Caving and Climbing

It’s been a while. Life has picked up here in France a little bit, and I have gotten lazy. Some cool things have happened since I last wrote, and still being pressed for time (I have a test tomorrow on castles and my host family is watching a movie based on the life of Beethoven), I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Last weekend I went caving for the first time. It was one of the coolest things that I have ever done. At the same time, it was admittedly terrifying. The only exposure that I had had to caving prior to going were glimpses of horror films, a group of British girls descending to the earth’s deep places only to get massacred by strange cave-dwelling creatures. What also made me nervous was the fact that without our headlamps, we would be shrouded in absolute darkness, and if none of us made a sound, absolute silence–both of which we experienced for 60 seconds after lunch.

We spent five hours underground. It was fairly cold with the water that came up to our chest at certain points. We ate lunch underground as I already said, in one of the bigger rooms. The floor was brown, we found out, due to bat poop. That made lunch a little less enjoyable, haha. We crawled all over the place and through tiny holes that makes one feel claustrophobic, dragging bags with us full of climbing gear and plastic containers containing all the mashed sandwiches.

I was grateful to see the light after five hours. We rappelled back down to the gate entrance, which is also something that I have never done, and afterwards, stripped down and washed the speleo suits and harnesses in a nearby creek. It was cold to say the least. Everything we were wearing beneath the speleo suits was wet–pants, sweaters, socks, underwear… the last time I remember being that cold for that long was the time I slipped in a creek at Wolf Ridge in fourth grade and had to walk back. Afterwards we were greeted with cups of hot tea.

It’s incredible, the people that one can meet through these stages.

I met a really cool guy named Gaetan. He is 27 and has lived in South Africa for some time climbing, surfing, and working with computers. He is finishing his masters degree now, and I see him often, nearly three times a week at the school’s climbing wall. He has been climbing for around 4 years, I believe, and has done some pretty intense things. He told me that he climbed a horizontal wall, maybe 600 meters long. I do not know any climbing terminology, but I know that one can sleep suspended from the wall for extended climbs, and he did that for the horizontal climb.

I have also gotten more into climbing here. I signed up for a course at the beginning of the year, and I would climb for two hours every Thursday. I have started to love it more and more, perhaps because of Sergio and Armida (the two climbers from Mexico) who ask me whether I am going to go each night. The past two weeks I have gone four or five times. It’s a really great sport, and it’s such a good feeling–finally succeeding in reaching the top of a route that you haven’t been able to get all week. It has become something of an addiction, and all that has been on my mind lately has been moving to Colorado, Utah, somewhere mountainous where I can learn the sport. This is a pretty good video to get you inspired:

 I stumbled upon a picture of some professional climber who was using his teeth to grab the wall while he was dipping his hands in more chalk–pretty incredible the lengths that these climbers go to to reach the top.

That’s all really. Missing home a bit, but things are still cool here, and I am finding ways to engage myself and stay occupied. I hope all of you that are reading this have a great Thanksgiving with your families! I’ll be having Thanksgiving here on December 2nd with my host family!

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