Starting caving again - when?


Well-known member
Presumably that includes not using the same ropes as another person - SRT / rope access has always been a somewhat solitary occupation.

Stuart France

Active member
The situation in Wales is that ?caving is still on hold?.  The recent Welsh Government announcement drops the ?once a day? exercising rule here to re-align Wales with England on that matter.  Official advice is:  wherever you can to stay at home;  if you need to leave home for work, exercise or shopping, you should stay local and stay alert as the coronavirus has not gone away;  and if you go out, then stay local and stay safe.

There is no change to the two-person rule:  two unrelated people can meet up so long as they observe the 2m social distancing rule, for example to have a drink in the garden (bring your own bottle/glass), talking over the garden fence to a neighbour, meeting other people in the street; going for a local run together.  I am not suggesting people should go caving in the present cirucmstances, but the implication of the 'rules' seems to be that two unrelated people or a same-household group can go caving together so long as it is done near home and socially distanced and at low risk of accident - regardless of whether it is sensible or desirable, and I feel it is not.

There has been a change (little publicised) in areas of land that are closed.  Pwll Du, for example, is now off the closed list, except for its popular car parks, as is Llangattock.  A confusing situation arose because the Brecon Beacons NPA posted two different lists of area closures on their tourism and official websites.  They now consistent.  The Welsh Government has collated the links to all the closed land areas across all of Wales at

Virtually all the BBNPA closures refer to ?access land above the hill fence?.  The legally-minded amongst you will know that ?urban commons? such as Pwll Du and Llangattock are not ?access land? by virtue of s.15 of the CROW Act 2000 and instead are ?urban commons? under the LPA 1925.  Furthermore, NRW holds that ?caves are not land? for the purpose of statutory access to caves on urban commons.  Their interpretation of ?land? was intended to deny a statutory right of access, but (if correct) arguing that caves are not land would deny the authorities any statutory right of closure.

The police are interpreting driving anywhere for exercise as illegal which begs the question of why the National Park Authority has closed some car parks via an official closure list but not others.  For example Blaen Onneu car park is closed but informal laybys closeby are not (according to the BBNPA but not the police).  Unclosed alternative parking places do not have official closed signs posted.  Yet there are NPA and police ?closed? signs on other car parks and laybys which are not on any closed list.  This is somewhere in between a confused situation and a shambles.
Garden Centres in Wales are to be opened soon for socially distanced shopping, and Public Libraries and Recycling Facilities will also re-open.  Schools in Wales remain closed despite plans for a limited primary school re-opening in England from June.

As to rescues, people should regard rescue services as non-operational therefore to scale back their outdoors activities to low-risk things well within their capability and experience.  The Welsh air ambulance is not operating, and RAF yellow helicopters are not operating either except for life and death cases, and this is due to the implications of potential contamination and deep cleaning of aircraft plus other practical and safety matters.

A concern of cave rescue, besides the obvious one of the virus being vectored by the incident itself,  is that attending any less serious incident could compromise a more serious future incident by putting personnel (and equipment) out of use while they (and it) are quarantined (or deep cleaned) for some days until deemed clear of transmission risks.

More details will emerge this week, but I feel it is unfair to lambaste Boris Johnson right now for vagueness when the successful gradual unwinding the coronavirus restrictions will call for much more common sense and judgement by  everyone ? embodied in the new concept of ?alertness?.  We are going to have to find ways to live with and adapt to the virus being around for a long time to come without destroying the economy or fuelling new waves of infection.

The above diverse examples serve to show the limitations of making up seemingly simple rules to address a problem which has very many and complex facets.  The political dynamic of the virus epidemic dictates eventual convergence of international, national and regional policy.  The only question is when that happens and how much delay needs to be allowed for positions to coalesce without it looking like anyone made a wrong call.  There is nothing inherently wrong with trying different approaches in an uncertain world provided there is also willingness to learn from one another.



Active member
RAF yellow helicopters haven't being operating since 4 October 2015 when Birstow's took over  RAF Search and Rescue Force wound up 18 February 2016)

Birstow's are still flying - but limited


Bob Mehew

Well-known member
From "OUR PLAN TO REBUILD:The UK Government?s COVID-19 recovery strategy", see page 27

Public spaces

SAGE advise that the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside, so the Government is updating the rules so that,as well as exercise,people can now also spend time outdoors subject to: not meeting up withanymore than one person from outside your household;continued compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain two metres (6ft) away from people outside your household; good hand hygiene, particularly with respect to shared surfaces; and those responsible for public places being able to put appropriate measures in place to follow the new COVID-19 Secure guidance.

People may exercise outside as many times each day as they wish.For example, this would include angling and tennis. You will still not be able to use areas like playgrounds, outdoor gyms or ticketed outdoor leisure venues, where there is a higher risk of close contact and touching surfaces. You can only exercise with up to one person from outside your household ?this means you should notplay team sports, except with members of your own household.

