Caving Merit Badge

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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby buddyh » Dec 29, 2009 11:53 pm

The figure eight (8) descender as compared to a rack.

For rappelling the 8 can be configured for low, medium and high friction like a rack but you must plan ahead with the 8 as there is only one way to add friction once the load is in motion. The Rack can be easily adjusted by adding or removing bars or hyper bars on the go, a huge plus.

The 8 as compared to a rack for belaying a descending load. As before, plan ahead with the 8 while the rack is easily adjusted to meet the need.

But now the 8 can excel. Belay a climber with a rack. It is possible, but difficult. If you are in the system, you are working further out from your body which is both harder and requires more clear area. Plus with the rack there is always the risk of dropping the last or only bar. Changing your rappeller from decent to accent is only a mental process.

Material of 8 and bars. Aluminum adds to the friction in both cases but wears faster. No problem with a rack, just replace the worn bar but an 8 must be replaced. In the dirty environment of a cave, forget the aluminum 8. Use only a stainless steel (SS) 8. the cost will be twice as much initially but the SS will out last the aluminum many times. I've seen aluminum 8s, more than one, that has been worn nearly half way through. I couldn't figure out how that was possible if proper rope care was done till one real muddy trip, yikes.

The 8 will cause the rope to twist but this can be worked around and it does no permanent harm as long as the rope can relax or equalize. The Rack imparts no twist. I suspect that some of the twisting is the result of bunching the twists in kernel yarns to the end of the rope.

The 8 can be misconfigured. The Rack can be misconfigured. Ouch, double check every device and every time.

Conclusion, Rappel yourself with rack, but if you are belaying some one else in their decent use a SS 8. Preferably a Rescue 8 as they are heavier and have the ears for easy, secure lock off.

And as a guide, on any rappel, the person rappelling shall use an autoblock. I explain how it works and then have them affix and test the autoblock. Even when they are belayed on a second line. Remember we are training, not caving for ourselves.

If you are dealing with the BSA, SRT is always performed with a second belay line. A fireman's belay is only permissible with doubled ropes. Just the rules. But the fireman's belay puts the belayer at risk and has resulted in several injuries as reported in the Caving Accidents journals

My thoughts and methods. I invite your comments and don't forget to send your suggestions for the merit badge to bsabadge@hiventures.com. visit http://bsabadge.hiventures.com
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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby buddyh » Jan 6, 2010 10:24 pm

I have added a few more requirements thanks to Andy W. Way to go Andy.

There are much that is still needed. I've started adding a list of wanted material but anything you believe would be appropriate is appreciated. Send your suggestions to bsabadge@hiventures.com.
Let me know what you think of the site so far and how you would like to see it improved.

Tx,
BuddyH
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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby Geary » Jan 17, 2010 6:22 pm

Folks,
I thought I would add some comments to the forum. I’m an advisor to Crew 410 in San Antonio, Texas where we have been specializing in caving for about 7 years now. We have informally adopted Deep and Punkin caves in Edwards County and visit these caves every few months. We have also run trips to West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mexico caving. Two years ago, we visited TAG and did many of the classic vertical caves including Neversink, Vahalla, Cagles, Stephens Gap, etc.. This summer, we plan to do another trip and will try and do either Elisions or Fern. Next winter, we are talking about going to Golandrines. I also served as an advisor to the BSA National climbing committee which helped rewrite many of the climbing standards. To make some corrections on earlier comments, the BSA Climb on Safely climbing guidelines only apply to District and Council events and camps. Crews and troops are encouraged to adopt them but are not required. In addition, the Figure 8 is a great device as applied to most summer camp climbing programs but as we know, for caving, it has a lot to be desired. However, you can use racks if you wish and we also use single rope techniques for caving with our crew.

If I remember older discussions on the issue of a merit badge, I think it was opposition from NSS members as the merit bag might unnecessarily draw attention to caves from improperly trained and equipped troops and venture crews. The article in the recent scout magazine is a case in point. Remember, there are kids who’s goal is to obtain every merit badge. They might not otherwise be drawn to caving. Having said that, I don’t think there are any criteria for being a merit badge counselor so I think it would be a good idea to require that the counselor be an NSS member. In addition, you might find yourself overwhelmed with requests to take kids caving. We certainly have that issue here in Texas with Robber Baron Cave.

Yes, the guide to safe scouting section on caving needs some improvement and maybe a caving merit badge would help or maybe the safe caving guidelines should just be updated.

Geary Schindel
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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby Geary » Jan 17, 2010 6:34 pm

Couple of other comments on the rappeling thread, you don't have to remove the Figure 8 to attach it to the rope, you can leave it rigged into your harness in the rappel mode, insert the rope through the large hole, create a large loop, stand in the loop and pull it up behind your back and over your head and then pull all the rope slack through the rope. You will now be attached to the rope in rappel mode. Not real easy, not necessarily safe near a lip, but it can be done.

Also, I don't understand why you would want to use a Figure 8 for belaying when you can use your ATC. You can use the small hole of the Figure 8 like an ATC but it is easier to use the ATC. However, these should only be used for top rope climbing and not for applying a bottom belay.

Regarding the bottom belay, this can be and should always be applied safely but you should never stand in the fall zone. Again, if you're standing directly below the rappel, this is the worst position to apply the bottom belay as it puts the belaying in great danger. Stand to the side, up slope, or even on a ledge above the floor. There are a number of articles on proper applicaiton of a bottom belay but most scout groups don't understand this and I rarely see it applied by scouts safely or correclty. It is also very inefficient to use a ATC or Figure 8 for a bottom belay for rappelling. The most efficient way is to grab the rope with both hands and pull down on it. Remove all slack before the rappel starts. Don't try to apply a bottom belay using the hip belay method, as this is very inefficient and down right dangerous. It is a good way to have someone end up on your lap with your hands jammed in the rappel device and your front teeth kicked in. IMO.

Geary Schindel
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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby amaddox » Jan 17, 2010 9:16 pm

Geary wrote:Folks,
I thought I would add some comments to the forum. I’m an advisor to Crew 410 in San Antonio, Texas where we have been specializing in caving for about 7 years now. We have informally adopted Deep and Punkin caves in Edwards County and visit these caves every few months. We have also run trips to West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Mexico caving. Two years ago, we visited TAG and did many of the classic vertical caves including Neversink, Vahalla, Cagles, Stephens Gap, etc.. This summer, we plan to do another trip and will try and do either Elisions or Fern. Next winter, we are talking about going to Golandrines. I also served as an advisor to the BSA National climbing committee which helped rewrite many of the climbing standards. .......................

Geary Schindel
gschindel@mindspring.com

Geary, Thanks for your insight. I'd like to get more information from you on your Crew off line.

Allen
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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby buddyh » Jan 18, 2010 8:14 pm

Great to see some methods are not forgotten. Any other ideas to share?

The over the head method also works the other way by Throwing it over the head first and stepping back out of the loop after which the autoblock is added. When I work with Scouts and others novices neither of these will work. They are already on a secondary belay line. The loop entangles the secondary. Remember safety first. Once I have them on the secondary they can be safely locked off. I can now walk them through the attachment of the rappel device. I demonstrate and remove then the trainee has to do it on their own. The same process is applied to the autoblock. The exception is if the person is handicapped but even then I encourage them to try their best.

The problem I've had using the small hole of a Figure 8 is you must attach a lanyard or it will slide down what ever slack is left in the line. Then you must take off the lanyard to use it in the standard configuration. Also locking off is not as easy. An ATC ir similar device is fine for rock climbing but they don't make them to survive the harsh nature of cave mud. This means they wear away and quickly create sharp edges. Sharp edges and rope do not belong together.

I have never used a bottom belay. Just check the caving accident reports for injuries to people below a rappeller. If the belayer is running for cover they ar not belaying well. For me it is a method of last resort.

Geary, I'll add "Counselor be an NSS member." Sounds good to me. I would be interested in any advice or insights you can provide to move the effort of a caving/cave conservation MB forward. Send anything you can think of to bsabadge@hiventures.com.
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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby Geary » Jan 19, 2010 10:36 am

My response on the Figure 8 was to point out that you don't have to remove the device to attach it to the rope, however, creating a large loop and steeping through it is a pain on many different levels so it is rarely used and I certainly don't condone its use. I much prefer clipping into the large eye, attaching the rope, and then unclipping the large eye and then clipping the small eye for the rappel.

