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。
The content following this paragraph till the horizontal line above Chapter 1 is the same as written at the beginning of the first and second of the three posts about Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn region. It mainly focuses on the various values of this area (why this region has been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list), the highlights of visiting the three viewpoints, some basic facts or knowledge about Aletsch glacier, a brief introductuion of my own visit to Aletsch Arena in autumn 2017, and some practical information such as the schedule, timetables, prices of the cable cars and some special deals within this Arena. If you have already read my first post “Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn – Viewpoint Moosfluh” or the second one “Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn (2/3) – Viewpoint Bettmerhorn“, please jump directly to the beginning of Chapter 1 below the horizontal line.
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 let’s start our adventure of exploring the third and highest viewpoint of the three – Eggishorn.
1. General introduction of my visit to Eggishorn
Being the highest viewpoint within the Aletsch Arena, Eggishorn is also the most popular destination for curious people who want to admire the greatness of the greatest glacier in the Alps. This is the only viewpoint of the three, from which you can see the beginning of the glacier, have a clear view of Aletschhorn, Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger and even take a glance of the brother of Aletsch glacier, Fiescher glacier. In general, the highlights here are the 360° panorama viewpoint, the Switzerland Grand Tour photo spot, Energy spot Pleasure and Clarity, and the hiking experience to the summit of Eggishorn. I have to remind you that if you wanna hike to the summit of Eggishorn, you need to wear comfortable hiking shoes and suitable mountain clothes (such as thermal jacket and windbreaker) because on the top it could get quite cold and windy and the ridgeway leading there could be a disaster if you only wear normal sports shoes.
2. Viewpoint next to Bergstation Eggishorn (2869m)
Though this is the most popular and busiest viewpoint of the three, there’s enough space for you for have a quiet moment of your own. Why are the energy points here called Pleasure and Clarity? Once you are here you will know the reason. I personally have never done anything like meditation before but here in Aletsch Arena, I decided to give it try because everything around me looks so magical and what’s the harm of making some movements and feeling the power of nature? The mysterious silence, the clear mountain air, the warmth of the sun, this is probably what heaven feels like.
I remember I went down from the cable car station to a viewpoint which was located a bit down on the left side of the Grand Tour photo frame. That point was a bit outside the main road but because of its special location, my view of the glacier was totally free from the obstruction of Eggishorn itself. There was also a big stone like a table for me to sit on. Right in front of me from the bottom to the top were the wonderful Aletsch glacier, Rothorn (3271m), Zenbächenhorn (3386m), Geisshorn (3740m), Dreieckhorn (3810m) and then the magnificent Aletschhorn (4193m). I turned my eyes from left to right and I saw clearly the Monte Rosa massif (with Dufourspitze reaching 4,634m), Matterhorn (4478m), Weisshorn (4506m), Bettmerhorn (2858m), (Aletschhorn and the surrounding peaks that I mentioned right above), Jungfrau (4158m), Jungfraujoch (3454m), Mönch (4107m), Eiger (3970m), Finsteraarhorn (4274m) and many more. If you wanna learn about the names of the surrounding mountains, there’s an info board right next to the cable car station where both the mountain names and heights are listed. For me personally, the names of the mountains or their heights don’t matter anymore because there are so many of them. Certain mountains are more popular due to certain reasons but they are all the creation of nature and they should all be admired and appreciated.
There’s another viewpoint that I’d like to mention to you if you wanna have a photo of the glacier with yourself. Can you scroll up a bit and take a look at the first picture in this chapter? Right on the left of the energy point can you see a few steps leading to a small platform? That’s the viewpoint I’m talking about. It is difficult to see from the picture but behind the energy point is the Aletsch glacier and once you are on the viewing platform you will have a wonderful view of it (compared to the viewpoint I mentioned above you can also see the whole upper part of the glacier from here but when you take a picture of it it’s a bit difficult to avoid involving the mountain Eggishorn itself). From my own experience, if you sit on the edge, and you ask your friend or someone else to stand there and take a picture of you, you can see the whole glacier without any obstruction from your own body. It was also here that I met an old man who seemed to be a local of this region. He pointed out to me which the surrounding mountains are and told me that forty years ago the glacier was much higher and the edge of it reached what now seems to be the dividing line of the brown and grey parts of the mountain. I guess this must be an vital area providing materials and evidence for the study and research of plant colonization, succession and global climate change.
