As the UNESCO comments:
The extension of the natural World Heritage property of Jungfrau – Aletsch – Bietschhorn (first inscribed in 2001), expands the site to the east and west, bringing its surface area up to 82,400 ha., up from 53,900. The site provides an outstanding example of the formation of the High Alps, including the most glaciated part of the mountain range and the largest glacier in Eurasia. It features a wide diversity of ecosystems, including successional stages due particularly to the retreat of glaciers resulting from climate change. The site is of outstanding universal value both for its beauty and for the wealth of information it contains about the formation of mountains and glaciers, as well as ongoing climate change. It is also invaluable in terms of the ecological and biological processes it illustrates, notably through plant succession. Its impressive landscape has played an important role in European art, literature, mountaineering and alpine tourism.
少女峰–阿雷奇冰河–毕奇霍恩峰: 自然世界遗产少女峰–阿雷奇冰河–毕奇霍恩峰（最早于2001年被列入）从东部扩展到西部，面积从53 900公顷扩展到82 400公顷。该遗址为阿尔卑斯高山——包括山脉最受冰河作用的部分和欧亚大陆山脉最大的冰川——的形成提供了一个杰出的实例。它以生态系统多样性为特点，包括特别受气候变化冰川融化而形成的演替阶段。该遗址因景色秀美、而且包含山脉和冰川形成以及正在发生的气候变化方面的丰富知识而具有突出的全球价值。在它尤其通过植物演替所阐释的生态和生物过程方面，该遗址的价值无法衡量。其令人难忘的景观在欧洲艺术、文化、登山和阿尔卑斯山旅游中起着重要作用。
In general, this protected area is like a natural school, teaching all its admirers about biology, geology and ecology. From the glacial features to the formation of the high Alps, from the diversity of flora and fauna to the demonstration of global climate change, from the amazing mountain scenery to the developed tourism, Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn is undoubtedly an area that one should visit at least once in a life time.
Whether you are a geologist, a biologist or simply a traveller, you will be deeply attracted by this area, not only because of its beauty, but also because of the knowledge it possesses. Do you know what the classical glacial features are? Do you know how and when the high Alps were formed? Can you recognize the diverse flora and fauna here? All the puzzles in your mind related to glacier and the high Alps will be answered here.
In fact, as early as 20 to 40 million years ago, the precesses of uplift and compression formed the Alps. The impressive north wall made up of the high Alps such as Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger would surely attract your attention once you’re at the viewpoint Eggishorn (the third and highest viewpoint of the three I’m gonna mention). These three high mountains, together with some other above-four-thousand-meter mountains make this area one of the most spectacular mountains regions in the Alps or even in the world. During millions of years, Aletsch glacier has “designed and constructed” many geomorphological features such as U-shaped glacier valleys, cirques, horn peaks, valley glaciers and moraines. From the three viewpoints I’m gonna write about, you will be able to see all these masterpieces created by nature. Another contribution that Aletsch glacier made is to the research of alpine and subalpine plant colonization and succession as well as to the research of global climate change. Because of the difficulty to access by the general public, a variety of ecosystems have evolved with little human intervention. A diversity of flora and fauna is represented in a range of habitats. With the retreating of the glacier, new substrates appear and the colonization of new plants also demonstrates an outstanding example of plant succession. Last but not least, the varying rates of the retreating of Aletsch glacier testify to not only to the history but also to the ongoing process of the global phenomenon – climate change.
Having said so much, I guess now you understand why this area has been inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage list. As I mentioned above, there are three viewpoints to look the glacier and the surrounding high mountains. You must be wondering is it necessary to go to all the three viewpoints? My answer is yes, because only in this way can you have a full pictures from the beginning to the ending of the glacier. The glacier is 22.6 km long and takes up 81.7 square kilometers. If you wanna have a full image of the whole glacier, then I’m afraid you will have to stand on a mountain which is more than 5 km high. Unfortunately, there’s no mountain like this in whole Europe, let alone in this region. According to my experience, from the three different viewpoints, the view is rather different, not only of the glacier but also of the surrounding environment. The three different viewpoints are close to the mountain stations of Moosfluh (2333m), Bergstation Bettmerhorn (2647m) and Bergstation Eggishorn (2869m), from where you will not only see different parts of the glacier but also the change of vegetation.
