Bernese Alps

Bernese Alps
German: Berner Alpen
French: Alpes bernoises

Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau
Highest point
Peak Finsteraarhorn
Elevation 4,274 m (14,022 ft)
Coordinates CH-VD, CH-FR, CH-VS_scale:100000_ 46°32′19″N 8°07′38″E / 46.53861°N 8.12722°E / 46.53861; 8.12722

Bernese Alps (red)

Country Switzerland
Cantons Bern, Vaud, Fribourg and Valais
Range coordinates CH-VD, CH-FR, CH-VS_scale:300000_ 46°25′N 7°45′E / 46.42°N 7.75°E / 46.42; 7.75Coordinates: CH-VD, CH-FR, CH-VS_scale:300000_ 46°25′N 7°45′E / 46.42°N 7.75°E / 46.42; 7.75
Parent range Western Alps
Borders on
Topo map Swiss Federal Office of Topography swisstopo

The Bernese Alps (German: Berner Alpen, French: Alpes bernoises, Italian: Alpi bernesi) are a mountain range of the Alps, located in western Switzerland. Although the name suggests that they are located in the Berner Oberland region of the canton of Bern, portions of the Bernese Alps are in the adjacent cantons of Valais, Fribourg and Vaud, the latter being usually named Fribourg Alps and Vaud Alps respectively. The highest mountain in the range, the Finsteraarhorn, is also the highest point in the canton of Bern.

The Rhône valley separates them from the Chablais Alps in the west and from the Pennine Alps in the south; the upper Rhône valley separate them from the Lepontine Alps to the southeast; the Grimsel Pass and the Aare valley separates them from the Uri Alps in the east and from the Emmental Alps in the north; their northwestern edge is not so well defined, describing a line roughly from Lake Geneva to Lake Thun.

The Bernese Alps are drained by the river Aare and its tributary the Saane in the north, the Rhône in the south, and the Reuss in the east.


Bernese Alps seen from Bernese Jura

One of the most considerable Alpine ranges, the Bernese Alps extend from the gorge of Saint-Maurice, through which the Rhone finds its way to Lake Geneva, to the Grimsel Pass or, depending on the definition, to the river Reuss (thus including the Uri Alps). The principal ridge, a chain that runs 100 kilometres (62 mi) from west (Dent de Morcles) to east (Sidelhorn), whose highest peak is the Finsteraarhorn, forms the watershed between the cantons of Berne and Valais. Except for the westernmost part, it is also the watershed between the Rhine (North Sea) and the Rhone (Mediterranean Sea). This chain is not centered inside the range but lies close (10 to 15 km) to the Rhone on the south. This makes a large difference between the south, where the lateral short valleys descend abruptly into the deep trench forming the valley of the Rhone and the north, where the Bernese Alps extends through a great part of the canton of Berne (Bernese Oberland), throwing out branches to the west into the adjoining cantons of Vaud and Fribourg. There the mountains progressively become lower and disappear into the hilly Swiss Plateau.[1]

The north face of the Gross Fiescherhorn

The main chain west of Gemmi Pass consists mainly of a few large prominent summits (as the Wildhorn) slightly above 3,000 metres (9,800 ft), generally covered by glaciers. On the eastern part, the main chain became suddenly wider and the peaks reach over 4,000 metres (13,000 ft), in the most glaciated part of the Alps.[2]

A characteristic in the orography of the Bernese Alps is, that whereas the western of that chain consists of a single series of summits with comparatively short projecting buttresses, the higher group presents a series of longitudinal ridges parallel to the axis of the main chain, and separated from each other by deep valleys that form the channels of great glaciers. Thus the Tschingel Glacier and the Kander Glacier, separate the portion of the main range lying between the Gemmi Pass and the Mittaghorn from the equally high parallel range of the Doldenhorn and Blümlisalp on its northern side. To the south the same portion of the main range is divided from the still higher parallel range whose summits are the Aletschhorn and the Bietschhorn by the Lötschental and the Lötschenlücke. To this again succeeds the deep trench through which the lower part of the Aletsch Glacier flows down to the Rhone, enclosed by the minor ridge that culminates at the Eggishorn.[1]

It is in the central and eastern portions of the range only that crystalline rocks make their appearance; the western part is composed almost exclusively of sedimentary deposits, and the secondary ridges extending through Berne and the adjoining cantons are formed of jurassic, cretaceous, or eocene strata.[1]


The beauty of the scenery and the facilities offered to travellers by the general extension of mountain railways make the northern side of the range, the Bernese Oberland, one of the portions of the Alps most visited by tourists. Since strangers first began to visit the Alps, the names of Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, and Interlaken have become famous. But unlike many other Alpine regions, which have been left to be explored by strangers, this region has been long visited by Swiss travellers and men of science. Among them were the brother Meyer of Aarau and Franz Joseph Hugi. They have explored most of the mountain ranges not very difficult of access, and, further than this, have attained most of the higher summits. In 1841, Louis Agassiz, with several scientific friends, established a temporary station on the Unteraar Glacier, and, along with scientific observations on the glaciers, started a series of expeditions. The works of Desor and Gottlieb Studer have been followed by several other publications that bear testimony to Swiss mountaineering activity. Notwithstanding the activity of their predecessors, the members of the English Alpine Club have found scope for further exploits, amongst which may be reckoned the first ascents of the Aletschhorn and the Schreckhorn, and the still more arduous enterprise of crossing the range by passes, such as the Jungfraujoch and Eigerjoch, which are considered amongst the most difficult in the Alps.[1]

Jungfrau-Aletsch area

Jungfrau-Aletsch area seen from space

The Jungfrau-Aletsch area is located in the eastern Bernese Alps in the most glaciated region of the Alps. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch) in 2001 and further expanded in 2007. Its name comes from the Aletsch Glacier and the two summits of the Jungfrau and Bietschhorn, which constitute some of the most impressive features of the site. The actual site (after the extension) includes other large glacier valleys such as the Fiescher Glacier and the Aar Glaciers.

List of peaks

Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau
"Top of Europe facility", Jungfraujoch

The chief peaks of the Bernese Alps are:

Name Elevation
Finsteraarhorn 4,274 m 14,026 ft
Aletschhorn 4,182 m 13,721 ft
Jungfrau 4,166 m 13,669 ft
Mönch 4,105 m 13,468 ft
Schreckhorn 4,080 m 13,386 ft
Gross Fiescherhorn 4,049 m 13,285 ft
Grünhorn 4,043 m 13,264 ft
Lauteraarhorn 4,042 m 13,261 ft
Hinter Fiescherhorn 4,025 m 13,205 ft
Gletscherhorn 3,983 m 13,067 ft
Eiger 3,970 m 13,025 ft
Rottalhorn 3,969 m 13,031 ft
Ebnefluh 3,962 m 12,999 ft
Agassizhorn 3,946 m 12,946 ft
Bietschhorn 3,934 m 12,907 ft
Trugberg 3,933 m 12,904 ft
Klein Grünhorn 3,913 m 12,838 ft
Gross Wannenhorn 3,905 m 12,812 ft
Klein Fiescherhorn 3,895 m 13,779 ft
Mittaghorn 3,892 m 12,769 ft
Fiescher Gabelhorn 3,876 m 12,717 ft
Schönbühlhorn 3,854 m 12,644 ft
Nesthorn 3,820 m 12,533 ft
Dreieckhorn 3,811 m 12,503 ft
Schinhorn 3,797 m 12,457 ft
Breithorn (Blatten) 3,785 m 12,418 ft
Breithorn (Lauterbrunnen) 3,779 m 12,399 ft
Grosshorn 3,754 m 12,316 ft
Sattelhorn 3,745 m 12,287 ft
Kranzberg 3,742 m 12,277 ft
Geisshorn 3,740 m 12,270 ft
Klein Lauteraarhorn 3,737 m 12,260 ft
Wetterhorn 3,708 m 12,166 ft
Mittelhorn 3,704 m 12,152 ft
Rotstock 3,699 m 12,136 ft
Balmhorn 3,698 m 12,133 ft
Silberhorn 3,695 m 12,122 ft
Rosenhorn 3,689 m 12,103 ft
Blüemlisalphorn 3,671 m 12,044 ft
Bärglistock 3,656 m 11,995 ft
Breitlauihorn 3,655 m 11,991 ft
Doldenhorn 3,647 m 11,966 ft
Hugihorn 3,647 m 11,965 ft
Altels 3,636 m 11,930 ft
Gross Fusshorn 3,627 m 11,900 ft
Tschingelhorn 3,562 m 11,686 ft
Lonzahörner 3,560 m 11,680 ft
Unterbächhorn 3,554 m 11,660 ft
Finsteraarrothorn 3,530 m 11,580 ft
Galmihorn 3,505 m 11,499 ft
Wysshorn 3,546 m 11,634 ft
Kleines Schreckhorn 3,494 m 11,463 ft
Nasse Strahlegg 3,485 m 11,434 ft
Lauteraar Rothörner 3,478 m 11,411 ft
Wasenhorn 3,447 m 11,309 ft
Gspaltenhorn 3,442 m 11,293 ft
Ewigschneehorn 3,331 m 10,929 ft
Olmenhorn 3,314 m 10,873 ft
Hienderstock 3,307 m 10,849 ft
Wilerhorn 3,307 m 10,850 ft
Tschingelspitz 3,304 m 10,840 ft
Hockenhorn 3,293 m 10,804 ft
Ritzlihorn 3,282 m 10,768 ft
Hogleifa 3,278 m 10,755 ft
Wildhorn 3,248 m 10,656 ft
Bächlistock 3,247 m 10,653 ft
Birghorn 3,243 m 10,640 ft
Wildstrubel 3,243 m 10,640 ft
Hohstock 3,226 m 10,584 ft
Stockhorn 3,212 m 10,538 ft
Diablerets 3,210 m 10,650 ft
Sackhorn 3,204 m 10,512 ft
Petersgrat 3,202 m 10,505 ft
Strahlhorn (Baltschieder) 3,200 m 10,500 ft
Wellhorn 3,196 m 10,486 ft
Wannihorn 3,115 m 10,220 ft
Brandlammhorn 3,108 m 10,197 ft
Mettenberg 3,107 m 10,194 ft
Schwarzhorn 3,105 m 10,187 ft
Löffelhorn 3,098 m 10,165 ft
Geltenhorn 3,065 m 10,056 ft
Grand Muveran 3,061 m 10,043 ft
Mutthorn 3,053 m 9,957 ft
Arpelistock 3,035 m 9,957 ft
Sparrhorn 3,026 m 9,928 ft
Torrenthorn 3,003 m 9,853 ft
Wiwannihorn 3,001 m 9,846 ft
Schilthorn 2,973 m 9,754 ft
Dent de Morcles 2,969 m 9,741 ft
Gärsthorn 2,964 m 9,724 ft
Eggishorn 2,934 m 9,626 ft
Schwarzhorn 2,930 m 9,613 ft
Gross Sidelhorn 2,881 m 9,452 ft
Alplistock 2,878 m 9,442 ft
Risihorn 2,876 m 9,436 ft
Bettmerhorn 2,872 m 9,423 ft
Gstellihorn 2,855 m 9,367 ft
Grosses Engelhorn 2,782 m 9,127 ft
Chistehorn 2,785 m 9,137 ft
Albristhorn 2,764 m 9,069 ft
Bietenhorn 2,756 m 9,042 ft
Ärmighorn 2,742 m 8,996 ft
Klein Wellhorn 2,701 m 8,862 ft
Birg 2,684 m 8,806 ft
Faulhorn 2,683 m 8,803 ft
Sulegg 2,412 m 7,914 ft
Niesen 2,366 m 7,763 ft
Regenboldshorn 2,193 m 7,195 ft
Le Chamossaire 2,116 m 6,943 ft


