Dave Golokhov – An easy way to put your life in perspective is to visit the Great Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland. Look at it this way: Most of us would be lucky to live for a century while the Aletsch Glacier has survived for nearly 18,000 years.
While it’s still 23 kilometers long – the longest in the Alps - it continues to shrink in size, so you might want to see it before it’s gone. We went on an expedition into the Swiss Alps to Aletsch Arena to take in the natural wonder. Read on to join us on the journey.
Seeing The Great Aletsch Glacier
There are a number of ways to see the glacier and the best is a combination from near and from afar. The long-distance view is easy to see from the top of the Alps. There are cable cars that go to the top of Bettmerhorn or Eggishorn where you can watch with awe from several viewpoints. Afterwards, you’ll want to get up close to appreciate the 27-billion-ton marvel. You can hike either from the top of Eggishorn down or straight from Hotel Alpina to get much closer to the incredible block of ice. It’s a 90-minute hike to the glacier but those more advanced can spend an extra 30-40 minutes and get all the way down to a cave opening.
You can’t enter but at least there you’ll get a peak underneath the icy landscape and see the flow of water, which constantly streams under ice.
There are also guided hikes that take you on top of the glacier, but you’ll have to hire an expert to climb it.
Gletscherstube (Mountain Hut)
If you are making the hike to the glacier, it’s nice to know that there is a rest stop/restaurant along the way. It’s among the most remote restaurants in the world as it literally sits on a mountain on its own by the glacier. There are no roads or methods of transport in sight, and it’s about a 60-minute walk to the nearest cable car.
Gletscherstube serves no frills comfort food. Anything with melted cheese on it is ideal – especially if it’s frigid outside – while the macaroni is the house special. It’s perfect if you’re going to the glacier because you can make the hike, take in the scenery and have a nice lunch break before heading back. Keep in mind that the hut is only open from July to October.
Hotel Alpina is a quality hub for those who plan to hike to the glacier (in the summer) or ski (in the winter). The rooms are comfortable and clean, and the amenities are better than expected considering it is a remote hotel located at the top of a mountain (Fiescheralp). Look out your room and you’ll see that you’re at the cloud line but even so, there’s a lovely restaurant, hot tub, sauna and internet.
You’ll have to take a cable car up to get there but that is part of the charm.
There are three ways down the Fiescheralp: Hike, cable car or parasail. All three are perfectly safe but only one will stick with you as a memory for the rest of your life.
Although gliding off a mountain and flying as high as 1,000 meters above the ground might seem dangerous, Flug Taxi and teacher Xandi make the entire flight seamless. After all, they do thousands of flights per year, which includes the nearly 800 that Xandi does alone.
There’s really nothing to it as you’ll be strapped-in with an expert that’ll help you take off and enjoy your 15, 30 or 45-minute ride. The bird’s-eye view is incredible as you’ll see glaciers, mountains, valleys and The Matterhorn – if you’re lucky – before landing safe and sound down at the bottom. Make sure you bring a GoPro.