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Caving FAQs

A typical Vermont cave entrance

Here are some questions you might have about caving in Vermont, and answers to help you cave softly and safely!




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Cave Visitation in Vermont

    1. The best way to visit caves in Vermont is to attend a VCA meeting and go on an official trip with experienced cavers. New cavers are always welcome on our activities!
    2. To help keep caves open, abide by landowner wishes and obtain permission when visiting posted property. If caves are explicitly closed by the landowner, abide by their wishes. Careless visitors can easily jeopardize good relations.
    3. If visiting locations you are unfamiliar with, contact the VCA about current access policies.
    4. Respect the landowners. Leave property as you find it; shut gates behind you, pack out what you pack in, etc.
    5. Respect the caves. Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.

For more information on safe caving and seasonally open caves, see our Cave Access in Vermont page.

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Conservation Practices

    1. Caves are protected by the Federal Cave Resource Protection Act; it is illegal to harm or collect any natural features in a cave that is on State or Federal lands.
    2. Never touch a formation; the dirt and oils from your hand will be left on it causing damage.
    3. Delicate formations can be destroyed forever with a single accident or act of vandalism.
    4. Move slowly around formations. Never remove a formation from a cave.
    5. Leave what you find in caves or mines for future generations to enjoy such as fossils, bones, historical evidence and formations.
    6. Cavers should leave the cave as they found it, and pack out any garbage left by careless visitors!
    7. Never mark a cave wall with an arrow, names or dates. Use flagging or a stone pile for a trail marker, and take marking with you when you leave.
    8. Watch your step. Avoid killing cave life such as bats, spiders, and salamanders. Don’t disturb or harass any animal you see in a cave.
    9. Never go to the bathroom in a cave; the soil ecosystems that break down your waste on the surface do not exist below ground. A plastic water bottle makes an excellent pee bottle.
    10. Never light a fire in a cave; this can create deadly amounts of smoke and also damage the cave walls.
    11. Try to pick up any trash you see in cave, around the entrance, or on the approach trail.
    12. Visiting caves and mines with hibernating bats is discouraged from October through April.


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Dangers in Caving

In general, the most dangerous part of any caving trip is driving your car to and from the site. That said, there are some dangers inherent in exploring below ground:

    1. Hypothermia: This can kill people caused by being wet and cold, when body core temperature falls below 98.6 degrees. This is the most serious risk in Vermont!
    2. Falling Objects: This is a high risk in vertical caves or steep passage, because it is easy to dislodge rocks onto other members of your group. Travel one at a time and let your exploring partners know when you are clear for them to follow.
    3. Unstable Breakdown: Watch your step in fractures areas and rock piles; caves are not subject to weather, so delicately balanced rocks can remain in place for thousands of years until you come along and step on them!
    4. Constrictions: Never force yourself into a spot that feels too tight. Going down is easier than coming up.
    5. Drowning: Is a serious hazard in a sudden thunderstorm or tight water filled passage.
    6. Drugs and Alcohol: These should NEVER be taken before or during a cave trip. Alcohol lowers your body temperature and, along with many drugs, affects your reasoning and judgment.


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Safe Caving Practices

    1. Always have at least three sources of light
    2. Never cave alone; a minimum of three people is recommended.
    3. Leave word where you are and an expected return time allowing for delays
    4. Always obtain permission to enter a posted cave or mine. Trespassing is illegal!
    5. Hypothermia is a serious risk. Dress warmly and keep moving if you are cold.
    6. Never attempt a vertical cave without the proper ascending and descending gear.
    7. When moving vertically and over loose or wet rocks always use three points of contact (two feet and one hand etc).


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Suggested Clothing

    1. Vermont’s caves are cold and wet; expect temperatures in the 40’s.
    2. Cotton clothing is highly discouraged; it soaks up water and steals body heat.
    3. Leather or rubber gloves work best.
    4. Boots should be sturdy and provide good traction. Wool socks are recommended.
    5. An outer layer that is water resistant and durable for the cave environment is helpful; nylon coveralls work well.
    6. Polypropylene long underwear is highly recommend as a base layer.


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Suggested Equipment

    1. Helmet: UIAA approved hard hat with a chinstrap and a light source mounted on it. This allows your hands to be free for climbs and crawls.
    2. Back Up Lights: At least two more other then your helmet. Every caver should carry at least three sources of light. A bulb or light could always malfunction.
    3. Extra Batteries: Always plan to be in cave twice as long as you expect.
    4. Knee and Elbow Pads: Cannot be recommended enough for Vermont!
    5. Large Trash Bag: Can be used as an poncho for wet caves or as a heat tent in an emergency.
    6. Hand Line: A twenty-foot section of webbing or climbing rope works best, and can provide an extra handhold on short, steep climbs.
    7. Small First Aid Kit: This should include and not be limited to; candles, heat packs, space blanket, whistle, aspirin, energy bars, band aids, triangle bandage, and matches in a waterproof container.
    8. Cave Pack: Should be big enough for your first aid kit, an extra layer of clothing, food, and water.


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