The Hochkar Cave

History of thousands of years

In the mountains around Göstling the Hochkar, with its 1808m, is the highest point. The heights of this massif extend beyond tree line and have steep and wildly rugged precipices and cirques. On its vast plateaus there are lush alpine pastures and a great variety of alpine plants.

Geologic Facts

The Hochkar Cave was formed in the limestone of the “Ötscherdecke”. This nearly pure limestone contains magnesium and is pervious to water. These circumstances favoured the formation of this cave system.

History of Formation

The Hochkar Cave has, like most of the other alpine caves, a history of thousands of years. During the last glacial period glaciers covered the Dürrenstein, the Ötscher and the Hochkar. When the climate got warmer the melted snow and ice seeped through the lime and searched its way downwards. The moisture of the mountain found its way through the pores of the rocks and the lime of the water formed stalactites, stalagmites and sinter. These things happened approximately 100.000 years ago, during the “Würmeiszeit”.

During this period there may have been a cave at the Hochkar too, but only one stalagmite has been conserved. It looks like an organ. One can only reach the so-called stalactite-part after a difficult climbing tour over a steep stonewall. The stalactites in this part are very old and crumbling. A glittering wall covered with shell-like pores is the rewarding view for brace climbers. These forms crystallized and now look like big, shining chalk crystals.

The original forms were destroyed through the natural demolition of the walls and through erosion and frost. The narrow passages have conserved the original forms, because they were not exposed to the destroying effects of the fracture line. The last big change happened at the end of the last glacial period 15000 years ago. Since there were tensions and pressure moves in the mountain, big parts of the ceiling fell down and buried the original cave. Lots of these packets of stone now form the floor of the cave.

Tariffs Hochkar Cave valid in season 2017

Tariffs in Euro

Adults

Children

 

Guide

10,50

5,50

 

Information to the Hochkar Cave

No cave Tour on October 8th

  • The cave has a total lenght of more than 600m.
  • Tours are from June 5th - September 6th every Wednesday at
    2.00 pm and every second Sunday at 11.00 am starting June 18, July 2, July 16, July 30, Aug 13, Aug 27, Sept 10, Sept 24, Oct. 8, Oct 22
  • For registration please ask under following phone number: +43 (0)7484 7214 or
    +43 (0)7484 2122
  • For groups with min. 6 people additional appointments are possible with reservation in advance

Hirstory of Exploration

The original entrance to the cave was already known after World War I. In 1923 Michael Müllner explored the Hochkar manhole. The research work was intensified after the war, because people wanted to mine the sediments in the caves. These sediments have phosphor ingredients and people wanted to use them as fertilizer. Thanks to Mr Müllner the Hochkar Cave has never been exploited, because he recorded his discovery only in his private notes. The discovery of the cave is directly connected with the building of the 9.5 km long road leading to the Hochkar, which was built by the tourism agency. When the chair lift was built, the workers noticed the “Rauchende Luckn”. This is a hole in the mountain from which water vapour escapes when the temperature falls below - 8°C, because the air in the cave has an average temperature of 8°C all over the year.

On September 22, 1963 Mr. Georg Perschl and his son went to search for the cave and found it 50 m to the west of the 5th brace of the chair lift. Two days later some brave men tried to get into the cave for the first time, but they failed, because they didn’t have the adequate equipment. They reported that they seemed to have found a funnel. With the right equipment the association of spelaeology managed for the first time to get down to the depth and finally reached the floor of the “Big Dome”. They had climbed down about 80m. Only by using 30 wire-rope-ladders the men were able to get to the next big cave. This was at Pentecost 1964. The “Strata Cave” had been discovered.

At the end of this cave a path led to a 3rd big cave, which was named “Pentecost’s cave”. Between 5th and 7th June 1965 more parts of the cave were discovered. Then it was clear: The “Hochkar Cave” is the 5th biggest natural cave in Lower Austria. Surveying showed that the end of the “Pentecost Cave” could not be far away from earth’s surface. So Mr Herb, Mr Putz and Mr Perschl climbed into the cave once again and were able to establish contact with the outside by tapping. The tunnel to the cave was dug very fast and on 29th July 1965 the “Hochkar Cave” had a new entrance. This artificial entrance makes it possible to reach the beautiful cave without having to climb down more than 70 exhausting meters. In September 1965 Mr Werner Putz explored the stalactite part of the cave, which can only be reached by way of exhaustive climbing.

