Caver's Slang

Last Update: 05/19/95

Compiled from ramblings on the Cavers' Forum electronic mailing list and
various email corespondence.

Edited by Tom Moss, Jeff Dilcher, and Paul Aughey

This compendium of cavers' terms comes from postings by a number of
individuals from all over the world, and reflect the lingo of various regions.

The contributors: Paul Aughey, Les Bartel, Ken Byrd, Donald Davis, Michael
DeChaine, Jeff Dilcher, Mark Dougherty, Bill Franz, Mike Futrell, Rob Harper,
Malcolm Herbert, Dave Linton, Mark Minton, Tom Moss, Graham Proudlove,
Frank Reid, Bill Steele, Dirk Sward, and Andy Waddington.

Air Rappel           - An accidental fall down a pit.

ALB                  - Amazing Levitating Boulder. A boulder in a cave
                       roof held up (barely) by a thumbprint sized friction
		       at each end. First used in survey of Chimanimani caves
		       (Zim, Africa) - ALB hall in 1992.

Armchair caver       - One who talks about caving more than going underground.
                       Modern version is the 'virtual' caver.

Baby Hog             - A not-so-long coil of rope to be carried through a
                       cave. See Hog.

Babysitters          - Referring to those cavers who can dig one day of the
                       weekend, while they look after the kids for the other

Bang                 - Explosives.

Bata Skis            - The caving boots popular in TAG renouned for their
                       lack of tread (also known as Bata Whores).

BFR                  - Big F*cking Rock. A bomb-proof anchor; bad news if it
                       really isn't!

Bide                 - Carbide.

Biner                - Carabiner. (See Krab)

Birth canal          - That passage which reminds you of some certain part
                       of the female anatomy.

Bounce               - (See yo-yo)

BNC                  - Big-Name Caver (usually complimentary but sometimes
                       connotes self-styled, or a speleopolitician).

BKT                  - Boring Kentucky Trunk

BO!                  - Shout used in lieu of whistle signals in Southeast
                       US TAG region.

Bomb Box             - Army surplus ammunition box explosives are packed in
                       for transport through a cave.

Bomb Proof           - (1) suitable natural rig point.
                       (2) any belay which has a vast overkill of security,
                           or any sort of shoring or other equipment whose
                           safety in no doubt.

Booty                - Virgin cave passage. See Scoop.

Booty Scoop Lust     - An incurable psychological condition common among cave

Bottomed             - Reaching the lowest point of a vertical cave.
Brain Bucket         - Helmet.

Buffoon              - The most widely used caver word in TAG - May be a
                       friendly jest or an insult.

Carbide Assist       - Refers to "encouragement" of a caver (esp. electric
                       cavers) in a crawl by a following carbide caver.

Carbide Pig          - A length of knotted car inner-tube used for carrying
                       carbide in caves. Also known as piglets (if made from
                       bicycle inner-tube - often pink.

Cardboard Caver      - A caver who turns around at the first sign of wetness
                       so that his/her layers don't delaminate.

Cave Burritos        - The containers of fecal waste, normally triple-bagged
                       in Ziplocks, removed in one's pack from Lechuguilla

Ceiling Burner       - Belt-generator carbide lamp with vertical flame. See

Cell                 - Almost any electric light, but particularly its battery

Chair Sucker         - (Rope sucker, stove sucker, etc.) - One who uses someone
                       else's gear while the other person is preoccupied with
                       something else. "I got up to get something to eat and
                       someone sucked my chair!"

Chest Compressor     - A crawl that cannot be negotiated by an individual
                       without exhaling.

Chicken Loops        - Ankle slings incorporated in vertical systems so foot
                       stirrups cannot come off if the climber hangs upside

Chemical Persuasion  - Explosives.

Cong-stompers        - Vietnam combat boots.

Cow's Tail           - (1) A very short loop of 15-20cm from the sit-harness.
                       (2) A much longer safety loop, so that the krab at the
                           end is just about at arm's reach. This is what
                           early SRT protagonists in the UK called a
			   "Claudeloop" after Jean-Claude Debrilla who first
			   pioneered their use in Europe.

Craps Out            - Passage ends.

Cratering            - Too fast a rappel ending with too quick a stop. "Put a
                       knot in the end of the rope or you might crater."

Death March          - Particularly gruelling caving trip.

Doing a Neil         - Local South Wales Caving Club turn, for a keen caver
                       trying his best to overtake people to get to the front
                       of a party.

Donkeys' Dick        - (1) A length of knotted inner-tube used for carrying
                           carbide in caves.
                       (2) A strap used for carrying tackle sacks so they
                           hang out of the way below your feet.

Dope Walker          - A person who is inept at the Rope Walker climbing
                       system; See Rope Walker.

Douching             - The practice blocking the stream at the top of a pit
                       only to let it all go onto your friend on the rope
                       below when he/she is most vunerable.