The three pictures shown above are the views of the Aletsch glacier from the three viewpoints. Can you see the difference? Actually, when I said I suggested you visit all the three viewpoints, I wanted you not only to have a complete image of the glacier but also a complete experience or knowledge. Do you know what I mean? Well, for me, traveling is not only an experience of appreciating what’s beautiful but also a process of learning and studying. We always admire the people who have travelled around the whole world, but if they have only seen the world without knowing about it, would we still admire them? Now let’s come back to the Aletsch Arena and see how you can have a complete experience.
As I said in the previous paragraph, there are in total three viewpoints. On your way to the first viewpoint Moosfluh, close to the connecting cable car station Riederalp (middle station), there is the Villa Cassel, originally a summer residence for the London banker Sir Ernest Cassel, now the headquarter of the Pro Natura Center Aletsch. Located next to it is the Alpine garden and from these two places, you will learn a lot about the Aletsch Forest, including various animals and plants. When you are at the second viewpoint 5 minutes away from Bergstation bettmerhorn, the info boards there will reveal to you a lot of secrets about the glacier. What you should also NOT miss here is the Exhibition “Glacier World Bettmerhorn”, in which with the help of interactive figures and tablets, 3-D images, information boards and models, you will soon become an “expert” of the glacier. The third viewpoint is located right next to the Bergstation Eggishorn. Being the highest viewpoint of the three, you can see easily on a sunny day the origin of the glacier – Jungfrau towards north as well as Mönch and Eiger. Towards south you will see clearly Monte Rosa massif, Matterhorn and Weisshorn. If you are fit and are not afraid of height, try to hike to the top of Eggishorn. It takes around 20 mins to hike there but please remember to wear comfortable hiking shoes. You wouldn’t want to miss such an precious moment of turning around and seeing all the famous mountains in Switzerland. If you are lucky, you can even get a glimpse of Mont Blanc.
Before starting our adventure, let’s learn some facts about the glacier as well as its surroundings.
- Surface: 81.7 km2
- Length: 22.6 km
- Depth: 900 m (the deepest or thickest part)
- Weight: 27 billion tons
- The glaciers of Aletsch, Jungfrau, Ewigschneefäld and Grünegg join together at the Konkordia Square and become the Great Aletsch Glacier.
- The glacier actually flows but is invisible to our eyes. At Konkordia Square the velocity is around 200 m/year while at the altitude of Bettmerhorn it reaches 80-90 m/year. The glacier doesn’t flow steadily and different parts also flow at different speeds. That’s how the glacier crevasses occur. Research shows that due to frictional resistance, the flow slows down on sides and underneath.
- On a hot summer, 60 cubic meters of water can leave the mouth of the glacier in one second and that’s 60 thousand liters of water per second! The glacier can diminish by 20 cm in thickness on a hot summer day and in one year, it can diminish by 12 meters. However, due to other factors, the actual number is smaller.
- If the whole glacier melts , the amount of water will be enough for each person in the world to have one liter per day for six years. The weight of the glacier is 27 billion tons, which is equal to the weight of 72.5 million Boeing-747 planes.
- In 10 years, 1 m of fresh snow is converted into 1 cm of glacial ice.
- Have you ever seen a glacier table before? It is formed by a large stone supported by a glacial column, the cooperation of the glacier and the sun.
- Have you ever wondered that in the world of glacial ice, are there living creatures? The answer is yes. The 1.5-2.5 mm long glacier fleas live on the glacier all year round and have a life span of around 3 years. They can survive up to -20 °C but can’t live when the temperature is higher than +10-12 °C.
Do you think these are interesting facts about the glacier? If so, I strongly recommend you visiting the multimedia exhibition “Glacier World Bettmerhorn” at Bettmerhorn. There you will learn much more in a more interactive way. In the following paragraph, I’ll give you a brief general introduction of my trip to the Aletsch Arena as well as some general information about visiting the three viewpoints. Afterwards, in three separate posts I’m gonna explain and introduce to you in detail my experiences and opinions of the three viewpoints.
