• Christine Grosart

"Women don't do that".

Some thoughts....

Your first trip underground will always be memorable for the right reasons - with WetWellies Caving

Well, that's quite enough of that poppycock.

If you really want to read what else this genius of a man 'James' came up with, you can read it at the bottom of this blog post where it belongs.


I love taking young women caving and starting them young seems to be the way forward.

Sometimes they look down the entrance of a cave and you can see the nervousness building up.

The trick is to pretend you haven't seen it and carry on as if caving is totally normal. This attitude rubs off very soon and not before long, they are showing you around the cave as if they own it!


The future of caving is in their hands. Image: Christine Grosart/WetWellies Caving



Cavers have a reputation for being a bit 'mad' - this mostly comes from folk who have never met us. It would be a fair comment if they had!

But no, just the fact that we go underground for fun makes us mad in the eyes of so many people.


When I see people throwing themselves out of aircraft with only hankies and string to save them, free climbing overhanging cliffs covered in bird poo with 'bold' moves (have you seen Free Solo?) or hurtling down mountains attached to skis, I don't think of them as 'mad'. I'm just envious that they have something in them that enables them to do that; something that I don't.


My first 3 mile steeplechase.

Everyone has a limit.

My limit was racing horses over steeplechase fences but I never fell in action. I wonder if I'd had a bone crunching tumble, how long it would have taken to get my nerve back.


As a child you bounce, run after your pony and climb onto the nearest bucket/fence/trough to get back on as soon as possible.



As a grown up you no longer bounce - and the horses are bigger, faster and the game gets a lot more serious. You are also aware of your own mortality.


Caving is not an adrenaline sport. I'd say the same for cave diving.

It is meticulous, controlled, precise, with the aim being to achieve and conquer without having an accident.

Caving is not competitive - the only person you take on is yourself. Thus, I don't think cavers are mad.

They are, in the main, society misfits who often find solace in the underground world, often preferring it to the rat-race - the stresses of modern life.

It is the ultimate escape - you can't see your emails when you're underground and you won't hear the phone ringing.



Women like me have never really fitted in to general society. I had an unusual, far from standard upbringing and was bullied at school. Mostly by teachers.

In fact, in my early years in racing I was bullied by my boss. I guess by keeping my head down and my mouth shut and working hard, I was an easy target. The lazy, mouthy ones always seemed to be favoured.

These experiences most likely inform my no-nonsense attitude these days. I have no time for the behaviour I experienced growing up.


I find things like cinemas, casinos, computer games and the like extraordinarily dull and pointless. The things that excited my school friends and colleagues bored me to death.

I needed something real. Something to make me feel alive and I constantly strived to achieve. I was never happy with where I was, never happy with the status quo.


One of the women I worked for in horse racing commented on someone else who fell off her horse and began crying. As we watched on while the drama unfolded, she said something I have never forgotten. "I just couldn't bear to be that useless".

I looked at myself and thought "Does she think I'm useless? What if I fell off tomorrow? Am I useless?"


Me, front right, trying not to be useless..

Fear of being useless is a horrible driver and it takes years to make it go away and learn to enjoy life for what it is.


I hear SO many horror stories from people I meet in every day life, who remember their first caving trips - normally with the school or scouts - and they tell tales of fear, how they were 'made' to go through a tight bit of cave they could easily have walked around - and were pretty much put off for life. Their parting comment is always: "You must be mad".


'Some' old school caving leaders and instructors are very much to blame for the poor reputation caving has, along with the press - who are only ever interested when something (rarely) goes wrong.

Beginners were never encouraged to take up caving as a sport and they probably didn't even know that you could. It was always sold as an 'activity day' designed for 'character building'. A one-off.


Young women falling in love with caving. Image: Christine Grosart/WetWellies Caving

I set up WetWellies with the intention of changing this. The old school cave leaders who only did it to somehow boost their egos or get some kind of pleasure out of watching others suffer and struggle, were putting people off taking up the sport in droves.


In fact, of the hundreds of people I have met since I became a cave leader in 2012, only two have told me a positive tale about their previous caving experience.


Getting the giggles underground with WetWellies Caving.Image: Christine Grosart

We don't take people caving to make them feel 'useless' when they struggle to do something that I think we already established, not many people do.

But we take them to show then something amazing that not many people see and to grant them the feeling of achievement. They don't come out of a cave feeling useless; they feel amazing!

We at least need to give people a chance to fall in love with caving before they start embarking on the tougher caving trips.


Anyway...

This year has been both incredible - and weird - with the latest accolade coming from an unknown nomination for the BBC Radio 4 Women's Hour Power List

There are some seriously dedicated, hard working and humble women on this list and to even be nominated was a huge surprise and honour.

Of course, this was all in relation to my charity work with Ghost Fishing UK and rather typically, as with doubtless many of these women's stories, this is only the tip of the iceberg.


WetWellies puts cave conservation at the forefront of everything we do - our pre-trip intro lectures are very highly thought of, welcomed and enjoyed by everyone who caves with us and does a lot to improve the reputation of professional cave leaders, some of whom in the past were perhaps not that great at looking after the environment.

I teach my clients to respect and protect the cave environment and they finish their day loving the caves almost as much as I do.


With that in mind (plus our fabulous images of WetWellies cavers enjoying the underground) let's hear what else 'James' has to say about women cavers....











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