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Route Severity Diagram

By S.J. Collins

PART 4.  Wetness

The basic sign for wetness is a wavy line.  This goes outside the passage or pitch, so that if we want to draw a passage that is both wet and constricted, the signs do not get in each other’s way.  Once again, it does not matter whether we draw the wetness sign outside one or the other side of the passage, and if the passage is wet and tight, we can draw the two signs on the same side of the passage or on opposite sides just as we please.


Everybody should now be able to draw a wet pitch.  It should not even be necessary to illustrate one, so we shan’t bother.

PART 5.  Exposure

By this, we mean exposure in the climbing sense.  In case there is someone who is not familiar with the term, you are in an exposed position in a cave if it is possible to fall from where you are to some lower place in the cave.

Constriction was indicated by putting a sign (like a sharp point) INSIDE the passage or pitch.  Wetness was indicated by putting a wavy line OUTSIDE the passage or pitch.  There is only one other place we can use, that is the actual side itself.  Exposure is thus indicated by BREAKING THE ACTUAL LINE IN THE PASSAGE OR PITCH. Thus, a ledge is shown like this: -




In the case of EXPOSURE of this sort, the actual side on which the exposure occurs is the one shown dashed.  Thus, in the passage below, of you were going from A to B you would expect to cross a ledge with a drop on your right……


If anyone has been doing some thinking, I can almost hear the objection coming up at this stage. Why is a pitch drawn with solid walls when you are in an exposed position al the time you are climbing it? The answer is that a pitch drawn with solid lines means that you would expect to use TACKLE on it (which should keep you from falling!)  This is distinct from a CLIMB which is drawn like a pitch but with exposure signs like this….


…….and means that you would normally be expected to climb it without tackle.

PART 6.  Boulders

The hazard represented by rocks was not originally part of the R.S.D. but has been added at the request of many cavers.  Again, we use the actual passage side and the inside.  In fact, our basic passage becomes very distorted – as it does in real when passing through a boulder ruckle!


We use the basic boulder sign (diamond symbol) in other ways, which we will show later.

The reader who has been doing some thinking may well have another objection at this stage.  He may think “old Collins told us that all these signs could be used together if necessary.  Now he has gone and introduced a sign for a boulder ruckle with the sign for tightness.  We can’t therefore show a tight boulder ruckle”.

THIS IS TRUE – and it was one of the reasons why this was not part of the original R.S.D.  Later, we shall be able to use a way round it.

PART 7.  Junctions and routes

We said that there were eight basic symbols.  We have dealt with the signs for PASSAGE, PITCH, CONSTRICTION, WETNESS, EXPOSURE, BOULDER and now we come to the last two.

Passage junctions are shown just as you would expect.  Like this…..


                                                                                                ………..and thus basic sign is the one by which we denote that two or more routes are in the same cave space.  This might be in a large chamber or along the floor and halfway up a high rift.  They are shown as separate routes within a dotted area.  This sign can be used to denote the route passing through a large chamber if desired.

To be continued.