Oxford University Cave Club

Frequently-Asked Questions

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Like most FAQs, a mixture of questions that are actually asked frequently and questions we just want to tell you the answer to.

What do I need to bring on a caving day trip?

* Anything white that you wear underground will never be white again.
** Many cavers like to wear rubber gloves underground, especially if they have sensitive skin.

What do I need to bring on a caving weekend?

What if I didn't bring my sleeping bag to Oxford?

We have some sleeping bags to lend out in the club hut. Make sure you tell the trip leader that you need one so they can check there's enough for everyone. If you don't own a sleeping bag at all, it would be a good idea to get one, it'll be useful for various other things at University not just caving. Go Outdoors (which can be found here ) is probably the best place in Oxford to get a decent sleeping bag, or if you want a very cheap one, try eBay.

How much does a caving weekend cost and what's included?

A caving weekend costs 40. This includes transport, accommodation, hire of a full set of caving kit, and food. Specifically Saturday breakfast, Saturday dinner, Sunday breakfast, and snacks for underground. There's often enough leftovers for everyone to eat something after caving on Sunday too, though don't rely on it.

What it doesn't include is batteries for caving lights (we tried having club rechargeable batteries but they kept going missing), food on Friday night, or booze.

Is there anything I can do if I'd like to go caving but I'm short of money?

If you have been caving with us before, you can apply to the Pod fund for help with the cost of going on a caving weekend, buying your own caving kit, or going on a caving expedition. For a caving expedition, the AC Irvine fund may also be able to help.

When do we set off and get back?

For weekends, we usually meet at 6pm at the Club hut. This will vary a bit depending on who's driving, some drivers prefer 5.30pm or so. When we get back is a lot more variable, usually between about 7pm and 11pm depending on how organised we are with getting back from caving and getting packed up, where the weekend is, and what the traffic's like.

For day trips we will usually meet at 8.30 or 9am and get back late in the evening, around 11pm or so. Unfortunately Oxford is far enough from any caves that day trips are barely just feasible, they do tend to take all day.

Where is the Club hut?

At the Iffley Road Sports Centre, more detail here .

What should I do before my first caving trip?

Where is some good information for new cavers?

Here and here . You can also come to one of our Wednesday pub meetings , which are a good place to ask more questions and get to know the people you'll be caving with!

What happens on a day trip?

What happens on a weekend?

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

Is it OK if I've never been caving before?

Yes, absolutely, you'll be in good company. Most people have never caved when they first join the club, and those who have caved before have usually only done it once or twice with Scouts etc. It's a (nice) surprise when we get a new member with a significant amount of caving experience.

Is it OK if I'm a graduate student/ visiting student / not part of the University at all?

Yes, we're far from being an undergraduate only club. A lot of new people joining the club are graduate students and visiting students, and people from outside the University are welcome too, especially if you can drive or stick around long enough to lead trips.

Is it OK if I have a medical condition?

Yes, we've never yet had to turn someone away due to a medical condition. The important thing is to tell your trip leader about it, preferably in advance of the weekend. That way they can talk to you about whether we need to do anything about it underground. For example there was an issue in another club where a diabetic caver didn't tell anyone she was diabetic, so when she passed out from hypoglycaemia no-one knew what was going on and she had to wait a long time until Cave Rescue arrived. Whereas it could have been a non-issue if they'd known in advance and brought a good variety of snacks and some sugar gel. We'd like to avoid this sort of situation.

Is it OK if I'm afraid of heights or claustrophobic?

Nearly all caves in the UK have either some crawling passages or some narrow passages where you have to walk sideways, so if you are severely claustrophobic, caving may not be the sport for you. However there are plenty of cavers who are afraid of heights, and mild claustrophobia needn't be a problem either. Let the weekend organiser know so that when we're figuring out who goes on which trip, they can make sure your first trip isn't too scary for you. Then you can build up to squeezier / more vertical trips as you feel comfortable with it.

I missed the Freshers' weekends, can I have my first caving trip on another weekend?

Yes, we can run trips suitable for beginners on most weekends. If a particular weekend is unsuitable for beginners it will usually be mentioned in the announcement. Let the weekend organiser know you haven't caved before.

Is caving dangerous?

Not very. The caving environment does have risks and you will need to be sensible, however the risks are generally things we can manage quite well. For example we pay attention to the weather forecast and don't go into flood prone systems when the weather is too wet. There are well practiced techniques for dealing with vertical drops so we are never relying on a single piece of equipment etc. If you look at the cave rescue statistics e.g here , you will notice that they rescue sheep and hikers much more often than doing actual cave rescue. There are only a few genuine cave rescue incidents each year, and there is a caving death only once every few years, few enough that they have been listed .

Is it possible to discover new cave passages where no-one's ever been before?

Yes, caving is one of the few areas where original exploration is still possible and new cave passages are being discovered every year. If you come caving regularly, you should be able to join a caving expedition at the end of your first year, and with luck be the first person to set foot in an entirely new and undiscovered part of the World!

What are the rules about cancelling when I've booked a place on a trip?

We set up the paying in advance system because we were having trouble with people dropping out at the last minute after we'd already paid for their food, transport etc and leaving us out of pocket. If you cancel more than 48 hours before the start of the trip, that's fine, you can get your money refunded. The best way to do so would be to send an email to the weekend organiser and cc the treasurer. With less than 48 hours notice, probably not. In some cases we may be able to let you use the money towards a different caving weekend, e.g. if we do find someone to take your place on the trip, but try not to do this.

Can I bring my camera underground?

I'd recommend no. Anything you bring underground is likely to get wet, muddy, and bashed about quite a lot. Cameras are very likely to get broken, and certainly don't bring your phone. Cave photographers use cameras that are specially designed to be tough and pack them in cave-proof boxes e.g. peli cases with foam padding.

What is SRT?

SRT stands for single rope technique, it's how we get up and down vertical drops in caves. We abseil down ropes and prussik up ropes. You will need to do SRT training before doing SRT in a cave, but we can often offer this on the weekend itself. Most caves in Yorkshire and the Peak District require SRT, while most caves in Wales and the Mendips don't. Though we can find non-SRT trips in the former regions if you're having your first trip there, and we can find some SRT to do in the latter if you're keen to learn it.

How do the club mailing lists work?

We have an All members list and a Local stuff list. All OUCC members should be on the all members list, and OUCC members in Oxford should be on the local stuff list too. Information about caving, important meetings, and other things relevant to OUCC members across the country should be posted on the all members list whereas information about pub nights, SRT practice, and other things relevant only to people living in Oxford should be posted to the local stuff list. Details of how to join the lists are here .

Is there an OUCC Facebook group or Instagram page?

Yes, they're here: Facebook and Instagram