Caving Glossary


This is a list of terms commonly used constantly when caving;

Anchor
Connection points to rock fitted by cavers, two main types;
P-hangers - Bent metal hangers being introduced to replace the old system of spits. Far more reliable than spits, they also cost a lot more at about £6 compared to 85p.
Spit - A simple way of hand drilling a bolt into a cave wall, now being phased out due to short life spans, damage from over-tightening, rusting and other problems.
Deviation
Rope, sling, or bit of tat used to hold a rope away from an opposite wall, shelf, flake, ledge or waterfall to prevent rub points or a good soaking! Deviations are not load bearing and therefore their use is at the discretion of the rigger. For instance in summer, many waterfalls simply do not exist. See also rebelay.
Duck
Passage partly filled with water
Eco-Resin
A system created by DMM for bolting caves. P-hangers are cemented into rock using glue. They have many advantages over spits such as very long lifespans, not constantly applying pressure to the rock and far greater strength than required. None of the P-hangers recently tested in Derbyshire failed, some over 13 years old.
Formation
Pretties, stal, gour pools, straws. All names for natural cave features formed through calcite crystallisation of hard water.
Gouffre Berger
Probably the most famous cave in the world, and the first to be explored below 1000m vertical depth.
Jammer
An ascender using a toothed cam, jamming against a rope to allow a caver to prusik. Sometimes referred to as rope-clamps or rope-grabs.
Karabiner / Krab
Metal oval with gate in side for clipping to ropes and ladders
Moon milk
A rare powdery mineral formation found covering the cave floor in a white blanket. Occasionally develops into some interesting formations and can be several inches deep. Cavers feel guilty about walking over it and producing footprints.
Old Lag
Veteran caver who has been there done that. A bottomless pit of experience and more importantly opinions. There are various criteria for achieving "Old Lag" status, such as age, condition of equipment (more knackered is better!), beard, etc.
Petzl
Fernand Petzl (1912 - 2003), Famous caver, explored caves such as the Dent de Crolles and the Gouffre Berger. Invented the "Croll" ascender.
Pitch
A vertical section of a cave where a rope or ladder is used.
Prusik
A knot devised by Dr. Prusik that will not slide under strain but will when it is released, was used to climb ropes before the invention of jammers, however, the word 'prusiking' is still used to describe ascent of ropes.
Rebelay
A rope that has been re-bolted to the wall part way down a pitch. Effectively they create multiple pitches to make exiting a cave quicker or to move you away from waterfalls and other hindrances. Unlike deviations they are load bearing. It was due to the failure of several spits used in rebelays in the latter part of the 80's that DMM's eco-resin system was introduced to caves up and down the country.
Rigging
Setting up ropes ready for use
Shiny
New kit (usually maillons)
Sling
A loop of tape used for rigging
SRT (Single Rope Technique)
Wide area of techniques used for ascending and descending ropes. Devices and usage vary around the world - the British style is closer to the European than the American.
Streamway
A stream, duh. Usually pretty. Due to the formation of caves, these are commonly followed.
Sump
Passage completely filled with water. Some are short enough to be free-dived (i.e. holding your breath), but most require scuba-diving equipment.
Tat
Usually bits of rope or slings found left in caves for use as hand lines or deviations. Usually in poor condition and therefore never used for any critical application.
Tea
The most common beverage on any caving trip. After all, caffeine is a far more complicated molecule than alcohol. Tea is always made in a large teapot containing enough tea for the whole club, to make your own cup of tea would just be rude. The caving club typically gets through 80+ tea bags a weekend.
Through cave
A cave that can be followed through and out a different exit, to avoid backtracking.
Traversing
Travelling along ledges rather than the floor, normally because it's not there.
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    Yorkshire Dales
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    South Wales Caving Club's Hut