Dufus                - (Or doofus) - An inept caver.

Dump                 - To have a shit, (seems popular to refer when

Ear Dipper           - A low wet passage which requires one ear to get wet
                       to crawl through.

Enduro Caver         - One who often goes on death march or grunt trips.
Entrance Fever       - When a caver is anxious to get out of the cave.

Fag Eastern Caver    - Self explanatory; see BNC.

Flail                - Poor climbing technique. "I saw this guy try to get
                       over a lip and he was flailing all over the place!"

Flapper              - (1) A small ripped piece of skin common on climber's
                       (2) Any loose cord or strap on vertical gear or pack
                           that is continualy getting caught on something.
                       (3) A person who talks too much.

Flash in the Pan     - A caver who appears, caves hard for a few years, and
                       fades away.

Flat Rock            - Banging someone unconscious (on purpose or not) with a
                       rock. "Would you yell ROCK! when you knock something
                       down! You almost flat rocked me."

Frog System          - A rope climbing system using to mechanical
                       ascenders which is especially popular in Europe.

Ghar Parau'd         - What the cave has done to you if you organize a full
                       expedition to return to it only to find after days of
                       rigging that it goes round a corner (or down a short
                       pitch) and sumps/chokes etc.

Gobbler              - Expedition-style waist-mounted carbide lamp generator,
                       because of the rate at which carbide is consumed.
                       See Ceiling Burner.

Gnar (also Knar)     - A narrow, gnarly passage which has popcorn or other
                       features which catch on packs or clothing. Used as in,
                       "This passage is gnar!"

Gnarly (also Knarly) - A narrow passage which has popcorn or other features
                       which catch on packs or clothing.

Goes                 - The report on a lead that continues.

Goosh                - Boiled condensed milk (caramel).

Gorilla Dicks        - Large vienna sausages sold in Mexico.

GORP                 - "Good Ol' Raisins and Peanuts" - popular cave food.

Grimbly              - Greasy. from the "Grimbly Chimbley", a common term for
                       the Greasy Chimney in Swildon's Hole, Mendip. Popular
                       in "Grimbly thrutch".

Grots                - Any caving clothing, save only that it is well used.

Grunt                - A rugged and challenging caving trip.

Hardman's handbag    - A term which never really caught on (I wonder why ?)
                       for a small pack containing vertical hardware.

Hardware             - Refers to 'biners, racks, figure 8s, ascenders, bolts,
                       etc. -- the metallic paraphernalia of vertical caving.

Hog                  - A long coil of rope to be carried through a cave.

The Horror           - That which is found in Horror Hole caves.

Hydrothermia         - Hypothermia from cold water. "Get that rope rigged!
                       I'm getting hydrothermia sitting in this waterfall!"

Instant Cave         - Explosives.

IRT                  - Indestructible Rope Technique.  The American version
                       of Single Rope Technique (SRT) using few if any

Janglies             - Assorted SRT ironmongery.

Jack                 - Decide not to continue with the trip (or not to start

Keyboard Caver       - A person who spends more time reading the Caver's
                       mailing list than actually going caving. See Paper

Knobbly Dog          - Like half of a wire (or electron) ladder. It has a
                       single length of wire and the "rungs" are drilled in
                       the centre, threaded omto the wire and fixed by any
                       convenient means.

Krab                 - Karabiner.

Lipping              - Puckering ones lips into severly low airspace between
                       water and ceiling. Frequently referred to as "MASUing"
                       from the acronym Minimal AirSpace Utilisation, invented
                       by cave divers to conceal the fact that they weren't
                       actually diving at the time...

"Little black rocks to make fire" - Calcium Carbide.

Low Air              - (Also Low Airspace) - Small airspace between water
                       and the ceiling.

Minion               - Anyone (usually hypothermic) conned into being a model
                       or holding flashguns on a photographic trip.

Monkey dicks         - Vienna sausages.
Mundane              - A noncaver.

Nerd Caver           - A flashlight/spraypaint caver.

Nerd gate            - A significant obstacle which excludes most non-serious
                       cavers from the rest of the cave.

Nobel's Linctus      - Explosives.

Nodger               - An external male catheter which can be attached to a
                       piece of plastic tubing. The tubing is then plumbed
                       into a valve of a diving dry suit. This allows longer
                       dives to be made in comfort! Putting on a catheter is
                       known as "nodgering up".

Nurdles              - Lumps of unused carbide in dumped carbide.

On Point             - When a light is held on the far survey station for the
                       compass reading.

Obcraky              - (noun) = an internet irritant that constantly sends
                       unwanted mail about "wild dogs".  Akin to having a
                       rock in your beta boot. Can also be used as a verb:  
                       "the horror, I read my e-mail this morning and saw
                       that I was obycrakyed again" 

On Station           - Call by a surveyor denoting that the tape/light is on
                       the survey station and ready for reading;
		       or, "On Point".

