Verbier has created a trail in its Col des Gentianes themed on the melting of glaciers.
The path starts at more than 2,800-metre altitude and descends from the Gentianes station to the Tortin glacier.
“(The trail offers) …a rare and precious experience that allows you to get into relationship with a glacier by contemplating it, touching it and discovering both its history and future,” a Verbier statement explains.
The walk only takes about 20 minutes but there are marked points along the way for spending additional time.
These include a bench-photo spot to take a picture with the glacier; milestones with dates showing where the glacier used to cover; an interpretive panel showing the glacier’s past, fixed to a large block in the moraine that marks the position of the glacier in 1995 and a post near the ice, explaining the role of climate in the health of the glacier.
There is also a terrace where walkers can pause to contemplate the glacier and imagine the landscape of 2100 by which time the glacier is expected to have completely disappeared.
An optional part of the walk extends onto the glacier itself to a beacon where you can measure the thickness of the melting of the glacier.
“Usually it melts two metres each summer but it has already melted five metres this year!” said a Verbier spokesperson.
The fast thawing of the Tortin Glacier in 2022 reflects similar declines across the Alps, where melting rate this spring and summer is reported to average three times the norm of recent years due to the unprecedented heat at altitude coupled with low snowfall last winter meaning there wasn’t much snow lying on top of the ice to protect it from the sun.