Spanish climber leaves cave after 500 days in isolation

Beatriz Flamini, 50, says the experience of being cut off from the world was ‘excellent, unbeatable.’

Beatriz Flamini, Spanish mountaineer
Beatriz Flamini, Spanish mountaineer who has been isolated for 500 days in a cave in southern Spain, is seen leaving the cave and hugging teammates [Forta/Handout via Reuters]

A Spanish mountain climber has emerged from a cave 70 metres (230 feet) underground where she spent 500 days isolated from the outside world.

Beatriz Flamini, 50, of Madrid, left the cave in southern Spain shortly after 9am after being told by supporters that she had completed the feat she set out to accomplish on November 21, 2021.

Spanish media said the spell underground set a new world record, but the claim could not be immediately confirmed.

Blinking and smiling as she embraced well-wishers, Flamini’s first words included asking who would be paying for a celebratory round of beers.

In brief comments to journalists, Flamini described the experience of being cut off from the world as “excellent, unbeatable”. She then asked to be excused as she needed a shower, not having had one in more than 16 months.

In 1987, Italian Maurizio Montalbini set a world record by spending 210 days in a cave. Internet searches show reports of a Serb who spent more than 460 days underground in 2016.

Flamini’s pursuit was part of a project called Timecave that was designed to study how someone would fare going solo underground for so long.

Flamini used two cameras to document her experiences and placed the recordings at an exchange point in the cave, Spanish state news agency Efe reported. Her teammates dropped off food and other necessities at the retrieval site and picked up whatever she left there.

Beatriz Flamini
Beatriz Flamini is pictured during her daily life in the cave [Dokumalia Producciones/Handout via Reuters]

A group of psychologists, researchers, speleologists and physical trainers with Timecave studied the recordings but did not have any direct contact with her.

At a news conference later on Friday, Flamini said she felt she was still living in the day she went down in 2021 and had no idea what had gone on in the world since, including Russia’s war in Ukraine. With no sense of time, she said she stopped trying to count days after calculating she was down there for some 60 days.

Flamini said at no point did she feel like giving up, not even during an invasion of flies that she cited as the source of her worst memories.

“In fact, I didn’t want to come out,” she said.

Flamini said she used the time “to read, to draw, to weave, to be, to enjoy. I am where I want to be”. She admitted to missing certain things but said “this is part of the project”. “There is nothing to do but accept it.”

She apologised for stumbling over her answers to questions.

“I’ve been a year and a half without talking and I find it difficult,” she said.

Noting that people at the news conference wore face masks, apparently to protect her from infections, Flamini joked it made her feel like it still was the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: AP