Author Topic: Caving and confidence  (Read 2482 times)

Offline Keris82

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Caving and confidence
« on: June 12, 2021, 10:58:04 am »
Hello all! I've been caving for a few years now but being from London we haven't been able to get underground as much as we'd like in the past 18 months and I seem to have lost some confidence along the way.

So I want to know who here has confidence issues when it comes to something particularly challenging like traverses or free climbing in caves and how to you get past that wall of lacking confidence?  :dig: I feel absolutely fine being attached to a rope but present me with a gaping chasm and no safety and I get a bit freaked out.

In particular I'd like to hear from the ladies on this forum because our bodies and minds react differently depending on those annoying female hormones!   :chair:

Online rhychydwr1

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2021, 11:18:07 am »
Come to Mendip, crawl and squirm and get your confidence back.

Offline The Old Ruminator

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2021, 11:35:13 am »
I am not a lady. Worries about confidence never leaves you nor should it. It helps you to be safer by analyzing the risks and coming up with solutions. I have been caving nearly 60 years. With age comes a respect for mortality as you realise that your life expectancy is dwindling. Currently my confidence issues are concerning squeezes. I know I cannot pass those I could negotiate even ten years ago. Its not due to size or weight. Its more to do with the flexibility in the rib cage. I was so concerned on a recent trip that I took in a capping kit in case I got stuck. Of course I never used it. Diving was worse. The more I did the more my confidence drained away. Losing about eight of our extended group along the way did not help. I used to walk around my garden before a deep trip trying to get my head straight and wondering if I would ever see my garden again. In the end I just could not cope. So its not time or experience that necessarily build confidence. Sometimes the more you know the more you have to worry about. Life always presents boundaries to push. Thats partly the satisfaction we get from activities like caving. Its also worth remembering that action conquers fear. When you  are over confident then that is the time to worry ( or let others do it for you . )

Online aricooperdavis

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2021, 12:57:17 pm »
Not a lady, but have also lost confidence having not been underground in some time.

I've since started a few more trips, and for me courage comes from trying things that scare me but that I objectively known are safe. They inevitably go well (or don't go badly...) which acts as a positive feedback loop, making those things easier and expanding what I feel able to take on. This obviously takes some courage, but the less scary the thing the less courage required to try it. If something's too scary then even if it goes well it doesn't make me any more confident so there must be a sweet spot of courage for max confidence payoff!

Offline kay

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2021, 08:37:34 am »
I am a lady, and those who know me know that I take lack of confidence to extremes, to the extent of being, effectively, a non-caver. There will be raised eyebrows at me giving advice, but I know I have increased my confidence even if it's imperceptible to those around me  ;)

Like you, it's the traverses and free climbs that freak me out most, and I understand Aricooperdavis's "If something's too scary then even if it goes well it doesn't make me any more confident". I have memories of people around me all saying "You did it! Well done! It wasn't so bad, was it!" and I'm  just a quivering heap thinking "I never want to do that again."

Where I have been able to build confidence, it's two things 1) knowledge and preparation. Knowing what I am going to do, that it's within my capabilities, and having done all the necessary preparation to be able to do it 2) Small steps rather than big leaps. Do something that's slightly beyond what I'm totally comfortable with, and keep doing it until I become comfortable. Then move on to the next step.

I'm not sure to what extent female hormones come into it (though I'm too old to  recognise a female hormone if I met one). I think, in my case, apart from a timid nature, it's physical size  - I'm 5ft 4. So s step over a gaping chasm the average man will take with ease, it being within their normal stride length, is beyond my stride length, and I know I have to commit, because if I lose my nerve I won't be able to regain my starting position. Or if someone is spotting me down a climb and says "there's a foothold there", it will be somewhere that pulls me off balance and I have to have blind faith that I will be able to reach it. On the other hand, I'm not too fussed about crawls (though I don't like  water-filled on-your-back nose-following-a-crack-in-the-roof crawls) whereas I've met confident male cavers who carry a dislike of low crawls into an actual fear. And others with an irrational fear of spiders. I think most people have an irrational fear of something. Yours is a fear of falling - which seems pretty rational to me.

