June 11, 2010
In the small resort town of Obertraun, near Hallstatt, a mighty gondola travels in three stages high up the Dachstein mountain. Today we climb 6600 feet up the mountain, and explore two huge ice caves.
The first stage runs from the base station at Obertraun, near our hotel, up to Schonbergalm at 4500 feet. Before we hit the caves, we stop at a tiny local-style wood cabin that is also a museum about the exploration and history of the caves. A miniature model of the cave system is on display.
On this level of the mountain, we explore the Giant Ice Caves and Mammoth Caves. These were discovered in 1910.
In the Giant Ice Caves, we take a half-mile hike through eerie, icy, subterranean limestone canyons the size of subway stations. They were formed over 5000 years ago and the inner surface of the caves are covered in iron oxide. These limestone caverns were carved by rushing water. They are named after scenes from Wagner’s operas.
Next, we hike up a steep mountain trail (very tired!) to visit the Mammoth. Only a half mile of the 30 mile long Mammoth Caves is open to the public. Here we find an impossible world of ice sculptures naturally formed from over a thousand years of melting glacier ice.
Video from our visit: