Thursday, March 7, 2013

Caving Expedition Season begins

“The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong, that’s when adventure starts” -Yvon Chouinard

Today is pack down day.  Preparing for a caving expedition has gotten easier over the last 25 years, but it is never easy.  Typically expedition leaders spend hundreds of hours pouring over topographic maps, reading research reports, taking notes on previous expeditions, and examining data.  All of this effort is an attempt to maximize the value of field time.

Packing down

It has all come to focus on just two items. Packing and departing.  Packing for backpacking trip was explained to me when I was in college.  You should make three piles.
  1. Stuff you need to stay alive
  2. Stuff you need to be comfortable
  3. Stuff you want to take if there is room.
Take pile one.

Oh were it so simple for cave exploration.  Much of the safety equipment and redundant sets of survey gear that we take, we hope to never need or use.  Our expeditions take place in remote areas where it is often not possible to go to the store for a replacement.  If you get injured, no one will be coming for you, so your team must be ready to self rescue.  This approach to exploration requires that additional gear is carried by each team member and must be accounted for.  Still, there is a practical limit to what can be transported to an expedition when flying to destinations such as the Galapagos.  Airlines are fond of extra baggage fees, security is fond of examining unusual items, and discussion often involve why we have to have such equipment.

So here we are, pack down day.  Tonight we will discover if it all can fit in to just 2 bags weighing 50lbs each.


  1. Hello, I'm a french caver and I'm interested in lava tubes. You will write a book about your expedition ? It was the 1st time you went to Galapagos ? Thanks, Nathalie from Lyon

  2. Hi Nathalie, I will be presenting on our Galapagos work to date this summer at the ICS in Brno. If you will be attending we can chat then. Cheers, Aaron