Widely known as the world’s largest ice cave, the Eisriesenwelt Cave is actually a part of the mountains of Hochkogel in Austria. Hardly the first 1 km is shrouded in ice while the remaining portion of the cave has been formed out of the naturally born limestone. Eisriesenwelt Cave was formed by the Salzach River since it ran all the way through the mountain creating passageways. The snow used to melt and flow into the interiors of the cave and it got frozen during the months of winter. The low temperature as well as the cold wind that emanate within retains the presence of the ice cave all through the year.
Eisriesenwelt Cave – History
Till towards the latter part of the nineteenth century the area of the Eisriesenwelt Cave was known only to poachers and hunters. In 1879 Anton Posselt, a natural scientist from Salzburg, thrust 200 meters of the mountains into the caves’ darkness and officially discovered the Eisriesenwelt. A year later in a mountaineering magazine he even published a comprehensive report illustrating his discovery; however the caves then once again slipped back to darkness.
Posselt’s report was recognized and given its worth by Alexander von Mörk, pioneer of cave exploration in the Salzburg area and his expeditions were ensued by other discoverers in the period of the 1920’s and there was a strikingly growing popularity of this wonder of nature. Forscherhütte, the old cabin was built in 1920 and the first ever climbing routes were set up to lead to the Eisriesenwelt Cave and further into its interior.
Owing to the increased popularity among tourists worldwide and the resultant influx, a proper pathway was constructed from Werfen and Tenneck. The ice-covered portions of the caves were all made accessible on foot by the year 1924 and in the year 1925 a bigger cabin was set up beside the previous one and was named after Friedrich Oedl as a tribute to connections and contributions to the Eisriesenwelt Cave. For 25 long years the only possible way to get to the caves was by walking. From the year 1953 the path was reconstructed in such as way so as to enable a drive up the Eisriesenwelt. The introduction of the cable-car brought in a good alternative to the steepest portion of the climb in 1955.
The Eisriesenwelt is presently owned by the National Austrian Forestry Commission. The Salzburg Association of Cave Exploration issued a lease and in the year 1928 this was legalized in the form of a contract with the newly created Eisriesenwelt Company. The Forestry Commisssion earns a large portion of all entrance fees paid.
Covering a total length of more than 40 km, the Eisriesenwelt is a maze of caves each formed over a long period of time. The first crevices as well as cracks appeared in the limestone at the time of the elevation of the mountains about 100 million years back and with the passage of these several years’ time, developed considerably and increased because of water erosion and the chemical reactions. Still now, the caves in the alps are in the stage of development.
Ice in the caves:
The ice in the Eisriesenwelt Cave can be formed in various ways. The corridors and the crevices join lower lying accesses to upper entrances thus making it possible for the circulation of air. Depending upon the temperature outside, it remains either cooler or warmer within the mountain and this results in the air to pass downwards or upwards.
How to reach Eisriesenwelt Cave
You can access the Eisriesenwelt on the trunk road from Salzburg, through the Tauern motorway (A10) or by train to Werfen station. From Markt Werfen station, which is positioned around 40 km south of Salzburg, you can take the 5 km surfaced access road which will take you to the Eisriesenwelt car park.
Guided tours take place between 9.00 a.m. till 3:30 p.m. daily until 26th of October.