Sandbalmhöhle

Kristallhöhle Sandbalm


Useful Information

Location: Göschenen.
Göschenental, 6 km from Göschenen at the entrance to the Voralptal.
(46.663900, 8.527090)
Open: no restrictions.
[2022]
Fee: free.
[2022]
Classification: SpeleologyFracture Cave, MineQuartz Mine artificially altered
Light: bring torch
Dimension: A=1,735 m asl, L=250 m.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Peter Indergard ed (ny): Kristallhöhlen und ihre Schätze, Eigenverlag Peter Indergard, Bahnhofsplatz, CH-6487 Göschenen, Tel: +41-44-65372
Address: Peter Indergard, Bahnhofsplatz, CH-6487 Göschenen, Tel: +41-44-65372.
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

1723 cave mentioned by the doctor Moritz Anton Cappeller from Luzerne.
1733 mentioned in a document which was placed in the tower knob of the chapel and mentions events at the time of the chapel's construction.
1743 cave described by Johann Georg Sulzer, to be 100 Schritt ("steps") long.
1969 surveyed by Godi Gerber, Altdorf.
28-AUG-2011 a landslide destroys the path to the cave.

Description

The Sandbalmhöhle (Sandbalm Cave), also Kristallhöhle Sandbalm (Crystal Cave Sandbalm) is a more or less horizontal fissure in the granite filled with quartz, Rauchquarz (smoky quartz or morion) and Bergkristall (rock crystal), a characteristic mineral of quartz which is common in the Swiss Alps. This band was discovered by Strahlers (mineral collectors) who earn their living by collecting the local minerals. This profession has an old tradition in this part of Switzerland. In many parts the two-metre wide fissure is filled completely by quartz. Where it is not filled, the holes are full of minerals. Those minerals were mined by the Strahler and sold, and so the Sandbalm cave of today is a combination of natural cave and an artificial cavern, and may also be classified as a mine.

The cave has four entrances, which open in the vertical cliff face. Only the rightmost entrance may be reached on a ledge in the rock. After entering the cave there is a wide passage turning left into a wide hall. On the far end left are the other three entrances, which are more like windows. To the right side, leading into the mountain there are various passages, two of them ending in small chambers. From the entrance the cave ascends 11 m to the far end. The cave is said to be one of the largest known extension cleft systems and reaches up to 50 m into the mountain.

The cave was mentioned in several documents since the early 18th century and became quite famous.

In dem jähr 1733 ist auch ein grossen nahmhaffte findung gefunden worden in der Santbalm genant, alwo sie den gantzen winter hindurch gearbeitet haben, weil ein leichter winter gewessen. Ist deren gespannen gewessen obernanter landamen Stanislaus Pintener sambt seiner gemahlin, welche so viel hl. messen gegeben und lessen lassen, wie auch von Wassen Melcker Gamma, Joseph Mattli, Hans Dittlin, von Göschenen Johannes Buman, (In) der gand Hans, von Abfrut Hans Caspar Imhoff Frantzisch Reglin, Joseph Maria Reglin, zu Wiggen Joseph Gander sambt seinem Sohn.
In the year 1733, a large discovery was also found in the Santbalm, where they worked through the whole winter, because it was a light winter. They are held by the superior landowner Stanislaus Pintener and his wife, who have given so many holy masses and had them read, as well as Melcker Gamma, Joseph Mattli, Hans Dittlin of Wassen, Johannes Buman of Göschenen, Hans Gand of Abfrut, Hans Caspar Imhoff, Frantzisch Reglin, Joseph Maria Reglin, Joseph Gander and his son of Wiggen.
Document which was placed in the tower knob of the chapel and mentions events at the time of the chapel's construction in 1733.