Main glaciers:

List of passes

The chief passes of the Bernese Alps are:

Mountain pass Location Type Elevation
Lauitor Lauterbrunnen to the Eggishorn Snow 3,700 m 12,140 ft
Mönchjoch Grindelwald to the Eggishorn Snow 3,560 m 11,680 ft
Jungfraujoch Wengernalp to the Eggishorn Snow 3,470 m 11,385 ft
Strahlegg Grindelwald to the Grimsel Pass Snow 3,351 m 10,995 ft
Grünhornlücke Great Aletsch Glacier to the Fiescher Glacier Snow 3,305 m 10,844 ft
Oberaarjoch Grimsel to the Eggishorn Snow 3,233 m 10,607 ft
Gauli Grimsel to Meiringen Snow 3,206 m 10,519 ft
Petersgrat Lauterbrunnen to the Lötschental Snow 3,205 m 10,516 ft
Lötschenlücke Lötschental to the Eggishorn Snow 3,204 m 10,512 ft
Lauteraarsattel Grindelwald to the Grimsel Snow 3,156 m 10,355 ft
Beichgrat Lötschental to the Belalp Snow 3,136 m 10,289 ft
Lammernjoch Lenk to the Gemmi Snow 3,132 m 10,276 ft
Gamchilucke Kiental to Lauterbrunnen Snow 2,833 m 9,295 ft
Tschiugel Lauterbrunnen to Kandersteg Snow 2,824 m 9,265 ft
Hohtürli Kandersteg to the Kiental Footpath 2,707 m 8,882 ft
Lötschen Kandersteg to the Lötschental Snow 2,695 m 8,842 ft
Sefinenfurgge Lauterbrunnen to the Kiental Footpath 2,616 m 8,583 ft
Rawil Sion to Lenk im Simmental Bridle path 2,415 m 7,924 ft
Gemmi Kandersteg to Leukerbad Bridle path 2,329 m 7,641 ft
Sanetsch Sion to Saanen Bridle path 2,234 m 7,331 ft
Grimsel Meiringen to the Rhone Glacier Road 2,164 m 7,100 ft
Kleine Scheidegg Grindelwald to Lauterbrunnen Path, railway 2,064 m 6,772 ft
Cheville Sion to Bex Bridle path 2,049 m 6,723 ft
Grosse Scheidegg Grindelwald to Meiringen Bridle path 1,967 m 6,454 ft

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 John Ball, The Alpine guide, Central Alps, 1866, London
  2. Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn World Heritage Site

External links

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