When Spanish mountaineer Beatriz Flamini descended into her cave – and home for the next 500 days – the world was an entirely different place.

COVID-19 restrictions were still enforced, Queen Elizabeth II was still alive and on the throne, war hadn’t been declared in Ukraine, and Flamini herself was only 48.

She entered the cave on November 20 2021, and while she was forced to surface for eight days while repairs were made to a router – one used for transmitting audio and video – she spent that brief period isolated in a tent.

And then, a year and a half later, a 50-year-old Flamini emerged from 230 feet underground outside of Granada, Spain. And while most would be eager for some sunshine and some company after such a stint, Flamini had an entirely different take, informing everyone that she had actually been sound asleep when her team came to collect her.

“I thought something had happened,” she said. “I said, ‘already? Surely not.’ I hadn’t finished my book.”

And when it came to whether or not she’d struggled while down there, Flamini was quite to declare “never. In fact, I didn’t want to come out!”

To keep herself occupied during the marathon stay, Flamini tried her hand at a whole host of popular pastimes, from knitting to exercising, painting, knitting, and reading. The effort paid off, the days flying by as the determined mountaineer successfully lost track of time.

“On day 65, I stopped counting and lost perception of time,” she explained. “I didn’t talk to myself out loud, but I had internal conversations and got on very well with myself.

“You have to remain conscious of your feelings. If you’re afraid, that’s something natural, but never let panic in, or you get paralysed.”

Flamini was given a panic button in case of emergency, but she never felt the need to use it. And while her support team were on hand to give her clean clothing, provide essential food, and remove any waste that had accumulated, they were not to talk to her.

“If it’s no communication it’s no communication, regardless of the circumstances,” Flamini said of that particular decision. “The people who know me knew and respected that.”

As for what comes next, Flamini will now be studied by a team of experts – psychologists, researchers, and the like – to determine what impact the isolation of her extended time below might have had on her.

Images: Getty, Sky News

This article first appeared on Over60.