Leaving Ropes in Caves

Many cavers choose to leave ropes (or other aids) in caves for longer than the duration of their single visit. Reasons may include to expedite an ongoing project, or for their own convenience or the perceived convenience of others. At popular sites, these ropes can make it more difficult for other groups to rig their own ropes and can detract from their enjoyment of the cave.

Importantly, ropes left in caves can become damaged very quickly and present a serious hazard.

As there are so many reasons and situations for ropes being left in caves, the CNCC does not wish to police this or declare this practice right or wrong. Nonetheless, we would like to appeal to everyone to consider the following before leaving a rope behind in a cave:

  1. Do you really need to leave the rope in the cave?
  2. Does leaving of a rope for your own convenience really justifies the inconvenience and reduced enjoyment it could cause others who might visit the cave?
  3. Is the site appropriate for leaving a rope? Sites on the surface, near waterfalls, rub-points or in muddy/gritty locations can result in very rapid deterioration of ropes.
  4. If you must leave a rope, ensure you remove it promptly when it is no longer needed.
  5. If you leave a rope somewhere that it may inconvenience other visitors, we suggest that it is courteous to include a small, robustly attached waterproof label to clarify the purpose of the rope being left in the cave and the expected duration.
  6. The CNCC supports any cavers who choose to remove a rope that is confirmed to be dangerous or abandoned and not in use by anyone presently underground.
  7. Anyone leaving a rope in a cave should do so expecting that others may use that rope or that it could be removed at any time by well-meaning individuals.

Finally, CNCC would like to remind all cavers that we strongly recommend not to use ropes which have been left behind in caves. This is because the condition of these ropes cannot be ensured. If you go against this advice, the risk should be assessed and mitigated as best as possible.

Council of Northern Caving Clubs
January 2023

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