Is Entering an Ice Cave Safe?
No. It is never safe to enter an ice cave.
Why do we mention this? Because every year on the first sunny day of spring, throngs of hikers make a pilgrimage to Big Four Ice Caves on the Mountain Loop Highway.
This weekend, as it approached 60 degrees, even more people than usual showed up. And with the Mountain Loop Highway open and the caves snowfree weeks earlier than usual, entering them was quite a temptation.
On Saturday night, one hiker posted a Trip Report on the WTA website that said in part, "It IS safe to venture into the cave as far as you want since the snow is very hard and compact." Apparently, that remark prompted several folks to enter the caves the next day and to tell the rangers that WTA said it was okay.
For the record, WTA did not say it's okay to enter ice caves, nor would we. We removed the post first thing on Monday morning, because we don't want to perpetrate misinformation or unsafe behavior. And we added text to our Big Four Ice Caves Hiking Guide entry warning folks of the dangers.
The thing is, Trip Reports are user-generated, and while they are extremely helpful and appreciated, they should not be taken unilaterally or at face value. People must do their own research and use common sense.
Personally, I would never enter Big Four Ice Caves. I recall the chilling story of a woman who died there in 1998, and I know of other instances of injury and of people becoming trapped inside by ice and avalanche.
We mention all of this, first and foremost, because we want everyone to come home from their hikes safely. There are dangers inherent to hiking - and sometimes things that look really fun and safe can turn ugly quickly.
Second, if you read a Trip Report post that is incorrect, please take a moment to comment on it, and then shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can take a look.
Finally, if you have any questions about accuracy, liability or monitoring of user-generated content like Trip Reports on our website, please refer to our Terms of Service.
Happy Safe Hiking!
Kim Brown on Mar 08, 2010 05:19 PM
Susan Elderkin on Mar 08, 2010 07:37 PM
My trip report
Pribbs on Mar 08, 2010 08:48 PM
Pribbs on Mar 08, 2010 08:52 PM
Besides all this, the Forest Service has placed really big, obnoxiously bright yellow signs along the trail warning against entering the caves. If people continue to enter the caves, perhaps hikers will someday be prohibited against entering the caves, subject to a fine. If that doesn't work, perhaps the area will be sealed off altogether.
To walk by a bright yellow offical sign on your way to the innards of the Ice Caves is blatant disrespect for the Forest Service and for Nature - if everyone entered the caves, the temperature of the caves will rise due to body heat, and they'll be gone. Nature can be fragile. I guess that will solve the problem of entering the Caves, though.
Kim Brown on Mar 09, 2010 09:59 AM
This is not the case. The Forest Service DOES NOT monitor the caves - or any other feature, including avalanche chutes - for safety and block them off.
The warning signs placed at Big 4 are an unusual act for the Forest Service, and in my opinion a preliminary to further action (as I noted above) if the signs don't seem to work.
Kim Brown on Mar 09, 2010 11:48 AM
Pribbs on Mar 09, 2010 03:08 PM
GwenT on Mar 09, 2010 11:38 PM
Pribbs on Mar 10, 2010 12:00 PM
Is Entering an Ice Cave Safe?
Smokey Bear on Mar 10, 2010 04:41 PM