British Columbia Speleological Society
Caving Codes of Conduct
Caving Safety: Individual Responsibilities
Before entering the cave:
- Let someone at home know of your itinerary and approximate schedule.
- Select appropriate personal equipment and supplies including headlamp, head protection, protective clothing (including gloves and kneepads), footwear, food and basic emergency supplies.
- Know how to properly use your personal equipment.
- Check your equipment and ensure that it is in good working condition.
- Check the weather and project the (hydrological) response of the cave to adverse weather conditions.
- Don't go underground under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or medication that could impair your judgement or performance.
- Inform the trip leader of any personal physical or mental limitations.
- Never plan to cave alone (groups of 3 are good; groups of 4 are preferable).
Inside the cave:
- Accept the trip leaderís decisions.
- Identify, recognize, and evaluate inherent caving hazards (e.g. flooding, hypothermia, fatigue, rockfalls etc.)
- Don't exceed your abilities and limitations.
- Stay together (minimum 2 persons for side passages).
- Don't linger at entrances or other potentially unstable zones, or vertical exposed areas (e.g. pitches, overhanging ice).
- Avoid jumping, sliding, or making (unnecessarily) rapid manoeuvres.
- Don't attempt something untried without a backup plan (e.g. backing out of a tight passage).
- Don't share your equipment.
- Never throw anything into pitches.
- Avoid unnecessary chatter while moving (this distracts other participants who may value silence more than you).
- Know the agreed-upon communication protocol (used when voice communications are impractical or impossible).
Caving Safety: Trip Leader's Responsibility
Before entering the cave:
- Let someone on the surface know of your plans.
- Know how to activate an outside cave rescue operation.
- Ensure that all collective and personal equipment is matched to the cave's difficulty (and in good working order).
- Ensure that basic emergency equipment and supplies are taken (e.g. first-aid kit, pulleys, heat source, extra rope, etc.)
- Plan the underground activity according to age, experience, skills, and physical condition.
- Have a back-up plan.
Inside the cave:
- Distribute experienced cavers to the front and back of group (and use the "buddy system" within the group).
- Progress through the cave as fast as the slowest person.
- Don't ask someone to perform something beyond their capability.
- Use fall protection for all vertical exposures.
- Recognize the symptoms of fatigue and hypothermia.
- Don't hesitate to call a halt to a "bad" trip.
Minimum Impact Caving
Consult with prior visitors about sensitive features. (This may also reduce the need for redundant visits.)
Limit the size of the party to the minimum required for a safe visit. (Four is a reasonable lower limit.)
Use a good source of light. (Avoid using acetylene-based headlamps in confined delicate areas.)
Use suitable protective clothing.
Don't smoke or make fires (even at the entrance).
Stay on the established "minimum impact" route if already established, and avoid touching anything.
Never break or soil speleothems (including flowstone and moonmilk).
Don't "push" delicate passages.
Don't overuse sensitive caves or sensitive interior passages.
Never mark surfaces.
Don't discard anything. (Remove all modern discarded objects, even if you were not responsible for putting them there!)
Don't urinate or defecate inside the cave. (Carry out all human waste in the case of bivouac).
Don't disturb hibernating bats or other sensitive organisms.
Avoid altering natural air or water flows.
Improve personal technique and abilities rather than permanently modifying the cave.
Avoid the use of explosives.
Avoid unique or unusual sediment accumulations.
- Use bolts only as a last resort where natural or non-marking anchors (cams, chocks, etc.) cannot be used.
- Place bolts or other permanent fixtures only after thoughtful consultation with the broader caving community, particularly other persons familiar with the cave.
- Use only high-quality bolts, and tag all bolts with the date of installation
This site created August 4, 1995,