Thursday, 19 June 2014

Glacier = 2 Swiss Francs

After just over a week out in the Land Rover, I can say I've seen some pretty amazing routes, and some things that I have wanted to see for some time (particularly in Austria).  The week's travel has taken me east along the Northern part of Italy, Aosta-Trieste, into Slovenia (amazing place! everyone must visit), into Austria, through Southern Germany, sneaking through Lichtenstein (for all of 20 minutes it takes to drive through) and into Switzerland, where I am currently held up in the Hotel Glacier du Rhone, at the foot of, you guessed it, the Rhone Glacier (RhoneGletscher).  The hotel itself is an impressive old building full of atmosphere, with a fabulous large book at the entrance showing off all the wonderful history of both the building and it's position with respect to the massively retreated glacier.

South-eastern Switzerland, the valley up to the small village of Juf

Ljubjlana, wonderful city

Bled-Slovenia, amazing colour of the water

                         The Pasterze Glacier, Austria... read a lot about this guy, good to see it at last

From some of the old images, photographs from the mid-late 1800's, you can see where the glacier tongue used to be, near the hotel, now not to be seen until you climb in the winding roads for a decent 10-15 minutes (faster in a Porsche).  I'm sure the original founder of such a grand (and creaky) building would be somewhat disappointed to find that the name for the hotel became less apparent after every morning view from his window saw a body of ice shying away.  If it was the service, the current glacier front would be making it's way back for sure... if it's the prices, then the current front of the ice should stay well up into the valley where it currently resides.  

A journey onto the glacier yesterday give me a wonderful feeling as glaciers usually do.  It reminds me how happy I am to be working in such a dynamic and interesting environment, that it shows so many small surface features that I even forget the names of... makes me a happy glaciologist.

                                       forgot the name of this fella

  My first experience of the Rhone yesterday has been both a pleasure and an annoyance.  For the first part, the glacier is wonderful example of the changes we can see in our environment, it's easy to access and it makes a nice walk, although with reasonable effort.  The annoyance derives from the fact that the only easy access and main access to the glacier is to pay 2 Swiss francs per person and walk through a tacky souvenir shop (and return before it closes?).  Essentially building a shop in front of the access point and charging you for it, unlike other locations where viewing towers etc are erected to give better views for those, who unlike me, don't want the harder climb.  This 2 Francs did include however the access the a sheltered ice cave near the current terminus (haven't been in yet).   This shelter is a tatty sheet of what was once a whitey tone, and now reflects the reduced albedo of the tongue, at least its not a circus tent of red and yellow stripes.  Im all for preserving the provision of freshwater from these glaciers, but it just feels like nature has been whored out for a couple of Francs... nothing new there I guess.

Rant aside, I'm looking forward to the next few days on the Rhone, conducting some surveys of the rock walls and trim lines using the UAV and the Structure from Motion techniques.  Hopefully to test some methods of vertical temperature profiles here too that can be compared to the debris surface of the fun fun :D

                                   ooooh, ablation stake :)

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