One of my week-end escapes was in the Apuseni Mountains; an old wish of mine was to go to the Scărişoara cave, yes, the one with an underground mass of ice. The cave is situated in the Apuseni Natural Park at 1165m on the edge of a karstic plateau.
It’s not a long cave, only 700m length and its depth reaches 105m below surface. The access to the cave is situated at the bottom of 48 m deep, 60m large shaft where an imposing portal of 17m large and 24 high, is opened. This portal gives you access to the Great Hall with continues with the “Church”, the main tourist attraction. Two openings, on the left and on the right sides of the Great Hall, give access to the lower parts of the cave named the Great and the Little Reservation, mostly free of ice and richly decorated with calcite concretions.
The ice block has a volume of about 100.000m3; a maximum thickness of 22.5m and an estimated radiocarbon age of 3800 years, being world’s second largest ice block and the oldest one, at least this is what they say (It’s been taken care by the Speology Institute “Emil Racoviţă” from Cluj). Its presence is due to the cold air that sinks every winter and remains trapped in the cave. The upper part of the ice block forms the horizontal floor of the Great Hall, whereas on its sides one can obliquely descend in to the “Church” and Great Reservation and vertically into the Small Reservation. In these 3 chambers, ice stalagmites of few centimeters up to 10m in high develop. Air temperature varies between -14°C in the Great Hall and +4.5°C in the lower most part of the cave. Air temperatures oscillations are recorded along the ice stalagmites as a succession of narrow (formed during cold periods) and bulky portions (formed during warm periods). The most important fauna element of the cave is Pholeuon Knirschi glaciale beetle, well adapted to the harsh climatic conditions of the cavity.
When I was there outside where 30-33°C and inside 0°C, was amazing how you where descending through the “air trap”. It’s well organized; you have also guided tours for big groups. The visits are between 9 AM and 6 PM.
To get there you have to go Câmpeni (Alba) and then on the way to Oradea is the village Gârda de Sus from where the 9km of really bad road (hehe…). You can go by car if is it’s not a low one or by foot but its pretty long and with some declivity.
If you are there you can have a walk also on the “Cheile Ordâncuşei” and “Poarta lui Ionele” cave.
As it is a karstic region there are many more karstic phenomena to see and of course a lot for me to write down here, for example, “Peştera Urşilor”, one of the most spectacular caves. But…that is another story.