The Rapture?


New member
alexchien said:
It's a term made up by the Yanks in an attempt to make them look good/better/stronger when describing multi-day trips underground, such as on expeditions to Mexico.
They seem to think it works well in books, and when enticing the younger generation on these trips.
Little do they realise that Europeans and others laugh at such tosh.

There's a stark contrast in the Tabor book between the Russian stuff and Yank stuff. Most of the Yank stuff is rubbish and barely credible, chasing a depth record that is long gone. Whilst the Russian stuff contains some really interesting and hard expedition caving. The only thing that has some truth (Yank stuff) to it is an expedition leader chasing a young girl around a cave like a lost puppy, whilst the expedition divers wait for him to be ready to go and push the bottom of the cave !!

Funnily enough after 12 days underground in Huautla , the last thing I wanted to do was return to the surface, maybe reverse 'Rapture' ??

So that's what scooping booty is ?!

Joe Duxbury

maxf said:
In the context of the book it is likely to arise within people who have even (sic) underground for several days and likely to be pushing further into the cave and  cannot simply 'get out' in a couple of hours, not your average UK caver doing a 4 hr from surface UK trip so I don't think he has inflated it.

But the single event Tabor uses as an example of the existence of this phenomenon didn't happen to someone who had been 'underground for several days'. I think he's just churning out psycho-babble.

David Rose

Active member
I understand from someone who knows him that Tabor was encouraged to "sex up" his text by his publishers to make caving seem more extreme, and cavers even tougher than we actually are (hard though it is to imagine this could be possible). In any event, the passage about The Rapture and its context deserve reading in full. Apparently you get this nasty condition worst in what the author calls "supercaves". These passages are possibly the most risible things ever written about underground exploration. Unfortunately, there are other parts of this book that are just as bad.

Two years ago I went on an expedition to Huautla led by the indomitable Bill Steele, a really great guy. It was a hugely enjoyable - and very successful - experience. But what was weird was that some of the younger members of the team had read this book and believed this rapture thing might be real, and before big trips discussed whether they might be afflicted by it with some anxiety.

Anyway, here is what to expect in supercaves, which

"present more hazards than any other extreme exploration environment. Just descending into and climbing out of them is exorbitantly dangerous. Recovering a body, dead or alive, from deep within any cave is even worse, increasing that danger by an order of magnitude."

What might those perils be? According to Mr Tabor, they include:

"drowning, fatal falls, premature burial, asphyxiation, hypothermia, hurricane-force winds, electrocution, earthquake-induced collapses, poison gases and walls dripping sulfuric or hydrochloric acid. There are also rabid bats, snakes, troglodytic scorpions and spiders, radon and microbes that cause horrific diseases like histoplasmosis and leishmaniasis. Kitum Cave in Uganda is believed to be the birthplace of that ultragerm the Ebola virus. Caving hazards related to equipment and techniques include strangulation by one?s own vertical gear (primary and secondary ropes, rappel rack and ascender connections, et cetera), rope failure, running out of light, rappelling off the end of a rope, ascenders failing on muddy rope, foot-hang (fully as unpleasant as it sounds) and scores more that, if less common, are no less unpleasant. One final hazard, so obvious that it?s easy to forget, deserves mention: getting lost."

Foot hang, eh? Very nasty. Interesting that when Mark Sims and Sandy Wright made a breakthrough in the cave known as 27/9 in the Picos last year to find and descend a big pitch, they called it Foot Hang. I wonder why?

No wonder supercavers risk going bonkers - and are hence prone to the rapture:

"Supercaves create inner dangers as well, warping the mind with claustrophobia, anxiety, insomnia, hallucinations, personality disorders. There is also a particularly insidious derangement unique to caves called The Rapture, which is like a panic attack on meth. It can strike anywhere in a cave, at any time, but usually assaults a caver deep underground. And, of course, there is one more that, like getting lost, tends to be overlooked because it?s omnipresent: absolute, eternal darkness. Darkness so dark, without a single photon of light, that it is the luminal equivalent of absolute zero.?

Not a single photon of light. Strewth, we are brave. Or suffering from "personality disorders".

Below you can see Mark about to descend Foot Hang, fighting off The Rapture with every ounce of his strength.


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Well-known member
Joe Duxbury said:
Thank you all for joining in. Plenty of explanations of the effects of breathing nitrogen, and of high CO2 levels, but no-one has admitted to experiencing what Tabor was on about.
In his statements on the 'a terrible way to die' website (thanks, Mikem), Tabor carries on (digs himself deeper) with:
"At some level, everyone's brain will start to say, 'I don't belong here. This is a very dangerous place.' It's an ancient primordial instinct and it just says, 'You have to get me out of here, right now'" Well no, my brain has never said that. Have any of you other cavers' brains said that? Sitting in a large, dry chamber, lights out, with water drops going 'plink, plonk' in the distance is incredibly peaceful.
I agree with Tamarmole; I think, like Langcliffe, Tabor has inflated just one person suffering from 'a standard anxiety attack' into this semi-mystical, cave-induced experience.
The one time this happened to me I was in Morocco in a tube at the bottom of a stream sink surrounded by rotting vegetation. My breathing rate shot up and I scrambled out in a blue funk. The thing that nearly did for me that I was in such a tizz that I skidded on a slippery boulder nearly falling backwards off it which would have unpleasant to say the least.

Mike Hopley

New member
David Rose said:
Foot hang, eh? Very nasty.

That might actually be a real thing. Some American ropewalker systems suspend the caver upside-down from their feet, if the chest-roller fails. Obviously that's due to bad practice, as they should be using a third safety jammer -- but it's something their books warn about.

Below you can see Mark about to descend Foot Hang, fighting off The Rapture with every ounce of his strength.

I can clearly see the abject terror and sense of impending doom in his eyes.


Well-known member
I think I've mentioned this elsewhere on this forum, but I can't find it, so I'll post it again:

In an old edition of American Caving Accidents there is a first-person account by a guy who had a bizarre accident when on a solo trip.
It seems that he was prusiking up a ~70-feet entrance pitch using the Texas Prusik, which is a little bit like the Frog System but which uses a jammer to a sit-harness and another to foot-loops, which is relatively short and is installed on the rope below the harness-jammer. When he was nearly at the top of the pitch:

?My [harness] karabiner flexed and came undone; I tipped upside-down, and for a short time hung there in my foot-loops, before my feet slipped out and I fell ~65 feet to the bottom of the pitch. When I came to, I thought I?d broken my neck.?. (He hadn?t, fortunately.)
Well, there was a pile of branches and stuff at the bottom of the shaft that cushioned his fall. By the half-light filtering down the shaft (his lamp being broken) he managed to cobble together some sort of rope-climbing system and get out.
What could he deduce from this? Well, ?My karabiner had failed on two previous occasions, (my italics) but I had a sentimental attachment to it? (pity it wasn?t reciprocated) ?so I guess I?d better get a new krab. Also, had I had ?chicken loops? round my ankles, I?d have hung upside down until I could sort out the problem.?


Well-known member
I'm reminded of an expression which Stuart Davey used to come out with many years ago: "Kamikaze caver".
I believe that the fatality in Swildons in 1959 was caused by hypothermia, aggravated by hanging upside down on a ladder on the Forty.


Active member
35 years ago I shared a house with an American that was on the Huatla/Nita Nanta expeditions, and of all the things he talked about (and there were many) none referenced any form of 'rapture'.