When Portland photographer Josh Hydeman first began rappelling into caves a few years ago, his worldview shifted. Rather than encountering a clammy Pandora’s Box of creepy crawlies, he descended past towering glacial columns into ice cathedrals capable of refracting camera flashes into mind-bending lightscapes.
“The general public has never seen a wild cave,” Hydeman says. “They don’t know they’re beautiful, and so they don’t care about them.” As a purveyor of beauty and a skilled mountaineer, Hydeman has made it his mission to illuminate caves and spark interest in what lies beneath—all in an effort to protect what’s not readily apparent.
Mt. Hood, Oregon. January 2015
Come winter, snow builds and this cave transforms into something white and unrecognizable. In 2012, a mapping expedition confirmed it as the longest glacier cave in the contiguous U.S. at 7,166.9 feet. (For Hydeman, this means lugging bags of camera gear and camping equipment up and over even more steep ice.) Unfortunately, ice isn’t coming back as dependably these days—at last check, the cave only measured 1,000 feet.