Cave diving in Sidemount vs. Sidemount Cave

Many people don’t understand the distinction between “Cave diving in Sidemount” vs. “Sidemount Cave diving” and yes there is one..

When you do a cave course one of the first clues lays in the “standards” of the course. First if you do a full cave course you have the choice between doing it in backmount or doing it in sidemount, when you choose to do the course in sidemount you must first possess an open water or basic sidemount certification due to the additional task loading of gas management between cylinders, regulator switching and recognition, cylinder management to maintain the streamlining and trim according to the buoyancy characteristics of each individual cylinder and to understand proper setup of your sidemount rig.

The second clue comes from another course standard that states; “There is to be no removal of life support equipment while diving in the overhead environment.” This means that unclipping a cylinder in order to pass a restriction is not allowed as it  increases the possibility of loosing control of a cylinder which is a life support system, increases the risk of entanglement in the line due to proximity, increases the risk of entrapment in a restriction as many un-mounted restrictions are directional as well as an increases the risk of damage to your equipment as it is now no longer protected against your body and exposed to the hard environment.

When first taking a cave course you learn the “Basics of Cave Diving” whereas “sidemount cave diving” is an “advanced” cave training program that first requires a “Full cave certification” a “Sidemount certification” and at least the minimum dive experience of diving sidemount while in an overhead environment. It is a course that outlines and focuses on the increased risk management, equipment management, team considerations and the environmental considerations of diving in delicate and proximity conditions while having an increased risk of low or zero visibility due to percolation or silt-out.

“Sidemount cave” is a course that teaches an increased level of;
-gas management for the possible time delay while exiting
-gas supply management in the event of supply source failures
-cylinder management for greater control and lower impact
-environmental awareness and evaluation (we dive first for safety, second for environmental preservation and third for fun)
-team dynamics and communication procedures for diving in restricted and low visibility situations
-equipment management to deal with increased risk of failure
-streamlining to prevent damage to the environment and risk of entanglement and entrapment
-increase buoyancy, control, trim and position for diving in close proximity and delicate environments

It is in this course the student learns that removal of a cylinder is not to pass tight restrictions upon penetration rather to allow the diver additional space to pass upon exit or to prevent damage to a delicate environment. It is not a course designed to teach the student how squeeze themselves into the tightest holes and restrictions they can find, which with all consideration even the most experienced of cave explorers understand is something to be avoided.

It is at the level of “Advanced Sidemount training” (by experienced and qualified instructors not just certified egotists) that you learn that removal of a single cylinder is an option upon entry and removal of both cylinders becomes an option that is only used when necessary to pass while exiting due to limited visibility or some other environmental factor. This also requires further training, cave diving experience and a much higher level of personal control both mentally as well as physically due to the increased risk involved while diving in these sometimes unstable environments.

The most important thing to know is simply this “Sidemount restrictions are not an ego game to see who can get them selves or others entrapped in a cave; It is something that can kill you.”

If you had a good Full Cave instructor you will remember learning the rules of accident analysis that can be broken down into 5 simple categories:
1: Training

2: Guideline
3: Air/Gas management
4: Depth
5: Light sources

Hazards of cave diving: (*increased risk and hazards for sidemount cave diving are starred)
-No direct access to the surface (Training)
-Depth (Training)
-Decompression (Training)
-Narcosis (Training)
*Entanglement (Training)
*Entrapment (Training)
*Equipment malfunction (Training)
*Loss of visibility (Training)
*Limited visibility (Training)
-*Gas management (Training and Air rule of thirds)
-Loss of light (Light and Training)
*Loss of gas (Training and Air rule of thirds)
*Loss of direction (Training and Guideline)confucius
*Loss of orientation (Training and Guideline)
-Loss of team or buddy (Training)
-Loss of line (Training)
-Missing guideline (Training)
*Broken guideline (Training)
-Currents and Flow (Training)
-Distance from exit (Training)
-Hypothermia (Training)
-Exhaustion (Training)
*Restrictions (Training)
-Navigation (Guideline and Training)
*Silt (Buoyancy and trim)
*Percolation (Training)
-*Delicate environments (Buoyancy and Trim)
*Limited Communication (Training)

When broken down you will immediately notice the reason TRAINING is the first rule and that any increase in risk demands additional training: “A good diver knows the limits of his training the egotist doesn’t.

Posted 07/07/2015 by Sirius Diving