By DAN BLAKE
If you’re not afraid of the dark and enjoy crawling on your belly, exploring the Nutty Putty Caves on the other side of Utah Lake may be the recreation for you.
“Most of the time you’re sliding on your back or your stomach to get through,” said Justin Jones, a senior from Kahuku, Hawaii, majoring in political science.
A large part of the spelunking is done on the belly, but “there are some places where the caves open up and you can actually stand up,” Jones said.
“The caves are definitely a very bad place to go for anyone who is claustrophobic,” said Mark Christenson, a senior from Sandy, majoring in biochemistry.
Getting into the caves is the one of the most difficult parts of exploring the Nutty Putty Caves.
The entrance to the caves is not well marked and is “just a big hole in the ground,” Jones said.
Near the entrance is a small hole called the “birth canal” that you have to go through to “shimmy your way into the cave,” Jones said.
After passing through the “birth canal,” the cave has two branches spelunkers can take, Jones said. The left requires ropes, so the right is where most people go.
Part of the fun of spelunking is exploring the many different tunnels within the cave.
“The Nutty Putty caves are formed from the tubes of an old geyser so there are many different tunnels,” said Doug Hansen, owner of Hansen Mountaineering in Orem.
However, while exploring the caves, care must be taken to not get lost.
“There are lots of twists and turns in the caves. It’s easy to get lost down there,” Christenson said.
If only a small amount of exploring will be done, taking a rope that can be tied to both the spelunker and a place near the entrance helps people from getting lost.If more exploring will be done, having a map to keep from getting lost is important.
Maps of Nutty Putty Caves, which include information about the cave and instruction on how to cave safely, are sold at Hansen Mountaineering.
“The purpose of the map is so people don’t go down there and get lost,” Doug said.
Taking other safety measures will help in making a successful caving trip.
“No one should go to the caves alone. A group of at least three people should cave together to be the safest,” Christenson said.
“People need to watch out for loose rocks that can cause slips and falls,” Doug said.
“If it rains right before going, there can be water in the cave, making it more slick at the entrance,” Christenson said.
“Before climbing with ropes, rope climbing courses should be passed off to ensure safety to the climber, said Paul Hansen,” manager of Hansen Mountaineering.
Taking the right equipment will also help make a better caving trip.
“Many people do not take all the equipment they need into the cave,” Doug said. “They often get by without the equipment, but they are not as safe.”
“A lot of people just go in with flashlights in their hands,” Paul said.
“You should bring plenty of lights because you never know when you will lose one,” Jones said.
Wearing the right clothes for protection including pants, hiking boots and a helmet is important, Jones said.
Trips to the Nutty Putty Caves are sometimes organized by Outdoors Unlimited or Hansen Mountaineering.
The caves can be explored any time of year if roads are accessible because the temperature is stable underground during the winter and summer, Paul Hansen said.