Claustrophobic? This will make you squirm

Last updated 05:00 19/08/2014

HIDDEN TREASURES: A glimpse of some of the rock wonders that await cavers.

TIGHT SPOT: Thomas squeezes through a tiny gap to abseil in a water fall.

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Caving is a hobby of mine and being of the larger size I tend to go for the rather tight and narrow caves.

Maybe one of the harder things I've done is fitting through a vertical hole underground where the only way to get out was to squeeze in and use my belly as an anchor against the wall.

I ended up breaking a rib but meh, it was only a rib. There are far worse things cavers have done to find things and get places. Rock piles, for example, are some of the worst. You usually try to make the smallest possible hole you can in the ceiling layer of a rock pile to get through.

There are many people within the community that push their bodies to breaking point when they go caving - some staying awake while being on the cusps of exhaustion after 30+ hours caving with no sleep. In those days, caving was not quite overnight-trip worthy.

As some of the South Island caves were pushed they were turned into overnights to the point of two days in from cave to camp and then five hours to the area where you're exploring the cave.

When on these trips you carry twice as much gear as you usually would for a caving trip. This poses quite a problem for caving as it's tricky enough navigating thin corridors and squeezing through tight constrictions in boulder piles where even some of the thinnest are breathing to get through.

When going through these constrictions the wider and chestier folk; and especially women; can often break ribs if they push hard enough to get through boulder piles or flowstone chokes.

Often at the yearly community gathering there is a squeeze machine to test out how thin a gap you can squeeze through - kind of a caver limbo.  Quite a few have pushed through to the point of breaking their ribs.

Unless you're a skilled or delicate caver, we end up with a lot of bruises, demented toes (ain't many long term cavers with nice toes) and sore hips and knees. A lot of the more sensible people wear knee pads, unlike me.

There have been some rather horrific accidents in the sport, falling out of ceilings due to anchor failure or getting stuck, and simple things like slipping over and knocking yourself out.

Sadly there have also been deaths from a rock falling on someone and one of the more tragic ways is in the unique sport of caving diving; few do this due to the risk and skill level required to navigate tight squeezes and various other obstacles.

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Though from all this it has to be one of the more unique and interesting recreational sports with absurd amounts of fun and with plenty of exhilarating places to see, feel and surprise yourself.

It still is, and will always be, one of the last places to adventure and to explore where no-one has been before.
So ... break some bones (please don't), break your limits, break through a rock pile; and last of all be sensible.

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