The highest road in Austria is not the famous Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse but the road up from the Kaunertal along the aritficial lake Gepatsch-Stausee to the melting down glacier at the foot of the Weissseespitze where a few skilifts are operating over some part of the Summer. This scenic and easy to drive road (a toll road) ends at 2800 m above sea level.
On a short walk you can reach a crevasse of the glacier which is prepared for visitors. The entrance is covered with white fleeces to protect further melting and you may walk a bit into the crevasse - recommended for a hot day ;-).
When investors started to install a Summer Skiing Area about 25 or so years ago all that what you see on these pictures was well covered with ice and when looking south into the Kaunertal the Weissseespitze appeared spotlessly white all the year round. But now this Summer Skiing business seems to terminate in a few years because the glaciers are dramatically melting away. There were always such changes before, around 1850 there was something of a "little Ice Age" and the glaciers were a multiple in size - it is well seen on old photographs and on the traces the glaciers have left in the landscape. Even in the cold summers of the 1970-ies the glaciers were growing considerably but now the "Global Warming" is blamed for the actual situation. But it was even warmer about 1000 years ago when Greenland was called Greenland by the Vikings and wine was grown in the South of Sweden. So there is still a hope that the dust produced by our technical progress will cause a "Global Cooling" compensating the "Global Warming" which is suspected of coming form the CO2 induced Greenhouse Effect...
The effects of the warming you can observe here are impressive indeed. To protect the last pieces of the glacier it is now partly covered by white plastic foils covering the last remaining ice to slow down the melting. Some of these foils are just covering gravel because of the permafrost undertneath which was stabilizing these slopes but now they can just glide away as landslides together with the buildings and other installations on the top of these slopes.
Needless to say that this area offers innumerable great hikes and climbs in various degrees of difficulty. But most of them touch the glaciers so adequate experience and equipment is needed but there are long and rather easy hikes without contact with the ice as well.
Much of the Kaunertal is now under water. Behind a 140 m high wall is the second largest lake in Tirol fed by the waters of the melting glaciers which are generating electic energy. The lake looks pleasant only in autumn when it is full.
The road which was originally built in connection with the artificial lake was continued up to a height of 2800 m (the highest road in Austria) just to install some skilifts on the glacier below the Weissseespitze. The skilifts bring you up to 3200 m but it is not a very good Summer skiiing area as you can see from the pics. The problem is the disappearing glacier,
Kaunertal & Kaunertalerglacier
A valley Eastward from the Oberinntal is called Kaunertal. It is a valley that ends at a glacier called Gepatschferner.
In summer and winter it is possible to ski here. A cable car takes you up to the top of the glacier at approx. 3.200 meters high.
Of course on bright days the view is marvelous.
On the foto a view into the Kaunertal from the top of the glacier.
Gepatschferner ("Ferner" means "Glacier" in this region) is one of the largest glaciers in Austria.