Where are some ice caves

The ice cave above Meiringen

From Hans Moser

With 3 pictures (38—40) and S sketches (Sursee) When a hiker walks from Meiringen to Hohfluh in Unterfluh at 900 m into a forest to the right of the road, he notices that the summer warmth is disturbed by an ice-cold draft . He comes across a sign "Ice Hell", which was put up a long time ago by the Hasliberg Tourist Office, and finally finds a vertical hole about 1 m2 in cross-section and 4 m deep. This is the entrance to the cave, which has recently become famous again. Years ago, a young lady slipped during a daring advance and fell into the depths from which she could only be recovered with great difficulty. This and other accidents caused the locals to put up a barrier, and as a result, the cave was somewhat forgotten. That was about 20 years ago.

On the occasion of a summer trip up the Engelhörner, members of the Lucerne Society for Speleology learned about this underground ice, and on the night of 6/7. In September 1951, the three Meiringer mountain guides Otth, Glatthard and Mätzer, together with members of the aforementioned society, carried out a reconnaissance. The expedition participants were enthusiastic about the beauty of the underground world. In further inspections, the topography of the cave was recorded and temperature measurements were carried out.

The various circumstances of cold formation have not yet been fully clarified. Further temperature and ventilation measurements will be taken during the current winter. In the following some brief information about this ice cave will be given.

The entrance to the cave is at 940 m and the point is recorded on the map with the coordinates 656.500 / 176.800. At that point the valley slope is interspersed with a number of clefts running parallel to the slope; the ice cave is one of these fissures, a gaping crevice in the Malm limestone of the Niederhorn cover. Falling boulders and rubble have formed floors. The top floor is 90 m long and sinks to about 40 m below the surface of the earth. Here the formation of the cave through the slow opening of the side walls is very clearly visible. In two places this gap opens into the open again at the top.

(Mountain guide Hans Mätzeer, Meiringen, reports: "The ice caves seem to have been created by a tectonic break in the earth's interior. On the right side of the limestone bar of the Ursifluh, the valley of Unterfluh looks as if it has sunk into the depths. Almost a hundred meters above the road begins In the middle of the gently rising forest there is a crack that could be the result of such a subsidence. It stretches in a north-south direction for about 200 m and ends where the limestone cliffs suddenly rise steeply. One of the western clods has sagged up to 10 meters which - possibly widened by the blasting effect of the ice - has formed a gorge of considerable depth. Huge blocks - rock debris from the adjacent rock [limestone], rockslide of the Ursifluh or boulders [Grimsel granites have fallen down and have buried the gorge higher or deeper, so that instead of a continuous crack, a series of floors has emerged through which one - hi n- and climbing - can gradually climb deeper and deeper. While in the rear, southern part of the gorge, heaps of rubble of huge blocks make the descent very difficult and also dangerous [rockslide, rock fall], so that the accesses into the depths are difficult to walk, the front part has been made accessible for a long time. A staircase made of iron brackets and then a few concrete steps lead through a narrow shaft 2-3 m down, whereupon a level, easily accessible path begins, which on the bottom of the gorge leads now horizontally, now slightly descending, while the side walls get higher quickly. Twice the crack is still open at the top, then the walls close together more closely, huge blocks at the top prevent access to the light, and soon the actual entrance into the depths is reached. Years ago, an iron barrier was installed here to warn the unwary and protect the unsuspecting. ») At the end of this top corridor, the already mentioned barriers warn Sunday strollers not to go on. The cave now drops off steeply. At this point we found 3.2 ° with an outside temperature of 8 ° C. After a steep, spiral tunnel-like turn, the path leads back into the gap, but about 10 m deeper. After a 100 m cave march, we are on the pulpit of a large cathedral. Here the largest icefall falls over a length of 17 m, getting steeper and steeper, the lowest 6 m running vertically. This case makes a very peculiar impression in the light of the changing lamps. We measure 2.2 ° on the dome base. While our comrades descend to us with the help of a rope ladder and crampons, we look at the crystal-clear ice. It was not created by conversion from snow, but was formed directly from water. At first we were not sure whether the water required for this was condensing from the air; but on the occasion of a visit after rainy weather we found out that it was seepage water: the rainwater sinks - somewhat held back by the forest floor - through the ground for about two days after the rain stopped.

On the floor of the cathedral we find the last trace of human visitors, namely a climbing tree, with the help of which the above-mentioned rescue operation was apparently carried out. The way further is blocked, rock and ice wall come towards each other up to 20 cm. One hour of work with the glacier ax creates space, and we get to another system of corridors. If you feel like it, you can slide down through a narrow passage on the right. After a few meters the ice stops, we are in a loamy chasm. It seems that a layer of clay prevents the dripping water from penetrating, which is why there is no ice in this side passage. THE ICE CAVE OB MEIRINGEN First number: Distance from the entrance in m Second number: Height above sea level. M.

Pit 188/900 is formed. Because the passage would be just big enough for a dog, we call it dog walk.

The main corridor continues parallel to the dog corridor after a third rope ladder has enabled the passage of an ice bead. We are here on the lowest floor, approx. 65 m below the surface of the earth, 30 m below the top and 20 m below the middle floor. We approach two large icicles that replace the stalactites and stalagmites of other caves. The eastward advance soon ends, and 110 m from the entrance (as the crow flies, measured horizontally) the corridor narrows, so that we turn west again to climb up to the middle floor again. Finally we find ourselves surrounded by ice. Before everyone climbs up, we measure the temperature at 1.1 ° (0.7 ° directly on the ice). We are delighted by the beauty of this underground castle, which we call the magic castle. Our numerous lights are reflected thousands of times. At the very top we found an egg-shaped ice nest 1-2 m in diameter.

The cave offers all kinds of interesting tourist attractions. In addition to the normal equipment for ice tours (crampons, ice ax), three rope ladders of 7, 17 and 5 m are required. The big icefall also makes a rope safety device appear to be desirable. As with any cave trip, lighting is extremely important. Pocket or candle lanterns are unsuitable and only serve as a replacement and reserve. We only had satisfactory experiences with dissous gas or carbide lamps.

From the beginning we were concerned with the causes of this cold and ice formation at such a low altitude of only 900 m above sea level. M. An engineer submitted his "ventilation theory" to us, according to which the cave had a second exit so that a stream of air ran through it; In the narrow places, the acceleration of this current is intended to remove heat from the environment, i.e. to generate cold. This theory contradicts the previous findings. We visited the cave at 20 ° (7.30 p.m. in the evening) and at 8 ° (noon), but neither did we notice a single draft of air. The gas light burns very quietly everywhere, and the breath rises slowly but vertically. The locals used the ice cave OB MEIRINGEN principle of the calf sack - 15 ° i condensation water penetrates and freezes i (heat generation) summer / autumn + 172010 ° slow melting of the ice chalk generation ventilation theory acceleration (heat extraction) confirmed that we never felt a draft. In addition, the geological structure of the cave is such that there is hardly any second exit (except, of course, those perpendicular to the top). The distance to the parallel rock wall is 100 m. Water does not run much into the cave, and the little water can disappear through insignificant passages which do not allow a draft. The "cold bag theory" seems to be more obvious. There are then three phases:

Winter: The outside temperature drops (e.g. to - 20 °). This makes the air denser and heavier. It sinks into the "sack", displacing the air there from approx. 0 ° upwards. In the “sack”, air from almost the coldest of the winter in question collects. (If this theory is correct, then when the outside temperature drops in the entrance to the cave, two wind directions have to be determined, air falling at the bottom and rising at the ceiling; this phenomenon has yet to be checked.) Spring: The snow melt water and the April rainwater penetrate the forest floor and the upper one Layers of limestone and falls in drops into the cave. Since there is air below zero, the dripping water freezes, giving off heat. This raises the temperature to freezing point, whereupon the freezing process stops.

Summer: The outside temperature rises (e.g. to + 20 °). The air is lighter than the cave air, which stays at around zero degrees as long as there is ice. In contrast to winter, there can be no air flow. Compensation is slow. To the extent of this compensation, ice is melted, for which heat is required or cold is given off.

Based on this "cold bag theory", the misunderstandings should also be mentioned, which enable the formation of ice (in contrast to other caves). However, this is a purely personal, provisional statement that has yet to be checked. What is important in advance is the size of the cavity, which should be 2000-3000 m3. A relatively large amount of cold air can accumulate. Second is the length of the access and its relationship to the cross-section. I ask myself whether there needs to be a certain amount of isolation at the sides, which could primarily be done through gaps running in parallel. Our hope is that all of these moments can still be clarified in detail.

(Hans Matzener writes about the formation of ice: “The bottom of the kettle is flat, and only two narrow crevices, which are sometimes covered with ice and then have to be unpacked, continue in the opposite direction. While one ends soon, the southern one goes deeper and on, goes a long way through the mountain and finally turns north again. From the basin to this point you can find the beautiful ice formations, the photos of which were shown: icy walls, frozen waterfalls, slips and other picturesque shapes The lake, which formed and then emptied, also indicated a horizontal edge glaciation.Just above this point, the “summit book” of the ice cave is deposited today, in which the visitors can enter. The gaps that lead to the south at this depth are extremely narrow and in any case hardly accessible, and there is certainly a connection with the rear, southern part of the ice cave mentioned at the beginning le because the crack is continuous. But it is impassable, so that access to it is only possible from above.

The gorges are apparently completely closed at the bottom. Therefore no air circulation. Therefore no influx of warm air and the accumulation of cold air masses! A cold lake formed in the depths below, a cold sack, the temperature of which remains almost always below freezing point, even in hot summers. The seepage water from above has to freeze.

The cave walls plunge in from east to west, so the east walls are overhanging, ice-free and mostly dry, while the west bank is moist, icy and restrained. The term "glacier" is not applicable to these ice formations. »)