Can You Describe The Swiss Alps?


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Steve Theunissen Profile
If you look at a map of Europe, you will have no difficulty in locating the Alps, which form a crescent-shaped curve from the Mediterranean Sea to Switzerland before turning east. With an overall length of about 750 miles (1,200 kilometres), this mountain system extends from France across Switzerland, Italy and Austria into Yugoslavia. In Austria, it attains a maximum width of 125 miles (200 kilometres).

If your map is a fairly detailed one, you will notice that in Switzerland several peaks of this impressive mountain system rise to more than 13,000 feet (4,000 meters), though the highest peak, Mount Blanc, 15,770 feet (4,807 meters), is in France. The Alps cover over three fifths of the surface of Switzerland, and about one tenth of the Swiss Alps is buried under ice.

In the heart of the Alps rises the towering St. Gothard massif, known as Europe's water tower because three great European rivers have their source there: the Rhine (flowing toward the North Sea), the Rhone (emptying into the Mediterranean Sea) and the Ticino, the main tributary of the Po (terminating at the Adriatic Sea). If you follow their courses, you will see that the Alpine valleys of these rivers facilitate east-west communications. The Rhone and Rhine Rivers separate the Swiss Alps into four main ranges, two on each side of the Gothard. But the transverse valleys, allowing for trade between northern Europe and Italy, are the most important, as far as crossing the Swiss Alps is concerned.

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