Frequently Asked Questions
What is caving?
Caving is a term used to describe underground exploration, primarily the exploration of caves but also is used to describe the exploration of mines and other underground places. Caving as a sport has grown out of speleology, i.e., the science of caves, although for many active cavers, some form of original research, be it exploration, surveying, geology, etc, is still a major motivating factor in their going caving in the first place.
Is caving dangerous?
Caves and mines can present an explorer with many potential dangers such as loose rock, dangerous drops, cold, flooding and bad air. Some specialist areas of caving, such as cave diving and cave digging present their own set of hazards not found in general caving. However, knowledge of, and preparation for such potential hazards keeps the dangers associated with these risks to a minimum.
Where can I go caving in the UK?
The majority of significant UK cave systems are found within the limestone areas of the North Pennines, the Peak District, the Mendips, South Wales, and County Fermanagh. Examples also occur in Devon, north Wales and Scotland.
- For more information, see Caving Regions of the UK.
- Other underground sites such as mines and tunnels exist all over the UK.
How do I start caving?
It is tempting to head off to your nearest cave system armed with a few torches and a lot of enthusiasm. This approach really isn't to be advised - even a minor accident underground can have dire consequences, not to mention the possibility of getting lost or your torch batteries running out!
It is advisable to either try and contact a recognised Caving Instructor/outdoor centre, who will provide basic equipment and guide you on an underground trip; or to contact a Caving Club. Most clubs will take you out on a "see if you like it" style trip without any pressure of joining.
There are caving clubs in most areas of the UK, even in locations far removed from the nearest cave systems.
- For a list of clubs by area, see Clubs
Are there any other names for caving?
In the UK, the term potholing is often used. Technically this term would be restricted to matters regarding the exploration of potholes, but in general use the terms caving and potholing are interchangeable and mean the same thing. Non-cavers often consider potholing to be a more extreme version of caving, but inside the caving community, no such distinction exists.
In the USA, the term spelunking may be used, although this is generally associated with inexperienced cavers.