Once upon a time, there were two giants in the Swiss Alps. They were made of ice and they lived up in the highest summits. From there, they covered huge extensions. Their power was huge. You couldn’t see them moving, but they did, slowly. And in their step, they transformed the landscape, breaking, splitting and grinding the stone they found on their way… But the giants were also vulnerable. The sun and the heat defeated them. And they retreated and shrunk until what they are today, a small shadow of what they were long time ago…

The giants of this post are the Furgg and Theodul Glaciers. And its almost disappearance didn’t happen centuries ago, but very very recently. Since 1850, they have retreated more than 3km. That’s what we learned on our second day in Zermatt. We decided to hike the trail that takes you closer to the Matterhorn, the Matterhorn Glacier Trail. They say this trail is didactic. I can assure you it is. You can experience in first person how the glaciers are melting and disappearing… The landscape close to the mountain is beautiful! It’s fascinating to see how the glaciers sculpted the landscape, the traces they left behind and how slowly life is beginning to grow where until recently there was nothing but rocks under tons of ice. And you can feel the cold and pure air from the glaciers on your skin… But it is also sad to see how fast these glaciers are melting…

For this hike, we took the gondola from Zermatt to Schwarzsee (the Black Lake). We did part of the trail that leads to Hörnlihütte, the starting point for the climbers of the Matterhorn (we didn’t get to the hütte, as the path was very narrow and close to the edge and I had vertigo…). When we returned to the Matterhorn Glacier Trail, we passed along the devastation caused by the almost melted Furgg Glacier, at the east foot of the Matterhorn. It was an incredible landscape that reminded me of some Icelandic volcanic landscapes, where everything is rocks, sand and melted ice and only tiny flowers grow between the rocks, with the majestic Matterhorn dominating the views. The trail continued between tiny lakes, result of the melting Theodul Glacier, and more devastated and colorful landscape until it reaches the Trockener Stef ski station. From there, we took a harder trail down to Schwarzsee, where we got beautiful views of the valley Matter and Zermatt, as well as views of other two glaciers in the area, the Gorner and the Grenz Glaciers and the highest peak in Switzerland, the Dufourspitze or Monte Rosa (I’ll write a post about these other two glaciers).

I realized that, since I started learning photography and writing this blog, I’ve learnt a lot about other things too. I discovered new animals, I learnt a lot about them and how they behave… I learnt a lot about the mountain and the places I visit. And I think that everyday I go outdoors, I’m more and more aware of the impact that humans have in nature, specially since I moved to Switzerland. I guess this is why this kind of trips have a great impact on my and make me think about what we could do to save these natural wonders. I hope that, as I show you photos from my trips, you don’t only appreciate the beauty of the landscapes I capture, but also think about how all of us can collaborate to preserve them for future generations.

Here are some photos I took during this day, including one from my hotel window at sunrise! I hope you like them!! 🙂

The sun rises in Zermatt. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 70mm f/11 1/100sec. ISO100
The Matterhorn from Schwarzsee. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 24mm f/10 1/640sec. ISO200
The Schwarzsee and the Chapel of Mary of the Snow. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 24mm f/10 1/640sec. ISO200
Blacknose sheep. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 42mm f/4 1/6400sec. ISO200
Chasing reflections. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 24mm f/11 1/640sec. ISO200
Remains of the old Furgg Glacier. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 53mm f/11 1/500sec. ISO200
Incipient new life on the old bed of Furgg Glacier. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 67mm f/2.8 1/2000sec. ISO200
Bed of the old Furgg Glacier and the Matterhorn. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 24mm f/14 1/400sec. ISO200
Detail of the summer ice on the Matterhorn. Canon EOS 1200d 135mm f/11 1/640sec. ISO100
Tiny new life on the bed of the old Furgg Glacier. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 61mm f/11 1/640sec. ISO200
Furggsee. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 24mm f/11 1/640sec. ISO200
Views from the Matterhorn Glacier Trail (Zinalrothorn, Äschhorn and Weisshorn). Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 35mm f/11 1/1000sec. ISO200
Melting Theodul Glacier and the Matterhorn. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 24mm f/13 1/800sec. ISO200
Theodulgletschersee. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 24mm f/11 1/500sec. ISO200
Matter Valley and Zermatt. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 27mm f/11 1/500sec. ISO200
Steinschmückel. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 70mm f/2.8 1/8000sec. ISO200
Dufourspitze and Gorner and Grenz Glaciers. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 70mm f/11 1/1000sec. ISO100
Dufourspitze and Gorner and Grenz Glacier. Canon EOS 5d Mark IV 47mm f/14 1/500sec. ISO100

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Once again beautiful images and writing. I was truly feeling for the dying giants! It’s amazing how resilient nature is. A few years ago, we visited Mt. St. Helens in Washington. In the late 80’s this volanic mountain erupted destroying everything in its path. Now there are some animals and flowers back. Near Sacramento there’s a mountain called Table Top, it was flattened by volcanic activity many, many years ago. What’s left is volcanic rocks where wild flowers grow. Area photographers go up each year to shoot the beautiful landscape. Thanks for taking me to another wonderous place!

    • mercedescatalan

      Thanks a mil, Anne!!! This one was a hike that really moved me! Thinking that just a few years ago these glaciers were still something, and now they are just a few meters of ice, some small lakes and little creeks…
      Yep, nature can be so powerful and devastating! Seeing how transforming and destructive these glaciers can be reminded me also to those dark and empty vastness of the Icelandic volcanic landscapes!! And how slowly life conquers even those barren landscapes!
      I googled the Table Top and Mt. St. Helens… It amazes me the variety of landscapes you have in your country (ok, it’s a super big country… but still!!). That volcano in Washington must be an impressive sight in person!!

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