Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Geology and mountain character

Arnold Lunn on the links between the underlying rocks and the Jungfrau's form

Of the Urbachtal I remember little, and what little I do remember I would gladly forget. The valley is fenced in by bleak limestone crags and pinnacles. Limestone unvaried by granite, and unadorned by glacier, seldom produces attractive mountainscapes.

The Jungfrau seen from Schynnige Platte, Bernese Oberland
(Photo courtesy Alpine Light & Structure)

The glory of the great Oberland peaks is due to the intricate interplay of granite and limestone, and even the Eiger, which is pure limestone, and the Wetterhorn would not be the lovely mountains that they are, if they were robbed of their mantling curtains of snow and ice, as I discovered in 1947, the dryest summer for fifty years.

Postcards of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, c.1900

I am glad that the highest peak of the Wetterhörner is crested with aristocratic granite, for limestone - let us face it - is a bit of an upstart, and has never been quite accepted by the igneous rocks who queened it above the steaming seas of the primeval planet.

Postcard of the Jungfrau from Interlaken, c.1900

It was only in the Mesozoic age that the limestones began to climb the social ladder, and these Mesozoics are still regarded as invincibly middle class by the best rocks, such as the Jungfrau, that grande dame with her superb igneous coronet, who always seems to me to be raising a disdainful lorgnette as she looks down on her limestone neighbours: "My dear, do we know these Mesozoics?"


Text from: Arnold Lunn, Mountains of Memory, London, Hollis and Carter, 1948

Postcard images from: Daniel Anker, Jungfrau, Zauberberg der Männer, AS Verlag, 1996

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