Date and Time
Boston Grotto meetings are held on the first Wednesday of every month from 7:30 to 10:00pm, except for holidays and special events. Check the calendar for details.
We meet on the ground floor of the Stata Center (Bldg 32), in the multimedia enhanced classroom 124 (32-124), on the campus of MIT, on the first block of Vassar street, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. If the room is occupied by another group, the blackboard next to the door will indicate an alternate room number.
Parking in Cambridge, not to mention MIT, is tight. At meeting time, there is usually some street parking on Vassar Street, Albany Street, Portland Street and Main Street fairly near the Stata Center, but practice your parallel parking skills in advance. Most of the MIT lots have large numbers of empty spaces at that time, but they are almost all controlled by automatic gates with keycard access nowadays. There are several secure public parking lots nearby, including the Marriott Hotel garage and the 7 Cambridge Center garage, both on nearby Ames Street, but these are expensive. Some members have recently had success in the private parking lot for The Shire, at the intersection of Albany and Portland Streets. There is a safe pedestrian walkway between Albany Street and Portland street (you need to cross a railroad track) at the Southern corner of the N4 Garage (also gated).
The Stata Center main doors are usually open-able only by key-card holders, starting before 7:30pm. But the building can be accessed from Vassar Street either through a bridge from adjacent, never locked, Building 36 (3rd floor), the ground floor elevator on the side of the building (if left unlocked, you can enter the elevator from the street then simply push the button to open the rear door into the building) or by simply waiting for someone to open one of the doors for you.
Meetings usually include recent cave trip reports, announcements of future trips, discussion of local, regional, and national caving activities, and a program, usually photos, a video, or a speaker on some aspect of caving. After the meeting, you can usually find us eating pizza and discussing caves at La Hacienda tavern in nearby Somerville.
Additional Meetings and Training
In addition to the monthly meetings, individual grotto members sometimes host an informal get-together on the second Wednesday of the month. This is a good opportunity to explore better driving routes in the area, check out other members’ caving equipment and decorations, learn to play Hearts for blood, discuss recent trips and plan future trips.
Several times per year, the grotto holds rope-climbing and rappelling practice and training sessions at local cliffs. The modern methods used to traverse vertical passages in caves are called Single Rope Techniques (SRT), to distinguish them from older methods that used an additional “safety” rope, which became obsolete after nylon ropes became available. Caving SRT is somewhat different from rope work in other sports, such as rock climbing, so we recommend that members attend at least one vertical practice before joining a trip to a vertical cave. Novice vertical practices are often held at College Rock, in Hopkinton, MA, or the famous Quincy Quarries, which are accessible from public transportation. For more advanced training, we often visit Crow Hill Cliff, in Leominster State Forest, near Fitchburg, Mass. This is about a 90 minute ride from Boston, but offers a 105 foot free drop, the highest in the area, and extensive views of Mt. Wachusett and the Eastern Massachusetts landscape.