We are the Cascade Grotto, a recognized chapter of the National Speleological Society (NSS).
We are Washington’s only Grotto!
Cavers are a special bunch – why else would we descend below ground in the beautiful Pacific Northwest!
Here are some of the activities of our caving club:
We host meetings about 9 months of the year at the Tukwila Community Center. Meetings consist of a business segment from 7-8pm, and a program or learning activity from 8-9 pm. Recent programs have been about Lechuguilla, Papoose Cave, Wilderness caving, and caving in one of the deepest caves in Mexico and North America, Cueva Huatala. We cannot linger after the meeting since the center closes, but often meet up afterwards at a nearby Tex-Mex restaurant for food, drinks, tall tales, and fellowship.
Informal Meet-Ups / Pub Nights
These are informal events that any member can sponsor – as a member, you are encouraged to sponsor your own “Meet Up” or “Pub Night.” As the name suggests, “Pub Nights” are often sponsored at a local brewery or watering hole, but may occur anywhere, including members’ homes. These meetings may or may not have a presentation, are completely informal, and are designed to empower our motivated members to make caving friends in their area. We are a geographically diverse club and this model is proven effective. Recently, get-togethers have occurred in Tacoma, the U District in Seattle, Kenmore, and elsewhere. We are grateful to our northern caving neighbors in the Alberta Speleological Society (A.S.S.) for sharing this concept as a venue for fellowship, camaraderie, and inspiration. There is perhaps no better way for members to find out who’s caving in their area and make some plans!
Caving trip plans are posted on our Facebook Page and Group, and/or emailed to members, and are often decided at Meet Up /Pub Nights or announced spontaneously. The majority of caving trips in the Pacific Northwest occur in the summer months (~May through ~October) due to heavy mountain snowpack often present in caving areas. There are plenty of exceptions, however! For folks outside the northwest, keep in mind “summer” in the mountains starts in July!
Weekend caving opportunities are numerous. Becoming a member and staying active in the grotto is the best method to get involved with caving in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
Annual Beginner’s Trip
Our annual beginner’s trip happens in the spring and is usually held in Southwest Washington near the Mt. St. Helens or Mt. Adams lava tubes. Horizontal in nature, these caves provide a novice a great way to experience “wild caving” with experienced grotto members who lead the trips and are available for instruction on safe, clean, and efficient caving techniques. Loaner gear is available for participants. Look for it posted in our Events calendar on our Facebook page this winter!
Annual Ladies’ Caving Trip
Started in 2018, the Cascade Grotto will sponsor an annual ladies’ caving trip, reserved for members who identify themselves as such. “Lady Cavers,” as we sometimes jokingly refer to female cavers, are under-represented in caving, much like many similar outdoor pursuits such as mountaineering and rock climbing. The annual ladies’ caving trip is designed to empower women to become involved in caving in a welcoming, pressure-free environment. In 2018 the ladies’ trip went to Chubby Bunny Cave a cave in the Mt. Adams area.
Let’s be honest. Not everyone wants to be training, surveying, guiding, or otherwise doing “work” in a cave. Wanting to be a recreational caver is a natural step in the progression of a “professional” caver. Most cavers are recreational cavers, and Cascade Grotto embraces that. We are explorers at heart, after all. Multiple recreational caving trips occur every year, most being scheduled in the hot summer months. By becoming a member of the Cascade Grotto, you will be able to enjoy informally “guided” recreational caving and learn safe and clean caving techniques in the process.
Many of our members are involved in long-term, expedition caving, in such areas as the Scapegoat Wilderness of Montana and the Cueva Huatala system in Chiapas, Mexico. Expedition caving provides the opportunity to be part of surveying and mapping a new cave system or area, find virgin cave or passage, and be at the cutting edge of what caving has to offer. .
Experience in alpine caving, outdoor emergency care, self-rescue, winter survival, mountaineering, and rock climbing are desirable prerequisites for participation in expedition activities, however, opportunities exist for those with appropriate gear, desire, and of course, time off from work!
Single-Rope Technique (SRT) “Vertical” Training
Many of Washington’s great caves require rope work. Becoming a “vertical” caver is an empowering experience as it greatly increases your options in recreational caving, especially in the Northwest, where most caves worth visiting require rope work.
