Our trip to the glacier of Aletsch from Riederalp…

Since there were several excursions which the hubby and I did which I have yet to share … it was therefore a little daunting thinking of where to start. “Which excursion would I share first?” – was the question which the hubby kept asking me. My answer has always been … “I dunno, I’ll see how my mood feels lah“. And it is not easy to get the mood to write about them to come … when I think of all the photos that I will have to sort through first, select, format and then upload … to tie in with the story or any interesting little details to share … which by now (mostly for the earlier excursions) I somehow have forgotten — the age factor lah so memory no longer as sharp as it used to be! hehehe … 🙂

But as good advice goes … the best place to start is always from the beginning! So although I had initially thought of sharing our most recent excursion through the beautiful grapevines in the scenic region of Lavaux first … on second thought I decided to start with the last excursion that the hubby and I did in which I did not manage to share before flying off to Singapore for the Hari Raya … which was … our second attempt at hiking to the Aletsch glacier! Better to get the earlier excursions over first … so that it gets easier as I start to write on the more recent excursions, no?

And so here goes …

For our second trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Aletsch this year, we decided to start at Riederalp, rather than at Bettmeralp or Fiesch (as most visitors to the glaciers would do), as we wanted to walk across the suspension bridge above the gorges of Massa (on the path leading from Riederalp to Belap), formed by the glacier runoff.

Unfortunately, we only managed to catch the 9:20 train and arrived at Riederalp at 11:50. And so by the time we took the cable car up to the mountains … it was already past midday, which would have made it a little late for us to hike to the edge of the Aletsch glacier if we had still insisted on crossing the suspension bridge first (which is on the opposite direction to the glacier). So in the end we decided to head straight for the glacier … but not before making a slight detour to visit a manor-like villa perched on one side of the mountain, at Riederfurka, and which now houses an educational centre of Pro Natura (Switzerland’s oldest association for the conservation of nature) and a museum, together with an alpine garden (outside).

It was quite a nice day for hiking to the edge of glacier … and it was really lovely walking along the edge towards the glacier. But because of the time constraint … we did not go as far as we would have liked to in order to have an even better view of the Aletsch glacier. But still … at least this time we did get to see the actual glacier and not just a picture of it at a bus stop as we did when we tried doing so via Fiesch! hehehe … 🙂

Enjoys the photos (click to enlarge) …

Arriving at Mörel … after changing train at Brig. From here, we had to walk up a street several metres away …

… to get to here … the Luftseilbahn, a cable car station that would take us approximately some 1,300 metres higher up the mountain.

Taking the cable car. Leaving the halfway point (left picture) at Ried-Mörel … and heading for the top of the mountain.

Arriving near the end of our cable car ride.

And the view … of another cable about to arrive at the mountain top station… against the backdrop of such gorgeous mountains.

From the cable car station we then had to make our way up to the start of the national park, passing through the village of Riederalp.

Shortly after … the silhouette of an elegant mansion appeared on the horizon: Villa Cassel. This manor was built in 1901-02 by a wealthy banker from London, Sir Ernest Cassel, who had fallen in love with the area, after having been advised by his doctor to stay in the area for health-related purposes.

Sir Ernest Cassel liked the area so much that after having had a manor built (where he would spend his summers) he even paid for a path to be set up (in fact, excavated over some stretches) along the mountain (the Riederhorn), some several kilometres long, now called Path Cassel. We walked along this path for some time before deciding that we had to turn back so that we could start on our hike towards the glacier.

We walked past Villa Cassel again and then took the panoramic path (marked as Panoramaweg 39 on maps). We made our way into what is considered to be the second natural wonder of the area after the glacier, the forest of Aletsch.

The forest of Aletsch was included in Switzerland’s list of protected areas already in 1933. In 1983, the forest (as well as all the surrounding areas, i.e. mountains plus glaciers … plural because there are several other glaciers near that of Aletsch) was added to the Federal Inventory of Natural Landscapes and Monuments … thereby acknowledging its unique character.

As the forest is protected under strict conservation rules, the policy is to let nature follow its course … which means that fallen trees are left as they are …

… unless of course, the trunks happen to obstruct the path … in which case the chain saw is brought in! Interestingly, some of the trees along the path leading to the glacier from Riederfurka are very, very old as the forest emerged a little after the retreat of the glacier which covered the area where the trees stand (… or lay cut to be more precise) in the panorama above … some 10,000 years ago! The trees growing in that area are mostly arolla pines and larches.

Hmmm … now you understand why the path we took is called the panoramic path. In fact, upon spotting the glacier … the hubby got all excited, immediately swinging his camera into action … as did I, of course … hehehe 🙂 A close-up shot of the emerging glacier (right picture).

