Caves formed completely in ice are properly termed glacier caves, as that is where they typically occur. Ice caves, by contrast, are caves of any type that contain speleothems made of ice.

Glacier caves almost always form from flowing water entering the glacier through cracks or crevasses, which are then enlarged over time, both by erosion and melting. Like solution caves that carry water from one surface sink point to a resurgence, so glacier caves may serve as conduits for water through glaciers.

Glacier caves are very dynamic and change from year to year. Large glacier cave systems have disappeared as glaciers melt and retreat around the world due to global warming.

The images on this page were taken by Jason Gulley, a glaciologist studying the hydrology of glacial caves, in Alaska and Nepal.
Please contact him directly regarding any of these photos or their use in any other venue.

Two images from the Ngozumpa Glacier in Nepal

Its not surprising that caves formed in ice would include formations made out of ice. Of course, ice formations may form in any type of cave if the temperature is low enough. For more on this topic, please visit the Virtual Cave's ice formation page.

Huge entrance on the Khumbu Glacier in Nepal. Note figure in red in distance. Scalloped walls
indicate erosion by air currents.

This passage under the Ngozumpa glacier reveals a classic phreatic-vadose transition.

Glacial caves are often entered through crevasses which have captured surface water.

Wading through water is not uncommon in glacial caves.

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The Virtual Cave Created: May 3, 2005
Author: Dave Bunnell