Like most sports and hobbies, the more time you put in, the better you get, and skills you acquire, and better you are, the more fun you have. Caving is no different. If I’ve got your attention and told you about the basics, this section is where i’ll give you just a taste of advanced caving – where YOU could be if you put in the effort and dedication.
As you advance with your caving, your physical attributes will advance too.
Caving as a sport is fairly unique in that you DON’T have to be sporty or co-ordinated. I have completed caves rated as difficult, but I can’t kick a football to save my life! I struggled all the way through school with sport – every sport I tried I failed at miserably. But caving needs no ball skills or hand eye co-ordination. And to some degree it doesn’t need super fitness either.
To be brutally honest, those that struggle at caving will be severely overweight individuals. If you’ve got a bit of a belly or your a bit curvaceous then you’ll be fine, but if you are VERY overweight then think about losing some kilos before trying caving.
The ultimate physique for caving is beanpole – tall and thin. For a little while NUCC (The ANU Caving Club) had a dwarf member who was good in little areas but didn’t have any reach. Small people can squeeze but not climb, tall can climb but can’t bend and contort.
Also interestingly men and women cave differently. Women use their legs for their power whereas men use their upper body to pull themselves with more explosive force. And squeezing is different. For men, the widest part is the shoulders – once your shoulders are through your through the squeeze, whereas with women its the hips. Once the hips are through they are done.
Fitness comes into caving more when you reach more advanced levels, where you are doing LONG trips carrying packs full of gear, and doing long surface hikes to get to and from caves in dense hilly terrain. But there is essentially nothing like that in Victoria – it is more of a Tasmanian phenomon. Caving fitness is full body and combines both short bursts of strength when pulling yourself up a climb, but also endurance when doing long trips.
Most Australian cavers are happy to go at a slow and steady pace, stopping regularly for choc and some water, or to take photos, etc. Funnily, my experience when I was caving in the UK was that they rush through their caves and you are looked down upon if you can’t keep up or if you ask for assistance.
A good sense of balance is handy with caving. Quite often you’ll find yourself in precarious positions, such as rigging a rope at the top of a pitch where you have to lean out awkwardly.
The final beneficial body part for caving is perhaps the most important – the brain! This becomes especially important when you enter the world of SRT (Single Rope Technique) otherwise known as vertical caving, and also the world of cave rescue. Those activities become a logic challenge where the real winners can analyse a situation using logic, and come up with a solution based on the challenge of the individual situation and the tools at hand to work with.
Other than that there are really no qualities that a good caver needs. It really is a hobby that anyone can do. And cavers in general (in Australia) are not macho or competitive, (mostly). Caving is to some degree a team sport. There is nothing wrong with providing a knee or a shoulder to help your team mate up a tricky climb, etc.
Anyway, this section will detail briefly some of the more advanced components of caving.