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Huntsville Underground: Horizontal and vertical caving

There's more than one way to explore caves.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — If you ever find yourself amongst a group of cavers, you'll quickly find out the words 'horizontal and vertical' are staples in conversation.

That's because there are two types of caving: horizontal and vertical!

Horizontal caving is when you can walk into a cave, with a helmet of course. 

Ted Doggett with Huntsville Grotto says this is how most people start out. While safety should be at the top of everyone's mind, you don't need a rope or vertical gear to do horizontal caving... but it has its limits.

Sometimes there's no way to walk or crawl into the mouth of a cave. 

In cases like that, you have to go vertical. Huntsville Grotto's Makaria Doggett explains, "There's a lot of caves where you can only get in them with vertical training and gear. There's only one way in and one way out, and horizontally, there's caves; you go in horizontal, you come back out horizontal."

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North Alabama is a popular area for caving. "We're extremely fortunate to be in the Huntsville area. We're very fortunate to be members of the Huntsville Grotto, especially considering the vertical caving that we really enjoy doing. We have so many people that came before us that invented most of the things that we use today, the techniques that we're using, a single rope technique, using the rack, Mr. John Cole, Bill Cuddington, so many people that have been in so many things they're all right here from Huntsville, Alabama, all part of Huntsville Grotto. So it's really an honor to just continue the tradition and try to share that with more people in Huntsville and get them excited about it," says Ted Doggett.

Makaria Doggett adds, "Not everybody is going to love the sport when they come into it. So they might come in you take them once and you never see him again. But then there's someone else that has the same passion and drive that we might have, or you know, have children like we do that we'd like to bring with us and you see that spark and when you see that in somebody you can't help but want to continue to just teach."

For more information on caving in Alabama, visit the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. or Huntsville Grotto.

And remember, oftentimes caves are located on private property and/or require a permit to access. So, be sure to do your research before ever seeking out a cave, make sure you have the correct gear before entering and understand that caves are meant to be preserved. 

RELATED: Rare Crayfish found in Huntsville cave

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