Austria: Pasterze – The Longest Glacier in the Eastern Alps
Pasterze – record breaker among Austrian glaciers
Ledovec Pasterze is located in the highest Austrian mountains – the Hohe Tauern which are part of the Central Alps. If you want to see this record breaker, than you have to travel to Heiligenblut, a town in the south of the country in Carinthia. Pasterze is about 8.3 kilometers long. It stretches in a deep valley surrounded by true Alpine giants. Sides of the valley are lined with mountains over three thousand meters high which create sort of a gigantic wall. The highest peak is Grossglockner – a colossal mountain towering at 3 798 meters. It looks like an absolute ruler of the whole territory. Grossglockner is the highest peak of the Hohe Tauern and also the highest mountain in Austria. Pasterze glacier begins at Johannisberg mountain at 3453 meters. Monumental mass of ice which covers an area of 19 km2 heads further down and ends at about 2100 meters. The length of the glacier is, however, shortening due to higher average temperatures. Every year it looses up to 10 meters.
Visitors’ center Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe
You can reach the glacier from the east by following the road from Heiligenblut, a town close to it. From the north, you can travel from village Fusch an der Grossglocknerstrasse which is bit further. Then you would continue by following famous alpine road Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse that gives you fascinating views of mountains and valley of the Hohe Tauern, and it goes right to the glacier. Close to Pasterze glacier on the foot of Freiwandkopf mountain (2 854 m) is Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Höhe visitors’ center. There are souvenir stores, social facilities, car park and parking house as well as restaurant. Information boards tell you information on glacier, its history and creation, and also on local mountians. „Wilhelm Swarovski“, an observation tower, is also part of the resort. Up from there, you can observe alpine nature with binoculars.
Realm of Ice and Rock Massifs
Resorts attractive location gives you fascinating views down to Mölltal valley, Pasterze glacier, or mountains with monumental Grossglockner. Around the visitors’ center you can see marmots or Capricorn. In the distance, Johannisberg mountain is visible and monumental massif of ice spreading down the valley. Down, there is Sandersee lake and nearby Margaritzenstausee dam. The lake steps in the head of the glacier. Sandersee’s volume increases as the glacier melts. Around the lake as well as on walls on valley’s sides you can recognize moraines – it is mass of gravel, sand, and stones moved by glaciers. You can get down to the glacier along a tourist trailer, or funicular that goes from the visitors’ center. Funicular’s bottom station is on the half-way to the glacier. It means you have to walk down from their to the valley.
Pasterze is not only the longest glacier in Austria but in the entire Eastern Alps. The valley below Grossglockner is illustrative example of glacier erosion forces influencing seemingly hard massive. It is another fantastic place in Austria where you can admire beauty and greatness of the Eastern Alps.
Text and photo: Radoslav Biskupič
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