Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cave Locations - Grottos and the good old boys club

So I ran across the article today regarding caving and how to find the locations of caves in Utah. Basically why you have to join the good old boys club and they have to like you...


As the Nutty Putty Cave Access Manager, I had the privilege to visit the cave on June 15 with some very experienced cavers and our dialogue while driving along the west side of Utah Lake led to the unrealistic expectations of many new cavers that join the grotto. It was obvious that the biggest new member disappointment deals with not being able to find out where all of the Utah caves are located.

New cavers see the very low $15 annual Timpanogos Grotto membership fees and think, “Wow, for just $15 I can join and then receive access to all the known caves of Utah.” That is far from reality.

I know very few cavers that know where more than 20 of the hundreds of Utah caves are located. Most cavers get exposed to Utah caves one cave at a time. Line upon line, precept upon precept. As they gain the favor of a Trip Leader qualified for a certain cave and they prove themselves by being responsible in that cave,word spreads that they can be trusted and another Trip Leader will invite them along to another cave.

What happens when you and Trip leader don't get along? These trip leaders with all of this power to show you the cave - how are they chosen (well they aren't chosen they are part of the good old boys club and somehow you just happened to get a in for this one trip). I know a few people who have been caving for more than 15 years and know the location of maybe 10 caves in Utah. These guys really know there stuff too and are respectful of the cave and all it entails. Unfortunately they don't agree with all of the Grotto decisions and well don't get invited to many new caves in the area.

The biggest disqualifier occurs when the new caver is reckless and unwilling to follow direction from the Trip Leaders. Over time the responsible new cavers become exposed to many caves. It should be noted that most private cave trips have a purpose far beyond just experiencing the thrills of the cave. This may include cleaning the cave, installing monitoring equipment, or mapping a new section of the cave.

Who are they trying to kid? they do this stuff to make sure they can see more caves and have more thrills and to tow the line otherwise they wouldn't get invited to see new caves to enjoy the trills that that entails. Mapping is a hobby to some people in the caving community in case you didn't know.. why not spend 12 hours in a cave looking at every little bit of the cave and have people think that you are great.

So why can’t joining the Timpanogos Grotto be like buying a “Map of the Stars Homes” that would allow new grotto members the ability to just start touring all of the local Utah County caves? Why? Cavers destroy caves. Cavers destroy cave habitat. Cavers destroy cave features. Cavers are just plain bad for caves... But wait a minute. If cavers do all of this damage, then why are their caving grotto clubs like the Timpanogos Grotto?

The Grottos are established to teach good caving ethics and help preserve caves. People join the Grotto to get involved with cave conservation, preservation, exploration, and mapping. Unfortunately, many cavers just want the next rush, the next challenge, the next video game type experience. And this is why most seeking the high adventure adrenalin thrill never get to do it with caves. Out of frustration, they end up moving on to other adventure sports like bungie jumping and hang gliding and leave the subterranean world behind.

We only want followers, and people to do work. if you are not part of the group you don't get to know where these caves that are mostly on public lands are because you are not IN

But there are a few of us who learn to love caves and want to invest time with conservation, preservation, exploration, and mapping projects. Those that express these desires to help get invited on private cave trips. One of the first thing new grotto members realize is that they will rarely see highly published cave trips attempting to garner huge masses of the public. Instead, most cave trips are planned in private amongst groups cavers that have proven themselves to be involved for more than just the immediate rush of adrenalin.

And this is where the Nutty Putty Cave fits so nicely into the Utah County caving experience. The Nutty Putty Cave is a sacrificial exploration cave that allows beginner to novice cavers the adrenalin rush in a rather safe horizontal caving environment. It is difficult to do any real damage to the Nutty Putty Cave because there are no delicate features. Most of our visitors have no grand motives of conservation, cleaning, or mapping. Instead, they are there for the thrill of making it through the next tight spot and into that next room. The Nutty Putty Cave fuels the desire to explore more caves and this is where we invite our Nutty Putty Cave visitors to give caving more thought and hopefully we can inspire you to join the Timpanogos Grotto and learn to care for our other great caving resources. And while you won’t be immediately flooded with cave access directions, you will find opportunities to both enjoy and preserve the caves of Utah.

Yep.. it is going to take me a while to find a bunch of caves that I can go visit.. but I don't like the grottos ideals of scocialism :)


Michael Leavitt said...


Since I wrote the article you referenced, I am surprised you did not respond to me directly. It was great to read your opinions in your blog. I look forward to your stepping up and volunteering for tasks out at the Nutty Putty Cave with the rest of us volunteers.

You may opine about a good old boys club, but I find that it is best to just roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. There‘s lots of work to be done and I think you should consider jumping in to help instead of acting as an outsider with differing opinions.

We don’t all have to agree on every point, but we do have to agree to protect the caves. They are so much more important than you or I. It is neither grotto or non-grotto, socialism or freedom. Instead, it is all about protecting the caves as we enjoy their exploration and discovery. Surely you must agree with that.

Michael Leavitt
Nutty Putty Cave Access Manager
Orem, Utah

Scott said...

A direct response to your article did not seem fitting at the time.

your statement, "Jump in to help instead of acting as an outsider" is just the thing - (Please note that doesn't mean that I won't or haven't helped in the past in other acts of protecting the areas that I use) if I don't act as part of the group mentality then I won't find access to caves (this has nothing to do with my knowledge or how I treat these public places called caves only that I don't like the your with us or you are against us mentality).

I agree with protecting the caves but I disagree with the means that it is achieved with.

Amanda said...

Your blog is indeed quite accurate as to the nature of the grotto. I grew up in NC and we had quite a few VERY large and delicate caves that I was able to explore on several occasions. Most of them were gated but obtaining the key was a standard procedure of paying a small deposit and verifying my ID. I wasn't required to 'prove myself worthy" or any other such 'chosen people' nonsense. Had I vandalized a cave I was responsible. They had all of my info from when I had obtained the key. I also was keenly aware that if I were to become stuck or injured that I was responsible. I didn't have to prove anything other than who I was and where I lived. Since the grotto has loftier ambitions than to let ernest individuals tour caves on public property I have merely relied on my resources and education to do something I enjoy and eliminate the 'middle man'. If you want to cave; find a cave. Very few of them are gated and it is only a matter of finding the ones that are not. As a geologist I understand how these caves are formed and many share certain common traits that are easy to follow. I know the whereabouts of some odd 15 caves all of which I found without the help of the grotto. All it takes is some patience and an understanding mind. I wholeheartedly understand the cause of conservation and support it. I do not however derive any enjoyment out of exclusive clubs, fraternities, escort services, or cavers anonymous organizations. I have been caving for 14 years and do not feel the need for any sort of support group or qualification process.

Jeremy Dye said...

You can find locations for several Utah caves at: