Disappearing ice in the Ice cave on Stojna

the slow disappearance of the ice cave - 2021-10

The ice cave Ledena jama na Stojni is one of the largest ice caves in Slovenia. It is known much more widely than just in Kočevje, and its greatest special feature is the entrance, which faces south-east. This cave has already been written about more than a hundred years ago, and it was recorded in the Slovenian cave database of caves in 1930. Under the leadership of Dušan Novak, the Železničar Cave Club from Ljubljana began to systematically deal with the cave from 1957 onwards and until 1966 visited it almost every year. Even then, the disappearance of ice was observed in the entrance hall, and that logging was to blame was pointed out by foresters as early as the end of the 19th century.

I experienced my first contact with the cave in 1991 and was of course impressed with the cave. At that time the ice in the entrance hall already begun to diminish, but it was still of decent appearance. Big changes have begun happening a decade ago, when the ice began to melt faster and, on top of it, the ice in the entrance hall began to be covered with landslides, soil, and old trunks. The former splendor of the entrance hall today looks more like an aftermath of war than an ice cave.

The condition of the entrance slope to the first anchorage has not changed over the years and is still full of fallen leaves, branches and soggy soil that tends to freeze in winter. Below the anchorage, at the break of slopes and hall are already showing the first changes, as the gap that formed between the contact of ice and cave walls is steadily growing and deepening. Once a single slope that reached to the foot of the hall it is no longer like that today.

We were able to rigged the right side for the descent with the help of wedged logs and ice screws. The anchors that we last used 15 years ago are so high today that they are barely visible, and it is impossible to consider a new anchorage in the rock. The ice waterfall and ice cone, once the most striking ice features, are practically gone today. It’s different in the lower-lying hall, where temperatures are still low enough that the ice doesn’t melt. But it is only at the bottom, as large melted holes appear in the ice wall, which once served climbers for year-round ice climbing training. These, however, do not promise anything good for the ice.

The left side was finally rigged along the edge of the large opening in the ice. This time, the ice has already melted so much that the anchors that were previously at the base, are now placed above the opening. We had to drill new ones, which was only possible after a few attempts due to the completely rotten rock. In the upper part of the abyss, new continuations to the entrance hall have opened, while the lower part remains practically unchanged. We can still walk around the lowest part of the ice and marvel at the eloquent layers of debris trapped in the ice.

Finally, a comparison of the state of the ice in the entrance hall during our visits in 1991, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2016 and 2021. The red circle indicates the position of the anchor we hammered in 1991, which of course speaks volumes about the melting of the ice.


Copyright Peter Gedei