Offline Keris82

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2021, 11:44:10 am »
Thanks Kay. I'm glad there's someone who can relate and I'm exactly the same. I'm 5'4" too so what a man find easy with s big stride is difficult for me.

I'm glad to see there are some men here who also have fears when it comes to caving too. Even the most experienced.

Offline pwhole

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2021, 02:57:41 pm »
Remember small size can have its advantages too. Many men I'm sure have a fear of being stuck in tight slots or beddings due to deeper/broader ribcages, and which women of similar height would just slide through. First time I ever did the bottom squeeze in Winnats Head I thought I would be there for ever. We have a couple of female 'ferrets' in the club who are just perfect for investigating tight spots, and we'll be doing that again soon. If it goes, we can get the capping kit out so the rest of us can get through :)

Offline Keris82

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2021, 03:09:57 pm »
I used to be able to get through tighter squeezes until my bum has got too big! Lol!  ;D

Offline caving_fox

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2021, 04:05:39 pm »
Also not female. On my first trip back I found the Giant's Windpipe (crawl in water) much more intimidating than I'd expected. I've done this several times and it's never pleasant or fun, but this time I could really feel my elevated heart rate, which I'd previously only experience in far more committing/unknown situations. I really hope it just goes away with incremental steps as above.

I'd done a few indoor climbing sessions and they'd all been fine, and I was happy on all of the underground climbs. Learning/practising a few different techniques that suit your body will help with challenging climbs, or at least provide alternative solutions to the helpful 'just reach for it'.
If the world didn't suck, we'd all fall off.

Offline Alex

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2021, 10:47:02 am »
not a women myself either. As some may know I like to think of myself as quite a "hard" caver nowadays, though lockdown has definitely knocked my confidence a bit in some places, or it could be that I am almost 40 and passed my prime which may explain why I struggled so much getting off the second pitch in Trapdoor recently (I had to remove my over suit to get off of it, was lots of swearing).

When I started caving I was useless at climbs and therefore they caused me the most fear, especially if they had the dreaded "knotted rope". I was just not strong enough to hold on and one time I found myself at the bottom very quickly. Luckily that 3 or 4m drop only resulted in a cut finger (rope burn) and sore feet. It was so bad I was often referred to as T-rex, due to the T-rex's little arms. However, what really helped was going to local climbing wall to improve my technique, core strength and getting used to heights something I recommend anyone doing if they struggle with climbs underground, that boosted my confidence when it came to climbing and the more I did it underground the better I got, I also lost the bloody nickname. I am not that tall either about 5ft 7. Still small size helps in other ways in caves that's for sure, my other advice is stick to the caves that fit you until your confidence comes back. If you like the small squeezy ones, then do those.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2021, 10:59:36 am by Alex »
Anything I say is represents my own opinion and not that of a any club/organisation that I am a member of (unless its good of course)

Offline kay

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2021, 11:49:20 am »
I wonder why there have been relatively few answers to this? Is it A: because most cavers have never had problems with lack of confidence or B: because those that did have never found a solution  C: that cavers who had a loss of confidence in the past because it doesn't fit with their caver image now?

Offline Keris82

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2021, 12:01:15 pm »
I wonder why there have been relatively few answers to this? Is it A: because most cavers have never had problems with lack of confidence or B: because those that did have never found a solution  C: that cavers who had a loss of confidence in the past because it doesn't fit with their caver image now?

I was thinking the same. I'm sure we aren't the only ones who lack confidence in some form or other when it comes to caving. Do you think people might be afraid to admit it? Or are most people genuinely confident and nothing phases them? I would be interesting to hear more

Online mikem

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2021, 12:41:20 pm »
Or D: a lot of cavers don't actually read / post on the forum.

The best way to get over it is do it more often (or things like it), with people you trust.

