Spannagelhöhle


Useful Information

view from the Spannagelhaus to the north.
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the Spannagelhaus, the hut above the cave entrance.
Location: Spannagelhaus.
A12 Exit 39 Wiesing/Achensee/Zillertal, 169 south, turn right in Mayerhofen into Tuxer Tal. From Hintertux at the end of the road take the Hintertuxer Gletscherbahn to the Ferner Gletscherhaus. The Spannagelhaus is 10 min downhill.
(47.079875, 11.671564)
Open: JUN to mid-JUL daily 11-14.
Mid-JUL to mid-SEP daily 10-15.
Mid-SEP to mid-OCT daily 11-14.
Tours every hour on the full hour.
[2022]
Fee: Cable Car: Adults EUR 28.50, Children (10-15) EUR 18.
Glacier Cave: Adults EUR 18, Children (6-14) EUR 10.
[2022]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave Speleologyriver cave marble. (Jurassic Hochstegenkalkmarmor).
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: A=2,521 m asl, L=12,500 m, D=25 m.
Guided tours: L=500 m, D=60 min, MinAge=6, MinSize=1.20 m.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Ernest Jacoby, Günter Krejci (1992):
Die Höhle beim Spannagelhaus und ihre Umgebung, Tuxer Alpen (Tirol)
Wissenschaftliche Beihefte zur Zeitschrift "Die Höhle", 26, Verband österreichischer Höhlenforscher, Wien 1992 Deutsch - German online pdf
Address: Familie Anfang, A-6293 Tux 223, Tel: +43-5287-87251. E-mail:
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

22-AUG-1885 lodge opened and named after Franz Xaver Wery.
16-AUG-1908 reopened after renovation and renamed Spannagelhaus.
1919 cave discovered by Alois Hotter, the landlord of the lodge at that time.
1960 cave exploration started with Rudolf Radislovich who explored the entrance section.
1961 surveyed by Max H. Fink.
1964 declared a Naturdenkmal (Natural Monument) by the Bundesdenkmalamt.
1968 discoveries by Walter Knezicek und Günther J. Wolf.
1970 new passages discovered by Hannes Jodl.
1972-1975 survey by the Landesvereins für Höhlenkunde in Tirol.
1975 hydrological exploration and dye tracing by the Groupe Spéléologique Luxembourgeois.
1976/77 50-hour expedition led by E. Jacoby.
1984 survey of new discoveries.
1987-1988 garbage from the lodge removed.
02-JUL-1994 opened to the public.
1995 visitors part expanded.
2013 Spannagelhaus sold to the Zillertaler Gletscherbahn.

Description

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The first sign of the show cave.
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the gated cave entrance.
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entering the wild and rugged river passage.
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the tour is rough and some climbing is needed.
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the path becomes narrow.
a cave passage.
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brown clay and white calcite crystals on the wall.
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approaching the bridge.
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the bridge spans across a small gorge in the main hall.
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dolly tub.

The Spannagel Cave is the second highest show cave of Austria. It was developed by Josef Klausner, the landlord of the Spannagelhaus. Until 2008 it was the highest show cave of Austria but in this year another show cave was opened on the same mountain, the Natur Eis Palast glacier cave which is locate at the next higher cakle car station. The cave was named after the Spannagelhaus lodge, which in return was named after Dr. Rudolf Spannagel, the president of the Österreichischen Touristenklubs (ÖTK, Austrian Tourist Club) from 1902 to 1904.

A trip to the Spannagel cave is either strenuous or expensive: this cave is located at the glacier of Hintertux high up the mountain, 2,521 m asl. So you have two possibilities: either you walk up to the cave or you take the cable car. This cable car is mainly for the skiers, who have an ideal situation here. In winter there are several ski routes down into the valley, in summer skiing is still possible on the glacier. At the lower rim of the glacier is the Spannagelhaus, a typical alpine lodge. To get there you must take the lower two of three subsequent cable cars. The Spannagelhaus is 150 m below the station.

There is no ticket office for the cave, you just buy your tickets from the waitress in the lodge. The tours start every hour, and you can efficiently use the waiting time for a snack. Then the visitors are taken to a small room with some equipment. All visitors get helmets, lamps and a special raincoat with the logo of the cave on the back. Warm clothes, even in summer, good walking shoes, and gloves are a good idea. However, you actually need those to reach the Spannagelhaus from the cable car, which is a walk across the glacer. Skiers who want to visit the cave also get rubber boots, as it is not a good idea to visit the cave in skiing boots. We think its better to use sturdy walking shoes, the cave is actually not very dirty, but probably a little slippery. It seems the number of visitors is too low to offer tours during winter, although this is the main skiing season.

Now the tour starts, and after a few steps the entrance to the cave is reached, which is just 20 m below the hut. The lodge sits on the edge, and a trail leads down to the entrance along the cliff face. An iron bar gate locks the cave, and once inside the cave, you will see the typical character of the cave from the very first moment. A rather narrow, wild and wrinkled passage through dark grey, striped marble with beautiful patterns.

