Aletsch Glacier - Walking on the Ice Giant
Still a bit sleepy, we squint at the sun, laughing from an almost cloudless sky. We are standing on the Jungfraujoch at 3454 meters above sea level. It is the highest railway station in Europe and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Switzerland. 700,000 tourists visit this viewpoint every year. But we have other plans: We have booked the Aletsch Glacier hike and with mountain guides from Grindelwaldsports and will hike the next 2 days on the glacier through a silent world of ice and snow.
The Great Aletsch Glacier, at 22 kilometers, is the largest glacier in the Swiss Alps. It has its origin in the Jungfrau region and drained via the Massa in the Rhone. At the well-known Konkordiaplatz, three firn streams flow together to form a large glacier. Here the ice has a considerable thickness of 900 meters. Since 2001, the Great Aletsch Glacier with the unique Aletschwald is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. P>
This 2-day tour takes you on the Great Aletsch Glacier right through the UNESCO World Heritage site. After a night in the Konkordia Hut at 2850 m above sea level, we follow the glacier down to the Fiescheralp.
1 day b> p>
↑ 150 meters in altitude p>
↓ 750 meters in altitude p>
↔ 8.5 kilometers p>
Walk time : approx. 4 hours p>
2 days b> p>
↑ 150 meters in altitude p>
↓ 650 meters in altitude p>
↔ 12.5 Kilometers p>
Walking time: approx. 6 hours p>
No prior knowledge is necessary. However, you should be a competent hiker who can walk safely on narrow paths. Walking up to 6 hours should not be a problem for you. Children with a good physical condition can go with you from the age of 14 years. P>
Never go without a guide
Before we start, we put on our climbing harnesses and are roped together. Walking across the glacier is anything but a walk in the park. Crevasses are often hidden in the snow and can not be seen. The trip should be undertaken with an experienced and qualified mountain guide who knows the glacier's hazards, is familiar with the area and can easily assess the changing weather in the mountains.
Technical Equipment b> p>
To travel safely on the glacier, you need: p>
- crampons li>
- Climbing Harness li>
- Telescopic Poles li> ul>
Grindelwaldsports has lent us the material for free. P>
Footwear b> p>
Solid walking or hiking boots that have already been broken in. P>
Packing List b> p>
Do not pack too much! You have to carry everything yourself. A multi-day backpack with a volume of 25 - 30 liters should be enough. To protect you on the glacier well against cold and sun, we recommend the following equipment. P>
Clothing: b> p>
- Waterproof jacket li >
- Long Sleeve Shirt li>
- Fleece Jacket or Down Jacket li>
- Trekking Trousers li>
- Sun Hat li>
- Dark Sunglasses Category 3 or 4 li>
- Poss. Thermal underwear li>
- Hat and gloves li> ul>
For the cabin stay b> p>
- Toiletries li>
- spare laundering li>
- silk sleeping bags li>
- Headlamps li> ul>
Board b> p>
- Bottle li >
- small lunch for 2 days li> ul>
Stunning landscape of ice and snow
We get the last instructions from our guide on how to behave on the glacier and then we finally start! A look back at the mighty peaks of Jungfrau and Mönch, and we walk down the Firn valley. In front of us lies the Aletsch glacier with its unmistakable moraines and in the distance we can already see our destination for the day: the Konkordia Hut. We hike through the thawing snow as a rope team and are happy about our waterproof hiking boots with non-slip soles.
At first, we are still clumsy on the rope, but soon we have found our rhythm. With almost every step, the landscape changes. Small waterfalls crash down from rugged mountains, crevasses give a view of the turquoise ice and we cross bubbling streams. We can hardly believe our luck: this remote, high-alpine area is the most impressive we have ever seen. Yes, we can agree: this is the most beautiful walk of our lives!
Transient Eternal Ice
The sun is beating down on our necks and we are starting to sweat. Our mountain guide shows us traces of the glacier melt due to the global warming. There is a glacier lake, which two weeks ago was twice as big as it is today. It is almost completely filled with boulders and rocks. The piled rocks on the edge of the glacier lie on ice, which melts at these warm temperatures. Sooner or later it creates a rock slide. We see the effects of the summer heat with our own eyes: the glacier seems to turn into water under our feet. We take a moment and wonder how many generations will get to experience this gigantic ice wonder.
The global climate change is causing the ice huge problems. Like all glaciers in Switzerland, the Great Aletsch Glacier is retreating slowly. In 1860 it was about 3 kilometres longer and the glacier was 200 meters higher in the area of the Aletsch Forest than it is today. With a length loss of 50 meters per year, the Aletsch Glacier has been particularly affected by the melting in recent years. Currently the glacier can lose up to 20 inches in height per day on hot days. At the end of this century, it will have almost disappeared. P>
Glaciers always melt in the summer but since the last small ice age in 1850 they are losing significantly more in mass. Blame is put on the rising temperatures. Low snowfalls in winters and heat records in the summer accelerate the decline of these white giants. Glaciers are among the best climate indicators and are key elements in monitoring climate change. P>
Cozy Cabin Evening
In the late afternoon, we arrive at a steep metal staircase. 467 steps separate us from the Konkordia Hut at 2850 meters above sea level, where we will spend the night. Once at the top we will be rewarded with a magnificent view of the glacier. We slip into the comfortable slippers offered by the hut and move into our dormitory. The Konkordia Hut has been around since 1877. Today it is a modern, comfortable cabin serviced by a family with three children. We do not shower. It is offered for a surcharge, but since there is no fresh water up here, we want to minimize the scarce resources as little as possible.
After the delicious dinner, we sit on the terrace and watch as the setting sun turns the clouds pink. Not far from us, a cheeky groundhog steals food leftovers from the compost. Not much is spoken. In the midst of these mighty mountains, we are filled with a sense of calm and deepest contentment. Night falls and soon we retire into bed exhausted.
Early start of the day
At 4.30am the alarm roused us from sleep. It is still a bit early for us, but the hearty breakfast brings us to life and a short time later we are saying goodbye to Konkordia Hut. At night, the water on the glacier is frozen so we strap on our crampons to safely move on the slippery surface. In the beginning we do not trust the iron and take a few careful steps. Quickly we realize that walking on the bare ice is really much easier now. Soon we march at the usual speed towards the valley. The Aletsch glacier is up to 1.5 kilometres wide at this point and we are not much more than five small, insignificant dots on a large sea of ice.
After 4.5 hours of hiking, we leave the glacier and climb up to the Märjelensee. We take a look back at the Ice Giant, where we experienced two unforgettable days. Then we walk across flowering alpine meadows to the Fiescheralp, from there we take the gondola back to the valley. Soon we are sitting in the train exchanging impressions of the hike. For all it's clear: the Aletsch glacier hike impresses from beginning to end by indescribable beauty. Probably because of the transience of the glacier, we recommend everyone to make this walk once in a lifetime!
If you are still hesitant, discover the Aletsch Glacier Walk virtually. Click here for a 360-degree tour!
Where can you book the Aletsch walk?
We recommend you do the hike with an experienced mountain guide. The mountain school "GrindelwaldSPORTS" has stood for Swiss quality and safety since 1898. All tours will be guided by IVBV qualified guides. The safety and personal care of the guests always comes first. P>