The Swiss Alps

The Alps cover three-fifths of the Swiss territory, making Switzerland the second most Alpine country after Austria, where the proportion reaches two-thirds. Setting aside that part of Graubunden which lies to the east of the Hinterrhein Valley – a high valley like the Engadin, which, with its extra-continental climate, is more typical of central Europe – the Swiss Alps, like the French ones, belong to the western Alpine group, that is, to the steepest and most contorted chain.

The culminating point of this world of lakes and glaciers is the Mount Rosa in the region of Valais (altitude at the Dufour Peak: 15,203 ft.) although the Sant Gotthard Massif (Pizzo Rotondo: 10,473 ft.), which could be called the water tower of Europe, represents the keystone of the whole structure in spite of its monotonous outlines. The lack of symmetry of its transverse section has been the most striking feature of the mountain chain, since the sinking of the Po Plain closed its eventful geological history.

A motorist crossing a pass like the Sankt Gotthard is made aware of the sharp contrast between the relatively gentle slopes of the north face and the sudden descent which occurs on the south. In the longitudinal direction, the remarkable depression which slashes through the mountains from Martigny to Chur and is drained in opposite directions by the Rhone and the Vorderrhein, forms a great strategic and tourist highway.

The best way of seeing the Swiss alps is with one of the scenic trains that frequent the main alpine destinations in Switzerland.