People may drive to outdoor open spacesirrespective of distance, so long as they respect social distancing guidance whilethey are there, because this does not involve contact with people outside your household.

When travelling to outdoor spaces, it is important that people respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and do not travel to different parts of the UK where it would be inconsistent with guidance or regulations issued by the relevant devolved administration.

Jenny P

Active member
PeteHall said:
Alan Sp8 said:
Note - in most cases you will not be welcome by the locals of places like Horton in Ribblesdale or Austwick etc - and you would certainly not be welcome at caves near any farms.
Is caving actually OUTDOOR exercise ;)

In this context, that question actually seems much more reasonable than how we usually see it in the CRoW debate.

From the point of view of transmission, crawling over the same damp surfaces in a potentially confined environment shortly after someone else has, regardless of a 2m spacing would appear to carry a greater risk, than say playing football.

Wouldn't the flood of cold running water wash away any virus even contemplating going caving with you?

The other point is, of course, that this doesn't mean that Club Huts can re-open - there may possibly be some guidance coming down the line about re-opening of hostels (Club Huts, Bunkhouses, YHA Hostels, etc.) which have dormitory accommodation.  But I suspect that's far down the line yet.

So, one thing if you are lucky enough to live in a caving area but rather different if you live some way away.  Tricky also if you live in one of the areas where you are required to collect a key and you would normally do this from a Club Hut.  (At least a "Derbyshire Key" is a do-it-yourself job!)

And you're quite right to mention that the local inhabitants where you want to go caving might not want you around - given that some of them have been blocking footpaths and putting aggressive notices on car windscreens in areas where people have tried to go walking in the countryside.

Bob Mehew

Well-known member
Jenny P said:
Wouldn't the flood of cold running water wash away any virus even contemplating going caving with you?
Yes you are right, but only for the last person in and the first person out.  The rest of the party are being washed by the virus infected water whose dilution depends upon the level of flow.  However, I would suggest the majority of caves do not have continuously water washed surfaces on which you put your hands.

Jenny P

Active member
Well, I always wear gloves anyway and just assumed others did.

Maybe the answer is to only go into really, really, wet caves ? 

Bob Mehew

Well-known member
Jenny P said:
Well, I always wear gloves anyway and just assumed others did.
Whether the virus is on you hand or glove, the concern is you accidentally putting it to your lips or eyes (I will discount other orifices) and thereby taking in the virus.  Though I guess if you have a cut on your hand it could gain direct entry.  Having worked in a laboratory with radioactive materials, it is all fraught with difficulty and I recall people cross contaminating themselves when disrobing. 

But I guess cave diving could be OK though, albeit by yourself.


Well-known member
It seems very unlikely you are going to pick up the virus standing on Leck Fell looking at the view, or even fondling the gate latch. It is probably orders of magnitude more dangerous going to Booths.

Hopefully the new guidance will help people understand the risk outside is very low as long as you don't stand next to someone having a chat.

If you are worried about virus in the cave, you are in the wrong cave or with the wrong people.


New member
From before lockdown emails have been sent from the FFS (the French BCA)  to its membership. I am not 100% sure but believe we are all individual members albeit signing up by your club in as in my case. This morning we have been told that caving and canyoning can resume with certain restrictions to the size of cave and difficulty of the trip.
Google translate does a reasonable job

Reprise des activit?s

Ch?res licenci?es, chers licenci?s,

Nous vous remercions d'avoir patient? aussi longtemps. Mais nous avons maintenant le plaisir de vous annoncer que le minist?re des Sports, sur proposition de notre f?d?ration, a autoris? la pratique de la sp?l?ologie, du canyonisme et de la plong?e souterraine. Les conditions ayant encore ?volu? r?cemment suite aux derniers arbitrages du minist?re des Sports et du minist?re de la Sant?, nous avons pr?f?r? attendre afin de vous diffuser un document d?finitif et officiellement valid?.

M?me si les annonces du Premier ministre, jeudi dernier, laissaient ? penser que nos activit?s seraient autoris?es, les sp?cificit?s de la sp?l?ologie, du canyonisme et de la plong?e souterraine ont rendu complexes les prises de d?cisions des services de l?Etat pour permettre leurs reprises : le partage de mat?riel (cordes notamment) et nos environnements de pratiques n'ont pas rendu si ?videntes les n?gociations. C'est pourquoi nous avons propos? au minist?re des adaptations de pratique en sp?l?ologie, canyonisme et plong?e souterraine qui permettaient de lever tout doute sanitaire, pour vous permettre de pratiquer ? nouveau, d?s le 11 mai.

C'est tout un travail d'?quipe qui a mobilis? la direction technique nationale, les ?coles, la commission secours, la commission m?dicale et qui a ?t? port? vigoureusement par notre Pr?sident et notre Directrice technique nationale. Pensez ? les remercier quand vous les croiserez.

