Wesley Upchurch on the Thrill of Caving

Wesley Upchurch lives in Columbia, Missouri, where he is the former webmaster for SEMCO, Inc. and is the visionary behind Gunther’s Games and Virtual Arena.  In addition to being career-minded, Wesley Upchurch is a self-professed adventure seeker.  In addition to haunted houses and roller coasters, Wesley Upchurch seeks thrills in the caves and caverns below ground.  In the following Q&A, Wesley Upchurch shares his obsession with readers and offers some tips for new cavers.

Q:  What is so appealing about caving?

Wesley Upchurch:  Caving is akin to visiting another world, in my opinion.  It offers an opportunity to learn about how the Earth was formed and a reminder of how small people are in the grand scheme of things.  Caving is thrilling, too.  Depending on the cave, there are extreme pitches, tight squeezes, and water hazards to maneuver.  A lot of the time, tunnels and caverns are dimly lit, so sound and touch are the only senses helping one through.  Being hundreds of feet underground makes me feel really vulnerable and kicks in my survival senses, which is exhilarating to me and really scary to others.

Q:  How can people get started with caving?

Wesley Upchurch:  The best place to start is with a well-known, show cave.  A show cave is a great way to get the general feel for what wild cave exploration will be like.  The air, the lighting, and the dangers to prepare for become apparent just from being underground.  Then, move on to guided, wild tours that become more difficult.  Talk to the guide to gain a really good understanding of the equipment needed and the safety procedures necessary to have a successful underground experience.  Understand that caving can be physically exhausting and dangerous, so it is best to be well-informed and well-prepared before setting out caving.

Q:  What are some of the safety precautions new cavers should take?

Wesley Upchurch:  It is always best to explore in groups, that way if there is an emergency, there are people to stay with anyone hurt and people to go for help.  Also, take back-up lighting along, as lamp failures happen and can make touring very difficult and dangerous.  Tell people where you are going and when you’ll likely be done.

Finally, on a wild, unguided cave tour, be sure to mark the way in and out along the way to avoid getting lost.  Caving is exhilarating, but caution is important.

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