In winter a ski paradise, in summer an oasis of peace. The grassy slopes of the Eggishorn massif are dotted with paths, trails and scenic routes. The main backdrop for all excursions is the Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in the Alps. If you want to experience this magical atmosphere in the Swiss Aletsch arena for yourself, let us introduce you to the highlights.
The Aletsch Glacier has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. It stretches from the saddle between the Jungfrau and Mönch peaks at an altitude of approximately 3,450 m up the valley to the upper reaches of the Rhone. The main part of the glacier originates in the Konkordiaplatz valley, where it reaches a width of 1,5 kilometres and a depth of 900 metres. As is the case with other glaciers, the Aletsch glacier is facing problems with rising temperatures. It has retreated by almost 3 kilometres since 1880 and today only about 30 % of the original glacier remains.
Head into the area from the Rhone River, from one of the three railway-connected towns of Mörel, Betten and Fiesch, which are linked at an altitude of around 2,000 metres by the three tourist resorts of Riederalp, Bettmeralp and Fiescheralp. Transport is provided by a system of cable cars, which are the only means of communication in the area. The villages on these sunny southern slopes are therefore without roads and instead of cars, only cows grazing in summer with their bells ringing. While the Bettmeralp has traditional wooden village houses, the Fiescheralp is newer and has the character of hotel complexes.
TIP: In the Aletsch Glacier area you will also find one of the popular suspension bridges. It is 124 metres long and arches 80 metres over the Massaschlucht Gorge. You can walk across the bridge if you go on a trek from Belalp to Riederalp. You will walk through a beautiful and peaceful landscape through the forests that surround the trail.
Vast meadows flow seamlessly into rocky ridges that reach heights of up to 2,900 metres. In summer, you can reach the highest points with four cable cars (two from Riederalp and one each from Bettmeralp and Fiescheralp). The best view of the entire glacier is offered by the cable car from Fiescheralp, which takes you to the 2,850-metre-high summit of the Eggishorn. Here you can refresh yourself in the Horli-Hitta hut or arrange a luxurious sleep under the stars at the Cube Aletsch – Million Stars Hotel. From CHF 450, overnight stays for two are available here: enjoy the spectacular views, starry evenings and morning dawns with wine on the terrace or in the hot tub.
If the weather is stable and sunny, you can also walk to the Eggishorn on foot along a nice ridge leading from the Bettmerhorn. The three-kilometre route takes three hours and climbs 373 metres. In about half an hour you will stand on the summit of the Bettmerhorn (2647 m), followed by a rather exposed but well-secured section. After the Elselick saddle, the path climbs again to the summit of the Eggishorn, from where you can return down by cable car. Before you set off from the Bettmerhorn, you can spend some time in the Gletscherwelt Museum, where you can learn about the development of the glacier and the former life of the local settlements in an interactive way.
The most beautiful two-day trek, which can also be done with children, starts at Moosfluh, where the cable car from Riederalp takes you, and leads along the western slope of the Eggishorn to the Märjelen Gletscherstube. The route first climbs up the ridge towards the top station of the cable car on the Bettmerhorn. All the way, you can enjoy the views of the glacier and the flowering alpine meadows; from the Hohbalm crossroads, the mountain path, which is rocky in places, keeps its altitude and goes around the ridge into a side valley to the destination, Lake Märjelensee. On the first day, you will cover just under eight kilometres with an elevation gain of 350 metres, a journey of some five hours.
The Märjelen Gletscherstube is an excellent retreat for all two-day sightseeing tours with views of the Aletsch Glacier. The cosy restaurant offers the best rösti, delicious soups and a proper Jägertee to warm you up. Then upstairs there are three bunk dorms with a total of 34 sleeping places and a simple washroom. Half-board accommodation with duvets costs CHF 70 (children under 12 for CHF 51) and must be booked in advance at www.gletscherstube.ch.
We wouldn't delay too long a visit to the Aletsch Glacier, as the glaciers are really melting at an increasing rate. We marvel at the black-and-white photos in the Märjelen Gletscherstube restaurant – while this mountain hut by the Märjelensee Lake once stood within sight of the Aletsch Glacier's lateral descent; today all that remains of this descent are ice-polished slippery rocks, which you can jump down at your own risk to the main thrust of Europe's longest and largest glacier. The melting ice creates magnificent caves through which daylight shines and the ice plays with all shades of white and blue. Be sure not to enter the caves, you never know when the next piece will break off!
On the second day there are several options to continue to Fiescheralp. With the kids in good shape, stable sunny weather and dry trails, it's probably best to head up Eggishorn early in the morning. The path first climbs up the ridge to the Tällisee lakes, then follows the hillside before climbing up slightly exposed terrain to the Hörli-Hitta hut. From here you can take a comfortable cable car ride down.
A more leisurely route leads past the Gletscherstube along Lake Märjelensee and descends past the ruined shepherds' huts to Unteres Tälli. Here you have beautiful views of the valley of the neighbouring Fieschergletscher glacier. The green pastures here contrast sharply with the grey rocks and the scenery is reminiscent of the most spectacular shots from Reunion Island or New Zealand. The mountain trail later joins the wagon road and also takes you to Fiescheralp (about 2.5 hours), from where you can continue to Bettmeralp and Riederalp.
What if it snows? That can happen anytime here in the high mountains. Although September is traditionally the season of sunny days, golden larches and red meadows covered with blueberries, we got about 30 centimetres of wet snow overnight! This then closes off most of the area's roads as they cease to be safe, and the only way to get to or from the lodge is through a mile-long dimly lit supply tunnel. It turned out that going through the tunnel was a huge attraction for the kids. In the middle of the tunnel is a sort of rest stop with a chapel. You can buy a candle here and light it. Behind the tunnel is the abandoned Oberes Tälli farmhouse and the carriage road leads us further towards Fiescheralp again (about 1,5 hours).