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During the summer of 1962, I made two trips to the Paradise Ice Caves. One trip was at the beginning of the summer and the other was at the end of summer. The caves are located near the Paradise Resort Area of Mt. Rainier National Park at the snout of the Paradise Glacier. The caves were originally formed when melt-water from the surface of the glacier seeped down to the bottom of the glacier and exited out of the glacier at the snout (down hill end of the glacier). As the water seeped out, it would enlarge the channel over time to form a cave that went back into the glacier. During the summer, warm air would blow back into the cave helping to enlarge it. At times, there would be a large room further back in the cave. The second time I went to the caves, I took railroad flares with me to use to explore further back into the caves. The main cave would branch into smaller caves further back.

Global warming has made the caves extinct since the middle of the 1990’s due to the glacier retreating. There are a few web sites that discuss this problem and can be found by doing a search on Paradise Ice Caves. I did not include links here, because they may become outdated. Some feel that new caves may be forming higher up on the glacier and they will become accessible in time. It remains to be seen. If global warming continues, the glaciers may retreat until they are too high up on Mt. Rainier to be accessible.

The following link is to a Relief Map of Mt. Rainier National Park with the location of Paradise Glacier.

Click here for Map of Mt. Rainier National Park.

spacer Ice Cave entrance spacer The first four photos are from the trip I made in the late summer. This one is a shot of the entrance to the caves. The melt-water is running out at the bottom.

spacer Modern Eskers spacer As the glacier retreats, it leaves mounds of ice and debris in cone shaped mounds called eskers. In areas where the glaciers existed during the last ice age have many eskers dotting the landscape. The debris from the glacier usually consist of very fine glacier dust that is created as the glacier moves downhill and grinds the underlying bedrock into glacier flour or dust. Sometimes blocks of ice are buried by the debris from a glacier. Later the ice melts and forms potholes in the topography. The glacier also picks up rock fragments as it moves downhill and deposits them when it retreats. It will form ridges on the side areas of the glaciers called moraines.

spacer Looking into ice cave. spacer View of looking into the ice cave. The rough surface or ice cups are formed by the warm air blowing into the cave and melting the softer portions of the ice.

spacer View looking out from cave. spacer View looking out from the cave. The range in the background is the Tatoosh Range above Longmire. Longmire is the site of the park headquarters.

spacer View towards Mt. St. Helens spacer View looking south towards Mt. St. Helens before it erupted and loss its top. The Tatoosh Range is to the left in the photo.

spacer View of Mt. Rainier. spacer A view of Mt. Rainier as we were going to the ice caves. Gibraltar Rock is the large rock formation on the right side of the peak about half way down. Camp Muir is at its base. Camp Muir is a stone shelter used by summit parties at the end of the first day of a climb up Mt. Rainier.

spacer View towards Nisqually Glacier. spacer View looking towards Nisqually Glacier on the left below Gibraltar Rock. Muir Snowfield is on the right side on the skyline.

spacer Nisqually River Valley. spacer Looking down the Nisqually River Valley towards Longmire. The cone shaped peak in the middle is Tumtum Peak.

spacer Rest stop. spacer Rest stop on the way up to the caves. Two of my climbing buddies. Guy on right was in the army at Fort Lewis and drove a fancy sports car. The two of us traveled to many climbs in it.

spacer Paradise Glacier. spacer Looking over to another part of Paradise Glacier where it goes over a cliff. It was so steep that the ice just broke off and fell to the bottom. It did not from the typical ice fall.

spacer Interior view towards entrance. spacer View from inside the cave looking out towards Mt. St. Helens behind the person standing in the middle..

spacer Melt-water dripping. spacer View looking into the cave with melt-water dripping down from the top of the front of the cave.

spacer Going home. spacer Back at Paradise Inn parking lot. Packing up the car in preparation for trip back to Tacoma. Guy with the suspenders was another climbing buddy that was a fellow student at the University of Puget Sound.

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