Visitors can still walk into a cave carved into the glacier. But the ice above is now draped with huge white sheets to reflect the sun’s heat. Despite such efforts, melt waters have formed a green lake.
Down the valley, a mid 19th century photograph shows the glacier’s bulging snout more than 100 meters thick. Now, animals graze and a river meanders on the same spot.
In another archive photograph taken in the late 19th century in front of the Aletsch glacier - the largest in the Alps - a man sits on a boulder in front of a huge ice channel that merges with the main ice stream below. Today, they no longer join.
Landlocked Switzerland is warming at twice the global rate and over the last year its glaciers have lost 2 percent of volume, said Mathias Huss, who heads Switzerland’s glacier monitoring institute GLAMOS which has data stretching back 150 years.
“We have never seen such a fast rate of glacial decline since the measurements have started,” he said.
Some hope that politics can make a difference, especially after the Greens surged in an October election. The “Glacier Initiative” calling for more climate measures collected more than the 100,000 signatures required to trigger a referendum and will be sent to Bern this week.
But the glaciers will keep shrinking, scientists say. “The Alps will still be beautiful in my opinion, but they will be different,” Huss said.