Le Miroir d'Argentine © C.Pittier
Le Miroir d'Argentine © Claude Pittier
Miroir de l'Argentine ©Sébastien Staub
Restaurant du Miroir de l'Argentine ©Sébastien Staub
Miroir de l'Argentine © Francesca Martini
Miroir de l'Argentine © Francesca Martini

Le Miroir d'Argentine

When the sun goes down, the slab takes silvery colors.

A natural masterpiece, bright as silver.
The Miroir of Argentine: Solalex (Bex).
Three steps to build a mirror.
The Miroir of Argentine is a smooth mirror-like rocky slab (Miroir) that shines like silver (Argentine). It was built in three stages: rocks formed in the sea bottom, were folded during the formation of the Alps and finally eroded.

1. Finding the right materials
The Miroir of Argentine is made up of a very compact and solid rock capable of forming an immense smooth slab. Highly specific conditions are necessary to create a rock of such quality. A tropical sea...along with sea animal-built reefs.

At the time of dinosaurs, warm shallow waters covered the southern part of Europe.
Clinging to each other like corals, rudists, now extinct mollusks, formed colonies.
Debris pile up at the bottom of the sea...and turn into rock.
Sediments change depending on the climate or the depth of the water. Layers of rudist reefs are short-lived and quickly covered.
The mud formed by calcium shells debris, just like our skeleton, is pressed for a very long time and turns into a solid rock known as limestone. Sediments become rock. Here, fragments of fossilised shells form the limestone.

2. Crush, press, and fold.
Today, the slab of the Miroir d'Argentine is almost vertical, which is the opposite of its original horizontal position on the seabed. How was this radical change brought about? The meeting of two continents.
Tectonic plates move on the mantle of the earth. At one point in their history, the African and Eurasian plates moved closer to each other, crushing the rocks in between. Once folded, it takes up less space.
Part of the substance was taken downward to the earth. The rest was folded and refolded to fit in the remaining available small space. This stack of folds forms the Alps. The Argentine massif is a small fold inside a giant fold which itself is part of the great folding of the Alps.

3. Clear, sculpt and smooth
To begin with, today’s visible folds and rocks were hidden under several hundred meters of rock in the depths of the earth. How was the shape of our mountains brought about?
If you want to see the mountains, dig!
Today’s visible mountain relief is the result of constant erosion. Water and ice have been carving the rock folds of the Alps for million of years.

Why is the Miroir still here today?
As water moulded the valley of Solalex, it quite easily washed away soft and fractured rock. However, the smooth slab of the Miroir, stronger than other surrounding rocks, remained in place. The limestone of the reef made the Miroir a real tough cookie to swallow for erosion.
Erosion is constant. Although a very hard type of rock, limestone cannot resist frost. Consequently, erosion goes on and screes fall to the foot of the Miroir. Climbers: wear a helmet!
What happened to the gigantic quantity of rock taken away from the Alps?
Nowadays, it fills the space up between the Alps and Jura and is called molasse. Lausanne, Berne and Zurich were built on these washed away fragments.

Alpinists open routes on the Miroir
The particular and smooth slab of the Great Miroir of Argentine, is a challenging invitation to sport climbers.
In 1922, despite snow and ice, three students from Lausanne reached the top of the slab. Another party of climbers, guided by Armand Moreillon, a local from Les Plans-sur-Bex, sent the first successful ascent of the Voie Normale in 1926. At that time, there were no anchors to secure climbers. Arm-strength was all they had to stop a fall. Falling was not really an option.
New routes were opened in the 30s and 40s and anchors were hammered into the rock. Climbing equipment, rock shoes for instance, slowly improved as well.
Nowadays there are about 15 bolted climbing routes up the 400 meters of the face.

Climbing and geology
Engrossed in his sport, a climber has little time to notice the fossils scattered on the rock.
However, the keen climber may notice that the steepness of the face diminishes as he progresses. Indeed, the slab is not flat but curved. It follows the curve of the great fold that forms the massif of Argentine. The folding process created cracks in the rock, the type of cracks one sees when folding a piece of rubber. These cracks are climbers’ favoured ways up the wall. The Voie Normale and Voie Directe are perfect examples of these vertical paths.
In addition, as it flows down the cracks, water chemically dissolves limestone. It gradually carves winding grooves, making perfect footholds.

Kids play with rocks!
Hi! We, the rocks, are all around you!
Try to find us in the grass, by the river or by the road! I personally fell from up there! From the top of the Miroir d’Argentine!

To play
1. Choose the game you wish to play. 2. Read the rules. 3. Collect the rocks you need. 4. Enjoy the game!
It is essential for each team to collect a great variety of rocks. All the rocks here were born at the bottom of the sea but they can be yellow, black or grey, solid or fragile, rounded or square. Some even hide fossils!

Target shooting
2 teams / 2x6 stones
Start a few steps away from the target made up of wooden sticks. Throw in turns and always under arm. The team that tosses correctly the greatest number of stones wins. You can also invent and place different point based targets.

Little Mill
Place stones one by one on the mill represented with wooden sticks on the ground. Then move your stones in turns along the lines. The first player to line three stones up wins.

Tic Tac Toe
A very simple game: in turns, place your stones in a square. The first player to line three stones up wins. You can also have a grid with more squares and play with more stones.

Mikado
Who will collect the greatest number of stones out without making other stones move? As long as you win, you can keep playing.

Riddle
1 to 6 players /stones
Choose a stone that you like and feel it with your hands thoroughly. Would you be able to find it again in a rock pile blindfolded?
Try to feel the weight of your stone. Is it smooth or is it rough? Rounded or square? Hot or cold?
Keep on playing!
By the river or along the path to Anzeinde, you can invent new games with your family and friends.
What about getting creative with stones and give birth to a work of art?

The Good Player’s Charter
I respect plants and animals
I throw gently under arm.
I put the stones back in their place after the game

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