Helmetless Caving Poll

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Helmet Habits

I would NEVER consider caving without a helmet under any circumstances
53
40%
I wear a helmet in the grocery
5
4%
I would NEVER allow Jonah to cave with me since he shows such disregard for safety
8
6%
I like to have my helmet, but would go caving without it if the opportunity arose
6
5%
I can imagine caving situations that shouldn't require the use of a helmet
40
30%
Jonah has big ears
5
4%
I wear my helmet mostly because it's expected and would prefer to go without
2
2%
I don't regularly wear a helmet
1
1%
If Marion Smith wore a helmet made with kielbasa, I would too.
13
10%
 
Total votes : 133

Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby GroundquestMSA » Nov 1, 2012 3:20 pm

Lava wrote:I suspect that many of the people who are picking "I can imagine caving situations that shouldn't require the use of a helmet" are doing so because they have such tight spots in mind


I don't know what they are thinking. Should a helmet be required when visiting a shelter cave? Can you imagine visiting a shelter cave?

I copied Chad's comment from the other thread:
Wrong. Ive compressed my spine twice by violently ramming my head into a wall. When you are tired, hungry, cold, and leaving the cave after a long survey, SHIT happens. You tend to hang your head down, you stare at the floor and all the sudden you ram your head into a small outcropping. A guy i know put his eye out on a rock flake. Not wearing a helmet because you think its easy to watch where youa re going, yeah ok.

Last year a friend drowned and lost his helmet in the process of saving his life. I rescued him, but we had to make it 3 miles out of the cave with no helmet on two guys. If you dont think a helmet is important, go drown yourself, get revived, then try to make it out of the cave on yoru own power before you go hypothermic, all without hitting your head.

Most cavers think nothing bad can ever happen to me, You are apparently one of them. I suggest you start wearing a helmet, even if you have to push it in front of you in tight crawls because ohio caves are no different than southern illinois caves and everyone who caves in SoIll wears a helmet, even if they are pushing it in front of them 50% of the time.


As impossible as this may be to believe, I'm not a reckless person. I'm by nature a timid and fearful person. I don't think, "nothing bad can ever happen to me." I know that bad things can happen unexpectedly. I suffer from irrational dread of tragedy. Despite these truths, I feel safe without my helmet in some cases. The fact that freak accidents can happen doesn't mean that they should be allowed to dictate our habits. I don't know what a compressed spine is, or how you managed to obtain a pair of them, but the other examples don't really have a place in this squabble. I read your accounts of the drowning incident, and it sounds truly awful, but that story has nothing to do with the question at hand. Nor do missing eyes, or fire hose attack, or accidentally swallowing a fork, or death by the neighbors pet goose. We do not need to protect ourselves from wildly unlikely events. You think that Ohio caves are no different from Illinois caves? This morning we established what I believe is the longest natural through trip in the state. It's about 700'. At no point (beyond the large entrance) does the passage exceed 3' in any dimension, and most of it is between 10" and 20" in at least one dimension. What disaster could I reasonbly expect a helmet to protect me from in there?

Chads93GT wrote:even doing vertical at cliffs where rock climbers climb without helmets, we wear them.


And that makes good clean sense. There's both the possibility of a fall, and the likelihood that someone will knock rocks on your head. I've several times wished for a helmet when belaying climbers. Climbing rope or rocks is many times more dangerous than exploring some caves.
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby Squirrel Girl » Nov 1, 2012 4:37 pm

I am a big fan of helmets. I wear one caving, I often wear one cave diving, and I always wear one with cycling. For me it's a case of the likelihood of needing the helmet is low, but the potential consequences of not wearing one could be catastrophic. There is little downside to wearing the helmet and the potential for great good. It's just part of my gear and my routine. I have whacked my head but good in caves and crashed hard on my bike and was VERY glad to have my helmet on.

Nevertheless, I voted for envisioning a time when it could be "OK" to not wear a helmet.

Back when I was barely more than a newbie in Iowa in the 70s, we had a dig. It was a small little cave where we were digging not far in from the surface -- maybe 10 or 15 feet? The leader of the trip didn't wear his helmet in there, and I followed his lead. The other guy on our trip was freaking out. It was breaking the rules! I thought he was nuts.

Rocket ahead a couple decades. We were underground camping in Huautla. At the end of the day, we'd come back to underground camp and be VERY happy to have our helmets off. There were rock cairns built for the purpose of sticking our lights (with or without our helmets) there so we could see without having our helmets (with lights) on. I would NEVER have caved (moving through the passage) in Huautla w/o a helmet, but wandering through camp, I sure did.

