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Environment | Climate change | Local

Glacier Caves: Mt. Hood's Secret World

OPB | Oct. 10, 2013 8:30 p.m. | Updated: May 27, 2014 2:46 p.m.

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Thin Ice: Exploring Mount Hood’s Glacier Caves

Mt. Hood may be the best place in the United States to see the inside of a glacier.

In 2011, a pair of Oregon cavers began mapping and identifying the largest known glacier cave system in the lower 48 states, just a few hours from Portland.  A hole in the mouth of the Sandy Glacier leads into more than a mile of caves and tunnels inside the ice itself. 

Now, armed with wet suits and ice screws, Brent McGregor and Eddy Cartaya continue their exploration of the Sandy glacier cave system, delving deep inside three passages they call Pure Imagination, Snow Dragon and Frozen Minotaur. But they think there may be more. They have spent more than 300 hours underneath the ice; motivated by the rare opportunity to explore a place no one has ever seen before and by the extraordinary beauty of the caves.But what can these caves tell us about the health of our glaciers? Is climate change responsible for these new glacier caves?

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Major Support Provided By:

  • Dorothy D. Gage and Dan Stanton

Additional Support Provided By:

  • Kay Kitagawa and Andy Johnson-Laird
  • Christine and David Vernier
  • Coit Family Foundation
  • Greenfield/Hartline Habitat Conservation Fund of the Nature Conservancy
  • Lois E. Jones
  • Bonnie and Peter Reagan