Caves are many things to many people. To some they offer a romantic and mysterious underground world to explore. To others they are frightening and ominous. To all, they are potentially dangerous. Like any sport, proper equipment, a basic level of fitness, a degree of caution and a little common sense increase the chances for a safe, enjoyable experience.
There are only a very few caves in the Rockies that have passages that are suitable for novice cavers. Many others have vertical drops and other hazards that require experience and specialized equipment to negotiate safely. Although it may look like the stuff that climbers use, caving rope, equipment and techniques are specialized and have been developed independently to provide an acceptable margin of safety specific to cave conditions. Technical cave equipment should never be used without proper instruction from an experienced caver.
What To Expect
The cave environment is very different from the one outside. Once you are in the cave, you'll discover that the outside world is reduced to a small spot of light at the entrance. As you move inward the darkness quickly envelops you. If you were to stop and turn off your light you would find that it is totally dark, much darker than we usually experience. You may also hear the quiet sound of water dripping off in some distant passage. You'll also be able to smell the dampness. The temperature inside most caves is only a few degrees above freezing year round, and the air is very damp. It's like walking into a refrigerator.
Go very slowly and carefully at first, to let your eyes adjust to the darkness. After 15 minutes or so, you will find that you can see better; by then you'll also be getting used to the slippery cave mud and feeling more confident.
Caving is fun: you can scramble up and down over the irregular, boulder-strewn floor, and the scene changes around every corner. It's interesting and exciting - the gateway to a very different world. However, there are portions of all caves that are potentially dangerous - avoid these, but bear in mind that carelessness can lead to an accident almost anywhere.