The Cave

Elizabeth - Missoula, Montana
Entered on December 4, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: fear

The Cave

I believe in doing things that scare me. Not things that could get me hurt or maimed (usually) but things that challenge me and make me step outside my comfort zone.

I lived with my dad after graduating high school and did nothing but work. A year after graduation my dad thought it would be a good idea if I tried something new, he suggested I attend NOLS a National Outdoor Leadership School to help stretch my wings. The NOLS brochure is beautiful, it showed people kayaking, rock climbing, and many various outdoor activities all over the world. I was hooked.

So far the semester is a breeze except for one section, caving. I’m claustrophobic and have a hard time even getting in an elevator so this is definitely going to be challenging. The first cave isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, I had days to prep myself and talk myself into it The last cave in the three week section however, was an experience I will remember the rest of my life.

The opening of the cave is tiny and hard to stuff myself inside, the hole is a little smaller then an average car tire and equally as round, I closed my eyes and wiggled in. Once inside it opens up and I can stand. We repel deeper into the black cave to explore as many rooms as possible. The War Club room had an eerie feel of battle, so much I could almost smell the sweat and blood. We keep moving and the cave started to live up to its name, the walls are closing in and we are now crawling, my day pack is tied to my ankle and I can feel the cold stone touching my back and the rough dirt under my stomach. I close my eyes and start to convince myself the earth is going to fall and I will never be found. The perpendicular opening to the cave is near by and I couldn’t be more thrilled, soon the sky would be visible, I want nothing more then to see the stars. A little excited to be up right I stood up quickly logging myself between two slabs of sandstone, I couldn’t move and I began to panic. I tried to dismiss the fact that I was stuck, and underground but it didn’t work, I was terrified. After an eternity wiggling and being tugged on by one of my group members, I was freed.

It’s hard to explain the thrill of facing a fear and getting through it, and I gained respect for small spaces. I wouldn’t say it cured me or I recommend a claustrophobic to go caving. Although, caving helped me realize elevators aren’t half as scary as perpendicular angles.