Stopping to admire the glacier and also to take some shots further along the path ((left)… and hubby busy taking photos of Aletsch as we made another photo stop during the long walk.

If you do get tired or hungry from your long walk to the glacier … well you can take a rest on boulders or rocks like the one above to rest (and have your packed lunch)  … while you enjoy the view. [For info, the white and red stripes indicates that it is a mountain path and therefore that a minimum of caution must be exercised including wearing proper walking shoes!]

Alternatively …

… there are benches at an area which has been dedicated as a picnic area with a view of the glacier, too.

After lunch, we continued with our walk.

To be precise, this stretch of the Panoramaweg is called the path of the moraines (Moränenweg in German) as it leads to the small mound we see on the left, called a lateral moraine. Lateral moraines are geological formations that consist of rock debris and sediment that came off (mainly through erosion and avalanches) from the mountains beside a glacier over the centuries and were deposited as till along the sides of the glacier … thus forming the ridge we see on the left picture when the glacier retreated.

Just so that you know … although the moraines would make for good photographic vantage points … it is strictly forbidden to walk on the lateral moraine at Aletsch!

Instead there is a path for one to walk on in the little valley beside the lateral moraine (left picture). From there we continued to make our way … trying to get closer to the edge of the glacier.

If you look carefully at the picture above, you will notice that the mountain on the left shows a lighter hue roughly from mid section. This is because until 1860 (which was when the last mini glaciation period ended in this region) the glacier used to cover this paler coloured stretch up to the green area, some 100 metres higher. In fact, this picture shows the rather dramatic extent to which the glacier has retreated because you can clearly see that the tail of the glacier (the greyish part on the left) is no longer covered with ice.

The forest of Aletsch is also home to a rich and diversified fauna. The species that live in the area include the chamois, the red deer, the alpine ibex, the squirrel, the badger, the red fox, different types of hares, the ermine, the white weasel, the stone marten, the marmot, etc, together with 65 different species of birds and several reptiles. There have been spottings of a lynx reported in the area too … but do not let yourself be scared off by this as the lynx is considered to be totally inoffensive to humans! Anyhow it has only been spotted very rarely … so the chance of coming face to face with a lynx is extremely slim lah … fortunately. 🙂

This photo of yours truly was taken at the furthest point (that we did) before we decided to make a u-turn as it was getting a little late. It would have been interesting to go further … but … that will be for another visit to the area lah! And rest assured we will go back!!!

Errr … actually we already made plan to go back to the area this coming weekend … and this time round … we decided to spend the night in the mountain area so that we can do longer walks! Yahoooo … 🙂

Now … a photographic account of a trip to the glacier of Aletsch cannot be complete without … some close-up pictures of this impressive mass of ice belonging to the king of European glaciers that advances at speeds varying between 80-90 metres and 200 metres a year depending on the location!

The elongated and curvy stripes seen on this panorama are median moraines. And the small, pyramidal ice dunes on the picture on the right (near Chazulecher) are formed as a result of the ice melting more quickly towards the rims of the stripes of ice.

Some of the rock debris left after the retreat of the glacier thousands and thousands of years ago scattered along the path near the ridge …

… which we took on our long trek back to the cable car station … hoping to get there before it got dark!

And as usual, the hubby … ever environmentally-conscious … stopped several times along the way … to pick up the litters thrown by others and placed them in the little plastic that he had picked up earlier … so that he could throw them in a proper dustbin! Ahhh … that’s my Ta! 🙂

Making our way down towards the cable car station down at the village of Riederalp.

One of the guest houses on the mountain that visitors to the area could choose to stay in … which has a terrace that has a magnificent view of the Alps ….

… including this famous mountain seen trying to pierce through the clouds … the Matterhorn!

But for us … when it comes to lodging, the early twentieth century Villa Cassel is our choice of accommodation for this weekend, of course! 🙂

Taking the cable car down back to Ried-Mörel with the beautiful Valley of Rhône below us (which joins Vallée de Conches, called Gomsertal in German).

And so … this sums up our little adventure trying to walk to the edge of Alestch glacier … and across the suspension bridge (alas … which was not meant to be!)

Will we succeed to do both this weekend? Your guess is as good as mine … although the hubby and I seriously hope we will. But if we do not … well, I will not be too disheartened … because it just means that … we are supposed to come back to the area for the third time lah! hehehe … 🙂

Other entries on this blog related to the Aletsch area:

Other entry on this blog related to the Matterhorn:

3 thoughts on “Our trip to the glacier of Aletsch from Riederalp…

  1. Pingback: Outline of my trail on the Panoramaweg, from Belalp to Oberaletschhütte and back to Belalp « à la mode de chez nous

  2. Pingback: Why add another blog to the millions already around? « paulzan

  3. Pingback: Why add another blog to the millions already around? « paulzan

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