Information for New Members:
About Imperial College Caving Club
Imperial College Caving club is a relaxed, easy-going club dedicated to sports caving and canyoning in the UK and abroad. We go on regular trips, with the emphasis on having fun away from the hassle of lectures and work.
Founded in 1962, we are very well equipped and have a huge amount of experience to pass on to new members. We try to go on expedition each summer to discover new cave passage, recent highlights include: Siberia, Alpine France, Slovenia, Cuba, Sardinia, Slovakia, to name but a few.
Why Join us?
Imperial College London offers the most extensive range of clubs of any student union in the country - so why join this particular outdoor club?
Well - we're pretty focused on Caving (going underground), with a sideline in Canyoning (abseiling down waterfalls and swimming across drop pools down a ravine) and Via Ferrata (mountaineering with in-situ metal cables instead of bringing your own ropes).
Caving gets you out of London, doesn't involve sweating on indoor climbing walls and takes you to an entirely different world just below our feet - quite honestly the closest you'll ever come to walking on the moon. Caves have an enormous variety - frozen caves filled with icicles, enormous chambers, ancient formations, underground rivers etc. Similarly, the techniques used to get there are a splendid combination.
Only while caving can you find yourselves abseiling down into stupendously large stone cathedrals, climbing and scrambling, traversing over enormous pits, crawling through mud and paddling across underground lakes in an inflatable boat - and that's all in one trip! Amid the seemingly serious, there's a great deal of fun to be had. Whether this is due to the caving itself, or the humour of cavers themselves I don't know. Tall tales of caving around a campfire, propping up the Union bar, or the surreal humour of lowering yourself into a frigid pool of water to swim across a lake deep underground - it's entirely different from chatting about lectures or what was on TV last night.
The limestone landscape where we cave is particularly beautiful, and for our explorations we usually get special permission to camp on mountains and in national parks.
We cave all year round (UK caves are a fairly constant 15C), and you're guaranteed to get some good trips in on the weekend, even if the weather does turn nasty.
Caving doesn't require obsessive exercise or a particular build, but it's an excellent way of getting and keeping fit.
Caving is very much a team activity - the more experienced people on a trip can make things easier for the relative novices, and with a club such as ours, new members can quickly find themselves doing significent trips.
Join our club and you'll see the whole range of UK caving during the Autumn term, round off your skills over the winter break and tackle the very best Sports Caving challenges in Europe and the UK during Spring and Easter. By the Summer term you'll be ready to start exploring deep cave systems - the very pinnacle of performance in this activity.
"The words which make up the human language are inadequate for those who venture into the depths of the earth." - Jules Verne
"The Thirst to be First"
Want to bag an unclimbed peak? Fine. Check it out on 'Googlemaps'; blow your student loan on a long distance flight and take your chances with the weather and with the fate of your Sherpas. You can phone your mum from the top.
Caving exploration is not like this. There is only one way of discovering what lies beneath, and that is to go there. We don't just venture to extreme places, but bolt and hammer and find our way in, surveying and mapping on the way out. We start not with satellite data and 1:10'000 scale maps, but with a blank sheet of paper.
And when underground - there is just you and your friends. Self-reliance and cooperation begin on day one, and go on to form extremely strong relationships.
The club meets every term-time Tuesday night from 7:00pm in the Union bar.
At these meetings, we discuss upcoming trips, plan tours to exotic climes, and
exchange tall tales of caverns measureless to man. For a bit of a laugh, excellent
anecdotes, plus a few choice ales, come along and meet us.
You'll also need to come along to these meetings to book yourself a place on our
introductory trips. Seats in the minibus are limited, so sign up early!
All training and equipment is provided by the club. The first few trips of the year won't require a
huge amount of rope work so we have a chance to train you up before we move on to trips that require
SRT (single rope technique). SRT is an extremely safe and lightweight method of tackling vertical caves,
but does require a fair bit of practice to master it. However, once learnt, the speed and freedom with which
you can tackle vertical potholes is truly liberating.
Where? Prince's Gardens|
When? Wednesday at 2:00pm, e-mail for confirmation.
See you there!
The club organises trips every fortnight during term time. The first few
trips of the year are generally to Wales or the Mendips [Somerset] where we introduce new
members to the basics of caving. The caves and mines are generally more horizontal in nature,
but which allow one to enjoy some extremely fun & sporting trips, unencumbered with ropes.
Later in the term, we travel further afield to the Yorkshire Dales & Derbyshire to build
up rope-work skills, and enjoy the best vertical caving in the UK.
South Wales is characterised by its large cave systems, with beautiful formations and
underground rivers. Beginners trips usually visit Ogof Ffynon Ddu, the deepest cave in
Britain and over 45km long. There are many trips for all standards.
The rolling Mendip Hills in Somerset are home to some of the most interesting caves in
Britain. The varied and ever-changing nature of the caves makes this the perfect area
for both introductory and more arduous trips.
North Yorkshire is the classic caving region in Britain for vertical caving, including
probably the most famous cave entrance Gaping Gill a massive 110m shaft. The rugged
beauty of the moors provides a stunning backdrop to an enormous choice of exciting potholes.
A favourite with existing members for practising rope skills.
The cost for a usual weekend trip is £35, the first two trips of the year will be subsidised to £10.