Position and Access

The “Hochkar Cave” is situated 50 meters to the west of the 5th brace of the chair lift which leads from the “Oberer Boden” to the peak. The natural entrance is out of use, because it was covered with tracks of steel to protect the skiers and the visitors of the cave. 
Now the cave can only be reached through the 12-meter artificial tunnel. There is a path from the lift station to the entrance, which lies at 1250m. You only have to walk about 10 minutes to get there.

Description of the rooms

The parts of the cave are described in the order that you visit them. The “Pentecost Cave” has got its name from the day it was discovered in 1965. Only if your eyes get used to the darkness you can imagine the spaciousness of the room. The cave is 35 m long, 15 m wide and has a height of 20 m. Not far from the end of the cave you can see water dropping out of the ceiling and escaping right into the ground. Before the cave’s end, which is made out of enormous blocks, there is a narrow hole which leads to the stalagmite part of the cave. This part of the cave is not visited at tours because you have to be a good climber to get there.

Big boulders and the walls of the cave form a slightly upwards-leading passage, “The Gallery”. Big parts of the walls are covered with crystallized sinter here. At the end of the Gallery you reach the “Schichthalle”, the “Strata Cave”. It is 35m long, 20m wide and has a height of 10m. The ceiling of the cave reaches nearly to the earth’s surface and is not rugged like in the “Pentecost Cave”. The layers of the rocks are clearly visible there. It is smooth and homogeneous.

The ceiling which is visible right there is the lower part of a big rock. Tectonic tensions have crumbled it and it fell to the floor. These blocks got stuck and now you can climb them just like a bridge. If you follow a small path you come to a red-coloured stalagmite called “The Organ”. It is the only one that is preserved. This is the end of the guided tour.

Experienced climbers can visit the “Big Dome” by climbing over a post and a steep wall. With its enormous extension (45m long, 25m wide) and a height of 70m it is the biggest natural room in Lower Austria. If you climb over some rocks you come to the middle of the gigantic shaft, where you can see the opening.

It is overwhelming to see daylight searching its way in, 70m above you. This is the place where the explorers came to when they first visited the cave. Over a downwards-leading tunnel you can reach the “Seetunnel”, “the lake tunnel”. Its floor is covered with water, this is where the name comes from. Measurements came to a depth of 55m. A noticeable breeze leads to the assumption that there is a connection to the surface through narrow fissures.

Necessity of protection

After the report of the association of spelaeology in October 1963 the Hochkar Cave was included in the Lower Austrian cave registration list as number 1814/5. The experts agree: The Hochkar Cave has to be protected! The federal office for the preservation of monuments has classified the cave as a historical monument. This was because of its “characteristics, its special character and its scientific importance”. The area around the natural and the new entrances also was listed as a natural monument.

Short overview

All the rooms of the Hochkar Cave are of the alpine type, which is rare in Lower Austria.
The cave, with its length of over 500m and a difference in altitude of 120m is the 5th biggest cave in Lower Austria and one of the deepest caves of this province. It is remarkable because of its big halls and the “Big Dome”, which is the biggest natural room in all of Lower Austria. In every room big rocks have fallen from the ceiling, which makes up their character. The caving in of the rocks has made the caves wider and the ceiling of the cave is mostly not far from the earth’s surface.

In some parts you can see inactive stalagmites. In the Gallery, which is situated between the “Pentecost Cave” and the “Strata Cave”, one can see the “Knöpfchensinter” in unusual size and rare forms.

Life-forms

On May 15, 1966 Mr and Mrs Hartmann made a very interesting zoological discovery. By chance they saw a ground beetle in the “Big Dome”. They took it to Vienna and the female beetle was examined and scientifically described by Mr. Manfred Schmidt. It was the second specimen of an “Arctaphaenops” found in Lower Austria. This is a transparent and blind ground beetle, which dies when it is exposed to daylight. It is a cave-dweller coming from the glacial period. Its relatives became extinct and some of them have survived in some mountains like the “Hochkar”, the “Dürrenstein”, the “Lugauer”, the “Gesäuse” and the “Dachstein”. Trough many generations they have developed from their origin above ground to animals living underground. They have become a specimen of their own.

Until now there are records of 8 beetles. The ground beetle of the Hochkar with its 47mm is smaller than the others of its kind, and it is physically different from the others and this is why it was a very valuable discovery. It was given the name “Arctaphaenops hartmanorum”, after its discoverers.

Reference

  • “Der Hochkarschacht bei Göstling/Ybbs”
  • by OSR Fritz Apeldauer, Göstling/Ybbs

 

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