Equipment & Techniques Committee

Exploration of caves necessitates the use of a multitude of equipment. Some of the most technical items relate to safe ascent and descent of vertical sections of caves (‘pitches’). Single Rope Technique (SRT) is the standard method in caving, using ropes, harness and rope descenders and ascenders, although wire ‘Electron’ ladders are still in frequent use around the country.

Lots of this equipment is not designed with caving in mind, and cave environments can be harsh and damaging to equipment with physical damage and abrasion a real risk.

The aim of the BCA’s E&T Committee is to bring together expertise to discuss:

In particular, the E&T Committee oversee the BCA’s Anchor Policy to ensure safe standards in belaying ropes and ladders.

Until the early 1990s, ‘spit anchors’ were commonplace in caves as a means of attaching a rope to the rock at the top of a pitch. These would typically be placed ad-hoc by individual cavers and their proliferation caused conservation issues. Furthermore, the lack of any national standard and the inherent issues of spit anchors (and their being prone to rust) was presenting serious safety issues as they aged and started to fail.

In the 1990s one of our Regional Caving Councils (RCCs), the Council of Northern Caving Clubs who cover a substantial number of vertical caves (potholes), identified the need for a national standard. The CNCC, with the backing of the BCA’s predecessor (the National Caving Association), commenced a program of research into suitable anchors, resins and best practices. This research involved considerable work to test different anchor designs, resins, and to place test-beds to examine longevity.

This work led to the nationwide rollout of stainless steel anchors bonded into a drilled hole using a resin. These were demonstrated to be extremely strong, robust and able to withstand the cave environment.

The BCA provides our Anchor Policy to set out our recommendations for how RCCs and those involved in anchor installation should manage implementation of resin bonded anchors. The BCA does not install any anchors directly, but leaves this to RCCs, with a recommendation that they work in accordance with our Anchor Policy.

The E&T also operate a rope-testing service to help cavers better understand the integrity of their ropes.

The money for the E&T Committee’s work comes from BCA funds, which are drawn almost entirely from membership subscriptions. By paying into the BCA, you are supporting safe anchor schemes nationally.

The E&T is one of the BCA’s four Standing Committees, who meet as necessary (at least annually) to discuss matters relating to national E&T matters. As a Standing Committee, it is available to a voting representative of each of the BCA’s Constituent Bodies, Regional Councils, and any other invited participants.

The E&T Officer is both the convenor of the E&T Committee and a voting member of BCA Council.

Contact; Equipment@british-caving.org.uk

Meeting documents:

List of meeting documents (on current BCA website)

Additional documents:

BCA Statement on Chloride Stress Corrosion Cracking

Paper on Chloride Stress Corrosion Cracking

Anchor Policy

The full BCA Anchor Policy can be found here.

Safety information for users of resin bonded anchors can be found here.

We urge any cavers seeking to install permanent (non-exploratory) anchors in caves to get in touch with your nearest RCC to discuss options and to ensure compliance with BCA Anchor Policy.

Summary: BCA Anchor policy covers the installation of resin-bonded stainless steel anchors. Resin bonded anchors that are to be included on the BCA anchor scheme insurance must only be installed by cavers who have been trained under the scheme approved by the British Caving Association and have the authority of the local Regional Caving Council (RCC). These include:

BCA will extend its public liability insurance to cover all recognised installers and regional co-ordinators.

Installation: Installers must be competent in SRT, rigging and identifying new anchor positions and must be approved by RCCs. Such persons will be trained by BCA appointed trainers.

Records: The regional co-ordinator or deputy will keep records of all anchors placed under the scheme plus records of their inspection. These records should be passed to BCA E&T for safekeeping The regional co-ordinator will also keep records of any defect reports made and their follow up. The BCA will keep a record of all trained installers.

Essential information for users of resin bonded anchors

Resin anchors are intended for use by experienced cavers only who have understood the pre-use inspection requirements below, who appreciate the importance of fall factors and backup belays and who know how to use the anchors to rig safely avoiding rope rub and other pitch hazards.

During your trip, check all anchors before use; Cavers must perform a pre-use inspection of all resin anchors: Twist the anchor using the fingers, while observing any movement. Slight flexing or rotational movement (+/-1mm) of the anchor, as long as there is no egress of the anchor or resin from the hole, is acceptable but any more and the anchor should not be used.

The following points should also be checked before using or loading any anchors:

NEVER use any anchors which, based on the pre-use inspection, you are not confident in.

REPORT any anchors which you have concerns about to your Regional Caving Council.

ALWAYS rig caves to consider possible points of failure; ALWAYS ensure more than one anchor is used in any rigging; where possible use Y-hangs at pitch heads to spread the load directly across two or more anchors to minimise fall factors in the event of a single anchor failure, and always include at least one (ideally more) anchor (or naturals) as backup away from the pitch head (i.e. in a distant piece of rock to negate the risk of failure of the limestone).

NEVER assume an anchor indicates a safe descent can be made from there without rope rub or exposure to water; it is entirely for the experienced rigger to plan your route and ensure anchors are used in such a way as to achieve a descent free from hazards such as rope rub and falling water.

Last update to this page: 02/03/2020 22:50