This includes all caving kit, food and transport for the weekend.
All you will need to bring is a sleeping bag and warm clothes. We can even lend you a sleeping bag if you don't have one!
We meet in stores at 6pm on the Friday to sort out kit and pack the van. We normally
aim to be back by 11pm on Sunday, having spent two nights at the caving hut.
What to bring|
- Walking boots (Not essential)
- Warm clothes
- Sleeping Bag
- Waterproof jacket
- Money for the pub
||Typical Caving Hut
Nb: This is a rather fine hut in Wales, a far more accurate guide can be found Here.
What not to bring
Stores is in the back left hand corner
of Beit Quad.
Go down the metal steps, into the building,
then turn left up the stairs, through the
door, stores is on the right.
More detailed directions to stores.
ICCC organises regular trips to the continent, and occasionall beyond. With have a large vested interest in Tolminski Migovec on Slovenia, with over twenty kilometres of passage found over the last two decades. These are organised by the interested parties during the year, come along to a weekly meeting to find out what's on the horizon. We can generally get some sort of funding from national research councils for bona fide research in order to try and keep the cost low enough for the general student.
Also, don't forget to contribute yourself. If there's somewhere that you want to go, and it has limestone with caving potential, we can probably organise something!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why go caving?
Everyone gives there own reason or combination of reasons...To get
out of London, to visit different and very beautiful parts of the UK and the world,
for something different, to see enormous underground caverns, to do
something challenging, experience the excitement of thundering
subterranean rivers and waterfalls, meet like-minded people, getting
out of a cave after a long trip, socialising, forgetting about everyday
things for a while...etc
Is it dark?
How will I see where I'm going?
The club has a lots of excellent helmet mounted LED lights which give a powerful spot light and use batteries which
last over 12hours. But the latest fashion is the Miglite which uses
Luxeon LEDs; very lightweight, with long duration and a good spot beam.
Are caves wet?
Most caves are a bit damp and have static pools, many have streams
and waterfalls, from which you'll get spray. Some caves you have to walk
along rivers and climb cascades. For those inclined, you can do caves that
require short sections of swimming + even a little free diving - but these
trips aren't for everyone!
Will I get cold?
Yes. Sorry, but inevitably you will be a bit cold, UK caves are
around 7-10deg, caves in Slovenia 2deg! Some caves non-UK caves ice
up completely in winter, very very cold - but the ice formations are
so amazing that you often forget the shivering. Cuba + Mallorcan caves
are a barmy 20deg - far too hot when climbing. The
most important thing is to keep moving, and if you feel cold,
particularly in wet caves, tell the leader and they will head out.
Beginners trips will usually be in 'dry' caves and not too long.
Aren't caves really small?
Caves come in ALL shapes and sizes. Sa Compana (Mallorca) has a
chamber the size of four football pitches sitting side by side, with
a roof about 60m [12 storeys] high. Other caves are only for the very
Will I get stuck?
No. Unless you feel inclined to go through tight caves, there are
plenty we can show you that are explored by just walking, or crouching.
Will I get hurt?
Maybe a bruise or two.
How long are caves?
The longest in the UK is 72Km.
Will I get lost?
No. Caves can be complicated, but its hard to get lost. The more
experienced club members lead the trips and know the caves whilst its
easy to get maps and descriptions for caves if you are doing them for
How deep are caves?
The deepest in the UK is 300m, and you don't even need to take any
ropes or ladders to get to the bottom. The deepest cave found during our
expeditions to Slovenia stops just shy of 1km at 970m. The deepest cave in the world is just over 2km.
Can I breathe that deep underground? Is there enough air?
How long will I be underground?
Anywhere between 1 to 5 hours normally. For those inclined, we
occasionally run epic UK trips of above 11hrs. During the summer expedition,
we make a camp deep within the cave, allowing for up to 3 day trips, with
two 'nights' spent in the perfect darkness.
What skills will I need?
Most importantly a sense of adventure, in horizontal caves there are
no technical skills, there are some useful tips for traversing a passage
or caving safely, but generally you do what works, regardless of how
graceful or good it looks. When it comes to climbing a ladder or
abseiling on a rope, we'll teach you all you need to know and let you
practice in the TreeTrees + easy caves until you are more confident.
What clothes will I need for caving?
The club has all the kit you will need to borrow for caving. You wear
the 'furry' fleece base-layer right against your skin - even when wet, it
provides thermal insulation. However, its important to avoid Cotton underwear
+ generally try to keep everything as skimpy as possible - otherwise you'll
trap a layer of water against your skin. Be warned though,
we quite often end up changing on the verge of a road!
Do you cave outside the UK?
Thats the beauty of caves, they are all over the world. And its our
mission to continually think up weird and wonderful countries to visit
under the pretext of caving! Having a central aim when visiting other
countries is great - because it forces you out of the tourist traps and
into the country proper, and then propels you into some breathtaking
scenery in order to get to the entrances themselves.
Will I discover new caves?
If you join the Summer expedition to Slovenia you will more than
likely tred where no-one has gone before. Perhaps more poignantly, when you
discover passageway that reaches a dead-end; you may well be the last person
to ever visit that particular place in the world.
Where can I find out more?
Here's a good place to start: www.caving.uk.com.
Jan Evetts + Jarvist Frost