Climbing gear for caving?

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Climbing gear for caving?

Postby Format120 » Jan 30, 2014 10:59 am

Hey everyone!

I'm new here, just starting to try to get into caving. I've been an avid climber for more than half of my life, so my first obvious question, can I use the same gear? Is there a reason I shouldn't use my climbing harness/helmet/hardware underground? The only thing I can think of is that the harness might get a bit of excess ware on it, but that's it.

Any thoughts?
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Re: Climbing gear for caving?

Postby GroundquestMSA » Jan 30, 2014 1:26 pm

The difference is that you probably won't be climbing rock in the cave. You'll be climbing rope.

I've used a climbing harness for caving, and it can be done, but isn't pleasant. A caving harness has an attachment point that is designed to efficiently accomodate rappelling and ascending rope. It makes a difference. Dynamic rope is also a poor choice for caving. It bounces during ascent and if in contact with the rock can be quickly destroyed. As for other hardware, I'm not sure what you're asking. Have a look at the On Rope section of this forum and you'll quickly get an idea of how most cavers get up and down pits.

Where do you live?
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Re: Climbing gear for caving?

Postby Caving Guru » Jan 30, 2014 1:30 pm

Most people don't use their rock climbing gear for doing vertical caving but I have seen it done. It's more difficult to use rock climbing gear for vertical caving than gear that is meant for caving. A caving harness is different than a rock climbing harness and the gear to go up and down rope is different also. A rock climbing helmet should be fine though for caving.
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Re: Climbing gear for caving?

Postby Extremeophile » Jan 30, 2014 2:28 pm

Format120 wrote:I've been an avid climber for more than half of my life,

You have my sympathy.

There are some key differences between climbing and caving:
- There isn't much point in fashion when going underground.
- There are no guidebooks.
- There are no difficulty ratings, and therefore no way to gauge how awesome you are in caving.
- There are no caving gyms for hitting on hot young women.

But then there are the similarities:
- The accomplishments you have can only be appreciated by another caver/climber.
- Beer is very nice afterwards (maybe that applies to just about everything).
- Good beta is hard to come by.
- Your "friends" are always trying to sandbag you.

The gear used for vertical caving is similar, but different than the gear used for climbing. Some gear will transfer including helmets, carabiners, slings. Most gear for descending and ascending in a cave is unique for a multitude of reasons. You can get by using climbing gear, but if you plan to get more serious then you'll naturally want to get the gear that is safer and more efficient.
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Re: Climbing gear for caving?

Postby Carl Amundson » Jan 30, 2014 2:45 pm

Extremeophile wrote:
Format120 wrote:I've been an avid climber for more than half of my life,

You have my sympathy.

There are some key differences between climbing and caving:
- There isn't much point in fashion when going underground.
- There are no guidebooks.
- There are no difficulty ratings, and therefore no way to gauge how awesome you are in caving.
- There are no caving gyms for hitting on hot young women.

But then there are the similarities:
- The accomplishments you have can only be appreciated by another caver/climber.
- Beer is very nice afterwards (maybe that applies to just about everything).
- Good beta is hard to come by.
- Your "friends" are always trying to sandbag you.

The gear used for vertical caving is similar, but different than the gear used for climbing. Some gear will transfer including helmets, carabiners, slings. Most gear for descending and ascending in a cave is unique for a multitude of reasons. You can get by using climbing gear, but if you plan to get more serious then you'll naturally want to get the gear that is safer and more efficient.

One more thing to add; get used to muddy static rope.
Everything becomes brown after a while.
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Re: Climbing gear for caving?

Postby caver.adam » Jan 30, 2014 9:05 pm

1) We all use climbing helmets. If it has clips for a light then use it. If not, try duct tape the first couple times.

2) The harness will work. However, you will lose a LOT of efficiency. Remember you are not climbing the walls usually. Shock loading (falling on) a static rope can be deadly. Cavers ascend the rope and a high attachment on a harness can make you lose multiple inches every stroke.

3) Your biners are the same. Some cavers use climbing decenders for short drops (under 50 to 100 feet). However, many cavers will not allow you to use aluminum on their rope. Some will. Its fine to start with an ATS or Rescue 8.
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Re: Climbing gear for caving?

Postby Chads93GT » Jan 31, 2014 9:36 pm

Extremeophile wrote:
Format120 wrote:I've been an avid climber for more than half of my life,

You have my sympathy.

There are some key differences between climbing and caving:
- There isn't much point in fashion when going underground.
- There are no guidebooks.
- There are no difficulty ratings, and therefore no way to gauge how awesome you are in caving.
- There are no caving gyms for hitting on hot young women.

But then there are the similarities:
- The accomplishments you have can only be appreciated by another caver/climber.
- Beer is very nice afterwards (maybe that applies to just about everything).
- Good beta is hard to come by.
- Your "friends" are always trying to sandbag you.

The gear used for vertical caving is similar, but different than the gear used for climbing. Some gear will transfer including helmets, carabiners, slings. Most gear for descending and ascending in a cave is unique for a multitude of reasons. You can get by using climbing gear, but if you plan to get more serious then you'll naturally want to get the gear that is safer and more efficient.


This had me rolling. So true.
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Re: Climbing gear for caving?

Postby trogman » Feb 1, 2014 9:24 am

One thing that is probably universal with any sport/activity/hobby is that if you ask for advice, you'll get conflicting info. There is a common notion among many in the caving community that a climbing harness cannot and should not be used for caving. While there are some features that make a caving harness more suitable for caving, the basic design is very similar. A caving harness will usually have fewer gear loops; Why? Because if you are going through narrow passages or tight pits with it on, those handy gear loops will snag like crazy. Most caving harnesses will be designed for better durability, and will likely last longer under the grueling conditions of caving. As far as the attachment point, this depends entirely on your climbing system. Many cavers climb with a Frog system, and thus assume that a caving harness MUST have the low attachment point that is necessary for a Frog. This is an erroneous notion- look at this CAVING Harness being sold by OnRope1: http://onrope1.com/store/index.php?p=product&id=35&parent=8 Note the attachment point; this harness uses a loop that is almost identical to the belay loop on most climbing harnesses. The seller of this harness, who has also placed his store brand on it, is OnRope1. The owner of the store is Bruce Smith, who co-wrote the caver's guide to all things vertical, On Rope. If you browse through his store for harnesses, you will find some that have low attachment points, most of which are advertised as "Frog" harnesses. You will also find some with high attachment points, usually better-suited for ropewalkers and Mitchell systems.
I've been a vertical caver for a dozen or so years, and pretty much always used climbing harnesses. My current harness is a Petzl Calidris, probably one of the most comfortable harnesses I've owned. Those who say you lose efficiency while climbing with such harnesses should climb with me sometime. I believe my climbing speed on my ropewalker is on par with or exceeds most of my fellow cavers.

My advice is to hang onto your climbing harness and use it for caving, at least until you figure out what type of climbing system you will use.

Trogman :helmet:
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