Germanys Biggest Ice Cave: Over a Kilometer Path Buried After Rock Avalanche

• A massive rockslide has made Germany’s largest accessible ice cave in Marktschellenberg inaccessible. Fortunately, there is now relief.

Update, 10:25 a.m. – Association gives all-clear
After heavy rainfall in recent days, causing parts of the path to the ice cave to be buried, cave guide Markus Preinfalk has now made the path accessible again. This was announced by the association „Schellenberger Ice Cave – Association for Cave Research Schellenberg“ on Facebook. The cave can now be reopened from Friday (June 14th).

The initial report:
„I’m almost desperate right now. I thought I was going to collapse,“ says Helfried Unterberger, chairman of the Association for Cave Research Schellenberg, a few hours after being informed. Several dozen cubic meters of debris had fallen from the Untersberg on Sunday – after several heavy thunderstorms and heavy rainfall. The images resemble a scene of devastation.

The ice cave in Marktschellenberg was only recently officially reopened. It is considered one of the most popular attractions in the small town, located directly on the border with Austria. Guided tours have recently resumed. Several thousand guests visit the ice cave with around 60,000 cubic meters of ice per year. The paths around the unique natural phenomenon at 1570 meters above sea level are now buried. Ice cave closed to visitors
Markus Preinfalk, the spokesperson for the ice cave guides, discovered the maximum damage on Monday and immediately sent a WhatsApp message to Helfried Unterberger in the valley: a rockslide had buried the path overnight. A section of the path had slipped, the cave expert texted to his colleagues. As a result, the popular excursion destination for mountain enthusiasts was immediately closed. According to current knowledge, no one was injured in the rockslide.

Paul Schmaus, who was an ice cave guide in the Marktschellenberger Ice Cave for 18 years, wrote on Facebook that he had experienced „rockfalls and small rockslides, but never anything like this“ during his active time.

Volunteer helpers urgently needed
The avalanche came down from the steep walls of the Untersberg (1973 meters) and came to rest hundreds of meters further down. „Machines cannot reach there,“ knows chairman Helfried Unterberger. He spent the entire Monday afternoon making phone calls. Because it is clear: „We now need real help from volunteers.“ The association, whose head is Unterberger, is small in terms of personnel, and the members are „60 plus.“ For years, the association members have been working to keep the accessible natural spectacle at the Untersberg alive and continue to offer tours in the sometimes more than 20 meters thick ice.

About a kilometer of the path leading from the top to the cave has been buried or destroyed. An as yet unquantified mass of heavy rock rests in the vicinity of the ice cave, whose explored length in the mountain is more than 3.6 kilometers. The administration of the Berchtesgadener Land Biosphere Region, says Unterberger, has already announced assistance and wants to provide personnel support. „We need anyone else who wants to support us now.“ Volunteer helpers can contact Helfried Unterberger at

In the past, there have been smaller rockfalls, which are normal in such a mountainous region, says Unterberger. But such a massive rockslide? „That has never happened before.“

A lot of work on the Untersberg
The path must be completely renovated in the medium term. The debris can only be removed by hand. It is not possible to estimate the costs for the renovation of the mountain path at this time. Currently, the focus is on removing the rocks and securing the path so that it is accessible again and the cave can be opened. For the association, every day the cave is inaccessible means significant loss of income. „But the safety of the visitors is the highest priority,“ says Unterberger. Whether the path can be reopened by the end of the week is questionable. „In any case, we will climb with a team of helpers next week and work again.“