In the icy underground of Eiskogel

In the highest lying showcave - 2013-09

Discussions about visiting the cave Eiskogelhöhle in neighboring Austria had, in the last year, finally moved from the starting point. After two cancellations of the already planned dates, we finally succeeded in the end of this year’s month of September – third time’s a charm. We assembled a team and coordinated logistical and weather-related problems. Even though the forecast for our end of the world was optimistic, heavy clouds were gathering on the Austrian side of the Alps. We were to find out what kind of load they were bearing the next day, when we, after a good night’s sleep in the cottage of doctor Heinrich, loaded our bags with all the necessary things for mounterining, caving and photographing in a wet and cloudy morning.

The entrance to the cave is located at 2,100 meters above sea level, where, at the end of September, the sharp teeth of winter can already be observed. At the crest of the pass, we were winded up quite literally in the company of something between snow and rain, so much so that we nearly lost one member. It only stopped at the entrance to the cave and so made it easier for us to change into our caving uniforms. This time’s team was strong in numbers. Besides nine members of JKŽ, we were also joined by the same number of German cavers, and they were the ones who arranged the entry and guidance through the cave. The cave is actually a tourist one (?!?) and is known as the highest-lying cave of its kind.

The less interesting parts were quickly behind us and only impressed us with small details and traverses. Despite the mountain type of the cave, we did not see any meanders or drops, and we only found one strait. But our eyes did bulge when we entered the huge hall Titanenhalle. After a walk through it we did not feel quite like titans, but it would definitely be interesting to run into one in such a huge space.

The first contact with the ice was a bit of a disappointment. The ice stalagmite, which usually charms with its size, was not looking too proud. To be truthful, we did choose the worst possible season to visit the cave – a time when the ice is usually melting. It was dripping from every surface, but our optimism did not disappear. Towards the end portion of the cave, the ice began to show its most beautiful form again and glowed in beautiful colors in the transition to the beautiful Halle der Circe.

The famous hall has experienced many photographic visits and is usually immortalized from the same point every time. A similar composition did not evade me and Alex, either. We tried editing the coordination with radio stations, but describing the points of lighting proved to be extremely tiresome. It was easier to descend downhill a couple of times and explain lighting preferences on the spot. In the end, six cavers were busy with making the photograph, beside the model, of course.

Unfortunately, such a massive tour demanded its toll. The path that descends to the ice giants is made of sand, and the sandy layer is constantly imposed at the base of the ice, and is only scatter around further by a visitor with crampons. I can only hope that with time, the water washes it away, but judging by the quantity, it is not so. Well, the few hours of visitation passed quickly and we unfortunately did not have time to peek into some of the icy sections. But the bad mood was quickly blown away by the lovely weather awaiting us outside.

The next morning, we were greeted by a beautiful morning with a racing mist over the valley, the exact opposite of the previous day, when were washed through and through and freezing at the entrance to the cave. Perfect for a group photograph. Beside the cavers, we were honored to have Jaka on the photo – a member of the junior section of JKŽ – as well as Maria, who took care of our well-being.

Next time, there will be another visit of an ice cave. Of course it will be our friend at Viševnik, which can hardly compete with the Austrian giant with its humble appearance. Until then, here is a postcard with the mountain Eiskogel in the background.


Copyright Peter Gedei