Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch
Dominique Balmer, hiking guide:
What is your role in this UNESCO World Heritage Site?
As a hiking guide I show my guests the great and small wonders of the Aletsch region. First of all, of course, the Aletsch Glacier, the longest ice tongue in the Alps. To understand it, you have to take your time, listen to it, feel it. I'm always overwhelmed by its power, but also a little melancholic when I see how fast it changes and how vulnerable this gentle ice giant is. Not only the glacier itself is exciting, but also the landscape around it. If you take the time to read the details, you can see how it was in the past and immerse yourself in the sagas and legends that were born in this area. My guests also appreciate this mystical side.
What is your relationship with the site?
It's an emotional relationship. This landscape has always accompanied me and I am very grateful to be able to live and work in such a beautiful place. For me it is a gift, but it also brings with it obligations: I would like to use my very modest means to help protect this landscape, making people aware of the interrelationships in nature, the consequences of climate change and the small things that each of us can do to counteract it.
What's your favourite place? Can you tell us some secrets?
There are so many beautiful places in the Aletsch region! What always fascinates me are the different levels of vegetation that are so close together here that you can walk from the nature of the Mediterranean to one of the North Pole in a day. The hike that I find most impressive is the one that leads along a mountain trail from Bettmerhorn to Märjelen. At the Bettmerhorn vantage point, the view of the glacier is already impressive. From there you descend slowly and with each step the ice stream becomes bigger and more impressive. I often hear from my guests that this experience overshadows everything they have seen so far.
When is the best time for a visit and why?
The beginning of summer is beautiful. At the end of June, the mountain spring turns the Aletsch Plateau into a blooming paradise. But it is most beautiful in autumn, when the air is crystal clear, the larch needles turn yellow and the dwarf shrubs glow in a variety of shades of red.
What activities do you recommend in particular?
As a hiking guide my first advice is of course: hiking. The region on the southern side of the Jungfrau-Aletsch World Heritage site, with the Aletsch Glacier in the middle, has a dense network of hiking trails. The most beautiful vantage points can be reached on foot, but also wonderful, quiet places off the beaten track. Those who have never been on a glacier before can book a glacier hike, and for adrenaline junkies a tandem flight on a hang-glider is definitely a special experience.
April 2020 (translated from German)