Paper Caver (P.C.)   - A caver who does more caving on paper than underground.
                       See Armchair Caver, Keyboard Caver.

Pig                  - (1) See Carbide Pig.
                       (2) A hauling container made from two one-gallon
                           plastic bottles with their bottoms cut off, filled
                           with whatever, and then jammed together and taped
                           or tied securely. Useful for tethering to your leg
                           to drag gear through lots of crawlways.
                       (3) generic term for anything which is a bastard to
                           carry thru a nasty cave !

Pinky Load           - Originated in Huautla to describe underground camping
                       duffle bags which were so light they could be picked
                       up with the small finger. Normally used to indicate a
                       person was not carrying their share of group gear.

Pitch                - The most commonly used term for a vertical drop (at
                       least in Britain it is!).

Pinching a Loaf      - Defecating. See Dump, Cave Burritos, Screaming Yellow

Practice for the Real Thing
                     - Action so hard and sporting one barely survives,
                       see Sporting. (Origionally from Jim Smith or TAG)

Presurvey            - (See scoop definition 1)

Rock                 - (verb) To hide a rock (or several rocks) in someone's
                       pack so they unknownly carry it up a mountain or
		       through a cave.

Rock Solvent         - Explosives.

Romping into Big Stuff- Term used for encouragement, before going digging,
                       in a sordid dig, or afterwards in the pub.

Rope Walker          - A rope climbing system using cams and often bungies.
                       This system uses leg strength to carry the person up
                       the rope.

Rout                 - To exit the cave. "We were trashed, so we routed for
                       the entrance".

Safety Loop          - A length of rope which connects your top ascender to
                       the sit harness in case the chest/seat ascender fails.

Scoop                - (1) Speleo bopping through cave passage instead of
                           surveying it, therefore ripping off the virgin
                           passage some other caver would have to survey
                       (2) To explore cave that someone has told you about
                           before they can get back to explore it.		  
                       (3) To discover virgin cave, no negative connotations.

Screaming Yellow Zonkers - Diarrhea.

Sherp                - To act as a Sherpa. ("We sherped 80 pounds of rope up
                       to Golondrinas...").

Sherpa               - Carrying loads through a cave for someone else or to
                       supply a later effort.

Short Roped          - (1) When a pitch is rigged with a too-short rope
                           (hopefully with a knot in the end!).
                       (2) When the person preceding you on a rope accidently
                           pulls it up as they climb and you cannot reach it.

Squeeze              - A tight spot or constriction.

Speleobopper         - (1) Teenybopper in a cave, or generic flashlight-caver
                           (any age). See Dufus, Nerd Gate).
                       (2) A caver who participates only in sport caving.

Speleo Death Camp    - An especially long and greuling weekend of caving.

Spelunk              - (1) The sound made by a caver hitting the bottom of a
                           pit. See Air Rappel.
                       (2) The sound made by a caver walking through water 1
                           to 1.5 feet deep.

Spelunker            - A person exploring caves with inadequate training or

Spelunkee            - Cave owner.

Sporting             - Almost unsurvivably wet cave trip.

SRD                  - Sling the Rope Down, a popular American technique.

SRT                  - (1) Single Rope Techniques.
                       (2) Solid Rubber Trussing.

Stink                - Carbide.

Stinkies             - Carbide lamps.

Stomp around         - To unintentionally do a lot of hiking (usually caused
                       by a bad point on the topo map). "We missed the ridge
                       and ended up doing a lot of stomping around."

Stout                - Refers to a caver with almost superhuman strength and

Suckin' Spiders      - What you do in really low airspace.

Sump                 - Water blocking dry passage which may or may not be
                       passable (also used as verb: sumping).

TAG                  - The area of the U.S. where the states Tennessee,
                       Alabama, Georgia meet.  This area has a large number
                       of caves.

Texas System         - A two/three mechanical rope climbing system in which
                       all ascenders are connected to the seat harness.

Tight Spot           - A squeeze.

Torosion             - Cave modification, especially digging ledges around
                       pits. After Bill Torode, a Huntsville, AL caver.

Twink Light          - A dim backup light used as a primary light source.

Vapor Lead           - A false lead.

Wellies              - The nick-name for the high Wellington boots popular
                       in England.

Wimp Walker          - A derogitory name for the Rope Walker climbing system.

Winker               - A fray in a caving rope when the core is exposed.

Winse                - A vertical shaft in a mine between levels (i.e. it does
                       not connect directly with the surface). This is also
                       known as a Rise if it's encountered from the bottom.

Wooly bear           - Fibre pile caving undersuit.

Wuffo                - A noncaver who asks "Wuffo you go in them caves?"
                       (see Mundane) [Borrowed from skydiving.]

Yo-Yo                - (1) To rappel and climb a pit without exploring,
                           usually several times.
                       (2) Any person who does a lot of pits.

This passage explored 127 times!
Tag-Net Pages © 1996, Jeff Dilcher.