Cave Etiquette

22 Mar 2009 11:21 #367 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Re:Cave Etiquette
Here are some thoughts about toilet practices at caves:

1. It is very easy to go to the toilet too close to caves. One may be tempted to think that it is only you doing it, and that you are only spending one night in the cave. This is however, very short-sighted and selfish thinking. The fact is that if you think that way, many others are too. Far too many caves are surrounded by unsightly evidence of this. So, if you intend going to the toilet, take a proper walk away from the cave. Just going around the corner, or being out of sight from your mates, is not enough.

2. Avoid going to the toilet near the path leading to the cave. Maybe its convenient for you if its dark - but do you enjoy seeing someone else's toilet paper on the way towards the cave? I came across more than just toilet paper once, right on the trail just before Mponjwane Cave - to the selfish individuals that have done this, this is not on!

3. Take care not to contaminate the water supply for the cave. Think about what may happen during heavy rain, and remember that water draining through the ground eventually finds its way into streams. You may think that you are doing it sufficiently far away from water for the purposes of your own visit, but do you like the thought that previous visitors may have done it close to the water that you are now drinking?

4. "Toilet caves" are not ok - at all! Caves sometimes have overhangs or extensions nearby which may seem like the ideal sheltered spot. Is it pleasant to go there and see that many others have had the same thought? Not only does it lead to an unacceptably high concentration of such, but the decomposition is also slower there.

An example would be that of Pholela Cave - which has an extended section right above the little waterfall which is typically the water supply for the cave. Not only will it take a long time for the excrement there to decompose among the rocks on the floor, but during high rainfall periods this would be washed into the river. To those that have used the extension as a toilet: think about this next time you collect water at that little waterfall.


Though not a pleasant topic, it does need to be addressed. Would like to hear everyone's thoughts on this. Any other guidelines to add?

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
The following user(s) said Thank You: Philip

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23 Mar 2009 11:28 #368 by bergbees
Replied by bergbees on topic Re:Cave Etiquette
What is an appropriate minimum distance from water? 30m 50m 100m are some of the recomedations I have read.

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24 Mar 2009 10:05 #369 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Re:Cave Etiquette
I find actual distances a bit tricky in the Berg, especially in the rainy season where water is oozing out everywhere.

My approach is obviously just to get away as far as possible from water. This is easier on the escarpment or on the Little Berg plateau (where 50-100m away from water would be applicable), but gets more difficult while ascending a pass (where sometimes only a few meters is possible).

I study the surrounding area to determine if there are temporary water courses during the rainy season and avoid these too (this is especially important in the dry season when there may appear to be no water around). Slopes alongside gullies and streams are not good because heavy rain can wash the excrement straight into the water, and generally high volumes of water move through the ground in these areas.

Grassy areas are generally better than rocky or marshy areas, because it indicates drier conditions and the presence of soil in which it is easier to dig a hole (one should always take a trowel with), and which aids better decomposition and filtering.

Anyone else have more recomendations?

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.

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25 Mar 2009 11:38 #372 by Magan
Replied by Magan on topic Re:Cave Etiquette
It's just a sense of decency and courtesy thats lacking big time in our society in general ..... let alone in a pristine environment like the Berg.

What pleasure does anyone derive from defacing eg. The Sphinx by writing "John was here xx/xx/2009" ?? It's a sad state where we heading to.
As for toilet stuff, common sense should dictate : further away as possible, off the path, cover up.

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25 Mar 2009 12:09 #374 by bergbees
Replied by bergbees on topic Re:Cave Etiquette
I agree, we seam to forget how big an impact one human can make on the environment. Last year we went up the Chain-Ladder in RN. There was a bunch of school kids, chucking plastic bottles into the tugela head waters and would have left it there.

The young people that where supervising did nothing to stop this, or try to instill an appreachiation for the berg.

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30 Mar 2009 08:35 #386 by fatshark
Replied by fatshark on topic Re:Cave Etiquette
I'm sure many of you are aware that many trails overseas have a "carry in, carry out" policy, and that in many cases this does not only apply to litter...:blink:

They use something called a Poop Tube:
"The Poop Tube is designed for personal human waste carry-out and is primarily used in backcountry, remote locations. Uses may include backpacking, horseback riding, kayaking, canoeing, etc, While using the Poop Tube the user can dispose of their waste in a SCAT Machine Poop Tube Washer. The tube is 4" in diameter by 20" long with easy on/off lid (not sure if this is a good feature or not!!!). The method of use includes first depositing individual waste on large coffee filters or waxed paper and then placing in the Poop Tube. The user can then dispose of the waste and wash out their toilet at the SCAT Machine Poop Tube Washer or an RV dump site." from www.thewireroller.com/pooptube.htm

I would hate to have to do that...but maybe its an option for high-use areas in the Berg? (and a future business opportunity :laugh: )

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30 Mar 2009 08:52 - 30 Mar 2009 08:53 #387 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Re:Cave Etiquette
Yep, I've certainly heard of those "carry in, carry out" places. And apparently it's strictly monitored. I think at least monitoring that hikers have a trowel with them would go a long way already. Having to produce a trowel (or buy one on the spot if you don't have one) before you set out, may not be a way of enforcing the use of it, but it would at least raise awareness and make an appeal to conscience.

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 30 Mar 2009 08:53 by intrepid.

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30 Mar 2009 09:56 #389 by bergbees
Replied by bergbees on topic Re:Cave Etiquette
I agree with the awareness and trowel carry. I read that "carry in carry out" is part of climbing Denali.

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31 Mar 2009 14:57 #393 by fatshark
Replied by fatshark on topic Re:Cave Etiquette
I'm with you on the trowel solution. Straightforward, quick win, and it shouldn't be much of a mission for Ezemvelo to implement, either.

(Intrepid, any way of putting together poll/vote functionality for the site for things like this? It would be a pretty cool way to see whether people are in favour or not, and the stats could be provided if a recommendation is made to Ezemvelo. Thoughts?)

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31 Mar 2009 16:05 - 06 Sep 2011 14:15 #395 by intrepid
Replied by intrepid on topic Re:Cave Etiquette
I've created a very simple poll on whether or not carrying trowels should be mandatory in the Berg or not.

Edit (6 Sep 2011) - Poll results:

Should there be a mandatory check for trowels before being allowed to hike in the Berg?
Number of Voters : 40
No : 22 (55%)
Yes : 18 (45%)

First Vote : Tuesday, 31 March 2009 20:23
Last Vote : Monday, 19 October 2009 14:37

Take nothing but litter, leave nothing but a cleaner Drakensberg.
Last edit: 06 Sep 2011 14:15 by intrepid. Reason: Added poll results

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