Аскынская Ледяная Пещера

Askyn Ice Cave - Askynskaya Cave - Askinskaya Ice Cave - Askin Ice Cave


Useful Information

Location: Аскино (Askino), Arkhangelsky District.
124 km from Ufa. From Ufa towards Beloretsk, in Arkhangelskoye after the BashNeft gas station, turn right to Maxim Gorky. Towards Ubalary, 4 km after Zarya turn left, Askynskaya ice cave is signposted.
(54.235693, 56.902795)
Open: APR to NOV summer schedule.
DEC to MAR winter schedule.
[2021]
Fee: Adults RUR 300, Children (6-12) RUR 200, Seniors RUR 200, Locals RUR 200, Disabled RUR 200, BO RGS Members RUR 150.
Park Entry Fee (without cave visit) RUR 100.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SpeleologyIce Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System LightColoured Light
Dimension: L=206 m, VR=34 m, T=0 °C, Vol=51,000 m³, A=260 m asl.
Portal: H=9 m, W=22 m.
Biggest Chamber: L=104 m, W=40-61 m, H=26 m.
Guided tours: MinAge=6.
Summer: Max=10/20 min. Winter: Max=20/30 min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address: Askyn Ice Cave, Askino, Arkhangelsky District, Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia, Tel: +7-987-101-43-63, Tel: +7-919-141-09-60, Tel: 8-937-476-79-36.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1965 declared a Federal Natural Monument.
2017 cave leased to the Russian Geographical Society for the restoration of the microclimate and the preservation of glacial relics.
2018 trail to the cave, surroundings and path into the cave modernized.
13-APR-2018 Decree of the Government of the Republic of Belarus No. 163 on rules for visiting the cave.

Description

Аскынская Ледяная Пещера (Askyn Ice Cave) is a huge ice cave of the cold trap type. In other words the cave has only one entrance which is at the highest point of the cave. The huge opening allows exchange between cave air and outside air, and so cold and heavy air flowing into the cave during winter is cooling it down to several minus grades. As a result all water which enters the cave through cracks freezes once inside the cavern. During summer the cold air stays inside the cave, it is trapped by its own weight and the fact that there is no other entrance. This all is based on the simple physical fact that air expands and thus becomes lighter when it becomes warmer. Or, seen the other way round, cold air is trapped when the only opening is at the upper end.

The cave is a single huge elliptical chamber, the ceiling collapsed at one end, forming a pile of debris which has formed a steep slope of debris over which one can descend into the cave. The chamer is 104 m long and 61 m wide. The ceiling is up to 26 m high, the floor is covered by a thick layer of perennial ice. But the steep descent into the cave is also covered by a 20 m thick layer of ice. On the ice floor giant ice stalagmites protrude, with typical heights of 8-12 m and a diameter of up to 5 m at the base. But while the ice is perennial, the stalagmites form and melt yearly, so there are typically between one and ten stalagmites, depending on the year. They are the largest ice formations in Russia. Since 1924 a slow increase of the number of stalagmites and the thickness of the ice was noted.

The cave entrance is located 260 m asl, about 70 m above the Maly Askyn River, in the foothills of the Ufa plateau. The portal is 9 m high and 22 m wide. The cave is often compared to the more famous Kungur Ice Cave.

The cave has long been a popular tourist cave and was frequently visited by hikers. Unfortunately the great number of visitors threatened the unique habitat and since 2017 access to the cave is restricted. The cave was leased to the Russian Geographical Society for the restoration of the microclimate and the preservation of glacial relics. They landscaped the area around the cave entrance, built a guesthouse, and modernized the staircase with railings for the descent into the cave. The trail to the cave was also enhanced with wooden bridges and two wooden rest pavilions. The idea was obviously to channel the visitors on the trails instead of allowing them to explore the cave at will. There even is a Decree of the Government of the Republic of Belarus No. 163 dated April 13, 2018, with rules for visiting the cave. During Summer only 10 people for 20 minutes, during winter only 20 people for 30 minutes are allowed. The visit is organized with military precision.

  1. Checkpoint: formation of an excursion group, in summer 10 people, in winter 20 people, instruction on behavior in nature during the pandemic, departure of the group accompanied by an instructor exactly on the time indicated in the tickets.
  2. Walk to the cave: takes 35-40 minutes, distance 2.3 km, the last 60 m are a steep climb.
  3. Lower Terrace: acquaintance with the guide.
  4. Upper Terrace: instructions for behavior in the cave.
  5. Cave: actual cave visit, 20 minutes in summer, 30 minutes in winter.
  6. Upper Terrace: 10 min for dressing up, photographing.
  7. Walk back to the checkpoint: takes 30-45 minutes.
  8. Rehabilitation of the cave: 50 minutes in summer, 40 minutes in winter.

In other words, the tour is exactly timed, the maximum time in the cave and the minimum pause to the next tour is regulated. The rules are extremely rigid to make sure the rules are not violated, we guess the strict schedule is intended to remind visitors on being disciplined. And the guides are pretty high grade, while the price is affordable. Here is a list of guides in 2021:

The checkpoint is located at the end of a narrow single lane gravel road at the village after which the river and the cave are named. Or probably cave and village were named after the river. The village has exactly one street and according to the 2010 census has two inhabitants.

We were quite impressed by the way they organized the tours. They have an impressive team of guides and are very dedicated. On the other hand, the organisation of the visits requires participants to complete the walk to the cave and back in the allotted time. Participants should therefore have a basic level of physical fitness and be able to walk the 2.5 km in 30 minutes. Nevertheless, the operators have recognised the problem and are preparing a special guided tour for visitors with disabilities.