Searching for minerals in the Binntal Valley

Grengiols in summer, Valais, Switzerland

Glistening cliffs and bizarre rock formations: the Binntal Valley is known all over the world for its great variety of stones. Anybody who accompanies René In-Albon, a mineral expert, learns a lot about the treasures in the mountains – and will go home with a very special souvenir.

René In-Albon proudly presents the crystal he broke out of the rock with a hammer.  He likes to bring guests here and demonstrate his unusual skills: searching for minerals  “It takes a lot of experience to find minerals. It’s often hard work, but I love it. Where else can you be so close to the mountains?” René In-Albon However, to do this professionally, it takes special tools, such as a pick and a hammer – and solid hiking boots, because it’s all uphill from here! René knows where to go and how to read the rocks and stones.

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Eldorado for rockbounds

The Binntal Valley is known around the world for its wide variety of minerals. There are over 200 and more than a dozen of these have never been found anywhere else in the world. Therefore, the rocks have names from the region, such as lengenbachite or wallisite. The particular geology of the valley is responsible for the abundance of minerals.  While searching for crystals and selling them used to be a welcome contribution for farm families, professionals are rare nowadays. René In-Albon is one of them. He started to collect rocks when he was just a boy herding cattle. By now, the search for crystals is a part-time occupation, and he teaches the art of hunting for rocks with a great deal of passion.

The spell of crystals

One thing is for sure: looking for minerals is addictive. The guests can try it on their own with a hammer – and lo and behold, many an unremarkable stone has a shiny interior. Anybody who prefers to take a sparkling rock home without spending much effort may look for “fool’s gold” at the Lengenbach mineral mine. Many of the most magnificent rocks found in the valley are on exhibit in the museums of Binn and Fäld.  “I found my most beautiful crystal on the Ofenhorn”, says René before he leaves. “It’s part of my private collection. I didn’t have the heart to give it away.” If you have ever been under the spell of crystals, you will understand. 

Hasty hike up the Barrhorn

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