The tour goes down the main passage, which is comparably spacious, the path is a little rough, more like a trail in the mountains, not as expected from a show cave. After crossing two or three small rooms, which are just wider sections of the passage, a rope bridge across the dry ravine is reached. The whole cave feels like walking through a Klamm, which is the local name for a slot canyon, a narrow and deep ravine.

The tour is now reaching its deepest point and offers a glimpse down a drop, which makes it impossible for the tourists to follow the main passage further on. Cavers have climbed down and explored kilometers of cave system, which go across the hill, always restricted to the rather thin and folded band of soluble marble.. There are two more exits, one in the middle of a cliff face and one right at the lower station of the cable car.

The tour now returns to the entrance now through another passage which goes sideways, twisted and mazelike, to reunite with the main passage close to the cave entrance. The first part is called Dünndarm (small intestine), and as I am a bit heavy, the guide wonders if I will fit through. To be honest, with my belly and my photo bag it is definitely a bit tricky, but I enjoy the squeeze. It's a really narrow but high passage, meandering like a snake, but it is only a few meters long.

Now the tour follows some low side passages, climbing up iron ladders and ducking under low ceilings, until a passage which runs more or less parallel to the main passage is reached, which is only a bit smaller. Following this passage upwards, it ends at the surface, but the exit is blocked by debris. Through another side passage the main passage is reached, close to the exit and the cave is left.

This description of a visit may have convinced you, that this cave tour is quite rough. But that's actually not the case, the cave is developed and has electric light. There are some narrow and low passages, and even some iron ladders, so it is definitely not suitable for people which are physically handicapped. Visitors should be able to walk some distance and climb a bit, but that obviously applies to most caves. Caving or climbing experience is certainly not needed for this cave. And the interesting experience of the visit outweighs the physical exertions.

This cave is exceptional in many ways, and fascinating. This cave is not in the typical alpine karst, which are located in two broad bands of limestone or dolostone mountains along the northern and southern rim of the Alps. The center of the Alps is formed of basement, crystalline rocks like granite, gneiss, slate, and so on. These are not soluble rocks, and there are no karst caves in the central Alps. This cave is the big exception,is located right in the middle of this crystalline area, in a thin layer of marble. The crystalline rocks are formed by plutonic processes deep inside the earth, and heat and pressure transformed a thin layer of limestone into dark marble. Then it was folded and uplifted, until it was 2,500 meters high.

Now the glacier started its eroding work, and the overlaying rocks were removed. The folded band was truncated and so it runs through the flank of the mountain in an irregular shape. In warmer times, like today, the glacier end at the rim above this band. Melting water runs down on the surface of the impermeable rocks, until it reaches the marble. Here it enters the cracks and fills them until it finds an exit, much deeper where the marble layer again reaches the surface. This is called contact karst. So the marble was used by the water for thousands of years, and it reappeared in resurgences far below. On its way it formed the cave mostly by erosion, but also partly by solution of the marble.

Several remains of the cave forming processes were found inside the cave, which helps us to understand, how it developed. There are rubbles of crystalline rock in the cave, which were transported, rounded and brought into the cave by fast flowing water. We can imagine how forceful the water was flowing, to transport those head sized boulders. And if there were vortexes in the stream, the water turned around in circles and the rock were also transported in circles, cutting almost circular holes into the floor like a big drilling machine, which are called dolly tubs. The rocks still lie in the holes, the water was not strong enough to actually lift them out of those tubs. Quite characteristic is the small hill in the center, as the rocks were moved around on the outside. And again the bands of the marble form beautiful patterns.

The cave has a great number of Explaindolly tubs. They are typical for any Explainriver cave, but here they are quite huge and numerous. This cave is a river cave, despite the lack of a river nowadays. The reason why there is no river any more is easy: the glacier became much smaller in this warm interglacial, so it melts at another point and the melting water today uses a different path to flow down into the valley.

The cave was discovered by Alois Hotter In 1919. He was the landlord of the Spannagelhaus, but as he was not a cave he called the cave a "horrible hole" and as a waste pit. Several tenants after him did the same. In 1960 cave exploration started with Rudolf Radislovich who explored the entrance section, about what is today used for the show cave. And actually the cave was continually explored since then until today, with new discoveries and surveys any few years. In the late 1980s the view on the cave had changed, even for the landlord of the lodge, who started to develop it as a show cave. The cavers had started to remove the rubbish, today it is completely gone. Also, the drainage of the toilets into the cave was replaced.

The landlord of the lodge changes now and then, the lodges are owned by a non-profit organisation and they lease it for some time. It seems at some point the cave entrance was relocated into a separate building and is now operated independently. The Spannagelhaus was sold to the cable car company in 2013 and then replaced by a modern restaurant. Almost 150 years of history are gone, the new restaurant is intended for skiers and open only during winter, because in summer it's not possible to get there by ski.

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Marble patterns and Explaindolly tubs.