Excursions

Large-scale environmental change
Led by Prof. em. Dr. Christian Schlüchter (former Professor for Quaternary Geology and Paleoclimatology, Institute of Geology, University of Bern) and Leandro Oetiker (EGEA Bern)

The Swiss Alps are a good place to see how climate has changed over time. And this is exactly what we are going to experience on our excursion. Together we will explore the natural signs and effects of climate change and we will see what these changes caused in nature and which impacts they had on the local people’s life.

On our journey we are going to hike through the canyons of the river Kander. During this walk, we will get some on-site impressions of the river development and the efforts of local people to get this system under their control. Afterwards, we will leave the canyon and hike up to the Strättlig moraine, where we are going to have a look at how the former ice age climate (the last glacial maximum was 20’000 years before present time) influenced the landscape. The next observation point is at the Hurifluh, a cliff or rock face of Huri. There we will get further information and will be able to observe on-site indicators of the climate change.

Requirements for participation:

  • Clothes for good and bad weather (rain coat, wind stopper – at least a warm pullover, it gets cold with increasing altitude, no matter what weather!)
  • Good hiking shoes (This is for your own safety! We recommend hiking boots – sneakers are not enough!)
  • Backpack for daily equipment (sun cream, sun glasses, camera, pique-nique, …)

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Hiking between ‘Heidiland’ and alpine city: Land use in the Bernese Oberland
Led by Corinne Labudde and Dominique Kröpfli (EGEA Bern)

The Swiss Alps: a region full of small farms and large cows with cow bells on flowery meadows? On this excursion, we will explore the land use in the alpine region on a one-day hike and will see that the Alps experience a far broader variety of land use systems.

A cable car and a gondola take us to the top of the ‚Niederhorn’ (1963 m.a.s.l.), which will be the starting point of our hike (distance: 10 km, height difference: 900 m, hiking time: 4-5 hours). From there we continue along a ridge with spectacular views over the Bernese Alps and will climb another peak (Gemmenalphorn), before descending to the typical mountain village of Beatenberg. Here we get a chance to see how cheese is produced and what forms of (agricultural) land use dominate the region. We will keep moving downward with a bus to the city of Interlaken and there we will see that the Alps are definitively far more than just ‚Heidiland’.

Requirements for participation:

  • Good physical shape
  • Good hiking shoes (sneakers are not enough!)
  • Backpack for daily equipment

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Natural hazards around the Steingletscher
Led by Johann Müller (Swiss Young Geomorphologists) and Livia Albonico (EGEA Bern)

Itinerary: Sigriswil – Sustenpass / Hotel Steingletscher – Aareschlucht – Sigriswil

The area around the Stein- and Steinlimiglacier close to the Sustenpass is a very impressive example of a gacially formed high mountain environment. Located at an altitude of 1900 – 3500 m.a.s.l., the area offers the opportunity to have a hands-on experience of numerous glacial and periglacial processes and landforms.

The excursion will start at the Hotel Steingletscher and consist of several sites around the Steinglacier and Steinlimiglacier. The main topics will cover the processes and development of alpine glaciers, associated landforms and potential hazards. The area has been heavily investigated in the past decades as high mountain dynamics are prominently visible and the site allows for easy access to very interesting landforms such as the actual glacial ice body, moraines of different age, recent (anthopogenically induced) bergsturz material. The excursion will shortly introduce the geological setting of the area but mainly focus on the geomorphological development and landforms of the valley. Another focus will be alpine natural hazards such as rockfalls, lake outburst floods and Ice avalanches. The excursion will consist of an easy hike through the entire valley stopping at several interesting sites to elaborate on outstanding glacial and periglacial features.

On the way back to Sigriswil we will stop at the Aare gorge, another impressive example of geomorphic work in the Bernese Alps where the river Aare has carved a narrow chasm in the massive limestone barrier which has been made accessible for hikers.

Requirements for participation:

  • Good (hiking) shoes (sneakers are not enough!)
  • Backpack for daily equipment (sun cream, sun glasses, camera, pique-nique, …)

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Depending on the weather condition and on how much snow is left up in the mountains, we will have to opt for an alternative route next to Grindelwald:

There is hardly anywhere else in the entire Alps where the connection between climate change, high mountain environment, natural hazards and human action can be observed as clearly as here, high above the Lower Grindelwald glacier. Between the famous Eiger, Moench and Schreckhorn you can learn about glacier dynamics, glacial and periglacial processes which are potentially hazardous and how the picture of a mountain hut on the edge of an abyss came to symbolise the possible dramatic consequences of climate change in the heart of Europe.

The excursion will lead from Grindelwald via the glacier gorge of the lower Grindelwaldgletscher to the Baeregg restaurant (which is not open at that time!) above the glacier forefield. All together it should be a moderate mountain hike of 6 to 8 hours with a height difference of 700m. Appropriate shoes and stamina are required ;)

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Through tunnels, along tracks – Discover how a valley has changed
Led by François Rast and Camille Flückiger (EGEA Bern)

For a long time, the alpine region, with the valley and the lakes around the Lötschberg Pass, existed under a peaceful silence. The pass, the connection between the Kandertal and Lötschental, was always an important route for people to cross the Alps and to transport goods. Everything changed in 1913, when the Lötschberg Railway BLS, its helical tunnels and its main tunnel through Mt. Lötschberg, were opened. The valley got crowded and a lot of goods and tourists were transported along this new route. In the 50s, the BLS also started with shuttling cars on the train through the tunnel. From now on, it was possible to go very fast by car from Bern to the Wallis region and further via the Simplon Pass to Italy. Seven years ago, in 2007, a new 30 km Lötschberg Base Tunnel was opened. In this tunnel, trains run with a speed of 230 km/h through the massive rock of the Bernese Alps, and now you can get from Bern to Wallis without slopes.

On this excursion, you will be able to visit the impressive inside of the new Lötschberg Base Tunnel.  We will hike further on the old BLS mountain railway route and explore the slopes the trains had to climb before the new Base Tunnel was opened. We will see that the old line isn’t dead at all! The BLS turned it into an attractive railway connection for hikers, tourists and for the people who live in the Kander valley. This excursion will show you a moving space and several places that changed completely!

Requirements for participation:

  • Good physical shape
  • Good (hiking) shoes (sneakers are not enough!)
  • Warm clothes (it might get cold inside the tunnel)
  • Backpack for daily equipment (sun cream, sun glasses, camera, pique-nique, …)

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