Is there grading of caves?

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Is there grading of caves?

Postby tmazanec1 » Aug 30, 2014 1:56 pm

My cousin's husband is a ski instructor (that's why she lives in Colorado). He informed me that ski slopes have a grading (I forget how it went), that sorted them from "easy for beginners" to "hard for experts"
Does caving have a similar system?
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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby Tlaloc » Aug 30, 2014 2:15 pm

No
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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby Leclused » Aug 30, 2014 4:32 pm

tmazanec1 wrote:My cousin's husband is a ski instructor (that's why she lives in Colorado). He informed me that ski slopes have a grading (I forget how it went), that sorted them from "easy for beginners" to "hard for experts"
Does caving have a similar system?


Not officially but in my club we give of all european caves we have visited a kind of guideline for fellow cavers of how we experienced the trip. The list can be found here

http://www.scavalon.be/avalonuk/av09.htm

This is our experience and rating.

1 easy, light trip, max . 5 h, maybe a bit of rope work
2 not difficult, a bit heavier, max. 8 h, more rope work
3 pretty difficult, pushing trip, often a lot of rope work, max. 12 h.
4 difficult, strenuous trip, often a lot of rope work, max. 18 h.
5 very difficult, very strenuous, a lot of rope work, 18-30 h, a "killer" cave...
This classification depends upon the objectives of the caving trip. In general, OUR objective was to bottom the cave! This classification is only of use for experienced cavers who perfectly master all rigging- and SRT-techniques and are in good physical condition
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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby ohiocaver » Aug 31, 2014 12:38 pm

I've seen the Euro system and don't find it of much value beyond, as Leclused said, for experienced cavers. And experienced cavers will usually talk to other experienced cavers for the beta they need on a given cave. However, the folks who most would benefit from a rating system are the newer or less experienced cavers or those from out-of-state who don't want to get in over their head (there are also the grade-grubbers who want to brag that they "did a 5-plus last weekend"...I don't count them).
I've though about the possibility of adapting one of the the climbers' rating systems for alpine routes (not the 5.0-5.15+ for rock routes) to caving since the alpine systems typically account for length/time on the route, technical difficulty (rope, no rope), route-finding difficulty, objective danger. To port this to caves would require a number of well-traveled cavers to agree on a lot of factors. And it would require some footnote for how the trip went (ie, I've been on 14-hour trips to a fairly easy cave like Norman -- in one case, on a thru-trip with Bone and in another case barely getting out of the Totem Pole room (relatively close to the entrance) and Great White Way but killing huge chunks of time taking photos.
If you are an inexperienced caver, your best bet for staying out of trouble (in ski terms, avoiding the double black diamonds and staying on the green circles and blue squares) is to talk to a caver who knows the cave. This will change over time, of course, as it did with climbing. So....maybe an opportunity for a Recreation & Parks major to develop a system and establish a few "typical for grade" caves in various areas of the country as benchmarks for all other caves nationwide. Anyone want to do a master's degree here? :tonguecheek:
[url=http://postimg.org/image/lex35gcbv/][img]http://s9.postimg.org/lex35gcbv/curt_Bryants_Cave_Indiana.jpg[/img][/url]
[url=http://postimg.org/image/eta4ctvar/][img]http://s21.postimg.org/eta4ctvar/cn_oh_isl_coils_cave_curt_sketch.jpg[/img][/url]
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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby JSDunham » Aug 31, 2014 3:23 pm

Leclused wrote:This classification is only of use for experienced cavers who perfectly master all rigging- and SRT-techniques and are in good physical condition


That sounds like the group of people who would least need such a classification.

The place where I feel a classification system would be most helpful would where relative newcomers or strangers to an area want to know something about whether they have the skills for a given cave (such as at NSS conventions, regional events, and generally open grotto trips). To be useful I think such a system would have to rate a number of factors, such as difficulty of rope work, tightness of squeezes, difficulty of climbs, how wet a cave is, how cold it is, etc. This would be especially important for long caves, where advanced and beginner trips are both possible depending on the route one takes.

Of course, I don't know if such a system could work on a national scale, let alone a global scale. We cavers in the Northeast regularly shake our heads at what some people down south think counts as cold or tight, and during the VT convention many people really just couldn't grasp how it might take 4 hours to travel 1000ft. So, it might be that regional classifications would be the only effective way to go.
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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby Tlaloc » Aug 31, 2014 4:40 pm

About every five or ten years someone decides that it would be a really great idea to have a rating system for caves like they have for climbing. Then a whole bunch of people express the opinion that this is a horrible idea for a whole lot of reasons. Then it goes away for a while. "It's deja vu all over again." - Yogi Berra
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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby JSDunham » Sep 1, 2014 9:02 pm

Tlaloc wrote:this is a horrible idea for a whole lot of reasons.


...none of which are important enough to mention? I don't find that a compelling argument. It certainly doesn't seem to be true of this discussion, nor of the similar cavechat threads I can find. In point of fact, it seems that a number of people have developed such systems which are informally in use in many places, and formally in some.

