Speleology (also called cave mountaineering) is an extreme sport, which consists in penetrating caves. What kind of qualification and equipment should you have to start your adventure with this type of activity?
There are many speleological clubs in Poland which make it possible to take part in a course for a cave mountaineer’s card. With this type of permission, it is possible to move in the caves located in the area of the Tatra National Park, in the region of the Western Tatras. There are more than 800 different caves, including the largest in our country – Great Snowy Cave, which is 824 meters deep. For the tourist movement is available, however, only a few small objects in the region of Koscieliska Valley.
One of the inseparable elements of each speleologist’s equipment is a flashlight that is put on the helmet. It is much more comfortable than its traditional, manual version. Headlamps allow to move comfortably in a cave without the necessity of using hands, illuminating precisely the area on which we move. In case of a headlamp failure or a situation when you need to replace the batteries, it is worth taking a spare source of light with you.
No speleologist can do without a helmet, which is an effective protection against impacts. The best solution are models without foam padding and without ventilation holes, through which water can flow.
The ideal speleologist clothing is the one consisting of several layers, effectively protecting against low temperature and cooling. Every speleologist should have a one-piece, close-fitting suit, which does not restrict movement, does not fold up and fits well. Additionally, it is worth having an inner suit and thermoactive underwear in the form of a T-shirt and leggings. Persons, who are only beginning their adventure with speleology, for their first trips can put on ordinary, much cheaper working suit.
What else should be in every speleologist’s equipment? You cannot do without a harness, which guarantees safe movement on the rope. Especially worth recommending are accessories of such brands as MTDE and PETZL. What is the difference between harnesses used in caves and climbing models? They are made of different materials and the anchor point is placed slightly lower, which makes it easier to climb up.
It’s also a good idea to have some descending, clamping and belaying devices with you. If you want to move around vertical caves, you should buy a steel delta or a special connector, a descending reel, a stirrup, a shunt, a poingee, a chest device, carabiners and a lunge, i.e. a dynamic rope about 3 metres long, to which you attach some of your accessories. A good solution is also ready-made speleological kits containing all necessary equipment.
It is also worth to mention a climbing frame. What is it? It is a small sack made of durable, damage resistant material used for storing the equipment which is not used at a given moment. It is fastened to the harness.
Before beginning your adventure with caving, you should be aware of the dangers that await the speleologist during cave exploration. They include, among others, hypothermia, dehydration, getting wet or various types of physical injuries. As a result, anyone wishing to practice this extreme sport must also, among other things, thin NRC foil to protect against cooling or freezing.
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