ropes. The founder of the world’s premier climbing gear brand Petzl, for instance, Fernand Petzl, was a famous caver.
OFTEN IT IS LIKE UNDERGROUND CANYONING
Caving can be more similar to canyoning/canyoneering or even coasteering than to traditional climbing. It usually involves some abseiling, sometimes scuba-diving, ziplining, swimming, boating, mountaineering, hiking, bouldering, the list is long.
CAVERS ARE SERIOUS ABOUT CONSERVATION – ONE OF THE REASONS WHY I LOVE CAVING
Cavers also take a keen interest in conservation. While most sports climbers will happily cover a rock wall with a tight grid of bolts, a caver will modify his route in order to avoid a spider web or a bat family’s home.
CAVING IS EXPLORATION
The sense of exploration is multiplied in caving. Some people say you climb a mountain because it’s there, but you climb a cave because it’s not there. Or at least proper spelunkers often don’t know yet if it is there or not, when they start out. It is not uncommon to find traces of human visitors from hundreds of years ago, and sometimes even older ones.
YOU’RE UNLIKELY TO FREEZE TO DEATH – A BIG PLUS
Due to the constant temperature of 10 to 12C degrees and the lack of snowfall and blizzards, the chances of freezing stiff are significantly lower than, say, on an alpine climbing trip where temperatures can easily fall below -20C. I used to suffer from a terrible fear of heights, which increased exponentially with exposure. Usually when caving, your exposure will not exceed 30m or so. If it does, you won’t see it, as it’s pitch-black dark.
WHY I LOVE CAVING? CAVES ARE OUTRAGEOUSLY BEAUTIFUL.
Maybe most of all: caves are very beautiful. Especially the ones with stalactites and stalagmites. Equally, the ones with waterfalls, or lakes or rivers. And naturally the giant ones with huge rock faces, and the narrow, crooked ones that take some effort getting to and that make you feel like you’re the first one to enjoy the view.
For real cavers the most interesting ones are often the deepest, longest, largest cave systems. The UK’s biggest cave system, the Three Counties System, has around 90km of mapped passageways and reaches a depth of more than 250m from the entrance level.
I often get puzzled looks when I say that perhaps the most amazing nature I’ve seen was a cave. More precisely, the Padirac Cave in southern France. But I mean it. Caves rock. Even if you’re not a troglodyte. A globetrotting friend of mine, who’s been to around 140 countries, swears by the life of his mother that Son Doong Cave in Vietnam is the most magic place he ever visited. Ms B always gets wet eyes when she talks about the beautiful cave paintings at Lascaux.
IS THERE ANYTHING MORE FUN?
In southern Bavaria where I grew up all school children visit the ancient salt mines and some stalactite, ice, or stone age caves. As a kid I couldn’t imagine anything more fun than shooting down giant wooden slides or hopping onto a trolley train in the salt mines.
Are you thinking about getting into caving or simply curious to find out more? Feel welcome to check out my posts about England’s best caving locations, my first sump dive (at Swildon’s Hole), that time I fell from height at Pridhamsleigh Cavern, or the most beautiful cave I’ve visited so far: Alum Pot. I’ve also blogged about the Fisherman’s Trail in Portugal, packrafting in Wales, skydiving and my ride in a powerboat near Cambridge, as well as some off-roading in Kent.