Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hiking to the Trollkirka (Troll Church) in Norway - Part 2

It looks dark and dangerous inside. Let's check it out!
This is a continuation of the previous post, "Hiking to the Trollkirka (Troll Church) in Norway". Read that one first! On to the cave...

When our guide showed up, he told me and the two guys I was with to go ahead and explore the cave on our own. He told us there was a main cave about 230 feet long that wrapped around to the waterfall. We wouldn't miss it.

I wouldn't count on that, buddy, especially when confronted with this:

Thanks for not replacing the battery in my headlamp, Mr. Guide. I'm in a black hole!
Using the flash on my camera revealed much more. You can see all the shards of limestone and marble everywhere. All the surfaces were damp and very sharp. I could feel and hear my jacket snagging on the walls as I carefully crept inside.
Navigating this cave was tricky. It was practically pitch black, as you saw in the above photo. I had both hands out like a blind person and was stepping gingerly so I wouldn't break an ankle.

Uh, I guess we turn left.

There's water everywhere because this cave was made by a waterfall.
The man in front of me turned back to me and said, "It narrows pretty drastically up there. I'm turning back." This was what he meant.

A quick flash of my camera showed a very narrow opening indeed, almost like a borehole. It was low to the ground, rising no higher than the knees.

Now, the guide had sent us in with minimal directions, telling us we wouldn't be able to miss the waterfall. So far I hadn't seen any sign of this waterfall besides the pools of water so I assumed it must be at the other end of this tight wormhole. And besides that, I wanted to know what was at the end of this hole, even if it dead-ended into rock. So I dropped down and entered the black hole.

It was slow going because this was the floor of the passageway which meant I couldn't really crawl on hands and knees, I had to do a Spider-man crawl. Also, it was very narrow. A guy much bigger than I would have had a tough time squeezing through.

One of my favorite horror movies is "The Descent". A group of female spelunkers find their exit blocked by falling rock and have to continue into the earth to find their way out. In the meantime, they're chased by murderous creatures. I can't lie and say I didn't think about that movie while I was shuffling through this wormhole, but I wasn't scared at all. I thought claustrophobia might get me when I was midway through that hole and surrounded by blackness, but it didn't. I was too caught up in my curiosity over what I would find.

Something ahead? I dunno, my headlamp barely works!

Flash to the rescue. An opening! We're not going to die here!

The hole led to a small antechamber of sorts and this. So, looking at this... of course I'm not content with peering through the lower opening.

I have to climb to the top!
This photo was taken by the guide who had seen my light in the wormhole and come to investigate. When he found me wedged up here, he told me, "I didn't know this part existed!" So I got to be a mini-spelunker charting new paths for the day.

Climbing up here, by the way, required some skills acquired through a rock climbing course I took. I ended up using some jamming and chimneying moves. It was awesome.

While up here, I took some photos of the waterfall on the other side:

Looking down at the pool and what appears to be another entrance.

I climbed down, which was a bit more precarious than climbing up, and crawled through the wormhole again to emerge into the larger cave. I followed it around and lo and behold, I ended up in the 'popular' entrance to the waterfall that I had photographed previously.

From this vantage you can see the hole where I had wedged myself earlier.

Up above there's a ladder that leads to a small cave.
After enjoying the waterfall, I crept back through the blackness, my newfound love for spelunking now firmly rooted. I know why it appeals to me: it combines my love of rock-climbing with my natural instinct to see what's just beyond. It's a sport I'm definitely going to look into further when I'm on vacation.

Time to climb to the light.

After everyone had explored the cave, our guide prepared a meal for us. His backpack contained the contents of a small grocery. By this time it was raining steadily and since I wasn't wearing a waterproof or even water resistant jacket, it was a tedious, miserable climb back down the mountain to the van. I'm guessing it took about two hours for the descent and I was damn glad to be done with it. I was muddy, drenched and freezing.

The funny thing about the Norwegians, they didn't care that it was a downpour. We passed dozens of hikers who were kitted out for the weather and as cheerful as could be. Some were drenched and still didn't mind. Even when we reached the parking lot where our van was, we passed Norwegians who were just exiting their cars, perfectly fine with the fact that it was raining and they'd be slogging through mud and up slippery rock. Talk about outdoorsy types.


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