Offline pwhole

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2021, 12:57:05 pm »
I don't have confidence issues underground any more - other than the above-mentioned getting stuck in tight squeezes. I do rope-access too, which in terms of exposure can often be far worse than caving as it's usually outdoors in daylight, and often in a city centre, with the public far below! So the relative darkness (and irregularity) of caves can also be a blessing in terms of mental calm. I suspect many who've dropped Titan were probably helped by the fact that they couldn't see most of it :)

Generally now if I don't think I can safely make something I don't try it. I'm good with free-climbing, but had a slip a few years back from being impatient, and dropped 2m onto a rubble floor - onto my feet, thankfully, but a few inches either way and I could have broken my back - but I couldn't walk properly for a week, and it hurt like hell. So I'm a bit more cautious now in terms of my personal safety, but I don't find myself worrying very much about the philosophical stuff of' should I be here at all'? any more. Too many boulder chokes and stacked deads.

Offline Speleofish

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2021, 12:57:34 pm »
As a 'retired' caver who still can't resist poking about in unexpected holes in the ground, I've found myself much, much more cautious than I used to be. Simple climbs take on epic proportions, my definition of 'tight' has changed considerably and I have developed an aversion to crawling through water in normal clothes. The last has nothing to do with lack of confidence, the first two undoubtedly do.

Offline ttxela2

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #15 on: June 18, 2021, 12:57:58 pm »
I wonder why there have been relatively few answers to this? Is it A: because most cavers have never had problems with lack of confidence or B: because those that did have never found a solution  C: that cavers who had a loss of confidence in the past because it doesn't fit with their caver image now?

I was thinking the same. I'm sure we aren't the only ones who lack confidence in some form or other when it comes to caving. Do you think people might be afraid to admit it? Or are most people genuinely confident and nothing phases them? I would be interesting to hear more

I'm also not female and also not the most confident person in terms of caving, I'm much happier in mines for some reason although still inclined towards caution. I found I lost a bit of confidence after I felt rather unwell on a trip a while back and found it quite hard work getting out from what was a very simple trip really!

I've not been underground since a single short trip last summer and before that not since March 2020. Living a long distance from underground sites is quite an obstacle in terms of building confidence. I suspect if you live near a cave/mine region it's relatively easy to pop on a series of short, easier trips to steadily get back into it. When one has to make a special trip and drive for multiple hours there is a bit of extra pressure to 'do something worthwhile'.

Just my thoughts....

Online Tomferry

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #16 on: June 18, 2021, 01:12:03 pm »
@ttelexa

Your not the only one trust me I have had a bad day also before,  was going around a local mine I had done many many times,  on this certain day I didn’t want to go anyway as I felt really I’ll , my mates convinced me into be because 1 of their mates was down visiting their was a small area I had never got round to viewing so I thought I’ll make the most of the bad day and do that part , their was a ouija in their I don’t believe in the things but because I was ill that day it just freaked my head out and I got all hot so had to make my way out never been back their since !

Offline Keris82

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #17 on: June 18, 2021, 03:08:28 pm »

Living a long distance from underground sites is quite an obstacle in terms of building confidence. I suspect if you live near a cave/mine region it's relatively easy to pop on a series of short, easier trips to steadily get back into it. When one has to make a special trip and drive for multiple hours there is a bit of extra pressure to 'do something worthwhile'.

Just my thoughts....

Yes I think you are right. It's difficult to change the mindset of fearing something when I live so far away (London) and don't get to go down caves often enough.

Offline FionaH

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #18 on: June 18, 2021, 08:41:50 pm »
I don't come on the forum very often, so I didn't see this when it was first posted Keris! I think there's been good advice in every response.

I am a lady, and closer to 5'7" in height. My first trip underground in eight months will hopefully be next weekend! My caving confidence is rarely high, but it's been much worse in the past than it is now.

There is something to be said for pushing yourself a little on every trip to build confidence, if a particular aspect bothers you. My confidence is related to caving generally rather than specifically climbs, squeezes, ducks etc. I've never tried to make my arms stronger for free climbs, but I've found pilates to increase core strength very useful in all aspects of caving.

