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Kids explore glaciers in Austria

The area of the Ötztaler Alpen is part of the European Union Network Natura 2000. The glaciers here are the second largest in the Eastern Alps. Responsible for this protected area, the Nature Park Kaunergrat is visited by groups from local schools, who often ask: "Why do the glaciers recede more than a kilometer in a few years?" "How can wild animals and birds survive in this hostile environment?"

SEPTEMBER 2014

Kids explore glaciers © archives Naturpark Kaunergrat

  • Project partner: NaturparkKaunergrat (Pitztal-Kaunertal), www.kaunergrat.at
  • Country: Austria, Europe
  • Project type: Preservation of the environment
  • Budget: mountaineering equipment for a group of 16

To answer their questions, a group of 20 young teenagers and teachers from the region explored the glaciers guided by two Nature Park Kaunergrat biologists and a local mountain guide. These glaciers shape the landscape that surrounds them, but most schoolchildren in the Tyrol region do not have the opportunity to explore them. This project aims to help the next generation gain a better understanding of climate change and its effects on sensitive alpine ecosystems, as well as discovering the pleasures of alpine mountaineering.

This nature education program is based on the study of glaciers. It covers basic glaciology, plant and animal life, as well as alpine ecosystems, orientation, navigation and map-reading. This glacier study took place on the tongue-shaped foot of the Gepatsch Glacier. There, the group got equipped, instructed and roped up.

Then, they discovered the glacier and saw crevasses, ablation cones and glacier mill. Once they had got used to walking on the glacier, the group either climbed down or abseiled down into an ice canyon where they could practice their new skills.

© archives Naturpark Kaunergrat

Over the last 30 years, glacial retreat has caused several alpine hazards, like rock fall or unstable moraines. The group also learned how to prevent accidents and how to react in an emergency.

The three days in the Kaunertal valley had a positive emotional effect on the group. Especially the opportunity to actually move on the glacier which was a fabulous adventure for them all. The project will continue next year in the Pitztal Valley, which is also a part of the Nature Park Kaunergrat.

A spotting scope to explore the alpine landscape and fauna © archives Naturpark Kaunergrat © archives Naturpark Kaunergrat
A spotting scope to explore the alpine landscape and fauna.  After a map-reading lesson indoors, the youngsters managed to map out their hikes themselves, taking meteorology issues and alpine hazards into account.

Elisabeth Falkeis, Naturpark Kaunergrat biologist, says:

Elisabeth Falkeis "The project was very successful, the youngsters showed great interest in the glaciers and their animal and plant life. We wanted to show them the impressive glacial area and raise their awareness of alpine risk management, the impact of climate change and the value of their mountains. After the three-day trip, the group was really happy and had great memories of their experiences in the mountains. Even the teachers were fascinated by this fabulous landscape!"

Uploaded in september 2014


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