CUCC Expo Rigging Handbook

Introductory chat about expo rigging


This section of the Expo handbook assumes that you are familiar with all the usual manoeuvres, such as passing knots, rebelays and deviations, changing from abseil to prusik and vice versa. "Familiar" means you can do it in the dark with cold hands, with complete confidence in your safety and with reasonable efficiency. Choice of ropes is not covered, as by the time you are on the expedition it will be too late ! Neither is this guide concerned with personal SRT equipment except where the demands of caving in Austria require gear in addition to that you would normally use on a typical Yorkshire weekend.

Self-rescue may also be important in Austria - this should be covered in the rescue guide (but isn't - yet). It is recommended that you should practice all these techniques somewhere safe and warm - preferably in the UK before departure rather than up a tree behind the potato hut in a thunderstorm!

Differences from Yorkshire.

This is new exploration, so you cannot rely on belays to have been tested by previous generations of cavers. Similarly, loose rocks will not have been cleared or dislodged by earlier parties. Natural belays may not be available, so you will have to place bolts, rather than look for the shiny P-hangers placed by CNCC parties. You won't know in advance how long pitches are going to be, so the ropes you have with you may need to be cut or knotted. Party size is usually small - everyone needs to be able to make a contribution to safe rigging. The first one down may be rigging a new rope to replace a damaged one, or one of less than ideal length. The second may have to remove the old rope on his descent.

Conversely, the caves are deeper, longer and colder than Yorkshire, so parties need to move safely and efficiently to avoid exhaustion and exposure. Flooding on pitches can be sudden and severe, water very cold, and the location of flood inlets not always obvious - rigging for security in flood is often critical. Ropes remain in place over several trips, and rock may be very sharp - every party must be alert to the danger of abrasion and be prepared to rerig if necessary. Finally, rigging points placed on exploration may need to be used on expeditions for years to come, so maintenance of bolts on the final derigging trips is important.