One long river of ice – that’s how Aletsch Glacier looks like. But it’s not just any other frozen river of ancient ice: it’s the biggest glacier in the Alps and is one of the biggest glaciers in all of Europe. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has no shortage of breathtaking sights that are unlike anywhere else in the world. The glacier’s appearance is so distinct that it’s easy to identify it among many of our planet’s glaciers.
You can be forgiven for thinking the Aletsch is just one huge meandering highway of ice, but it actually is made up of four glaciers of a smaller scale, all converging at the Konkordiaplatz (also known as Concordia), which is a huge and snowy flat area south of Jungfrau in Valais. You’ll know more of its geographical composition once you’ve finally hiked your way through the glacier – something you must do for the following reasons.
There’s Nowhere Else Like It
The scale of the Aletsch Glacier is so massive that it’s hard for you to know whether you’re actually making forward progress amidst the towering peaks and the vast, snowy terrain. It’s about 23 kilometers long, 1.5 kilometers wide, and covers an estimated 82 square kilometers, meandering around the foot of the Swiss Alps, which loom over the glacier at an average height of 4,000 meters. The ice is about 900 to a kilometer thick, which assures you that it is safe to tread on.
The picturesque and otherworldly Aletsch is special in that it presents beautiful and haunting panoramas while being hospitable enough to be explored by intrepid visitors. Other glaciers are not as accessible or safe enough for hikes.
It Won’t Be There Forever
Much has been written about the effects of climate change and, unfortunately, the Great Aletsch Glacier is not immune to the consequences of global warming. Although the glacier is so massive, the severity of the changing temperatures of the planet is such that it has decreased the glacier’s thickness at a rapid pace in the last few decades. In 1870, it was about 4 kilometers thick – now it’s around or less than a kilometer thick. As such, glaciology experts predicted that the Aletsch Glacier may disappear within the lifetime of today’s generation.
Considering this, it is wise to make room for a glacier hike soon before global warming makes the area unsuitable for hiking or, worse, disappear.
The Views Are Out of This World
One of the reasons people hike is that they want to experience nature and admire its wonders up close and personal. Those who hike the Aletsch also share similar motivations, which are abundantly rewarded as the area is not lacking in beautiful sceneries, with the changes in weather and light adding to the raw beauty of the glacier. If you’re looking for a change of perspective, you’ll get that while hiking at the Aletsch.
It’s A Different Hiking Experience
The route isn’t 100% ice – you’ll still be treading brown earth and grassy trails. However, once you get to the highlight of the trek, you’ll find that a glacier hike is truly a challenging and different experience. You’ll have to look out for cracks and crevasses and wear special shoes for the effort. It will also be more chilly than usual – you’ll probably think you’re hiking in the Himalayas instead of a glacier.
Despite the icy challenge, the Aletsch Glacier is one that even beginners can manage. You don’t have to be CrossFit fit to be able to hike at this iconic site. As long as you know the basics of hiking and follow the instructions of your guide, you’re good to go!
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