This time, I spent in total 2 days plus one night in the Aletsch Arena and I simply fell in love with it. What an amazing area and I can assure you it’s absolutely NO less attractive than Zermatt or Jungfraujoch. If your condition permits, I suggest you spend three days here enjoying the three viewpoints, hiking, visiting the exhibitions, tasting the local products and watching the starry nights. Fortunately, when I was there in the Aletsch Arena they had the “attractive autumn sun deals” which includes 1) cableway tickets to all three Aletsch Arena viewpoints, 2) a meal, 3) train tickets (MGBahn Mörel – Betten Talstation – Fiesch – Fürgangen and 4) a range of sport and cultural activities. The deal is only valid from 18th September to 22nd October 2017 for viewpoints Moosfluh and Bettmerhorn and from 23rd October to 29th October 2017 for viewpoint Eggishorn. Please click here to read more about the prices (for an adult with half-price card it costs only 39 CHF) and other information about the package. If this deal is almost or already finished when you see my post, please click here to visit the official website of Aletsch Arena to check out some more attractive deals.
- If you wanna know about the schedule of the cable cars to the three viewpoints please click here.
- If you wanna know about the timetables of the cable cars to the three viewpoints please click here. (Please note that the schedule and timetables of the cable cars are different in Summer and Winter seasons)
- If you wanna know about the prices of the cable cars to the three viewpoints please click here. (Please note that there are various kinds of tickets available tailored to your needs. For example, there are single trip tickets, multiple-ride tickets, Aletsch+ hiking pass (a combined cableway and train ticket giving you unlimited travel in the Aletsch Arena. 1-day to 21-day tickets are available), one-day deals, group offers etc.).
- Anyway, all the information you need to plan your trip is on the official website of Aletsch Arena. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me or to contact the Aletsch Arena directly.
Now, finally please follow my steps to explore the first viewpoint – Moosfluh.
From my experience, the highlights of visiting Reideralp and Moosfluh are visiting the viewpoint, hiking along the lower part of the Aletsch glacier and through the Aletsch Forest as well as visiting the Villa Cassel (Pro Natura Center Aletsch) and the Alpine garden. Now I’ll explain to you the highlights one by one.
1. The viewpoint of Moosfluh
From the pictures above, you can see my journey from the lower cable car station Mörel to the top station Moosfluh as well as the viewpoint there. On my way up, I saw the villages first, and then Weisshorn appeared gradually, followed by Matterhorn and the Monte Rosa massif. What a peaceful life people are living in such a quiet village. You can either have a look around here in the village or walk a bit and take another cable car to Moosfluh. The moment I got off at the Moosfluh cable car station, I could already see part of the glacier, so marvelous and bright, like a snow-river that flows peacefully, quietly, patiently and elegantly.
From the cable car station there are basically two viewpoints. The official one is probably on your left which looks like a crown. From there you can see a large part of the glacier without any obstacles. What’s also worth noticing is the intelligent sightseeing telescope. As you can see from the last two pictures in the gallery above, the moment you move it towards certain mountains, it tells you what the mountains are. It’s easy to recognize the Monte Rosa massif but do you know the names of the peaks within the massif? The telescope will tell you what they are called. The path on your right is probably not an official viewpoint but the reason I like it is that you can have very nice photos of yourself taken from there. As for the official viewpoint, the floor is flat and if you take a picture of a person, the person might block half of the view of the glacier. However, at the “viewpoints” on the path on your right, you can sit somewhere lower and ask your friend or someone else to stand on a higher rock and take your photo. In this way, your body won’t block any part of the glacier that you can see from here. I love taking photos and that’s why I’m always searching for the best spot for photo shooting.
2. Hiking from Moosfluh to Hohfluh and to Riederfurka
There are several reasons why I took this hiking route and why I strongly recommend it to you. First of all, following this route, you are actually walking along the lower part of the glacier and you can almost see the end of it, which you can not see even from the viewpoint. Secondly, you will experience and see the change of flora along your way. If you have enough time to take a detour to the Aletsch Forest, you will not only meet the oldest trees in Switzerland but, if lucky, also encounter some wild animals. Thirdly, while you are hiking, the three huge mountains are your guide. Can you imagine how beautiful a hike is when the Monte Rosa massif, Matterhorn and Weisshorn are always in front of you, leading you to the right direction? Fourthly, by the end of this hiking route, you will be at the Villa Cassel, originally a summer residence for the London banker Sir Ernest Cassel, now the headquarter of the Pro Natura Center Aletsch. Visiting the exhibition inside as well as the Alpine garden located next to it will surely turn you into an “expert” of the flora and fauna around the glacier world. Last but not least, who would give up the opportunity of breathing the clear and fresh air of the high Alps while relaxing both mentally and physically during an easy walk? Though the hiking takes around 1.5 hours, the road is neither steep nor difficult to walk on. As long as you don’t have any serious lung or heart problems, this route should be suitable for you (only the last section of the route, where you need to descend from Riederfurka to Villa Cassel, might be a little steep and slippery). Besides, there are numerous wooden benches at various viewing points facing all directions. Where else would you be able to take a rest accompanied only by the great mountains, green and yellow grass and trees as well as the wild animals?