I understand the knee jerk reaction to saying "always wear a helmet." In general, I think it's a good idea. But I think it's unrealistic to be so dogmatic that one says never-ever-ever go without a helmet. There can be times when it's no big deal. But it's also hard to ever actually recommend it. It's more that I would accept someone's decision to not wear one, at least some of the time.
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby GroundquestMSA » Nov 1, 2012 8:59 pm

Squirrel Girl wrote:There can be times when it's no big deal. But it's also hard to ever actually recommend it.


That's a real good point
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby Chads93GT » Nov 1, 2012 9:18 pm

In the case of drowning. two helmets were lost and 3 miles had to be traversed without bashing their heads against the ceilings and getting injured further. It has everything to do with caving without a helmet.

compressing a spine? Easy, ram your head into a rock outcropping while being stooped over, while walking and see what happens to your neck. Its enough to knock you out.
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby potholer » Nov 2, 2012 8:09 am

If I was 'going caving' I'd always wear a helmet.

I might go a short way into a cave with a headtorch (possibly even a flashlight) if it was essentially horizontal, but with serious caution and slow speed in the case of low ceilings.

When camping underground, I'd often just wear a headtorch for moving around the campsite, albeit likely with a balaclava or fleece hat due to the campsites typically being little above freezing.
Though the camp locations sometimes have stooping-height passages between the campsite and 'facilities', I might wander along those without a helmet, but I'd also be wandering along them in loose-fitting slippers rather than wellies and moving quite slowly.
Also, if I've been caving in a helmet for a day, my body-image will tend to allow for the helmet, so if not wearing one I'm likely to naturally give some extra clearance between my head and the roof.
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby KeyserSoze » Nov 2, 2012 9:55 am

If I happen to find a cave while out hiking, I'm likely going to check it out. I always carry a flashlight in my hiking bag for that reason. Now I may not go in very far, but I'll have to at least check it out for potential. This is only true if I'm with another person though; I'll leave one person on the outside so that somebody knows where I am.
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby struebe » Nov 2, 2012 10:59 am

I've poured so much money (my own money and that of a few fellowships) into my brain, it seems stupid not to protect it when it's so easy.

I've had fist-sized rocks come loose above me - one bounced off my upraised hand into my face (I was spotting another climber), so the helmet didn't help the bruise I got there. The other large rock came down a pit - totally silently, from 200 feet up - and landed (whump!) about 15 feet from where I was standing outside the fall zone. The thought of that rock nailing me on the head, silently knocking me out, and the rescue it would entail to pull me out of that 200 foot pit and tight entrance....made me very glad I always wear my helmet. Sometimes I even wish I had it crawling around under the mass specs in our lab too...

I"ve also made the conscious choice not to cave with someone who chooses not to wear a helmet. This same person was actually banned from getting a cave key because he didn't wear a helmet on a trip - it was specified in the permit. (I didn't read the details of this thread up to this point that closely, but sometimes a helmet is *required* by the permit-granting). I decided because I was trip leader and I was representing my institution that I didn't want a liability on my trip, so he wasn't invited back on my trips either...

My two cents (if anyone is still reading!).
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby harrym » Nov 3, 2012 7:54 am

I suffered a head injury back in the 1970s. I wasn't wearing a helmet because I thought the risk were low. It was supposed to be "no big deal."

WHAM! I was nearly knocked unconscious and my head was split open. 100% preventable injury had I worn a helmet.

It's your life, do what you want. Just don't ask me (the taxpayer) to pay for any of your hospitalization or other medical bills should you suffer a preventable head injury.

Who wakes up in the morning and then plans their day around getting their head bashed open? Obviously no one does that.

Accidents happen unexpectedly. You can't look into a crystal ball to the future to decide which days you're going to wear a helmet to prevent injury, and which days a helmet is unncessary. So... if you want to prevent a head injury, you've got to wear a helmet every time.
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby JSDunham » Nov 5, 2012 10:37 am

I never go caving without a helmet, except when the helmet doesn't fit and I have to take it off. (Northeast Caves...) The points about shelter caves are well-made, but that might get us into a discussion of whether its "caving" if you can do it without a light.

Bottom line, I wear a helmet unless I can't, or in the very rare situations that I happen upon something without any gear. In those cases, I am very careful and don't go far/put it back on as soon as I can.
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby BrianFrank » Nov 5, 2012 11:26 am

If I know I'm caving, I take a helment no matter what. It is the first piece of equipment I make sure is in my truck. If I know the passage will be too small for my helmet to fit through then I will push it in front of me. In college many years ago during my first caving trip, I caved in Howard's Waterfall Cave without a helmet and I was very sorry as I left parts of my scalp in different passages.

