#TBT Fortress of Solitude Edition at the Grand Island Ice Caves

Grand Island Ice Cave

Grand Island ice cave, Winter 2012/13, photo by Ash W Photography

A cool site that really gives you to tools to have a lot of fun in the Upper Peninsula is Things to Do in the U.P. #64 is visiting the Grand Island Ice Caves. After providing very detailed tips & information about how to get to these spectacular formations on Lake Superior off Munising, Brian Marticcui writes (in part):

For an intimate look at nature’s awesome power, sidle up to one of the columns and peer into its core. Expecting a solid tower of frozen water? Not a chance. These columns, especially the newer and/or sun-exposed ones, are actually made up of tiny beads and icicle-like formations separated by vertical channels that allow water to pass through them. It’s one of those mind-numbingly complex natural things that’s simultaneously random and orderly – kind of like a geode, but mostly frozen and not quite as colorful.

Inside, things are a bit more stable – and a whole lot more interesting, if that’s possible. For starters, many of the “entrances” to the caves are little more than elevated holes between solid ice columns. Depending on how the caves have set during the weeks leading up to your visit, you may have to scramble up a mound and squeeze yourself through an opening to actually gain access. (Clip-on crampons might be a good idea.)

Once you get in, be careful, both for your own physical safety and for the integrity of the caves themselves. The floors are often mirror-smooth, making regular walking a major challenge. Meanwhile, the ceilings can be low and/or spiky, and some of the most intricate formations – the fuzzy, mold-like bits of “shaved” ice that project from the bare rock of the walls and ceilings – are extremely fragile. Don’t be the guy or girl who ruins a particularly awesome formation for everyone else – those things don’t reform in their original states.

Since the caves’ outer walls aren’t comprised of a single, solid curtain, and blockages abound, you’ll have to enter and exit several times to get the full measure of their interior spaces. Be careful each time you do; in particular, don’t lean on any dubious-looking columns. Ice is heavy, and you’ll probably see the chilling remains of spectacular collapses. You don’t want to be under an unsafe formation when it goes.

Read on for much more and also follow Jesse’s Things to Do in the U.P. on Facebook.

Ash took this shot at Grand Island’s ice caves a couple of years ago. View it bigger on Facebook and see more of her work in her Upper Peninsula of Michigan gallery at ashwphotography.com.

PS: If you’re in the Marquette area, Ash be displaying February 17 through the end of March at Sweet Water Cafe in Marquette from Feb 17th to the end of March, just a few doors down from Zero Degrees Artist Cooperative where she has her work.

PPS: For a little discussion on current conditions on the crossing to Grand Island, see this thread on Facebook, and before you go be sure to talk to someone who knows something about it. Feel welcome to use that advice for anything that’s possibly dangerous that you know little about.

2 thoughts on “#TBT Fortress of Solitude Edition at the Grand Island Ice Caves

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