Caving is as much about exploration as it is physical activity, explains Wesley Upchurch. Many up-and-coming potholers, however, fail to prepare for the dangers associated with entering Mother Earth.
According to Wesley Upchurch, there are three absolute pieces of equipment that are vital to any cave exploration: light, headgear, comfortable shoes. Most sporting gear and hardware stores sell elastic-banded headlamps and hardhats. These do not have to be expensive but Wesley Upchurch emphasizes that they should be durable to provide adequate protection and guidance underground. Ideally, cavers should wear boots with good traction and ankle support.
Many cavers choose to carry a small backpack, bottled water, and snacks. Wesley Upchurch also suggests well-fitting leather gloves and knee and elbow pads. On extended journeys, Wesley Upchurch notes that extra batteries, a first aid kit, and matches are essential. For cavers who are in it for the beauty, a camera that performs well in low light situations is a no-brainer. A change of clothes should be packed and waiting after the trip, notes Wesley Upchurch.
Caving is dangerous, warns Wesley Upchurch. A cave is an immovable part of Earth and should be respected. Wesley Upchurch suggests caving in groups of four to six people. This keeps things moving at a reasonable pace and also allows for plenty of bodies to go for help in case of an emergency.
Many caves have narrow passageways that are difficult to pass. According to Wesley Upchurch, it is not uncommon to get stuck in a tight crawlspace. He suggests maintaining control over breathing while someone else goes for help. It’s a good idea to let the smallest person in the group enter an unfamiliar passage first; the next-to-smallest should go last in case a larger member gets stuck.
Wesley Upchurch advises beginners and experienced explorers alike to ensure that other people are aware of their plans. Make sure these individuals are aware of the expected return time and the number to the local fire department or cave rescue team. Do not expect cell phones or other wireless devices to work. These should be left outside of the cave to avoid them getting lost, says Wesley Upchurch.
While caving is an absolutely enjoyable activity it does come with a long line of possible safety threats. Cavers should pay attention to every step, even in caves they have visited before, notes Wesley Upchurch. Loose rocks and slippery terrain may not be the same each visit. Caves are usually muddy and can pose fall risks. Wounds should be avoided if possible and covered immediately as caves may contain fungi and bacteria.
Wesley Upchurch also notes that animals such as bats, insects, and snakes all thrive on dark and damp spaces.
North America is full of some of the most beautiful caves in the world. Wesley Upchurch notes that commercial caves should be explored prior to embarking on a wild cave adventure to get a feel for the natural terrain.
Based in Columbia, Missouri, Wesley Upchurch is a businessman with a flair for the extreme. He enjoys adrenaline sports and having a good time. He cites caving is one of his favorite pastimes along with riding extreme roller coasters.