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Washington and Lee University

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Caving

W&L is fortunate to be located in the center of the limestone region of Virginia. The state of Virginia contains over 3650 known caves. Caving is mostly restricted to private land. 95% of known caves are on private property. It is therefore necessary to obtain permission to enter them. Good landowner relations are absolutely imperative to keep the caves open.

Joining an Organized Caving Group

A good start to getting into caving is to join a cave trip sponsored by the outing club or a local grotto. A knowledgeable guide, who will lead the group, will provide you with the helmets, lamps and packs and any other necessary equipment. Personal gear that you should bring consists of: Several layers of warm clothing, gloves, good hiking boots, spare flash lights and batteries and any specialized gear you may need. An organized caving group also:

  • Know how to cave and can show you how.
  • Know where the caves are.
  • Have more specialized gear than a novice has access to.
  • Go Caving
  • Will accept you whether you are experienced or not.

A Few Basic Safety Rules to Follow

  • Never cave alone. Cave in a group of at least three or four.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Alcohol and drugs have no place on any cave trip.
  • Carry at least three sources of light.
  • Always wear a helmet and shoes with lug soles. No tennis shoes or sandals.
  • Be aware of the weather conditions if you are going to a cave with an active stream.
  • Do not attempt advanced techniques unless you have been properly trained.
  • Know the limits of your group.

 Since caves are such a fragile resource, research cannot be carried out indiscriminately. Most states have some form of cave protection act, which make it illegal to collect or disturb any form of mineral material, animal life, historical or paleontological remains without a proper permit.

For more detailed information and a list of contacts, you may purchase the Washington and Lee Outing Club Guidebook through the Outing Club, the W&L Bookstore or local booksellers.


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