Die berühmteste Cristall-Mine in diesen Gegenden ist das Sandbalm in einem Berge, welcher 1 Stunden hinter Gestinen, dem 6.ten Dorff, welches man an dieser Berg-Strasse antrifft, dem hinaufreisenden zur rechten Hand, liegt. Ich habe mich von Gestinen durch einen erfahrenen CrystallGraber in diese Höhe führen lassen. [...] Der Weg von dem Fuss des Berges bis in die Mine, deren Eingang man unten siehet, ist vor für die, welche des Bergsteigens nicht gewohnt sind, sehr schwer; [...] und könte man leicht den gantzen Weg mit grösster Lebens-Gefahr wieder hinunter schlüpfen. Allein die Berg-Leute, welche im Winter täglich da arbeiten, gehen hier so aufrecht daher, als wenn sie auf ebnen Lande gingen. Der Eingang in diese Mine ist auf der Nördlichen Seite des Berges, und mit einer hölzernen Thür beschlossen, damit niemand die darin liegende Instrumente heraus stehle. Durch die Thür hienein muss man kriechen, und ist alles finster und enge, bis man etliche Schritte fortgerücket, da man dann wieder an die vordere Seite des Berges kommt, wo man eingegangen, und da eine Öffnung und folglich genug Licht ist. Mein Führer erzehlte mir, dass diese Mine schon in den alten Heydnischen Zeiten offen gewesen sey; zum Beweissthum dessen wiese er mir die einte Wand dieser Öffnung, auf welcher eine Inscription stehet. Anfangs konnte ich dieselbe nicht sehen, weil der Stein, welcher ein Saxum quarzosum nicceum ist, an sich höckericht war; doch da ich die Sache recht betrachtete, sähe ich würklich zwo Zeilen von grossen lateinischen Buchstaben, die wol 4. bis 5. Zoll lang sind: von der ersten Zeilen konte ich nichts erkennen, als den AnfangsBuchstaben, welcher ein A. ist; die andre Zeile war das Wort SCHMID, welches gut deutsch, und vermutlich nicht von hohem Alter ist, als mir der Führer vorgegeben; doch versicherte er mich, daß sein Vater und Grossvater schon da gegraben, und daß sie vor 3. Jahren 900. Stück Crystallen auf einmal gefunden hätten.
The most famous crystal mine in these regions is the Sandbalm in a mountain, which lies 1 hour behind Gestinen, the 6th village, which one encounters on this mountain road, to the right of the one travelling up. I let myself be led from Gestinen to this height by an experienced crystal digger. [...] The way from the foot of the mountain to the mine, the entrance to which is seen below, is very difficult, especially for those who are not accustomed to mountaineering; [...] and one could easily slip down the whole way again with the greatest danger to one's life. But the mountain men, who work there daily in winter, walk here as upright as if they were walking on level ground. The entrance to this mine is on the north side of the mountain, and is closed with a wooden door, so that no one can steal out the instruments lying in it. You have to crawl through the door, and everything is dark and narrow until you move a few steps away, when you come to the front of the mountain again, where you can enter, and there is an opening and therefore enough light. My guide told me that this mine had already been open in the old Heydnian times; to prove this, he pointed out to me the first wall of this opening, on which there was an inscription. At first I could not see it, because the stone, which is a Saxum quarzosum nicceum, was in itself as thin as a knob; but when I looked at the thing properly, I really saw two lines of large Latin letters, about 4 to 5 inches long: of the first line I could make out nothing but the initial letter, which is an A.; the other line was the word SCHMID, which is well German, and probably not of great age, as the guide told me; but he assured me that his father and grandfather had already dug there, and that 3 years ago they had found 900 pieces of crystals at once.
Johann Georg Sulzer, 1733.

To reach the cave it is necessary to walk some distance. The main road through Göschenen is a major connection through the Alps, but you must exit the highway at Göschenen and follow the signs to the Göschenenalp. This side valley is called Göschenental and there is a public road which ends at the Göscheneralpsee Staudamm. The road follows the valley to a steeper part where the road has two hairneedle pins. In the second is a parking lot where the trail starts. From here follow the trail to the Voralphütte up the Voralptal. In dry times the river, the Voralpreuß, has low water, then cross the river on the bridge and follow the path to the Voralphütte. When you see the cave, cross the Voralpreuß and follow the red marks to the cave. The last part of the trail to the cave was destroyed by a landslide in 2011, and has been closed for several years. As this is not an important trail we think it is still officially closed for liability reasons. However, ther has been no second landslide in the last decade. If the Voralpreuß has high water, it's not possible to cross the river, so you must take the alternative route on this side of the river. It ascends directly to the cave and is steeper and unfortunately a quite bad path. To reach the cave takes about 1.5 hour, an ascent of 350 m.