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.
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.
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.