It was a warm day as the sun beat down on the forest right outside Königstein. Peacefulness filled the air with chirps from birds and rustling of leaves in the breeze. The trees had a blanket of moss that surrounded their roots and lead to the mouth of the cave. Then everything changed. Darkness and crisp air stung our faces. The high pitch squeal of bats shuttered around as they flew out into the sunlight then scampered back into their dark hole. The Grottë’s mouth called for us and we went.
We arrived to The Grottë after driving down narrow pothole filled roads. The parking area was nothing more than what looked like a campsite. We got out of the car and read the signs written in German which had colored photos, arrows and other symbols to distinguish different routes. None of us read German, but we all understood the symbols and knew to follow the arrow pointing with the word “GROTTË” on it.
We started up the path with light packs and two harnesses. Three of us were heading to the cave and I was the only one who knew how to belay people down into the cave. Luckily I knew how to repel as well so getting into the gave was not an issue. We got to the mouth within five minutes and noticed a huge temperature change. It was hot and sunny right outside the entrance, but once we got into the entrance the cold air swooped around us and chilled us to the bone forcing us to put our sweatshirts on.
Once we were at the entrance we got ready to go down by sliding into our harnesses and tying a figure 8 knot into one person and clipping an ATC device to myself so I could lower them into the cave. We looked down and it was dark, not too sure how far down we had to go I slowly lowered Jessie, the first man into the cave until he reached the bottom about 20 meters in. Once he was out of the harness I pulled the harness up so Rich could get in it and I could lower him down. I then repelled down into the dark abyss and joined them on the adventure.
The cave was dark and we walked around trying to find the entrance that lead us deeper into this abyss. After climbing over rocks and sliding under we finally found a crawl space that lead to what looked like a massive hallway that was made for a castle. There were rooms and shelves everywhere. We explored them all until we came to another crawl space. We followed this one too and it lead to another enormous hallway with more rooms and crawl spaces.
In awe we took turns going around and leading the way. Bats plastered the walls like decorations and the stone dripped water like leaking faucets. It was extremely quiet and everything echoed. We were amazed by the darkness and beauty that was around us, even if it was in a cave there was still beauty to be found. The rock formations like delicate furniture or the ceiling with rocks that hung like icicles, no matter what it was, it was unique and brought a distinct comfort while we were in the cave
(A bat sitting on the wall of one of the crawl spaces we were crawling in)
Jessie found a slit in one of the rooms that lead down and decided he wanted to lead it going down. I had no problem with this and hooked him up to the rope so I could Belay him into the crevasse. As he went down he gave us a step by step description of what was going on because we could not see him once he went over the ledge. He found a slide that went down deeper into the cave, but was a little to sketched out to try to go down so I offered to try it out. We switched places and with a quick crash course he was ready to belay.
I went to the edge of the stone crevasse and swung my body over the ledge until my toes were able to stand on something, anything. I looked down the slide like tunnel and figured I’d give it a try. Although I couldn’t see Jessie or Rich, I could hear them and that was good enough comfort for me. I began sliding down the tunnel slowly as Jessie let slack into the rope and noticed it was getting narrower and narrower. I didn’t think it was a good idea for us to attempt it, because it would have been hard for us to get out had this been a dead end. (Looking up while in the crevasse to where Rich and Jessie were)
(Halfway down the tunnel Jessie had found before I decided it was too risky.)
Once I climbed back up we decided to see what else there was and crawled through more crawl spaces and massive hallways. We found a crawl space that lead us to a more exploratory room. We climbed over rocks and through tunnels until we realized they were all dead ends. A plaque hung on the wall of the cave with a name written on it stating, “IN THIS ROOM HANS HIMMEL WAS FOUND DEAD”. If that wasn’t creepy, I wasn’t really sure what was. It wasn’t in German, but in English and French. We decided after being in the cave for three hours it was time to go.
We headed back in the direction in which we believed we had come from, but after crawling through crawl spaces we realized we were now lost. We were going from hallway to hallway, but none of us panicked, it was actually the opposite, we found humor in our situation. We laughed about it and continue to try to find the way out. After 45 minutes of not finding It and seeming we were going in a circle Rich began to stack rocks as markers for where we had gone. (Rich climbing out of one of the crawl spaces)
Once we had crossed back through six crawl spaces, three hallways and climber over two shelves, we were back to similar rock formations that we had seen when we first got into the cave. We walked around looking for the final crawl space out and after climbing up and over some archers we had found it! It was time to go home and we were all excited that we were not going to end up like Hans Himmel.
One by one we went through the crawl space and saw the light beaming in again. We waiting around a little longer climbing inside the cave until the fifth hour of being in the cave approached. It was now time to climb out and that’s what we did. Rich climbed up first, I followed second and Jessie came up last. It was a great time down in the Grottë and I cannot wait to return.
(The exit out of the cave, daylight beaming in, a beautiful sight.)