Resident in northwestern Canada warns of ice cave’s dangers after close call

This glacial cave near Haines Junction, Yukon, has become a popular destination in recent years. Geologists warn that the formation is naturally unstable and it’s therefore dangerous to go inside. (Steve Hossack/CBC)
Paul Inglis and his family drove a couple of hours from Whitehorse, Yukon, then hiked another couple of hours to get there.

They’re not likely to do it again.

Inglis is also advising others to stay away from the spectacular ice cave near Haines Junction, after witnessing a harrowing close call on Saturday involving big chunks of ice that fell near some other visitors.

“I would say don’t go. I don’t think it’s safe,” he said.

Inglis said he and his family were approaching the unusual glacial formation when they saw a few other people standing just outside the cave.

That’s when “a whole bunch” of ice start tumbling down, Inglis said.

“Sort of the ice wall that forms the front of it started to fall off and … the three people in front of us turned around and started running,” he recalled.

“All this ice fell and sent this big gust of wind and blew a whole bunch of snow at us.”

Paul Inglis circled the area where ice fell from on Saturday, narrowly missing some other visitors. This photo was taken just before the ice fell. (Submitted by Meagan Christie)
Another photo taken a bit closer, after the ice fell. The circled area is visibly different. (Submitted by Meagan Christie)

Once things had settled, Inglis said, one of the large ice chunks was resting up against another couple’s backpack that had been set on the ground.

“Quite possibly, where they were standing, if they hadn’t run away they would have been crushed under the ice — and likely would have died,” he said.

“Everybody was kind of shocked. Everybody was full of adrenaline and then everybody moved further away from the entrance.”

Collapse likely within a few years

The ice cave was once something of a local secret in Haines Junction, but word has gotten out in recent years. The formation is on public land, so there’s nothing to stop people from going.

Last year, the Yukon Geological Survey responded by advising people against going inside the cave, saying it’s naturally unstable and likely to collapse within a few years.

Inglis’s warning goes further though, after what he saw last weekend. He feels nobody should even approach the cave, let alone go inside. The ice that fell off on Saturday was on the outside, he says.

“If the whole thing collapsed all at once, it could potentially send a big avalanche of ice and rock and snow down the creek valley,” he said.

“You wouldn’t even have to be at the cave, to get caught in an avalanche … looking at it, and seeing the shape, it’s definitely feasible.”

With files from Mike Rudyk

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Small community in Arctic Canada disappointed by cruise ship cancellations, says mayor, CBC News

Norway: Bodies of three skiers killed in avalanche recovered in Arctic Norway, Yle News

Sweden: Avalanche warning to snowmobilers in Swedish mountains, Radio Sweden

United States: When the ice melts, what will happen to Arctic tourism?, Cryopolitics Blog

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