Common Caver Courtesy: Or the Impression We Leave With Flashlight Cavers

I got an e-mail a few months ago from someone whom I had met while he was out caving in a local wild cave with his wife. I answered some of their questions about the cave. No need to talk to them on gear since they were properly equipped. They had already found the cave on their own after a several hour search, had been caving in some of the larger caves out west and were very friendly. I sent them some info on caving and tried to establish a friendly rapport with them. Unfortunately, they subsequently ran into another group of organized cavers and had this encounter, which they e-mailed to me:

“Upon returning to … Cave to finally push through the rear passage you had pointed out to us earlier, we audibly encounter a small group (outside of the very chimney crawl you had introduced us to) one thirty or so feet inside. After hearing us hollering “come on back it opens up!” and such, they continued on back behind us. They caught up to us in the room containing the pigeon-hole. My friend, weighing 200 pounds and going 6’2”, chose to wait up before proceeding (to check the size of the guys behind us). It seems the group was made up of a … Grotto guide with five smaller college kids on a tour. I know this is probably rambling on much but I’m like that – bear with me! This was the same cat who had encountered us on the … trail at night on a previous trip, after walking the hill for hours at night, would not take the two minutes to point us in the right direction (leading to another 4 or so hours before finally locating it on a subsequent trip). So upon listening to this guy talk of how hardcore he was for a few, realized that we really did not need to be with his group. Told them they could continue ahead. The smallish kids had no experience and were already kind of intimidated by their surroundings, so obviously you want to tell them to go first through the pigeonhole, and of course that’s what he did. Enjoying the humor of the moment, I paused to take a photo of our buddy squeezing through the slot. Not! Before I could squeeze off a shot I hear “HEY! PULL ON ME I’M STUCK!!” I put my camera away and proceed to try to extract this guy by grabbing a leg and pulling with all my might, as was my strong as a bull friend. In the ten or so minutes we pulled and pried on him to remove him from a very bad predicament, we pondered how exactly this situation would have played out without us having found the cave on our own, despite the adversities we encountered in locating it. Most obviously this person’s lack of interest in taking two minutes out to help a fellow caving enthusiast. Well it’s a good thing we were there to free him, and at least I did get my photo op! Upon his extraction I clicked a shot to keep as a memento. It’s quite hilarious, and I can always look at it and get a giggle. . . . But anyway . . . The meeting of you and yours at the … Cave was a very enjoyable experience and you appeared to be a friendly, silly kind of crew (in a good way of course!)”

This serves as an interesting reminder of how others, even flashlight cavers, perceive us and organized caving. Take note and follow your own instincts next time you encounter some in a cave. They may have the last laugh.

By Kim Metzgar