So you want to go Caving?
The first thing to understand is that caving is an adventure sport – there are underground hazards for the unwary so there is an element of risk involved. The second thing to appreciate is that most caves are cold, wet and dirty places so going caving means getting cold, wet and muddy!
If you can live with all that then caving is an adventure like few others giving you the chance to explore a little known but fascinating world completely different from above ground with the possibility of seeing places of amazing beauty that no one has ever seen before.
Because caves are hazardous places the best way to start is to go with an experienced caver, either with a caving club, or with a qualified leader from an outdoor centre (see the list on the links page). Your first trip will probably be an hour or two underground, you may follow the course of an underground river or climb into older, dryer cave passages abandoned by water except for the constant slow drips of glistening stalactites and stalagmites. These features are unique to caves and your guide will tell you should be carefully admired but not touched or damaged in any way.
Your guide will provide helmets and lights and also advise you on what to wear before you start your trip but the following list may help you prepare:
- A complete set of old clothes (including underwear!) to wear whilst caving, these will probably get wet and muddy. Several thin layers of fleece or wool are better than one thick layer; a boiler suit on top helps to stop clothes rolling up or down in crawls, and is a very good idea, second-hand shops are a good source of all these items. If no boiler suit a nylon rain jacket and over trousers will keep you even warmer, but it is more than likely to get ripped. Irish caves are fairly constant in temperature at about 8-10ºC, but will feel a lot colder if you get wet.
- A pair of wellies or old hiking boots – trainers or good walking boots will get quickly wrecked in caves (but bring a pair to wear afterwards).
- A towel and something to put wet clothes in afterwards eg a bin bag.
- Gloves will keep your hands warm and prevent cuts and scrapes.
- A hot drink and some food will go down well after your trip.
Your guide will bring other safety equipment like first aid and spare lights but make sure you make him/her aware of any medical conditions/issues that may affect you.
Your first trip underground will probably be an unforgettable experience, I hope you enjoy it and go onto see many more caves, but please remember to treat all caves with care, respect and caution.