Caving, which also goes by Potholing or Spelunking in the United States, consists in underground exploration of caves systems and tunnels. It can incorporate many different activities in one like abseiling, belaying, crawling, climbing and even swimming and scuba diving in some cases, however caving refers to vertical exploration while the term potholing is more for horizontal expeditions.  While caving, one can explore the fascinating geological artifacts that are hidden from sight, magnificent underground rivers and lakes and even old mines.  As this activity has evolved, it has developed into what we can consider an adventure or extreme sport, while appealing to many different people of different ages and abilities.

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The history of caving dates back to the late 19th century with a French explorer Édouard-Alfred Martel embarking on a descent in Gouffre de Padirac, and the first complete caving expedition was carried out here at home in Gaping Gill, in Yorkshire, England in 1895. The United States boasts a plethora of immense caves and the National Speleological Society (NSS) was created to protect their natural wonders and to advance their underground research and other caving organizations have been created in France, Romania, Columbia and Pakistan.

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There are multiple locations throughout the UK for caving like the Peak District, The Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales and the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Caves are usually limestone with narrow passages, steep pitches (that need to be abseiled) and rivers. Cavers or those interested in this activity can find an extensive list of outdoor adventure providers and caving companies that organized excursions for beginners to the more experienced caver. If you already have experience as a caver, there are multiple organizations and clubs you can join, or practice on your own terms, however caving can be a dangerous sport that need not be taken lightly as rescue attempts are extremely precarious. The difficulty of the cave is designated by grades and the scale is 1 to 5, 5 being the most extreme.

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The essential equipment needed for caving is:

  • A helmet
  • Overalls
  • Wellies Lights (that are mounted on the hard hat). They can be Led or halogen but they are a must have as it can be extremely dark. A backup should also be taken.
  • Warm attire (depending on where you are caving) as hypothermia is a danger.
  • Waterproof attire if needed
  • Polypropylene if you are caving in a tropical cave as they are dry and this material protects from abrasions while being a fairly cool fabric.
  • Knee and elbow pads if there is going to be a lot of crawl so as to protect these important joints from unnecessary stress.
  • Rope, karabiners, bolts and slings if the caver is going to need to abseil or climb. Descending and ascending in caving uses what is called the   Single Rope Technique which involves using one rope for both.
  • First aid kits, equipment and tools for emergencies and food.
  • Diving gear if cave diving is going to be done, however this is for very experienced and knowledgeable explorers. In the UK cave diving forms part of caving, however in the United States it is under Scuba diving.

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Caving is an absolutely fascinating activity which, as offersphysical components, it is also great for keeping in shape. Depending on the extremity of the excursion, it can also provide an extreme adventure experience that adrenaline seekers look for. It´s also fantastic for school trips as pupils will be able to see geological phenomenon like stalagtites and stalagmites in real life.

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Caving is a unique adventure sport like no other and what you can explore caving are some of the least visited places on Earth. There are even deep caves where less people have been than moon! Even if you´ve need tried the sport, there is something for everyone and you can progress until caving grade 5 caves if you want and explore the underground hidden wonders the Earth hides from us!