Climbing and Caving – or – That Time I Cried in the Largest Cave in South Asia (and Saw Mountains!)

Kyle and I went with some of our more athletic embassy friends on a “Climbing and Caving” trip this weekend. It’s sort of funny how we ended up being a part of it, we got an email a week or so ago announcing the trip and I knew Kyle was at his computer, so I sent him a “do you want to go climbing and caving?” message, thinking he’d say “No way, Jose.” But he said yes. And I thought, oh, okay, and I emailed the CLO (basically an amazing, wonderful person whose job it is to set up trips and fun outings for the embassy folks) and said we were in. Then later I was talking to Kyle about the trip and he was like, what the hell are you talking about, and I said – you know. The Climbing and Caving thing. I asked if you wanted to go and you said yes so I signed us up. Well apparently he thought I was just asking in a general way if climbing and caving were things he would do (he had not read the trip email.) Anyways. We were signed up. It was a long weekend. We decided to stick with it.

We got up early on Saturday to take a bus to Bimalnagar. Driving outside of the valley is pretty. Here is a shot I took while we drove of the Trishuli River and some nice morning fog.

Trishuli River

Trishuli River

When we get to Bimalnagar, things look nice……

Our first stop, Bimalnagar

Our first stop, Bimalnagar

But then I realize that this is the “wall” we are climbing.

Seriously. What?

Seriously. What?

You will see that this is more commonly known as a gigantic mountain not meant for humans. Anyways. I was seriously wishing I’d brought a book because I did not see how there was any way I was gonna climb that thing. But after watching a few people (all of whom, I have to say, did a great job, including Kyle. I am fairly sure I am friends with the actual Spiderman) I gave it a shot.

I'm Climbing! I Climbed! So sporty.

I’m Climbing! I Climbed! So sporty.

In all honesty, I took the easiest route and only got about half way up. It was probably about 20 feet. In retrospect, I wish I’d tried again to get a little higher, but hey. For someone whose previous climbing experience was limited to the Rock Wall at Frankies Fun Part, I felt good.

Then we drove up another mountain to a place I’d never heard of called Bandipur. It was adorable. It was like, the Nepal section of Epcot. When we arrived it was already dark so I didn’t take any pictures (well I did but they looked awful) but we stayed at an adorable hotel, and it really felt like we’d gone back in time. And maybe it was just the climbing, but the food was AMAZING. I still wish I’d been able to eat more mashed potatoes.

The down side of the adorable inn was that, despite it’s adorable-ness, it did not have heat. Or heaters. Or comfy beds. Or double beds, which are a rarity in Nepal (most rooms come with two twins, Ricky and Lucy style) our room had FOUR twin beds, none of which could be pushed together to form one larger bed. Kyle took one for the team and let me sleep in a twin bed with him, and I was very grateful, because Kyle is the warmest human being I’ve ever met. I still slept in two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, three t-shirts, a jacket, a sweater, a scarf, gloves and a hat. It was not the best sleep I’ve ever experienced. And there was this freakin’ rooster crowing at like, 4:30am….anyways. I was not in the best mood when I woke up at 6am, but I was rewarded with this:

Our view from the inn. THEY ARE REAL!

Our view from the inn. THEY ARE REAL!

It happened! It finally happened! I finally saw mountains for more than a few seconds! It was so beautiful. My camera doesn’t do them justice (side note – If I am going to continue in this lifestyle I should probably invest in a decent camera.) Especially early in the morning, when they were pink with the sunshine, it was just amazing.

Drinking milk tea with this view is not bad, even after you spent the night freezing on a wooden slab.

Drinking milk tea with this view is not bad, even after you spent the night freezing on a wooden slab.

Anyways, we had a lovely breakfast and then gathered outside the inn to start our “30 minute hike” to the cave.

So cute.

So cute.

First, we went the wrong way, but not too badly – just a slight back-track required. Then we got on the right path and landed on top of this hill with an even BETTER view. I was sweaty, I was kinda gross, I was still wearing two pairs of pants – but I was pretty happy.

You'll notice I am above the cloud line but the Himalayas are still much, much higher.

You’ll notice I am above the cloud line but the Himalayas are still much, much higher.

The view was amazing. We took lots of photos, and then we pressed on – and on – and on – the “30 minute hike” was definitely measured in Nepali time, which means you take whatever number they say times three. And in our case, you add another half an hour or so because the stone steps we were walking on were quite slick and slippery. I don’t think anyone actually bit it, but most of the steps were in a downward direction and things were slow going. My knees were killing me. And then we took a wrong turn and had to go back UP many steps, which, as you may know, I hate. Steep inclines are not my friend. ANYWAYS. We finally made it to the very welcoming cave entrance:

This is when I started to get nervous.

This is when I started to get nervous.

It was basically a tiny hole in the ground, which they had fenced off, for good reason. It definitely looked like a place people were not suppose to be. The main guide started explaining how we would rappel ourselves down and different knots and things, and I have to admit, I was kind of not feeling it. But I told myself I could do it. No one else seemed interested in the alternate, non-rappeling route where you entered the cave in a different spot and just walked around, and I did not want to be the one person who wimped out.

The first rappel down - maybe about 15 feet?