Another highlight around the viewpoint Bergstation Eggishorn is the Switzerland Grand Tour photo frame. First of all, do you know what is the Grand Tour of Switzerland? The Grand Tour of Switzerland combines the highlights of Switzerland with a beautiful, scenic route, which include 45 top attractions, all twelve of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and two biospheres. Through the frame, you can see the upper part of the glacier as well as the high mountains such as Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger. Don’t forget to have your own photo taken within the frame, it’s one of the most popular photo points around this viewpoint. Do you feel this trip is too easy for you? Do you want something more challenging? If so, hiking to the summit viewpoint Eggishorn is a must and your reward is a better view of Jungfrau or even a glimpse of Mont Blanc.
3. Viewpoint Eggishorn
Have you ever seen the scene in a movie or a documentary of a mountain peak topped by a cross with yellow-beak black mountain crows flying back and forth? Can you imagine how you would feel in that atmosphere? Solitude? Loneliness? Fear? Excitement? Peace? Power? Accomplishment? Here on the summit of Eggishorn, you will experience it by yourself.
The first and most important thing that I wanna remind you of is to wear comfortable mountain hiking shoes. It will probably take you 15-20 mins to “climb” up to the summit and the mountain ridgeway can be divided into 3 parts. From the cable car station along the mountain ridge till the point before you need to hike up, I would say this section was rather easy to hike on. This path was broad and it’s mainly made up of big rocks so it’s not really slippery. Then you need to hike up to the summit. I would divide the up-going path into two parts, the first one mainly made up of soil while the second one mainly made up of rocks. The first part can be a bit slippery because of the sand and small stones but it was not steep so it’s quite easy to walk on. However, on the second part, you need to actually climb a bit. The path wasn’t that obvious so you need to follow the signs marked by two white stripes with a red one in between (as shown in the gallery above). Do avoid those shiny or unstable-looking rocks because they can be quite slippery and can move away when you step on them. Anyway, the top tip is to be cautious because if by accident you fall, even if you survive can you imagine how painful it would be to land on heavily on these sharp hard rocks? Now you’re probably wondering whether it’s worth it going to the summit or not. Well, what I can tell you is that you will have a better angle of watching Jungfrau and the Fiescher glacier, you can see the dark blue lakes like jewels in the valley between Eggishorn and Strahlhorn, and if you are lucky, you might even have a glimpse of Mont Blanc.
For me personally, this hiking experience is as precious as the view on the summit. I was not born in Switzerland and I could say this was my opening ceremony of taking more challenging hiking trails. I have done some easy hiking on many mountains but to walk on the mountain ridge and to actually do some climbing, this is the first time. I’m afraid of height and whenever I looked down at the valley, I could feel my cold sweat… The moment I returned from the summit, my legs were basically trembling. However. this journey turned out to be so adventurous because I had not done much hiking like this before. If you were born here or you are experienced in mountain ridgeway hiking, this is probably just a piece of cake for you. I was indeed shocked when I saw parents carrying their children on their backs passing through me… How courageous are they! I even left my backpack at the starting point of the route because I was afraid it would drag me down…I was told by the tourism office that this was an easy hiking route and after I returned to Bergstation Eggishorn, I was sure that they had overestimated my ability or experience. I told my friend on the summit that this would be the hiking of the year and I wouldn’t do anything like this again in a few months. Nevertheless, from the next morning on, I’ve been thinking about it. It seems that the hike to the summit of Eggishorn turned to be a fairy in my mind and now she’s “alluring” me to try out other mountain ridges. I guess this is the charm and power of nature, or to be more precise, the Alps.
Having read so many texts and seen so many pictures, what do you think of the Aletsch glacier? What do you think of Aletsch Arena? What do you think of the three viewpoints? What do you think of the great Alp mountains? What do you think of the villages? What do you think of the hiking trails? To truly understand them, the best way is to come and experience them by yourself. You can see, can hear, can smell and can feel. Actually, my next goal is to come to Aletsch Arena again next summer and to hike from the first viewpoint Moosfluh till the last viewpoint Eggishorn without taking any cable cars. Maybe it sounds a bit crazy for a beginner like me, but I believe in a year I’ll be ready. What’s a better way of understanding nature than getting close to it and immersing yourself in it? As I said at the beginning, if you wanna fully explore all the three viewpoints, plan at least 3 days here in this arena. Next summer, maybe I’ll come across you at the viewpoints or maybe on the ridgeway between them. Either way, I wish you an unforgettable journey.