Beneath the Mountains

Exploring the deep caves of Asturias

David Rose and Richard Gregson

Glossary of terms used

Abseil:
Sliding down a rope with a metal thing to slow you down.
Arthritis:
What old cavers get.
Ascender:
See jammer.
Authigenic:
Geologist's word applied to crystals. Ask a geologist what it means for certain, but something like "all pointing the same way".
Aven:
Hole in the roof.
Belay:
Secure point of attachment for rope or ladder.
Bobbin:
Type of descender.
Bolt:
Steel cylinder which expands when driven into rock, to provide artificial belay.
Buggered:
What young cavers feel like. What happens to gear used underground.
Carbide:
Chemical compound used in lamps which produces inflammable acetylene gas on contact with water.
Cave:
Latin for beware.
Changeover:
Manoeuvre performed during SRT at intermediate rebelay or knot.
Choke:
Device used to start cold vans; blockage of boulders or mud in a cave. Alternatively a passive verb, as in "the cave is choked with yellow vans".
Choss:
Loose rock. Very common in the Picos. Occasionally applied to bowel movement:
"Doctor, I am frightened by this cave and my stool has turned to choss."
Clinometer:
Surveying instrument used to measure inclinations from the vertical.
Cordellette technique:
Way of solo caving whereby a complex system, employing using lengths of household string, enables rope to be pulled down pitch after descent and hauled up again on pulley system to climb back up. Dangerous but economical on rope.
Cow's tail:
Safety cord used at the top of pitches, to protect cavers from the vertical.
Descender:
Friction device attached to harness to enable safe abseils.
Doline:
Depression in limestone that may have a cave at the bottom. Or may not.
Donkey's Dick:
Rope attached to harness used for carrying tackle.
Footloop:
Integral part of SRT system whereby a caver can stand in a loop from a jammer.
Free hang:
Ideal position for the rope to fall down a pitch, free of all the walls; a penalty imposed by a Spanish court at no cost.
Furry Suit:
Fibre pile romper suit worn next to the skin (see oversuit).
Hanger:
Device attached to a bolt enabling a caver to descend the cave.
Hangover:
Device enabling a caver to avoid descending the cave.
Harness:
Nylon truss which attaches the caver to the rope.
Helectite:
Curly stalactite. No-one knows why they are formed; can be metres long with many bends.
Jammer:
Device which will slide up a rope but not down.
Jumar:
Obselete form of jammer, now used only by climbers.
Karabiner:
Universal linkage for ropes. etc.
Karren:
Yugoslavian geologist's girlfriend's name, now applied to bleak expanses of cave-bearing limestone.
Maillon:
Universal linkage for ropes. etc. Cheaper than a karabiner but more awkward to use.
Natural:
Any feature of the cave such as a knob of rock or a large boulder that can be used to provide a belay without having to drill a bolt-hole.
Olives:
Something unique to Spanish caves.
Oversuit:
Tough PVC one-piece suit worn outside of the furry suit.
Petzl:
Famous French caver and now maker of SRT gear.
Phreatic:
Cave passage formed when completely flooded. Usually round and undulating.
Pitch:
Vertical drop, pitch black when peered over.
Pothole:
Vertical type of cave (see cave)
Prusik:
To move up a free-hanging rope using a system of jammers and harnesses.
Resurgence:
Spring where underground water re-emerges into daylight, except at night.
Rift:
Tall thin passage with or without a floor; a disagreement between members of the expedition.
Rope-protector:
Sheath of PVC which prevents damage to the rope where it touches the rock. Far better to have a free hang.
Rope-walker:
Device like a jammer which is more awkward to use. Better to have a jammer.
Rub-point:
Place where the rope rubs against the rock. Better to have no rub- point.
Sever:
Result of rub-point which has been ignored.
SRT:
Single rope technique. See Chapter 1 (" Learning to Crawl").
Shaft:
Vertical underground drop. The most feared obstacle underground.
Shakehole:
See Doline.
Slot:
Body-sized fissure, sometimes poised over very large pitch, when highly inconvenient.
Squeeze:
Excessively tight point in the passage, usually requiring a great deal of effort to get through. The most feared underground obstacle.
Sump:
Point in the cave where the water fills the cavern entirely. Probably more feared than either a shaft or a squeeze.
Thrutch:
Way of passing a squeeze by unco-ordinated whole body effort.
Vadose:
Cave passage formed by a stream with air above. Opposite of phreatic.
Wetsuit:
Rubber suit that keeps you warm by a thin layer a water next to the skin, and also keeps you cool by a large number of holes.
Wire:
Thin metal used to construct a belay; also what you send to the editors of the Guinness Book of Records when you have found the deepest cave in the world.

Back to... Contents

Captured by MemoWeb from http://milos2.zoo.ox.ac.uk/~oucc/btm/glossary.htm on 26/10/01