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Mendenhall Glacier ice cave ceiling collapses

By Hope Miller 2:40 PM July 18, 2014
JUNEAU –

Update, July 18

The roof of the well-known ice cave has collapsed near the entry, officials said.

Guiding company Above and Beyond Alaska notified the U.S. Forest Service of the collapse at noon Friday. Visitors are cautioned to stay away from the cave.

Original story

If you’re planning a trip to see Mendenhall Glacier, stay away from the ice cave, officials warn.

“Significant deterioration” was recently spotted at the entrance of the popular ice cave, according to a statement from the U.S. Forest Service.

The entrance appears to be thinning “dramatically” and will collapse soon as new ice holes are widening.

“The danger involved in entering this cave has likely increased considerably,” the statement said.

Although ice caves are already dangerous because they exist under a melting glacier, the Mendenhall cave seems particularly likely to collapse, said John Neary, Mendenhall Glacier visitor center director, in the statement. Heavy rains and warmer summer temperatures are the possible cause of the impending collapse, according to USFS.

A local guiding company that used to lead tours through the cave — Above and Beyond Alaska — decided to stop making the trip July 3. The USFS said the tour company holds one of two commercial guiding permits for the west side of Mendenhall Glacier, but decided the deteriorating conditions were no longer safe for guests.

The cave’s collapse could cause serious injury or death to anyone in the immediate area, the Forest Service warned.

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