Ces adaptations, valables du 11 mai au 2 juin, ont ?t? con?ues pour:
   - limiter la transmission du virus lors de nos activit?s en respectant les r?gles de distanciation impos?es et le respect des gestes barri?res,
   - permettre une intervention des sauveteurs sans cumuler les contraintes (permettre le passage d'une civi?re sans d?sobstruction, par exemple).

La sp?l?ologie est autoris?e dans les cavit?s de classe 3 maximum (cf. r?f?rentiel ci-joint) et limit?es ? quelques dizaines de m?tres de d?nivel? cumul? et quelques centaines de m?tres de d?veloppement. Les cavit?s pratiqu?es ne devront pas pr?senter d'?troitures et devront permettre la circulation des sauveteurs et d'une civi?re sans intervention suppl?mentaire (d?sobstruction, ...) en cas de secours.

Le canyonisme pourra ?tre pratiqu? dans tous les canyons dont la cotation ne d?passe pas V3 pour le caract?re vertical (cf. r?f?rentiel ci-joint ?galement).

Les plong?es sp?l?ologiques s'effectueront dans les courbes de s?curit? et pour des dur?es maximales d'une heure.

Ces adaptations n'?tant qu'un aper?u des diff?rentes pr?conisations, nous vous recommandons donc, avant d'enfiler vos combinaisons, de lire attentivement les consignes g?n?rales (pp. 5 et 6 du Guide sanitaire et m?dical), ainsi que celles sp?cifiques ? nos activit?s (sp?l?ologie, canyonisme et plong?e souterraine), figurant dans le guide ? Reprise des activit?s sportives ? joint (pp. 79 ? 81 ou en cliquant sur sp?l?ologie dans le sommaire), avant de profiter pleinement de vos sorties !!!  

Nous attirons votre attention toute particuli?re sur la n?cessit? de se nettoyer les mains avant et apr?s l?activit?, ? l?eau et au savon, bio-d?gradable quand cela est possible, ou au gel hydro-alcoolique, afin de favoriser la non-transmission du virus ? vos co?quipiers ou co?quipi?res. Ce n?est pas forc?ment un r?flexe que nous avons d?j? acquis !

Nous sommes heureux que nos activit?s puissent reprendre et nous vous souhaitons d'en profiter pleinement, en prenant soin de vous et de vos proches! Nous continuons de travailler en ?troite collaboration avec le minist?re des Sports pour favoriser une r?ouverture compl?te de nos activit?s d?s que les conditions sanitaires le permettront.
Bien ? vous,
Le bureau f?d?ral.

28, rue Delandine - 69002 LYON - Tel. : 04 72 56 09 63



Staff member
Thanks Barny.  Interesting - no squeezes and very limited vertical elevation.  Is a grade three cave, similar to our grading?  Cheers


Well-known member
Speleology is authorized in class 3 cavities maximum (see attached reference system) and limited to a few tens of meters of cumulative elevation gain and a few hundred meters of development. The cavities made must not have any narrowings and must allow the circulation of rescuers and a stretcher without additional intervention (unclogging, ...) in the event of rescue.

I don't see how that works at all. Specifying a 'type' of cave passage it's OK to be in, but not others? What kind of magical cave is this? Washing your hands before and after? What about coughing and spluttering? People do that a lot while they're caving. No mention of face masks. I appreciate this is France, and they're ahead of us a little, and that folks really want to go caving again everywhere, but this seems to be creating a set of rules that can easily be achieved by eager cavers, rather than a set of rules that might actually make a difference to preserving everyone's health. I'm not convinced, personally, for all the reasons discussed on this and other threads.


Well-known member
No, it's just Google translate being American (which can be much the same thing, but then they've accused us Brits of it often enough). The French version even has an accent!

The rules are obviously trying to keep people out of systems where they are likely to require as many people to get them out.


Class 3 caves look to be (roughly) LCMLA level2 - no big pitches etc, and specifically mentions that any "water features" shouldn't present an obstacle to a group.


Well-known member
It would be simplest to say stick to grade 3 caves, as they tend to not have anything that difficult in them, with the exception known sand bags like  Knacker Trapper which is more like a grade 4+!


Active member
Alex said:
It would be simplest to say stick to grade 3 caves, as they tend to not have anything that difficult in them, with the exception known sand bags like  Knacker Trapper which is more like a grade 4+!

All arbitrary for you now ---- you've got to get past the border check points these day. Don't want you bringing byssinosis and the likes over from the Dark side  :LOL:   


Well-known member
Alex, that is what the French actually says, but goes into more detail as to what sections to avoid.

In fact, on my phone, I get the option of viewing the letter in French or English:

& their classification is a bit different:

Interestingly, their website includes a PDF of "small confinement games" & a few humourous videos: