5 Rules Arizona Cavers Must Know Before Going Underground
With an average of 260 to 320 days of sunshine every year, Arizona is a great place for outdoor activities year-round.
While all the fresh air and sunshine calls to many of us, there are those among us who hear a different call.
The whisper of voices bouncing off underground walls. The sleepy stirring of bats. The delicate drip, drip, drip of water droplets as they fall from a ceiling stalactite and kiss the floor's mirror image stalagmite.
Take a Trip Underground
The Cochise County Tourism and Economic Council has a complete itinerary if you're planning your caving adventure.
If you're outlining your spelunking journey, there are things you know before you get out that hard hat! Read on for the some of the most fun you can have in the dark in Arizona!
Cavers, Spelunkers and Underground Explorers
Whether you're a novice who's more interested in in taking a guided tour with an experienced docent in a cave like Kartchner Caverns in Benson, or if you're an experienced caver looking for something more challenging, there are some rules you should follow before you set foot into a cave.
Rules for Potential Cavers
No matter which cave calls to you, there are rules you should follow. These rules can protect cavers and the delicate ecosystem of the chasm.
1. Light Your Way
If you plan to go exploring in a cave, you should always take a backpack of some kind with you. The first thing you should dop into that day pack is at least three sources of light, plus more batteries than you think you'll need. This small gesture alone could save your life. Be sure everyone in your group does the same.
2. Protect Your Hands
Everyone should wear gloves. It makes sense that you'd want protect your hands from cuts and scrapes. Wearing gloves is even more important for the health of the cave.
Oils on your skin can damage formations inside the cave, leaving behind damage for years to come. Be considerate of the delicate environment and makes make sure everyone has something on their hands before going in.
3. Essentials for Caving
Many outdoor adventures have started with the words, "it's only a short hike!", and ended with search and rescue teams combing the area, looking for survivors.
The National Park Service has some advice for how to prepare for a hiking and caving adventure, so you don't end up a statistic. Always add these to your backpack:
- sturdy shoes or boots
- sun protection
- sun hat and a hard hat for the cave
- map and a compass
- extra clothes and rain gear
- safety items, like a signal mirror and a whistle
- well stocked first aid kit
- lighter, matches, or fire starter
4. Remember, Cave Safety First!
In the enthusiasm to explore, always remember these points:
- Use the buddy system! Never explore caves alone.
- If you're new to caving, find an experienced expert to show the ropes. In some cases, literally.
- Know your limitations and your endurance level. Caving can be difficult and technical
- Don't take risks beyond your levels
- Always tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back
- If you forgot to do this, stop by the visitor center and tell a park ranger! It's what they're here for!
- Have an emergency plan in case things go sideways
- Always keep your mind engaged. Be sure to pay close attention to your footing, especially in steep or challenging terrain situations.
- Maintain three points of contact (two feet, one hand; one foot, two hands).
- If your light fails - stay where you are.
5. Remember The Caver's Creed
Exploring a cave is exciting, and you'll want to remember the experience for years to come. Although it's tempting to want to bring home a souvenir, fight the urge.
The Caver's Creed: Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but carefully placed footprints, and kill nothing but time.