Potomac Speleological Club

Boy Scouts of America and Sinnett-Thorn Mountain Cave System

All BSA leaders must become familiar with all BSA caving requirements and NSS guidelines before asking for cave access. An excellent resource is found on the National Speleological Society website (caves.org)

Please do not ask for access if you do not meet all the requirements. Understand that STCC really does want to see kids in caves, but the landowner, STCC, and PSC must be protected against legal action. The most important goal, however, is to ensure that the kids and adults who enter this unique cave system do so in a safe manner. All BSA participants and cave guides must fully comply with all BSA and NSS regulations and guidelines, as well as the additional BSA belaying/vertical-work requirements.

 According to David Bates, BSA national headquarters, these regulations apply to all individuals within any Boy Scouts of America program. The following is based on a series of e-mails and conversations with him:

  • Local council regulations may not weaken national BSA regulations. All BSA guidelines/regulations and NSS guidelines must be followed.
  • Within the published regulations and guidelines, the word “should” means “is required” and is not to be interpreted as being optional.
  • “Simple novice activities” do not include any exposed climbing or use of climbing aids or equipment, and are limited to commercial or easy walk-in caves (no climbing or exposure) only.
  • In order to use climbing aids or equipment such as ladders, ropes, handlines, etc., a guide must have taken and passed a belaying techniques course that is recognized by BSA. This course must include at least ten hours of instruction. Contact your local council for a schedule of courses.
  • The certificate holder must be present during all climbing activities.

Some commonly misunderstood BSA guidelines/regulations are listed below, along with some explanations:

  • BSA requires both a handline AND a belay for slopes of 55 degrees or greater. The Silo has a slope of 55 degrees. BSA units must use both a handline and a belay for the Silo.
  • Boy Scouts must not relieve themselves in any cave. Cavers use old water/soda bottles for “pee bottles”, and zip lock bags and plastic storage boxes for feces.
  • All Scouts must be at least 14 years of age on the day of any cave trip, unless it is a novice activity. BSA does not consider caving in Sinnett-Thorn to be a novice activity.
  • Groups may not exceed 10 individuals and this includes all adults and cave guides.