This topic has other examples: http://forums.caves.org/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5617&hilit=cave+rating+system
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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby GroundquestMSA » Sep 1, 2014 10:09 pm

JSDunham wrote:
Tlaloc wrote:this is a horrible idea for a whole lot of reasons.


...none of which are important enough to mention? I don't find that a compelling argument. It certainly doesn't seem to be true of this discussion, nor of the similar cavechat threads I can find. In point of fact, it seems that a number of people have developed such systems which are informally in use in many places, and formally in some.

This topic has other examples: http://forums.caves.org/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5617&hilit=cave+rating+system


It's not a horrible idea, and I'm shocked that Tlaloc, the Engganon goddess of niceness and cookies, would dare offer such a curmudgeonly view.
It is a silly idea. Whether or not cave rating systems are in use has no bearing on the fact that they are pointless. A rating system does absolutely nothing that isn't already done much more intuitively by the crusty old Cave Description.

JSDunham wrote:The place where I feel a classification system would be most helpful would where relative newcomers or strangers to an area want to know something about whether they have the skills for a given cave (such as at NSS conventions, regional events, and generally open grotto trips). To be useful I think such a system would have to rate a number of factors, such as difficulty of rope work, tightness of squeezes, difficulty of climbs, how wet a cave is, how cold it is, etc. This would be especially important for long caves, where advanced and beginner trips are both possible depending on the route one takes.


Eh? How is slapping a bunch of numbers on the cave going to help any more than what we already have? Newcomers don't need and can't use a goofy number. A written or verbal description, along with accompaniment on the trip, would have much more value. The only people who I imagine could want a grading system are the people who want to play around with devising the grades, and the egomoronical cavers who want to scramble around filling up their resumes with 6s so they can feel cooler than the poor duds doing 4s.

My best answer to the original question is, No, because caves are not like ski slopes or climbing routes. The difficulty varies so radically based on an enormous number of factors and conditions that it is impossible to seriously suggest a practically useful grading system. Leclused's example of ratings illustrates this. What would they call a 4 hour trip with a lot of ropework? What about an intensely strenuous 7 hour trip? What about a 24 hour trip with no squeezing or ropework in an easy cave? Forget about ratings and go caving! Either someone will tell you what's involved and you can go or not go, or you'll all find out when you get there.
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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby Leclused » Sep 2, 2014 1:48 am

GroundquestMSA wrote:
JSDunham wrote:
Tlaloc wrote:this is a horrible idea for a whole lot of reasons.


What would they call a 4 hour trip with a lot of ropework? What about an intensely strenuous 7 hour trip? What about a 24 hour trip with no squeezing or ropework in an easy cave? Forget about ratings and go caving! Either someone will tell you what's involved and you can go or not go, or you'll all find out when you get there.


Easy answer : A 4 hour (European-style) trip with a lot of ropework doesn't exists. Try rigging a 400m (a lot of rope) deep cave descent and ascent it in 4hours ==> impossible

The "rating" we give to the caves we have done is just a guideline for other cavers who want to do a cave we did already. Mostly fellow cavers start their research and when they have their short list of rate 1 or 3 or 5 caves then the start asking more questions concerning access / specific rigging / squeezes

As mentioned in the above post a real rating system would have so much factors that a an easy rate 1 cave can in some cases become a 3-rate or more.

BR

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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby JSDunham » Sep 2, 2014 6:46 am

GroundquestMSA wrote: they are pointless ... absolutely nothing ... don't need and can't use ... The only people who I imagine could want a grading system ... it is impossible to seriously suggest a practically useful grading system ... Forget about ratings and go caving! Either someone will tell you what's involved and you can go or not go, or you'll all find out when you get there.


Whole lotta hyperbole in there, not a lot of actual arguments against the principle. I get that you don't like the idea, but I think you're conflating your opinion of it with actual questions of feasibility.
I think this is an interesting concept and worth discussion rather than hand-waving dismissal. The one point you brought up to discuss was that the the cave description does things pretty well; I think you're right on there, but it doesn't do everything. I am setting up trips for the Spring NRO right now, and every NRO we have people showing up who go on a trip and then "find out when they get there" part way that no, they aren't up for that cave. That's fine as it goes on personal trips, but NRO and grotto trips are also partly about outreach and teaching newcomers (unless you belong to one of the crusty old grottos that are always going on secret trips to secret caves and don't let newbies get a foot in the door if they don't know the secret handshake), and newcomers and cavers with little experience would benefit, in my opinion as someone who sets up these trips, from a clearer understanding of the cave. I don't have a system that does that, nor do I have interest in creating one, but that doesn't make it impossible, not worth anyone's time to talk about or look into, unusable, etc.
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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby caver.adam » Sep 2, 2014 9:01 am

We could totally set up a ratings system. Although descriptions are probably a better way to go. Numerics to describe the passage difficulty, and letters to describe specific skills required on the trip.