The first rappel down – maybe about 15 feet?

The cave was a series of three rappels down. The first one is pictured above – we went from the spot of light at the top down to the guy in the headlamp. I was nervous-talking to myself all the way down, but I did it without incident. We went down one by one and landed in fairly spacious area where we got to look at cool rock formations, some of which I tried to take pictures of but nothing really turned out.

Once most of the group was down, we moved to the second rappel, which was short, but included some weird sort of turn/jump, and then you switched ropes (ahhh) and continued down to the longest rappel, which was like, ridiculously long. 150 feet or something. Into the dark, black, horrible cave-ness.

A not that great picture of the horribleness to come.

A not that great picture of the horribleness to come.

I was even more nervous now. The first two people to go (very brave) both had a few issues, and anytime someone with a much greater level of bravery than you says “I don’t like this” – you may or may not start to be scared. Also the ledge we had to wait on for this one gave you a perfect view of the black depths into which we PAID to descend. At this point, I was straight up scared. But it was my turn and there was no going back (literally – there was no other way to get out) so I tried to get myself into the right head space. I’m JUST ABOUT TO START and I realize that this weird knot thing we are suppose to have as a back up (which also lets me know where to put my hand on the rope as I go down) is NOT on me. I repeat – this thing we were told is for our safety is NOT on me and the guide is telling me to go. I was like – no no, I need that thing. And the guy said “no this one is short you don’t need it.” !!!!!!!! Apparently one look at my face told him I did need it, and he tied it on for me. Okay. here we go.

I’m starting to descend and trying to use the same technique I used the first time, which is basically to sit back into your harness and just use your feet to guide you along the wall, your legs need to be sort of, 90 degrees to the rest of your body. But the guides are telling me that’s not right. And to put my hands on this rock to my right and move over. And I’m like….NO OMG I AM NOT TAKING MY HANDS OFF THIS ROPE YOU CRAZY IDIOTS…..and then I started to cry.

It was so lame. But I was really scared. And just about the time the Katie faucet started, I slipped. Not like, actually slipped, because hello, I was tied to the ropes, but my feet slipped and I did a full body slam into the wall of the cave. It didn’t hurt, really, but it scared me even more. I continued to cry as the guide at the next stop moved me from one rope to the other and got me ready for the longest descent. I should have paid more attention, but I was kinda freaking out at this point. He gets me all ready to go and again – they have forgotten my special safety knot thing!!! I was like, “Excuse me sir, but I need that special safety knot, it will make me feel much better to have it.” Except because I was mid-cry it came out like “Where….knot…..(sniff)……need…..it…..wahhhhh.” The guide tried to tell me (AGAIN) that I didn’t need it, which, in retrospect, was true – the person at the bottom is watching you and if you freak out and completely stop lowering yourself down, all he has to do is pull on the bottom of the rope, and because of some science knot magic, you stop. However, if that’s the case, WHY did they teach me about this special safety knot in the beginning??!?!?!! I needed it. I was terrified.

The guide tied on the knot, and I started down, and it was horrible. I cried all the way and never opened my eyes. My friends were very nice and encouraging to me, and (obviously) I made it and lived to blog about it. But I was pretty embarrassed.

Another picture of the terrifying thing I did.

Another picture of the terrifying thing I did.

Anyways. I did it. I made it to the bottom of the cave, where Kyle was waiting for me, and was very nice about the whole thing. Other people explored the cave, but I just sort of sat there until it was time to go – I was pretty shaky at this point. But I did take this:

HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED

HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED

Please tell me you see the horrible Voldemort face sticking out of the side of the cave. And the weirdest thing is that I now have a scar on my forehead (thanks Nepal) very similar to Harry Potter, and that morning in the hotel I TOLD KYLE MY SCAR HURT. No kidding. I thought it was because I slept in a hat which covered it directly, but no. Clearly it was because I was about to encounter Voldemort in my very own Chamber of Secrets.

After escaping from He Who Shall Not Be Named, we climbed out of the cave, and then had to walk down many more slippery steps to the bus. We were suppose to leave Bimalnagar at 2pm and be home by 6pm – we were eating lunch near the bus at about 4:30pm. Everything hurt, especially my knees. But I was feeling better. I mean, yes, I cried and it was embarrassing and gross, but I also rappelled down a fucking football field. In the dark. I still wish I had held it together better but, eh. Everyone expected me to cry at some point, it’s what I do when nature confronts me (see my blog entry on the leeches.)

We didn’t get home until very late (and riding down Pokhara highway in the dark was no picnic) but Kyle played DJ for the whole bus and that was fun. All in all, it was a great weekend – I’m so glad that we went. I finally saw the mountains, in person, not from a plane, for more than a few minutes. WINNING!

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Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Climbing and Caving – or – That Time I Cried in the Largest Cave in South Asia (and Saw Mountains!)

  1. Sally Lerette

    Just shared this with my brother John…he enjoyed this, very well written, he said. John was an editor of newspaper and compliments your well written documentation of this exciting adventure… Happy you made it out OK….Thank you, Lord Jesus. Aunt Sally

  2. I am in awe of what you did! Not everyone faces Voldemort and lives – good on you!

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