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Contact: Terry Wildy
Ashford, Wash. – This advisory is in response to recent posts created and shared through social and other media, of the inside of an ice cave taken at Mount Rainier National Park. This information has been aired on a few networks along with a video by the photographer sharing information that now is a good time to “check out Mount Rainier’s ice caves.”
To clarify, the photo is of a melt-water channel running underneath a perennial snowfield (snow that persists through the summer). Officials strongly discourage visitors from approaching or entering ice caves or melt water channels as they are prone to spontaneous collapse due to melting, which is accelerated this time of year. Collapse, or ice and rock fall could be fatal or cause serious injuries to those who venture inside or near the entrance.
Those entering these channels/caves are in danger of hypothermia due to the combination of cold air temperatures inside and colder melt water flowing from the snowfield. Melt water volumes inside will increase throughout the day (just as stream crossing hazards are greater in the afternoon).
Mount Rainier National Park was known for a few well-developed ice caves, but with the warming climate, those have disappeared, replaced only by transitory and unstable channels/caves. The park closed the historic ice caves around 1980 due to unsafe conditions including ice chunks and flakes, some the size of a small car, breaking loose and falling from the cave ceiling.
Alpine areas accumulate effects from erosion and misuse much faster than lower elevations. Concentrated travel to these areas can cause decades of resource damage in a matter of days. When visiting Mount Rainier’s meadows and alpine areas, hikers are asked to adhere to Leave No Trace guidelines by traveling on durable surfaces. For more information on Mount Rainier National Park, please visit the park’s website at www.nps.gov/mora.
About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 423 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.
Last updated: September 2, 2022