The Morteratsch Glacier is one of the biggest glaciers in the eastern Alps. A guided tour leaving from the almost 3000 meter mountain viewpoint Diavolezza offers a wonderful day hike, crossing two glaciers with views of stunning high peaks.
The Morteratsch Glacier trail
Location: The canton of Graubunden, southeast Switzerland
Distance: 12 km (7.5 miles)
Elevation loss: –1.082 m (–3,550 ft)
Highest point: 2.973 m (9,754 ft)
Time: 5 hours, including breaks
Start guided tour: 10 am, daily
Costs: ± 25 CHF single ascent aerial cableway; ± 65 CHF for the guided tour
Hiked: July 2009.
A Trailhead at 2.973 m
The highest point of the trail is the mountain viewpoint Diavolezza (2.973 m / 9,754 ft), which is also the starting point of the trail. To reach the trailhead, take the aerial cableway from Bernina-Diavolezza, a small train station about 15 minutes from the town of Pontresina.
The trail takes you across the Pers Glacier, on to the Isla Persa (Lost Isle), sitting in the middle of two glaciers, and then all the way down along the Morteratsch Glacier to the Morteratsch railway station (at 1.896 m / 6,220 ft).
Although the trail is rated with the highest ‘T6’ rating (Difficult Hike), the guided tour is a moderate hike. Children of 8 years and older are allowed on the guided tour. I did this trail with my then 9 year old son without any problem. But definitely bring a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses.
High on the mountain, just in front of the big Diavolezza Berghaus, we found the little kiosk where we got our tickets for the guided tour (bring cash!). Every day at 10 am the guide from the Bergsteigerschule Pontresina will go down the glacier with any hiker that shows up. We did not need to make any reservations, but things might have changed since 2009.
Views of the Tops
The glaciers are surrounded by many high mountain tops, with Piz Bernina being the highest at 4.092 m / 13,425 ft.
We had taken some extra clothing with us, just in case. But we didn’t need any of it – it was quite hot as soon as we hit the glacier. We took off our jackets and extra shirts quickly.
Traversing the Pers Glacier with Piz Bernina on the right.
We traversed the Pers Glacier in a long line of people, following the guides footsteps. Although walking with a group of about 30 people, it did not feel crowded at all. The landscape is so enormous, I hardly noticed the other people around me.
Isla Persa, the Lost Isle
About halfway, wedged between the two glaciers, lies the Isla Persa, a small island in a sea of ice. Hiking up the island across an easy path of stone slabs, we saw the glaciers as what they really are: giant frozen rivers.
Looking down from Isla Pers to a small green blue lake above the Morteratsch Glacier.
The Pers-Morteratsch Junction
A Melting Glacier
The Morteratsch Glacier is, unfortunately, well know for its retreat. Ever since measurements of the glacier began in 1878, it melted away for about 2,5 km (1.5 mi).
The Morteratsch Glacier Trail is an impressive hike. Crossing two glaciers is very special and not something you will experience many times in your life. I did it twice. Once as a son, then 29 years later I went back as a father. Both hikes are unforgettable.