Field trip to the glacierised karst system of Tsanfleuron-Sanetsch, Western Swiss Alps


Photo by Nico Goldscheider

Field trip leader: Prof. Dr. Nico Goldscheider, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany

Important dates and information:

Start: Thursday, 8 September 2016, 9:00

End: Friday, 9 September 2016, about 18:00

Number of participants: 25 maximum

Overnight stay: At the Prarochet mountain hut at 2555 m. Simple covers are available in the dormitories, but please bring a (light) sleeping bag or (light) bedclothes.

Costs: CHF 150

Character of the trip: This is a serious two-day alpine hiking trip that includes walking over rugged rock surfaces, rock debris and a gentle glacier. Good physical condition, hiking experience, alpine boots and weatherproof clothes are mandatory. The field is not feasible with sneakers or low shoes.

Meals: Picnic for lunch on Thursday and Friday will be provided, half board (dinner and breakfast) at the mountain hut.

Equipment: For the mountain hut: light sleeping bag or light bedclothes. For the hike: Serious alpine boots, weatherproof clothes, sun protection, rucksack, drinking bottle.


The field trip will lead to the spectacular glacierised alpine karst aquifer system of Tsanfleuron-Sanetsch in the Western Swiss Alps, where a rapidly shrinking glacier lies on top of a regional karst aquifer system that drains towards a major karst spring used for drinking water supply and irrigation. After a short stop at the karst spring, which is tapped as a drainage gallery, the bus will bring us to Sanetsch pass at 2252 m, where our two-day hiking trip starts.

On the first day, we will hike to the area of the former glacier tongue, cross the glacial stream, study the glacial recession and walk over the karren fields towards Prarochet hut. We will enjoy a pleasant evening and dinner at this hut and stay overnight in the dormitory.

The next day, we will hike up to the top of the karren fields and see one the largest historical rock falls in the Alps. When the view is clear, we will see Mont Blanc and about 20 other summits over 4000 m. Then, we will walk down over the retreating glacier and study the specific karst landforms, hydrologic features and recent mineral precipitations at the glacier front. From there, our hike leads downward back to the Sanetsch pass. On the way, we will see plenty of interesting geological, geomorphological, hydrological and ecological features of this unique alpine karst landscape.