I’ve never felt anything quite like pre-caving excitement


A calling

It stirs something deep at the base of the belly, maybe it’s the womb

Hitting the road early

Driving through the English or Welsh countryside, laughing at cheesy jokes made by my companions

But only half listening, the other half of me consumed with anticipation

As we speed towards the destination there’s a growing feeling… of being small

The ritual always begins with cooked breakfast at a supermarket or nearby farm

Packed in the car we each have a fleece onesie

A boiler suit

Helmet with lamp

Knee pads

Neoprene wet socks that turn your feet like a dead person



Space blanket, Capri Sun, snack

Often mistaken for nerdy doggers, cavers change in ditches at the side of the road, come rain, shine or snow

We tramp across wild fields, over tufts of grass, sheep shit and sheep skulls, like shabby astronauts

Once the entrance is located and unlocked if needs be, our descent into the Earth begins

There’s a distinctive smell, and near the cave mouth will be spiders, webs, maybe bats

On my first trip underground I saw a deep crevice. The penny dropped for me as the trip leader scrambled across the top of it. No ropes. Riiiiiiight. This is risky!

Adrenalin pumps

There is fear

I actually feel aroused

The body is getting ready to preserve itself at all costs, redirecting blood away from expendable fingers and toes to warm the precious core

Cave temperature is pretty constant all year round, meaning in winter it might be warmer below than above the surface

The water though… the water is always icy

Only ever warmed if you’re pissing

(Make sure your companions are upstream)

Cave maps are called surveys and they are stunningly beautiful

Unlike a street map there are no straight lines

Just the arty tracks carved by water and the shifting of tectonic plates

Cold, hard, smooth, rough, sharp

Squeeze down a passage, pop your head up into a chamber, has it been seen by human eyes? Or any eyes?

There is mud, it’s cool, I need it

It feels like home to have mud rubbed into every exposed piece of skin

Back where we belong

In the most giant chambers, it is as dark and still as the void

So dark, velvety

Usually quiet, water sounds, or no sounds

Truly peaceful

I love to stop and switch off the lamp

Moving, then pausing to wait, still, heartbeat pounding, body heat moisture rising in clouds in the lamplight

You are held in a tube

No room to move

Like a cat in a vase

Crawling on your belly

The patient effort

I could not be more intimate with the planet itself

I am soothed by the sound of the boiler suit scraping on rock

Burrowing animals

Humans lived in caves

In the pores of the planet

Face right next to fossils



Scrambling, all planes

Chemistry, beauty, weirdness, it’s the most alien thing you can see without diving to the bottom of the sea or going into space

The shapes of the formations: bacon, sheets, spooky figures, genitals, crystal pools

Ominous histories of death and injury

Coming out into sunshine and flowers

Coming out into snow

Grey withered numb feet

Cave humour

Cup of tea or a pint and back to the city, the call fades until next time


I have written this blog post to help urge myself into sorting my return underground. I fell out of regular caving when my face was being regularly stupid and infected. Now I have a hole-shaped hole in my life. The simple truth is, I need to make more days off.

Credit: unknown – get in touch if you are or know the creator of this meme


Fun amazing caving facts

A little more than 47% of the Earth’s crust consists of oxygen

The rock cycle

More on the rock cycle

from the Blue, into the Dark – a beautiful short film revealing visions of the underworld