万年冰洞

Wanniandong - Wannian Ice Cave - Wan-nian Ice Cave - Ningwu Ice Cave


Useful Information

Location: Ningwu Ice Cave National Geopark.
(38.947794171986764, 112.16773135360965)
Open:
Fee:
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave Speleologyice cave.
Light: electric, colored
Dimension: VR=85m, Ø=10-20m, A=2,300m asl.
Guided tours:
Photography: not allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Shaohua Yang, Yaolin Shi (2015): Numerical simulation of formation and preservation of Ningwu ice cave, Shanxi, China, April 2015, The Cryosphere Discussions 9(2):2367-2395. 10.5194/tcd-9-2367-2015. researchgate
Stuart A. Harris (2015): Numerical simulation of formation and preservation of Ningwu ice cave, Shanxi, China: A discussion, . pdf
Address: Wannian Ice Cave, China, Shanxi, Xinzhou, Ningwu County, 春支线, Tel: +86-, Fax: +86-,
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

2005 declared a national geo-park.
MAR-2011 declared a national AAAA tourism spot.

Description

Wannian Ice Cave (10,000 Year Cave) is also known under the name Ningwu Ice Cave. Ningwu is the name of the county, where it is located. It is the largest and most famous ice cave in China, which is said to have nine ice caves open to the public. It is located in the mountains of Shanxi province.

The ice cave is a pothole or shaft which has a diameter between 10m and 20m. The shaft opens to the surface and work as a cold trap, collecting cold air during winter, which is then trapped during summer. As the entrance is rather small, there is no exchange with the outside through wind. And because of its high elevation the air gets quite cold during winter. As a result the ice never melts completely.

The descriptions tell about the ice melting in winter and growing in summer. This is obviously wrong but has some truth. The cold air entering the cave in winter cools the cave down, closing all the cracks by freezing the water in the cracks. As a result no water enters the cave and the ice does not grow in winter. When the meltwater in spring enters the cracks in the rocks, the warm water will finally melt the ice plugs and water enters the cave in late spring and summer, and as the cave itself is still below freezing point, the water freezes inside. In autumn the cave finally has warmed up a little, there is no melting water entering the cave, but the ice starts to melt during autumn and early winter.

There are more obvious inaccuracies in the official texts, like the temperature never increases above 0°C. This is not how ice caves work though. An ice cave always has changing levels of ice, and this one has too. If there were no melting, the ice would fill with ice until it was completely filled with ice. And melting requires temperatures above melting point.

This cave is in a very impressive equilibrium where a decent amount of ice stays all year. Also the ice covers all the walls and forms draperies, icicles and ice flows and waterfalls, which is quite impressive. The trails are made of wood and partly cut into the ice. It goes down an undisclosed distance which is said to be five levels, but those are obviously not a literal measure of the depth. Actually there are five platforms which are big enough for groups of 20 visitors.

This cave is an 85m deep vertical shaft of volcanic origin, probably a vent, which is quite interesting for geologists. It is shaped like a bowling pin, narrower at the top and wider in the lower half. There is no horizontal section, visitors just go down from platform to platform and have to walk back up to the surface at the end of the tour. The walls are almost completely covered by ice.

And there is a final misinformation on the web, which is for the most part a translation error. The cave is said to be "three million years old and to originate from the fourth era of the ice age". What is obviously meant is, that it formed during the quarternary (which may be translated 4th age). The ice ages started a bit over 2 Million years ago, so 3 Million years is long before the begin of the ice ages.