Ceiling anchor

Safety and Manners

Safety Underground

Most caves are big enough and complicated enough for you to easily get lost in, so:

  • Rule #1: Never go caving alone; and always stay with your group.

  • Rule #2: Always let someone back home know where you are going, and when you expect to return. Then check back when you get out!  (If you follow rules #1 and 3 you should be able to allow plenty of time and avoid an unnecessary rescue callout.)

  • Rule #3: Plan your trip carefully, ensure that you have proper equipment for the trip, and do not get overtired.

Injuries in caves are rare, but even minor ones can be fatal if the victim is so far underground or in such a constricted position that his friends can not get him out of the cave in time. Rockies caves are cold, and an injured person can quickly lapse into unconsciousness.

Typical caving dangers include being hit by falling rocks (usually loosened by cavers climbing above the victim), slipping on muddy surfaces, equipment failures, athletic injuries such as a sprained ankle, getting confused or lost, hypothermia and exhaustion. Simply put: approach this sport very cautiously. Even if a cave initially appears to be quite easy to visit, it is important to be properly equipped and aware of your own limitations, and the limitations of other members of your group. Instruction is recommended; consider contacting a licensed cave guide or going on a commercial "wild cave" tour for your first trip.

An underground injury could result in an extremely difficult and expensive rescue. A serious accident requiring help should be reported to the local agency with jurisdiction (usually the RCMP, although it may be Parks Canada or other agencies depending on location),  who will contact whatever resources might be available in the area and potentially issue a tasking to the Alberta/BC Cave Rescue Service.

Cave Manners

Most mountain users try to treat nature with respect, but it is important to recognize that caves are somewhat different from other environments. Caves may appear rather durable, but they are not subject to the same types of erosion and renewal that you have on the surface, and the impacts of visitors may last for a long, long time. Rockies caves are not heavily decorated with speleothems (formations) but they are present in most. Speleothems are extremely fragile and sensitive; don't even touch them. It may take ten thousand years for groundwater to dissolve enough limestone to make a cave and its speletheoms, but people who don’t know better can ruin the place in just one visit. Please do your bit to make the cave cleaner for the next person. Pick up some garbage; gently scrub off some graffiti with cave water (no solvents).

The more remote caves and difficult passages, accessible only to properly equipped and experienced cavers, are generally in near-perfect condition. That's because serious cavers all believe in the same thing:

Leave it as you found it - except for trash, which should be removed.

Like they say, "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints". It's not necessary to use spray paint, string or pieces of plastic trail tape to mark your way into an unknown cave. At a passage junction, a caver may make a temporary marker by stacking a couple of stones. They indicate which way is out. As you might imagine, taking home bits of the cave is an absolute no-no. A photo of your group in the cave means much more than a lump of rock, which will crumble away in a couple of years once removed from the high-humidity cave environment. Boosting your ego by leaving your name only offends those who follow.

Bats live in the remote, back portions of many caves. These are mostly the Little Brown species, an important predator of insects such as mosquitoes, but harmless to man. If you are not looking for them, chances are you will not even see them. Please do not disturb or harass the bats, especially in winter when they are hibernating. Bats can carry rabies, so you should never try to touch or pick one up. Make sure all clothing and gear is decontaminated between caves to avoid the spread of White Nose Syndrome.

Snack wrappers and any other trash should go back into your day pack right away; otherwise they're inclined to disappear into the dark - until the next person comes along to be disgusted by them.

Excreting in the cave pollutes the water there and it tends to persist for a long time as the surface processes of decomposition are not present or greatly slowed. If possible, do your thing before going in & use zip lock bags to carry out any solids if you do go inside.