Example:
1. Walking tour cave with lights and railings. No equipment required.
2. Walking cave. Basic safety equipment and lights required.
3. Cave with obstacles, boulders, and crawling. Safety equipment required.
4. Cave with occasional squeezes, belly crawls, or climb-ups. Safety...
5. Cave with frequent squeezes, belly crawls, or climb-ups.

F. Freeclimbing required.
V. Vertical equipment and technique required.
S. Size of caver limited through choke point.
W. Wetsuit required.
O. Overnight equipment required.

Etc.
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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby trogman » Sep 2, 2014 10:03 am

caver.adam wrote:We could totally set up a ratings system. Although descriptions are probably a better way to go. Numerics to describe the passage difficulty, and letters to describe specific skills required on the trip.

Example:
1. Walking tour cave with lights and railings. No equipment required.
2. Walking cave. Basic safety equipment and lights required.
3. Cave with obstacles, boulders, and crawling. Safety equipment required.
4. Cave with occasional squeezes, belly crawls, or climb-ups. Safety...
5. Cave with frequent squeezes, belly crawls, or climb-ups.

F. Freeclimbing required.
V. Vertical equipment and technique required.
S. Size of caver limited through choke point.
W. Wetsuit required.
O. Overnight equipment required.

Etc.


Nice rating system ideas. Part of what you run into is that in most caves, the rating would depend on how far you wanted to go, or which side passages you wanted to push. For example, a cave like Tumbling Rock could be rated a 3S; however, if one decided to only go to the Christmas Tree room, then you could leave off the S. If, however, some of the less-traveled side passages were explored, you might have to add a V or a W. I guess you could limit your rating system to only the most oft-traveled routes in the cave.

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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby Tlaloc » Sep 2, 2014 10:06 am

GroundquestMSA wrote:...Tlaloc, the Engganon goddess...


My Oxford American Dictionary has no definition of the the word "Engganon" and shouldn't the 'E' be lower case?
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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby JSDunham » Sep 2, 2014 12:03 pm

caver.adam wrote:We could totally set up a ratings system. Although descriptions are probably a better way to go. Numerics to describe the passage difficulty, and letters to describe specific skills required on the trip.

Example:
1. Walking tour cave with lights and railings. No equipment required.
2. Walking cave. Basic safety equipment and lights required.
3. Cave with obstacles, boulders, and crawling. Safety equipment required.
4. Cave with occasional squeezes, belly crawls, or climb-ups. Safety...
5. Cave with frequent squeezes, belly crawls, or climb-ups.

F. Freeclimbing required.
V. Vertical equipment and technique required.
S. Size of caver limited through choke point.
W. Wetsuit required.
O. Overnight equipment required.

Etc.


I like that; simple but pretty comprehensive.

I think it is important to note here that what we are talking about is really rating cave trips, not entire caves. Of course, this is the more reasonable analogy to other rating systems; skiers and hikers do not rate entire mountains and climbers do not rate entire cliffs. Instead, of course, what one rates is a route. It seems like most of the systems mentioned so far do that implicitly, and I like this one for its elegance and user-friendliness. Your key would help those unfamiliar with a cave easily discern at a glance what is required for a given trip; even if not for general use, I'm going to consider including a version of this in any future guidebooks I compile.
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Re: Is there grading of caves?

Postby Leclused » Sep 2, 2014 1:18 pm

JSDunham wrote:
caver.adam wrote:We could totally set up a ratings system. Although descriptions are probably a better way to go. Numerics to describe the passage difficulty, and letters to describe specific skills required on the trip.

Example:
1. Walking tour cave with lights and railings. No equipment required.
2. Walking cave. Basic safety equipment and lights required.
3. Cave with obstacles, boulders, and crawling. Safety equipment required.
4. Cave with occasional squeezes, belly crawls, or climb-ups. Safety...
5. Cave with frequent squeezes, belly crawls, or climb-ups.

F. Freeclimbing required.
V. Vertical equipment and technique required.
S. Size of caver limited through choke point.
W. Wetsuit required.
O. Overnight equipment required.

Etc.


I like that; simple but pretty comprehensive.

I think it is important to note here that what we are talking about is really rating cave trips, not entire caves. Of course, this is the more reasonable analogy to other rating systems; skiers and hikers do not rate entire mountains and climbers do not rate entire cliffs. Instead, of course, what one rates is a route. It seems like most of the systems mentioned so far do that implicitly, and I like this one for its elegance and user-friendliness. Your key would help those unfamiliar with a cave easily discern at a glance what is required for a given trip; even if not for general use, I'm going to consider including a version of this in any future guidebooks I compile.


That exists also. In Belgium we have the "Chawresse-Veronika" system. This is very complex system were you can do several trips going from easy to extreme. Paul de Bie wrote a book about this system. In this book there are 10 trips described.

An example can be found on the following pag ( in french)

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/106 ... le1-FR.pdf

The full info about the book

http://speleoubs.be/index.php/457-le-sy ... e-veronika

This is perhaps a good approach for frequently done caves. But somebody needs to take the time to make them.

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