I find enjoying myself in a cave without trying to push myself does me a lot of good down the line, though. Makes me remember I like caving and I want to keep doing it. So I pick people I like and trust but also who want the same thing out of the trip as me. The people I pal around with the most in the hut aren't always the ones I go caving with: often I don't actually want to push myself, but sometimes I do. I've employed tactics such as suggesting a cave that is less 'hard' but novel to all companions, or choosing one companion to cave with to practice a particular skill (usually rigging or ladder-work), or doing trips with photographers, or deciding my turn-around point and declaring it beforehand, etc. I guess it helps to have many cavers in the hut to pick from! :lol:

At times of low confidence I also do short trips regardless of the distance traveled. I understand the sentiment of "we should do something worthwhile because we traveled all this way" because I started caving as a student in London myself! What makes a cave worthwhile though? That's different for everyone, but these days I'm pretty simple - I just overall enjoy being in caves. I'm not doing it for the exercise or exploration etc.

On hormones - wonder if anyone else will reply on that? Yeah, frankly my ability to handle stressful situations is way worse at particular points of my menstrual cycle. When is obviously specific to each person. I don't cave alone so those stressful situations includes the pressure of being "social" during caving weekends as well as the actual physical parts. I sleep even more poorly than my typical bad caving sleep, I get so much more emotional, I'll be worried about my body and might be in pain too. It can really suck tbh and I try to complain even more than normal at the annoying parts of caves to direct my frustration at an inanimate object rather than at people - though only my companions can comment on if that works haha. I always take a hotwater bottle to the hut, try to always have painkillers and basically always have all the stuff to deal with it with me even when not due, which makes me feel better about the potential. And in the end nobody usually presses if I change plans last min.

Personally I'd rather not cave on those bad weekends, and sometimes I don't even if I'm at a hut. I accept that sort of sucks too. But even with my best predictions sometimes the timing just doesn't work out that conveniently. :lol:

Offline cavemanmike

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #19 on: June 18, 2021, 10:53:39 pm »
I'm glad I'm a bloke   :blink: :blink: :blink:.
Joke

Offline kay

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #20 on: June 19, 2021, 07:25:28 am »
Or D: a lot of cavers don't actually read / post on the forum.


Given that this topic is still on its first page whereas some topics rapidly go to three or more, that can't be the only explanation

Online mikem

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #21 on: June 19, 2021, 07:48:02 am »
No, it's not the only reason, but a lot of less confident cavers (& others) have been put off using the forum in the past.

Offline cavemanmike

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #22 on: June 19, 2021, 08:27:52 am »
Also if you have confidence issues you are less likely to comment on the forum, so it's actually big of Keris82 to open up a discussion about it  :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Offline pwhole

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #23 on: June 19, 2021, 09:53:14 am »
And of FionaH to bring up menstrual cycles, which are a major part of women's lives whether caving or not, but could also have additional significant impacts on their caving too - I can't say whether confidence would be affected positively or negatively by this as everyone's different, and I'm a man, but background pain/stress must surely play a part in how some trips are approached. Many guys are often ignorant or ambivalent about the overall effects of menstruation, and many women no doubt have learnt to not bring the subject up due to a perceived lack of interest/sympathy, possibly to the detriment of both sides. Also many men do have some sort of hormonal cycles themselves, though not usually as obvious. However, one thing I really like about caving is that it can break down a lot of societal 'norms' about behaviour, modesty, perception of risk, cleanliness etc., and so there is an inbuilt advantage in our activity for dealing with issues like this maturely and openly, if we want to. We're all in it together at the end of the day.

Online alastairgott

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Re: Caving and confidence
« Reply #24 on: June 19, 2021, 09:59:45 am »
After taking a fall onto my thigh/backside in Slovenia in 2009, and my mates helping me get out. My friends spotted me falling the couple of meters to the floor off a muddy hand line and had the presence of mind to throw me against the wall to stop me falling further down a hole in the floor.

This knocked my confidence for a few years, and put a gash in my wellies, I remember still caving with the large hole in my wellies for a while. I was still scared of handline climbs and would always wear a harness & cowstails so I could clip into every handline that was going. Over time this dissipated.

But I'll never forget a trip down giants before I decided to get rid of the wellies. We'd taken a while to get there, but I was freezing in the wellies as fresh cold water was washing in all the time. And we got to the comic act cascade in giants and decided that was enough for the day. (Some can get to this part of the cave in 20mins!)

 

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