Having said the above.....Two years ago myself and a group of friends were hiking in the Chattahoochee National Forest near Chatsworth. We hiked up an unused/unmarked trail that looked like an old wagon road with trees growing up in it. The trail followed a stream bed up the mountain that crossed the stream 3 times. After about 45 minutes we came upon an old mine next to the stream. The mine entrance was about 5' high and the passage quickly ended 20' into the mine where it looked like someone blasted the passage closed or it collapsed. I went in as far as I could without a helmet or flashlight....I did have my trusty iPhone with the "LED Light" App :-)
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby GroundquestMSA » Nov 5, 2012 4:43 pm

Thanks for all of your comments. I appreciate your honesty, even if you think I'm a moron. I was caving in VA over the weekend, mulling over everything said so far. The cave I was in (vertical, rarely visited=loose rocks, slippery mud, climbs over sharp spires) made the perfect case for helmet use. Many good points have been made, but I still insist that some of my original arguments were sound. I think the "rule" is a good one that can, like most rules, occasionally be broken without detriment.

harrym wrote:Accidents happen unexpectedly. You can't look into a crystal ball to the future to decide which days you're going to wear a helmet to prevent injury, and which days a helmet is unncessary. So... if you want to prevent a head injury, you've got to wear a helmet every time.


You're right. If we truly want to prevent head injury we've got to wear a helmet 24/7. For some reason we don't. If the cave poses less of a threat than taking a shower, my brain and the taxpayer be darned, I ain't agonna' wear one.

Chads93GT wrote:In the case of drowning. two helmets were lost and 3 miles had to be traversed without bashing their heads against the ceilings and getting injured further. It has everything to do with caving without a helmet.


I'm sorry Chad, I don't entirely understand. All you are saying is that you were once forced to cave without a helmet. I know you aren't blaming the helmet, or lack of a helmet, for the drowning. I don't recall you mentioning any head injuries suffered on the way out. I'm pretty sure you aren't suggesting that you would have thrashed your way out of the cave, bouncing your heads off the walls, if you hadn't lost your helmets. Perhaps your point is that if you cave without a helmet and then get drowned or otherwise seriously injured, you have a greater chance (due to your distracted/injured state) of bumping your head as you suffer back toward the surface. If that's what you mean to say, you're probably right. That still doesn't make a case against breaking the rule in extremely low risk situations.

BrianFrank wrote:I know the passage will be too small for my helmet to fit through then I will push it in front of me.


Brian, what if you know that 90% of the cave will be too small for your helmet? I'm not making things up. We've surveyed several caves that fit this description. When I say too small for the helmet I don't mean that it would be physically impossible to wear it, but that the helmet would greatly hinder your progress, make it very difficult to see, and be guaranteed to snap off any little straws that may be present. One has 12-15" ceilings with 6-8" of water. I can barely keep my nostrils out of the water without a helmet. And so on.
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby ON_ROPE » Nov 5, 2012 7:03 pm

Wearing a helmet makes a statement about the value of the contents. No value, no helmet.
My head has high value.
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby GroundquestMSA » Nov 5, 2012 9:48 pm

ON_ROPE wrote:Wearing a helmet makes a statement about the value of the contents. No value, no helmet.
My head has high value.


Which is why you're wearing one right now, right Mr. Padgett? I'll readily admit that your head is many times more valuble than my own, but I respectfully assert that repeating these cliches without taking any note of context isn't really that illuminating.
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby BrianFrank » Nov 5, 2012 9:48 pm

GroundquestMSA wrote:
BrianFrank wrote:I know the passage will be too small for my helmet to fit through then I will push it in front of me.

Brian, what if you know that 90% of the cave will be too small for your helmet? I'm not making things up. We've surveyed several caves that fit this description. When I say too small for the helmet I don't mean that it would be physically impossible to wear it, but that the helmet would greatly hinder your progress, make it very difficult to see, and be guaranteed to snap off any little straws that may be present. One has 12-15" ceilings with 6-8" of water. I can barely keep my nostrils out of the water without a helmet. And so on.

Even if the first 5% of a cave is walkable and the rest is too tight for a helmet I would take my helmet. As far as the cave 100% too small for a helmet, I just can't imagine that....you are more of a hardcore caver than I am :sad:
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Re: Helmetless Caving Poll

Postby NZcaver » Nov 5, 2012 9:58 pm

BrianFrank wrote:Even if the first 5% of a cave is walkable and the rest is too tight for a helmet I would take my helmet. As far as the cave 100% too small for a helmet, I just can't imagine that....you are more of a hardcore caver than I am :sad:

Yeah, that's not caving - that's self-abuse. :big grin:
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