Nezhnaya (“Tender”) Cave is situated at the eastern edge of the Azish-Tau Ridge of Lago-Naki plateau, at an altitude of 1400 meters above sea level, between the source of the river Chinarka (Mezmai) and a rock wall encircling the ridge from the east. The unusual name refers to the tender age of the cave’s vaults and the fragility of “young” stalactites and stalagmites.
The age of Nezhnaya Cave, as well as of other caves of Lago-Naki plateau, is considerable - more than two million years. But its vault is much younger. It was formed after the crash that occurred about 25 thousand years ago. That is very recently by the standards of the mountains. This discrepancy – an ancient cave floor and the young vault – are seen by the naked eye.
The floor, polished with water during many thousands of years, is dark and smooth, powerful stalagmites one and a half meters long grow out of it; at the same time small and sharp white stalactites are seen on the light-toned vaults. The cave was discovered in 1975, and not by scientists, but by the builders of the road Maikop - Dagomys.
The entrance was opened in the course of blasting operations. They invited speleologists immediately, but until 1998 the cave remained, so to say, in a wild state, free for public. The cave is a small chamber: 95 m long, with the volume of 510 cubic meters, the depth of 7 m. It consists of two parts connected by a low manhole. At first only the first hall was open – the one that is now the “hallway”. It is called “Atamansky Hall” (“Chieftain’s Hall”): according to a legend, local bandits hid their loot here in the early twentieth century. Today the hall stands out only in its unsightliness. On this site the cave has already “died”: everything available was torn off from walls and ceilings, and the traces of soot from the fires are left on the ceiling - maybe the fires were burnt by those very bandits.
The entrance to the next hall was made artificially in 1998, when the cave became an excursion facility. A manhole 10 m long leads to the Corallite Hall. Bones of animals and humans were found here, and it is assumed that the cave was once inhabited. The third hall, seemingly not very much different from the second one, is Kolokolny Hall (“Bell Hall”). It has a very good acoustics, and the guides demonstrate this by hitting the duralumin pipes hanging from the vaults. It sounds like music.
Author: Anna Dorozhkina