Cavers Slang Dictionary

From the Cavers' Digest electronic mailing list.

Compiled by Tom Moss, Edited for the WWW by Joel Laws.

This compendium of cavers' terms comes from postings by
individuals from all over the world, and reflect the lingo of
various regions. The contributors: Paul Aughey, Less Bartel, Ken
Byrd, Donald Davis, Michael DeChaine, Jeff Dilcher, Mark
Dougherty, Bill Franz, Rob Harper, Malcolm Herbert, Dave Linton,
Mark Minton, Graham Proudlove, Frank Reid, Bill Steel, Andy
Waddington, Joel Laws, Tim Harrison, Jon Hagee, Greg Barnes,
C. Acklin, Mike Dawson, et al, and others.

In taking these out of their original context, I have edited some
of them to match the dictionary-style format, and combined some
of the terms with multiple meanings for different cavers or
regions. I also added a few of my own.


|A |B |C |D |E |F |G |H |I |J |K |L |M |N |O |P |Q |R |S |T |U |V |W |X |Y |Z|

Air Rappel - an accidental fall down a pit.

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

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

Babysitting - referring to those cavers who can cave one day of
the weekend, while they look after the kids for the other day.

Bang - explosives.

Beady Eye - A candle. From Balch's Dependable Illuminant (B.D. I.)

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.

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

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

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.

Bottomed or Bottomed Out- reaching the lowest point of a vertical cave.

Brain Bucket - helmet.

Carbide Assist -refers to "encouragement" of a caver (esp. slow
cavers) in a crawlway by a close following carbide caver.

Carbide Pig - a length of knotted car inner-tube used for
carrying carbide in caves. Also known as piglets (if made form
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.

Ceiling Burner - belt-generator carbide lamp with vertical flame.
See Gobbler.

Cell - almost any electric light, but particularly its battery

Chair Sucker (rope sucker, stove sucker, etc.) - one who use
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 a vertical systems
so foot stirrups cannot come off if the climber hangs upside

Craps Out - passage ends.

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

Cave Burritos - the containers of fecal waste, normally tripled-
bagged in Ziplocks, removed in one's pack form Lechuguilla Cave.

Chemical Persuasion - explosives.

Cong-stompers - Vietnam combat boots.

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

Dangle - strap used to hang packs out of the way below your feet
while on rappel. See Donkey Dick

Death March - particularly gruelling caving trip.

Disco Arms, Disco Legs - State of bodily dysfunction resulting from standing on thin ledges and over extending your reach whilst placing hangers.

Doing a Neil - local South Wales Caving Club term, for a keen
caver trying his best to overtake people to get to the front of a

Donkey 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 while on
rappel. Also known as a "Dangle" in the US.

Dufus (or doofus) - an inept caver.

Eardip - water passage that gets so low that you must drag one
ear on the ceiling, while the other dips below the water.

E-Caving - one who experiences caving electronically. Usually via a computer,
E-Mail, the Internet, BBSs, etc.

E-Caver - one who spends more time E-Caving than actually going undergound.
See Keyboard Caver, Paper Caver.

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.

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

Flat Rock - banging someone unconscious (on purpose or not) with
a rock. (1)when a BFR falls on the caver at the bottom of the
pit. (2) first aid technique to eliminate the need to rescue an
injured caver.

Ghar Parau'd (as in Ghar Parau Pakistan) - 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 or chokes out.

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 passage which has popcorn or other
features which catch on packs and tear clothing.

Goes - the report on a lead that says it continues.

Goosh - boiled condensed milk (caramel).

Gorilla Dicks - large vienna sausages sold in Mexico.

Gorp - "God 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

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

Grunt - a rugged and challenging caving trip requiring some extra

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 8's, ascenders,
bolts, etc. -- the metallic paraphernalia of vertical caving.

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

Hydrothermia - hypothermia from being submerged in water, or from
hanging on rope in a waterfall.

Instant Cave - explosives.

Janglies - assorted SRT ironmongery.

Jack - decision not to continue with, or start the trip.

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

Knobbly Dog - like half of a wire ladder. It has a single length
of wire and the "rungs" are drilled in the centre, threaded into
the wire and fixed by any convenient means.

Knot - Trendy new word which often follows an absurd statement.
"I climbed Fantastic Pit on helicals....Knot!"

Krab - Karabiner.

Lipping - puckering ones lips into severely low airspace between
water and ceiling. Frequently referred to a "MASUing" from the
acronym Minimal AirSpace Utilization, 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 flash guns on a photographic trip.

Monkey dicks - vienna sausages.

Mundane - a non-caver.
Nerd Caver - a flashlight spelunker wearing low top tennis shoes
and carrying a can of spray paint.

Nerd Gate - natural, but over-comeable barrier in a cave passage
preventing wimps from going any further into a cave.
Nurdles - lumps of unused carbide in expended carbide dump bag.

On Point (On Station) - comment to let instrument reader know you
are ready for survey measurement reading.

Oneyedsulu - Derogatory term applied to a person puffed up with their own importance. This type of person begins every caving story with "When I soloed..."

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

Pig - (1) See Carbide Pig. (2) a hauling container made form two-
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. (2) used to indicate a person is not
carrying their share of group gear.

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

Pitching or Pinching a Loaf - defecating, dump. See Cave Burritos, Screaming Yellow Zonkers

Pot Holing - What cavers in Great Brittan refer to when they enter caves with vertical entrances.

Rock Solvent - explosives.

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

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

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

Scoop - (1) speleobopping through cave passage instead of
surveying it, therefore ripping off the virgin passage some other
caver would have to survey later. (2) 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
the pit."

Sherpa - person who carries loads of gear for someone else or to
supply a latter 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 climbs over the lip and accidently pulls
the rope up beyond your reach.

Squeeze - (1) a tight spot or constriction. (2) SpeleoBabe

Speleobopper - (1) teenybopper in a cave (2) Flashlight caver (3)
A caver who participates on in sport caving. See Dufus, Nerd Caver.

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 - person who goes into caves without proper equipment
or the desire to learn/practice proper safety/conservation techniques.
Example: When five people go spelunking, everyone has well-worn tennis shoes,
two might have flashlights, one claims to know about the cave, and none in the group has a helmet. The word spelunker comes from the sound one makes when they slip, fall, and land in a pool of water - SPEEE-LUNK!
The difference between a Spelunker and a Caver is: Cavers rescue Spelunkers!

Sporting - statement to imply positive images of a challenging,
wet, muddy, less than easy cave. "Its a sporting cave!"

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

Stink - carbide.

Stinkies - carbide lamps.

Stout - refers to a caver with almost superhuman strength and

Tight Spot - a squeeze.

Torosion - cave modification, especially digging ledges around
pits. After Bill Torode, Huntsville caver.

Winker - (1) A fray in a caving rope when the core is exposed.
(2) a follower of Sister Winkie, the Ozark Caving Deity.

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 non-caver who asks "Wuffo you go in them caves?" See
Mundane [Borrowed from skydiving terminology]

Send additions to Joel Laws
Last updated Dec. 3, 1997.