On July 3, a massive section of the Marmolada Glacier calved off, setting off a destructive cascade of snow, ice, and rock. Several climbers and guides were killed. The video of the collapse was alarming enough. Combined with climate change realities like oppressive heat waves, and a still insatiable need to venture into the mountains, such dramatic landscape changes are disturbing.
European mountains are often marked with more infrastructure than in the U.S., and the Marmolada is no exception. There’s skiing on the glacier in winter. Nearby refugios allow hikers and climbers to explore the alpine with an element of comfort in the summer. Nevertheless, the mountains are real and packed with objective hazards found in most significant mountain ranges. Compounding those hazards in the Dolomites is a recent heat wave: June marked unseasonably hot temperatures in parts of Western Europe.
Past WildSnow coverage of glaciology and photography in the Wind Rivers.
In years past, the verbal tiptoeing ensued: some were hesitant to cause a stir by associating events like the Marmolada collapse with climate change. The shocking video and the realities of last summer’s desiccating heat dome here in the Pacific Northwest made my mind run through the climate change narrative immediately after hearing the news.
All this can be dizzying. We’re enjoying an extended ski season in my home region due to late spring snowfall—which is all good cover for the winter’s snow sparseness. The short game looks good. Post fourth of July this year finally sees the diehards prep skis for summer storage.
The long game, that’s still grim.
The Marmolada at 10,968 is the Dolomites’ highest peak, with the eponymous glacier the region’s largest. I suppose if it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. Bad things happen in the mountains, even to the most cautious and risk-averse. Bad things happen.
There’s got to be a positive here. And Jason Hummel (someone I’m still tracking down to interview) helps celebrate glaciers. In a state as moist as they come, he’s documenting his quest to ski all of the region’s glaciers. If that isn’t enough, add his 9er Project, Circumnavigation Project, and Washington Traverse. His celebrated photos capture why we assess the risks, break camp pre-dawn, and ski from point A to B.
Here’s a link to Hummel’s glacier project and some images and stories capturing the bright sides of snow, skiing, and humans moving through the mountains in this topsy turvy world.
Jason Albert comes to WildSnow from Bend, Oregon. After growing up on the East Coast, he migrated from Montana to Colorado and settled in Oregon. Simple pleasures are quiet and long days touring. His gray hair might stem from his first Grand Traverse in 2000 when rented leather boots and 210cm skis were not the speed weapons he had hoped for. Jason survived the transition from free-heel kool-aid drinker to faster and lighter (think AT), and safer, are better.
The end is nigh!
Don’t confuse weather with climate, and remember we can’t predict either.
“Glacier National Park removes signs predicting glaciers will be gone by 2020”
You are wrong on both counts. I have no intention of getting into a spitting match but do your homework. Not sure what the link to the NYPost (of all the right wing papers you could choose) is there for. If you read the story it has little to do with climate. Look around at the data.
I hope your statement: “a still insatiable need to venture into the mountains” does not advocate a future where our “need” to venture into the mountains is curtailed or prohibited as an irresponsible driver of climate change. Certainly we need to evaluate and consider the fuel spent visiting far off lands and even driving vehicles into the local mountains as contributing to climate change. There are much bigger generators to consider first before we stay at home and eat soylent green. Likely rising costs will restrict excessive travel for pleasure. A future without venturing into the mountains would be a bleak place indeed.
Hey David, thanks for reading. That’s not what I’m implying here. What I meant in that sentence is this: I think most readers of WS have a near insatiable need for heading into the mountains. And over time, some of the long-term landscape changes we see are quite stark. As backcountry skiers I think we have a unique perspective when it comes to seeing these long-term changes up close; there was no intent to comment on curtailing or prohibiting backcountry use to mitigate climate change. Although I’m guessing a strong stance on that would garner some free flowing comments.