The Old Man’s Cave is located in the Pădurea Craiului mountains, which are a subunit of the Apuseni Mountains. It’s one of those caves suitable for a first interaction with caving.
It has both large galleries and straits it has areas where you have to climb, many formations, an underground water flow but also a large variety of cave fauna.
Access: on the blue tape + red dot touristic markings > the red dot marking is followed starting from the Vadu Crişului locality. Once the trail passe by the Goat Cave and the Devenţului Cave the markings split and we continue on the blue tape marking.
Be aware, the trail is not well marked and the time necessary to reach the cave is long, about 2 hours. It is not the best way to reach the cave.
Road access: starting from the Aleşd town we continue towards the Aştileu village and then to the Tomnatic village on the 764 county road (in Roșia direction). Unless you have someone with you who knows the access to the cave, it is quite hard to find it.
The area is not well known and the access to the cave is unmarked. If you, however, choose to go, the safest option is to ask locals, they generally know where to find cave.
Access in the Old Man’s Cave: in order to enter the cave you have to get all three approvals which are required by the Romanian law.
- Speleological Heritage Commission approval;
- the approval from the Center of Protected Areas and Sustainable Development Bihor (CAPDD) which is the custodian of the site perimeter surrounding the cave
- approval from the Cave Rescue Salvaspeo Bh.
Individual equipment: overall, helmet with lighting, boots + gloves, caving harness, lowering device, lanyards, ascenders used at rope climbing.
Collective equipment: 25m rope, three plaques with rings (or carabiners), 2 loops of webbing or dynema. The fitting consists of a handrail access and an 8m unfractionated vertical. The expansion bolts are in good condition.
Old Man’s Cave Description: The first exploration of the cave seems to have been made by J. Czaran in 1905 and later by Jeannel and Racoviţă in 1929.
The Old Man’s Cave is part of the Piştireului Valley.
The watercourse entering the cave at the base of a rock wall, formed the cavity. It comes back to the surface only in the Crisul Repede Gorge when it exits from Vadu Crişului cave.
The two caves (Old man’s cave and Vadu Crisului) are part of the same hydrological system.
This fact has been shown by staining with fluorescein on 16th May 1965 which have demonstrated the link between the two caves. The length reaches 1100m galleries and the elevation reaches nearly 70m.
Old Man’s Cave is predominantly horizontal, slightly downward throughout the main gallery, except the entrance.
The cave consists of two types of galleries: an active temporary one (draining the watercourse mentioned above) and a dry one (fossil) rich in stalagmite formations.
Access in the Old Man Cave is through one of the two wells which are found in the portal area.
The main entrance can be considered the bottom one, that is more accessible as sizes. The entrance from above is a tighter gallery which can be a problem for thicker persons.
Both entrances have mounted gates which stops the underground access during bats hibernation. Another obstacle that may arise when you want to visit this cave is the level of the water entering the cave.
In the entrance area, near the gate (at the bottom of the 8m shaft) the gallery has quite small sizes. When flooding, torrential raining or snow melting the access is not always possible. See the weather forecast!
Underground path description: once 8m down the pit, you can leave your harness
and technical equipment at the bottom of the pit, you will no longer need it. Starting towards the active gallery (with water) we quickly reach the gate.
The place is pretty tight so it would be better not to suffer from claustrophobia. We continue on a gallery not very high but very interesting in terms of rectangular section of the gallery, as it would be made by a man.
We traveled this gallery, and we reach to a pit. Here we find a mounted scale and several metal clamps to descend more comfortable.
At the bottom of the pit, where the ladder is mounted, we intersect the main gallery of the cave. We can realize this given the gallery dimensions that are much larger.
The stream is permanent (not temporary as the one from the entrance area). The formations appear: stalagmite, curtains, columns, parietal leaks.
In the ceiling you might see one of the colonies of bats. Try not to disturb them.
We are in a downward gallery paved with stones and alluvial deposits. Pay special attention to the ceiling area, there are many stalactites (of various sizes) that adorn the cave.
We arrive at the Confluence Hall, which is the second largest cave chamber in the entire cave. The height of the hall is about 25m.
From the right (in the descending direction) it comes another gallery (the Dry Gallery). We currently continue to visit the with water Gallery.
Immediately after the confluence we meet a pit which can be passed only with diver suit. We can avoid it by climbing the 5m ladder which leads us into a fossil gallery. Here, we see many speleothems but also stalagmites with crystal clear water.
If you look carefully, at the stalagmites, a beautiful calcite crust is on the water surface.
It is a sports gallery, you have to climb and pass through the narrowest place of the whole cave, through the “mouse hole“.
Once past the strait we get down a slide rock which brings us back to the stream (to the active). Shortly the water is lost in another siphon.
If we want to get to the end of the cave we have to crawl through a narrow gallery only 0,5×0,3 which takes us back to active place. The cave ends with a crawl of about 300m, its traversing being dangerous because of the flooding risk given a flood.
In order to see the Dry Gallery we get back on the same path until we reach the confluence Hall. Here we go left and go strongly upward, sometimes climbing on rocks and formations.
We go through a series of large halls out of which, one has 35m width and 10m height another has 45m x 19m size.
Here, we find the largest underground spaces from the Old Man Cave. There are many formations stalagmite and large stalactites but also two very tall columns.
You can take a break after the end of the Great Hall and after, you have to go back on the way you came.
The fauna: in the Old Man Cave we can meet colony of the greater horseshoe bat, of the ordinary bat but also salamanders and beetles.
During the visit will do everything possible to avoid disturbing the creatures living in cave. It is not recommended to put the light over the bats, to make noise when we are near them or to enter the cave in large groups.