On-rope training, or “SRT” (Single Rope Technique) is provided year-round at various locations and times. In 2018, sessions were taught in Tacoma, and Seattle at Ravenna Park Bridge, and at the Seattle Mountaineers Program Center in Magnuson Park. Look for events posted on our publicly accessible Facebook page.
Outreach / Scouts
Our members are involved with scouting where kids get to experience a mock cave as well as learn about caves during science nights at local schools. Come back here soon for more details on this and more of our outreach activities!
Conservation / Clean-Up
Many of our members are involved with cave conservation, management, and/or stewardship. This is a tenant central to our ethics as stewards of the underground. Come back here soon for more information on this valiant cause!
Cave Clean-Up activities are common at caves that see significant use, such as at the popular Ape Cave in Southwest Washington. Our members arrange clean-up trips around these activities.
Due to the fact that many caves around the United States and world have fallen victim to vandalism and overuse, the USGS removed cave locations from topographical maps years ago, and the grotto and the NSS have a policy of not publishing cave locations. Therefore, we will not respond to requests for cave location information. This is for the conservation of the cave.
Cascade Grotto is Under New Management!
One of the many perils of a club that has lasted 67 years is stagnation, politics, and worse. Squabbling happens in many organizations, but we are happy to say that the Cascade Grotto is “under new management!” We invite former members to come see the “new and improved” Grotto, under new leadership, and riding a wave of enthusiasm as we welcome the dozens of newcomers and go-getters to the club! We are committed to short, politics-free meetings, and we insist on a culture free of harassment or discrimination of any kind. Cascade Grotto is a club that welcomes everyone!
Go here: whitenosesyndrome.org for decontamination protocols and the latest news on WNS.
White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) is currently devastating bat populations in North America. First discovered in Schoharie County, New York in February 2006, the disease has caused the death of an estimated six million bats since then, and bats found to have the Pd fungus have been found in Washington state.
Cascade grotto members are encouraged to:
- Use safe caving practices
- Utilize the current decontamination protocols found at whitenosesyndrome.org
- Report bat observations
Caving Clean, Softly and Safely
It is critically important that we maintain caves in pristine condition, protect the bats, and cave safely. Here are basic tenets that all grotto members must follow:
– Cavers must cave in clean gear in order to prevent the spread of White-Nose Syndrome by utilizing the current national decontamination protocol, found at: whitenosesyndrome.org
-Under no circumstances should caving gear used in WNS-affected areas be used in non-affected areas like Montana and the Western US. The grotto has loaner caving gear available for free to prevent this from happening.
-Bat observations, or lack thereof, should be reported within 30 days. Members are encouraged to write a full trip report including bat observations, photos and maps.
-Let someone know where you are going and when you will return.
-Minimum caving gear includes a helmet with a chin strap and three sources of light. Candles, lighters, cell phones, and “glow sticks” do not count!!
As stewards of the underground environment, Cascade Grotto members adhere to a strong “moral” code of caving ethics:
The NSS and Cascade Grotto believe:
- Caves have unique scientific, recreational, and scenic values;
- These values are endangered by both carelessness and intentional vandalism.
- These values, once gone, cannot be recovered.
- The responsibility for protecting caves must be formed by those who study and enjoy them.
All contents of a cave — formations, life, and loose deposits — are significant for their enjoyment and interpretation. Therefore, caving parties should leave a cave as they find it. They should provide means for the removal of waste; limit marking to a few, small, and removable signs as are needed for surveys; and, especially, exercise extreme care not to accidentally break or soil formations, disturb life forms or unnecessarily increase the number of disfiguring paths through an area.
Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos, kill nothing but time.
Our members enjoy caving trips of all skill levels, from introductory or family-friendly trips to lengthy ambitious remote expeditions. Full membership in the grotto only costs $20 USD per year plus only $5 per household member. We invite you to become a member of Cascade Grotto!
Privileges of membership include access to exclusive email lists, membership forums, access to caving trip announcements, trip reports, training, our annual meeting, digital library, the latest newsletter, and more! You can pay with any credit card via our secure PayPal interface. Go to http://cascadegrotto.org/join-the-grotto/ to instructions and to pay your dues!