About a month after I successfully completed my speleology training it was time for my first big excursion! And so, in May of 2018, with about 15 of my colleagues from SO Velebit, I went to a Norvežanka (Norvegian woman) pit, located near Risnjak mountain. Later it turned out that this was to be my only excursion that year, and in retrospect, I can say I’m really happy it was precisely this speleological object! I was very excited, and also a bit scared – the whole dynamic seemed different to me and I had a bunch of questions on my mind… What if I freeze? I have never been that deep down, 150 meters! How exactly does it look like? Is it just straight the way down? How narrow it is? Will the harness I borrowed suit me? Well, after 2-hour car ride and quick camp set-up, I got all of my answers… I didn’t freeze, not mentally or physically. The pit is just amazing, it’s a combination of climbing down and walking straight through some parts, and it’s also quite spacious for a cave. The harness wasn’t the best fit, when I was walking in it, it seemed too tight, when I was on the rope, it seemed a bit too loose… And end of the today’s post, right? 😊 Wrong.
Picture 1. Me trying to conceal my excitement and the area around the camp.
I wouldn’t be me without something happening, so due to my inexperience, I slipped on the entryway (already on the rope), and got swung into the wall, hard. I hit it with my back, the point of impact was just few centimeters right of my spine. Yes, again the ribs, and again the right side! Honestly, it didn’t hurt that much, but I had a feeling like the air was completely gone from my lungs, and when I tried to say something, there was this very weird sound coming out. Five minutes later, I was already navigating a narrow part of the pit, very determined to get all the way down, without further injuries. I can readily admit I was probably more nervous than I realized, a bit insecure, and completely in awe of the place where I was. Entering such object is to me, like entering a different dimension, a world where you can be completely yourself and not at all at the same time. Of course, I wasn’t actually alone, there was many people ahead and as many behind me, and I was almost constantly talking to one of my speleology school colleagues, who is an experienced diver and wants to be a speleology-diver as well!
Picture 2. My and my colleagues entering the Norvežanka; that’s me just before starting the descend
Down on the bottom, it was cold, even more as I was sweaty. The way back up wasn’t available (we had to wait for everyone to climb down, before starting the ascend) and most people were, admittedly or not, tired (I was, because I’m chronically out of shape). And on the way back, well… I had a situation that scared me so much – at one part, the rope was very wet and very muddy, so muddy actually that my croll, the device that’s supposed to hold me tight on the said rope, didn’t “bite.” Or perhaps, it just slipped open, I didn’t really notice what happened, I just started falling down. However, I reacted without thinking and stood up in my blocker, which was biting just as it should. I continued, but cautiously, and kept checking that croll – it never opened again, but I was feeling a bit uneasy. Two-thirds out of the pit, I was tired and slow. Walking across the traverse (not even the real one) seemed like the hardest thing I ever did in my life. When I got out, it was night-time, and awfully dark. I didn’t have a watch with me, but waiting for 2 cavers, alone in the middle of the wood, with snow still in front, was so surreal. There are so many sounds coming from all directions, I was trying to guess the species, but I can surely say I heard an owl. After that, the regular, going back to the camp, getting lost, finding our way, eating around the fire, talking, laughing, and going to sleep at the bivouac. Then, day two!
On the second day, I’ve decided I want to try reconnaissance and finding new perspective caves and objects. I didn’t have an opportunity to do that during the school, and it sounded quite interesting – maybe I discover something new! I didn’t think that really, and my true intention was to spend up all the film (yes, film!) I had on my single-use camera. Apparently, everyone else thought this was a boring thing to do, so it ended up being just me and one older instructor. He explained what we are doing, where are going to look around (deeper in the forest), how to use GPS, what word to yell when we get separated (helop), and how to check for caves. We didn’t find any. I tired to catch some lizards and hoped so hard I will see a snake sunbathing, but I was unlucky. When I was alone, however, I finally comprehended how easy is to get disoriented and lost – things are not how you remembered them to be, the sun is high up, cacophony, trees cracking loudly, and no cell-phone signal… Let’s just say, if there were an Old (Man) Willow in that forest, I would make sure to be far away from it! 😉
Picture 3. Photos of the forest I took with my single-use camera
Picture 4. More photos; does anyone know what’s that on the right picture?
We returned home that same day, talking about different experiences in the car, planning our exams and next excursions… Hopefully, this year I will be able to explore more caves and pits, and gain more experience while doing it. I would also like to be able to film both inside and outside of pits and explore the wildlife a bit (mainly arthropods). There is so much to see and discover, and I’m looking forward to it so much 😊
Who’s going caving with me? Is there something more you would like to know about Norvežanka pit?