Oxford University Cave Club

Why try Caving?

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A good caving trip is a combination of all those things your mother didn't like you doing when you were small - getting wet and dirty, jumping off things, swinging about on ropes, wearing silly clothes, singing and shouting... they often seem to end up in Pubs. Possibly your mother might not approve of that either.

Maybe you've been in a "show cave". Led about by a guide down some well-lit tunnel, to admire the sword of Damocles, the Witch and so on. Beyond all this lies the real cave... dark and mysterious, with formations far surpassing anything the tourists see... where a river twists through sculpted rock walls to plummet down a noisy waterfall. It's hill-walking with a lid on, rock-scrambling in the dark, with a bit of Fantasia thrown in for good measure.

Most importantly, caving isn't -or needn't be - difficult. You don't need to be super-fit, learn esoteric techniques or pass tests to start caving. You just need a bit of curiosity, some basic gear and someone experienced to go with. Caving techniques, such as they are, are best learnt down caves, not in a lecture theatre. After a few trips, you'll be able to go to some of the weirdest and most spectacular places in Britain - with confidence and in safety.

Caverns measureless...

In the summer, the Club goes on expedition to Northern Spain. You could be there next August! In the last 30 years, we've discovered, explored and mapped some of the deepest caves ever found by British clubs - including two caves over 1000m deep - Pozu del Xitu (-1143 metres - connected in 2010 to its resurgence cave by diving) and Pozo la Tormenta / Asoploderu la Texa (-1060m). OUCC has also discovered lots of new cave in Britain in the last few years, including more than 20 km of spectacular cave passage in Ogof Draenen, now Britain's 3rd longest cave system (over 70km long!). We are still in a golden age for cave exploration - where your light can be the first, ever, to shine on that massive cavern, that silent dark stream, (or, yes, that sordid muddy grovel).

But isn't caving dangerous ?

Statistically, caving is safer than diving, climbing, hang-gliding and probably cycling around Oxford. One of the more noted northern cavers is missing a leg. But it happened when he was run over by a tram and, as he says, "there's no trams down caves". In other words, the hazards in caves are natural, obvious and easily made safe. Heavy rain can cause problems - but we keep a close eye on the forecasts and avoid hazardous caves in dodgy weather.

Is it expensive ?

You don't have to buy any special gear to start with - we'll lend it to you. If you get keen, you will soon want to buy your own set of caving clothes (about £120). Maybe your own helmet and light (another £100 for a good set.). That's it. Of course, gear freaks can acquire all sorts of stuff, some of it useful.... If you go on expedition, or get into vertical caving, you will need a set of clanking aluminium gear that will get you up and down ropes. With the discounts we get, about £180 will see you set up. Trip costs are at set prices to cover transport, food and accommodation (£20-30 for day trips, around £40 for long-distance weekends). Membership of OUCC is 15-25 per year.Your first term's membership is included in the cost of your first trip (see here for more details about costs).

Will I enjoy it ?

The simple answer is, caving is so different to anything else, you won't know till you try ! While those stuck in College at the weekend trawl through the library for the last dog-eared copy of the works of Coleridge, you could be heading down to your own sunless sea... a real one.

How do I find out more?

All photographs are of caves discovered, explored, mapped and photographed by OUCC. Click on the pictures for more details.