Given so many reasons, are you thinking about taking this route already? If so, I suggest you take your time, have a detour here and there, take a break, sit on some of the benches and look around. In this way you will truly understand why taking this path is like living your life. Reaching the destination is far less important than enjoying the views in your journey. If you happen to be here in autumn like I did, except nature itself, who else can you think of is capable of and so skillful in painting such a masterpiece with so many colors?
3. Villa Cassel
(Please note that you need to pay an admission fee to visit the exhibition and the multi-media show (8 CHF for an adult) in the villa and from 16th October 2017 to 15th June 2018, Pro Natura Center Aletsch is closed. It will reopen on June 16th, 2018 with a comprehensive new program of excursions, courses, exhibitions, etc. and remain open till October 21st, 2018.)
The Villa Cassel was built between 1900 and 1902 by the London banker Sir Ernest Cassel as a summer residence. Judging by its location, in the heart of the magnificent Aletsch region, you can tell why he made this choice. Also because of the favorable location, so close to the Aletsch Forest nature reserve and the great Aletsch glacier, after serving as a hotel for 45 years, this villa was acquired by Pro Natura in 1973. Three years later the group opened the first nature conservation center in Switzerland here. After your visit you will understand why the villa is called the bridge of nature and culture.
In the villa, there is an exhibition center, a tea room and a book corner. The exhibition center features a winter room, a summer room, familiarizing you with the UNESCO World Heritage site and its inhabitants, as well as a third room dedicated to the history of the villa. Please note that the information is only available in German and French so if you only speak English it could be a bit troublesome. Also, only the first floor is accessible to visitors because the upper floors serve as a hotel and are only accessible to the hotel guests. I would recommend you taking a seat, having a cup of tea and maybe a piece of cake in the tea room after some hiking. This special tea experience recalls the times of Sir Ernest Cassel.
Outside the villa is the Alpine garden, where you will see all plant groups of the Aletsch region of more than 300 species. You will be astonished when you learn how they adapt to the extreme conditions. You can also join specific tours to experience the Aletsch region even more. For example, the “Wild Game Observation” (on the trail of chamois, deer and marmots), the “Aletsch Forest nature experience” (a visit to the oldest trees in Switzerland), the “fascination of the Aletsch Glacier” (an impressive tour across the largest glacier in the Alps, accompanied by a mountain guide) and “To holy waters” (an exciting excursion covering the utilization of the water in the Aletsch region). For more information such as booking the guided tours, booking the excursions, booking the hotel rooms etc. please click here.
The Pro Natura group focuses on an intensive experience of nature as an important prerequisite for increasing protection of our natural environment. As said on the brochure, “We want to inspire our guests to explore nature and its secrets, because people are prepared to protect only what they know.”
After visiting the Villa Cassel, I went down to Mörel from Riederalp cable car station and finished my visit to the first viewpoint Moosfluh. The second destination of my trip is Bettmerhorn viewpoint and if you are fit enough, you can even hike from Moosfluh to Bettmerhorn directly. For me personally, I like the experience of taking cable cars so I chose to go from Mörel to Betten Talstation (by train) and went from there to the middle cable car station Bettmeralp. In order to catch the cable car to go up to Bettmerhorn station you will need to walk through the village of Bettmeralp and do pay attention to the chapel called St. Maria zum Schnee (St. Maria to the snow), one of the most photographed chapels in Switzerland.
In my next post, I’ll focus on my experience of visiting the second viewpoint Bettmerhorn as well as what I saw on the way. The highlights are undoubtedly the Bettmerhorn viewpoint, the exhibition “Glacier World Bettmerhorn”, St. Maria zum Schnee Chapel, the village Bettmeralp, the starry night as well as the delicious local food. Below you will see some teaser pictures for my next post.