Taking Scouts caving is a popular, adventurous and exciting activity, but it’s not something to approach casually. The National Speleological Society, A volunteer organization dedicated to the study, exploration, and conservation of caves has made it clear that untrained, unprepared cave explorers endanger themselves and cause irreversible damage to fragile cave environments. Access to wild caves is appropriately limited, but there are commercial caves that offer adventurous ‘wet’ tours in addition to their more tame walkthroughs.
Allen Maddox chairs the the National Speleological Society Youth Group Liaison Committee and serves as the Regional Coordinator for the Mid-Appalachian Region. Allen is also an advisor for a Venture Crew that focuses on caving. Allen’s blog; YOU Cave (youth opportunities underground), with a terrific set of resources for any troop or crew with an interest in caving.
While a cave may seem like a cold, dark and hostile, it is in reality a fragile environment.
A formation one cubic centimeter, roughly the size of 4 pennies stacked on each other, took about 100 years to form.
A common Small Brown Bat can consume 10,000 mosquitoes size insects each night. Insects that can decimate a farmer’s cops or carry diseases that are infectious to humans. Yet each mating pair has only one puppy each year.
We can read about these and other caving related biology, geology, and historical facts in books, but to give youth the opportunity to explore, touch, see and study the earth from the inside out is a very unique experience that helps to build an appreciation to the importance of caves.
When youth explore caves they learn about where they fit in within their environment. They learn their importance in being good stewards for the earth.
When youth explore caves together they become a member of a non-competitive team. They learn to work together and help each other through physical and mental challenges. They learn basic problem solving and leadership skills. They learn to depend on other people and to be dependable themselves. They learn about new possibilities for themselves.
Here are two key provisions of taking Scouts caving from the BSA Caving Policy (PDF file of the policy available here)
All caving, other than simple novice activities, should be limited to adults and young people 14 and older—“Simple novice activities” means commercially operated cave excursions.
One cave trip leader must be qualified through caving experience and must be thoroughly versed in all established safety practices, conservation measures, and courtesy to cave owners.
If you’re interested in taking Scouts caving start with Allen’s blog, it’s a great resource for learning about how to set up a caving adventure