You can certainly use the small hole in the figure 8 as a "stitch plate" belay device. It doesn't have quite the positive lock that you would get from an ATC or stitch plate but will work. Yes, not having a keeper loop can be a problem. However, I commonly see the Figure 8 for belaying set up in the rappelling mode which greatly slows the ability to take up rope and provides much less friction than using the small eye.

I think there is some confusion in when we talk belays. The ATC as a class of belay devices (including Figure 8s and stitch plates) work for top belays and sling shot belays (rope runs from the ground to an anchor and then back down to the climber) and are suitable for belaying a climber or rappeller. If you will be providing a bottom belay (Firemans belay) for a rappeller, then it is best done without a belay device but by applying weight directly on the rope. The Fireman's belay should NEVER be applied in the fall zone. This is a major shortcoming of scout climbing director training as few understand that. I have seen it almost universally applied incorrectly. Our climbing director in our council was almost killed by a very large rockfall from doing exactly this – standing in the fall zone applying a bottom belay after I told them they were in the fall zone. However, I wasn’t teaching the class but was taking the class from a couple of folks whom I politely classify as 5 day camp school wonders.

Cavers seem to be better at corretly applying a bottom belay and in most cases, it can be applied out of the fall zone. (remember the fall zone is not only the location with the rock will fall, but fall and or bounce.)
However, I'm still working on some folks to remind them that they are not off rappel until they are out of the fall zone. Many folks yell off rappel when they have derigged their rappel device but before they have moved out of the fall zone.

Anyway, my two cents.

Geary Schindel
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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby buddyh » Jan 21, 2010 10:31 pm

I have seen at least two posts mentioning the clipping into the large end and feeding the bight of rope through and over a Figure 8. At first I could see the merit of not loosing or dropping the Figure 8. Rigging the Figure 8 by the handicapped is always difficult. The more I think about it, the more I like it for use with the handicapped. I don't have many handicapped rappelling but the next time I do, I'll not forget this trick.

Always looking for a better way.

Thanks

Question for Geary. Did the instructor change where he stood after nearly catching the dense, solid, accelerating, descending object. Some people are slow to learn.
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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby Geary » Jan 22, 2010 9:31 pm

The instructor was actually a she and yes, she did move.

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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby buddyh » Mar 14, 2010 9:04 pm

I have listed the topics from several other merit badge pamphlets that deal with environmental sciences. We should select only the most pertinent for the caving badge. We should also try to avoid major overlapping. How about posting your thoughts
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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby amaddox » Mar 22, 2010 12:13 pm

buddyh wrote:I have listed the topics from several other merit badge pamphlets that deal with environmental sciences. We should select only the most pertinent for the caving badge. We should also try to avoid major overlapping. How about posting your thoughts

Can you post where your working on this? I keep getting a broken link.
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Caving Merit Badge URL

Postby buddyh » Mar 22, 2010 5:13 pm

Here is the URL http://cavingbadge.hiventures.com/
cavingbadge.hiventures.com
If that does not work try the link on http://www.hiventures.com/
www.hiventures.com

Please report any broken links.

Now that the weather is breaking plus a couple of hours of daylight after work, progress will slow for a while but I will keep at it.
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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby amaddox » Mar 22, 2010 7:50 pm

With the Climbing Merit Badge a Scout can do this at a climbing gym and does not have to climb on real rock. The premis is safety and an introduction to the sport. This seems to be what you are driving towards. Is this correct? So a commercial cave or, at the most, a commercial dark tour is about the extent that is expected. Or do you have something else in mind?
LNT, land owner relationship, types of caves, professions that involve caving, safety, fisrt aid.
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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby buddyh » Mar 23, 2010 8:09 pm

I've not truly defined my goal for the experience portion. Certainly a dark tour would be nice and a "wild" cave even better. Hooking up with a grotto or NSS affiliate would be best. What really needs to be covered is the fragility and respect Karst requires. Some part experience, some part education, some part conservation and or environmental science, some part safety and some part fun. It would be nice that after completing the requirements the scout could recognize when something is not done correctly and done correctly. Not all will become cavers but all should gain respect for caving.

I could just write up what I think is correct and hope it meets a consensus approval. The problem with that is too much concentration on one aspect and not enough on another. Just have to be careful to not over do it or not do it well enough.

I will continue to move forward and post material as it becomes available.
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Re: Caving Merit Badge

Postby amaddox » Mar 23, 2010 9:10 pm

I didn't think about that but you are right. A colaboration would round it out better.
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