24 Sep Best of Switzerland: Hiking Along the Wonderful Aletsch Glacier
Time blurs memories and I can’t tell when my love affair with ice and glaciers began.
I suspect it’s related to my passion for the immensity of the desert, perhaps because of Peter O’Toole and the memorable Lawrence of Arabia, a movie that caught the heart of every one of my generation.
Walking along the Aletsch Glacier
I had my first encounter with the Aletsch Glacier last year when I spent a few days in the Jungfrau region.
From the Jungfraujoch railway station, the highest in Europe at 3,454 m (11,332 ft), the view on the surrounding peaks of the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch and on the upper Aletsch Glacier was astounding.
I was thrilled to finally see the largest glacier in the Alps (and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001), and I knew that I wanted to see it again, perhaps from a different perspective.
On the way back to Milan from the village in Switzerland where I grew up, I stopped along the way at the Aletsch Arena, a large mountain resort overlooking the glacier.
The Aletsch Arena, or Switzerland Wonderland
I anticipated it would be a beautiful scenery but once I stepped off the cable car in Bettmerhorn and walked just a few steps, I was literally mind-blown.
The Aletsch Glacier, like a wide tongue of white ice, was standing right at my feet, the crevasses making it similar to a big, natural lace.
I started the hike along the Aletsch trail, bordering the glacier and leading towards the Märjelen glacier lake. Calling it a scenic walk is an understatement. It is one of the most beautiful and unique hikes you can do in the Alps, and the best of it is that you don’t need to be particularly fit.
From Betterhorn – the arrival of the cableway -, the path descends gently. The rocks, with their ever-changing shapes on the right, and the meandering stretch of ice on the left. Far away, on the background, the white peak of the Jungfrau, the place I named ‘white wonderland‘.
I was grateful that the hike is easy because I’m shamefully out of shape. Nothing better than not having to think too much at my feet, focusing on the breathtaking scenery, catching it with my camera first and then fixing it in my memory.
The trail was surprisingly quiet. Only a few hikers now and then, and the glaciers seemed to be there only for me.
I felt blessed, and a little stupid.
How can I have possibly ignored until now that such a breathtaking scenery is at a stone’s throw from Milan?
All right… Better late than never. The Valais region, bordering northwest Italy along the Alps, has been on my radar for a while. Saas-Fee, Zermatt, the charming little town of Evolène, and now… The Aletsch Glacier. No doubt. I’ll be back soon!
How to get to the Aletsch Arena:
The easiest access point is from Betten, about 12 km from Brig, which can be reached by train (1 every hour). »»» Info on the Swiss Rail Timetable.
In Betten, the cable car connects Bettmeralp in a few minutes. The car-free town of Bettmeralp is the ideal departure for many hikes, but if you don’t feel fit enough to undertake the ascent, there is also the cable car from Bettmeralp to Bettmerhorn, with its breathtaking views of the Aletsch Glacier. »»» More on the Aletsch Arena Cableways
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