Explore the Rhône Glacier and discover the wonders of the Swiss Alps?
Take a journey through glacial and geological history to encounter a landscape of striking and ephemeral beauty.
At the glacial source of the Rhône River
Located in Switzerland, this 8-kilometre long glacier stretches across a valley that has been in existence for several centuries.
The Gletsch Valley is home to spectacular ice caves, glacier meltwater lakes and the Furka road from Gletsch to Andermatt.
Dive into the heart of the Swiss Alps to discover the fascinating secrets of the Rhône Glacier.
History of the Rhone Glacier
The Rhone Glacier is located at the north-eastern end of the canton of Valais in Switzerland, and gives rise to the Rhône river.
It begins on the Dammastock massif at 3,600 metres above sea level and descends for 8 kilometres until it gives rise to the Rhône at an altitude of 2,200 metres.
At the height of its course, at 1,000 metres wide, during the Little Ice Age in the 19th century it descended to the foot of the village of Gletsch at an altitude of around 1,800 metres.
In the 1880s and 1890s, heavy snowfall and falling temperatures allowed the glacier to form and expand to its present size.
The formation and expansion of the Rhône Glacier was spectacular and the valley was filled with frozen snow.
The glacier expanded into the Goms valley, the trace of which is symbolised by an old ice cave near the Hotel Belvedere, which has now disappeared with the melting*.
Alpine travellers can reach the Rhône Glacier by car via the Furka Pass road, which has linked Gletsch to Andermatt since 1866.
Characteristics of the Rhone Glacier
The Rhône Glacier is located in the Uri Alps at the north-eastern end of the canton of Valais in Switzerland in the district of Goms.
With a length of 8 kilometres, it reaches at its widest 1,000 metres.
From its highest point at around 3,500 metres on the Dammastock massif, the glacier is a nevé or firn, the Eggfirn, which plunges 600 metres downhill.
At around 3,000 metres, the Rhone Glacier joins the Trift Glacier and flows southwards on an increasingly gentle slope.
The glacier is bordered by a rocky bar, a massif and a summit: Dammastock (3,631 metres), Galenstock (3,586 metres), Tieralplistock (3,382 metres), Gärstenhörner (3,183 metres).
It covers an area of 800 hectares, with a constant retreat since the 19th century.
For example, the glacier lost 11 metres between 2001 and 2002 and its thickness is decreasing by 25 to 50 centimetres every year.
Since 2020, white tarpaulins have been covering the glacier in summer to limit its gradual disappearance, which is expected by the end of the 21st century.
- Melting glaciers: 2022, sad record in Switzerland, France 3 (French)
- Map of the Rhône river
- Where to sleep in the Rhône valley? (French)
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