Video of the Week: Freeski of the Mer de Glace

This Video of the Week takes you for a white-knuckle freeski of the Mer de Glace, France’s largest glacier. Sam Favret’s short film “Ice Call” was a finalist at the New York Wild Film Festival in 2018. Favret first takes us above the Chamonix with a stunning aerial of the Mont Blanc mountains. Audio of glaciers cracking like cannon fire accompanies an impressive panorama as a skier mentally steels himself before dropping in. After a Requiem For a Dream-esque cut of the sights and sounds of a glacier’s interior― the action begins. You’ll find yourself tucking your elbows in as the skier navigates narrow chutes and spins into a light-less glacial cave. Acrobatic inversions, rotations, and icy wall rides are artfully integrated in a free flowing ride as natural as the glacier itself.

You’ll want to ensure your audio is turned up for this:

 

Discover more glacier news at GlacierHub:

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Glacier Tanks: An Ode to Mount Hood

Irony in Big Piney: On Karen Budd-Falen and the Wind River Glaciers

 

Photo Friday: Mer de Glace, a “Sea of Ice”

The French Alps lie just about an hour and thirty minutes away from the heart of Geneva. I thought of visiting Chamonix, home of the famous Mont Blanc, after a conference at the United Nations. Though, what I didn’t know was that I could visit the equally majestic Mer de Glace, or “Sea of Ice” in English, a valley glacier on the northern slopes of the Mont Blanc Massif.

I was lucky enough to visit Mer de Glace in the winter outside of peak season. That meant the cable car heading up the slopes actually had seats available. It also meant that I could take breathtaking photos of this winter wonderland without being disturbed. I was in such awe of Mer de Glace that I completely forgot to put my gloves on! I was too focused on capturing the moment. As my hands fell numb, I ran inside the gift shop and waited for the cable car to return. On the way down, I couldn’t help but wonder how long such a magnificent glacier would last. I had suddenly remembered the tour guide explaining earlier that the glacier has been melting and that we were lucky to have seen so much snow.

Upon researching, I came to realize that the glacier was in fact disappearing. The ice has melted so quickly over the past 30 years that it now takes around 370 steps to get down to the ice. In 1988 it took only three steps. Between 2014 and 2015 alone Mer de Glace has lost 3.61 meters of ice. To make matters worse, reports have indicated 40 percent less snowfall over the past 50 years in the region. All over the world glaciers are melting as a result of changing climate. Tourists like myself are left wondering how many more generations will be able to witness the majesty of the French Alps. Will my generation be the last?

This Photo Friday, join me on an eye-opening journey through the snowy mountainside of Mont Blanc.

The quiet town of Chamonix, France (Source: Brian Poe Llamanzares).

 

At the heart of the town of Chamonix, you’ll find a statue of Michel Paccard. Paccard was a doctor and mountain climber. This monument is dedicated to his ascent of Mont Blanc alongside Jaque Balmat in 1786 (Source: Brian Poe Llamanzares).

 

The author standing on the bridge to the cable car leading up to Mer de Glace (Source: Brian Poe Llamanzares).

 

Mer de Glace (Source: Brian Poe Llamanzares).

 

The mountain landscape through which Mer de Glace flows (Source: Brian Poe Llamanzares).

Click here to find out more about the tour I booked in Chamonix.

Roundup: Blue Lakes in Antarctica, Yak Dung and River Gauges in Asia

This Week’s Roundup:

Blue lakes on an East Antarctic glacier are a troubling sign, scientists say

From Yahoo News:

Iceberg melting in East Antarctica
Source: Yahoo News.

“British researchers have discovered a troubling trend in East Antarctica: As air temperatures become warmer each summer, more and deeper lakes are showing up atop Langhovde Glacier.

Their study, published this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, is the first to monitor the meltwater pools for an extended period of time in that part of the icy continent.”

Click here to learn more about this troubling trend.

Yak dung is helping melt Tibetan glaciers

From Forbes:

Chinese glaciers are melting at accelerating rates.
Chinese glaciers are melting at accelerating rates. Source: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images.

“Scientists had long assumed that India and China—two of the world’s leading sources of black carbon pollution—were responsible for what fell on the glaciers in Tibet and the Himalayas[….] Instead, he found that a lot of the black carbon is local. While power plants in China and fires in India do contribute black carbon, in the remote interior of the Tibetan Plateau it appears to come mostly from burning yak dung and other immediate sources.”

Click here to read more about the small but mighty power of yak dung.

 

Pakistan expands glacier monitoring in effort to cut disaster risk

From Thomson Reuters Foundation News:

River monitoring experts of the Pakistan Meteorological Department plant a river flow gauge in flood-prone Bagrot river
River monitoring experts of the Pakistan Meteorological Department plant a river flow gauge in flood-prone Bagrot River in Gilgit, in northern Pakistan. Source: TRF/Saleem Shaikh.

“Pakistan will invest $8.5 million to expand a network of glacier monitoring stations tracking the pace of glacial melt in the Hindu Kush, Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges, in an effort to strengthen early warning systems and reduce the impact of flooding in the South Asian country.”

Click here to learn more about Pakistan’s new glacial monitoring research program.

Photo Friday: Musical Mountains in the Cosmo Jazz Festival

The Cosmo Jazz Festival in Chamonix, France mixes stunning glacial and mountain views of the Alps with live jazz performances. The concert series, which ran this year from July 23 until July 31st, sets each day’s concert at a new, makeshift stage in open air high up in Chamonix. Chamonix is a small town and resort area at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest summit in the Alps.

Check out these photos of this year’s festival’s performances, framed by Mont Blanc’s iconic glacial peaks. Christophe Boillon holds all of the image rights for the festival photos shown below. You can find more of his photography on Flickr here.

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France and Italy Argue Over Disputed Glacier Territory

Aiguille du Midi, Mont-Blanc, courtesy of Cristian Bortes/flickr
Aiguille du Midi, Mont-Blanc, courtesy of Cristian Bortes/flickr

Disputed territory on Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, raised buried tensions between Italy and France earlier this month after the mayor of Chamonix, in France, blocked off access to a dangerous glacier on what Italians claim as their own territory.

The Mayor, Eric Fournier, closed a gate at the entrance of the Giant Glacier at 3500 meters, saying the route beyond it was unsafe. For years the French and Italian sides have argued about access to the area, which the French consider too dangerous for climbers. The Italians, who installed the gate, say warning signs should be enough to discourage inexperienced climbers. Every year, 30,000 people attempt to climb the mountain and about 20 climbers died in 2014 alone.

“[The French] removed hazard signs that we had put in place after the massive influx of tourists in recent months,” Fabrizia Derriard, mayor of Courmayeur in Italy, told the Independent. “They also closed the gate, which makes it dangerous for climbers who now have to climb over a barrier to get to the other side.”

Both countries disagree about where France ends and Italy starts. France claims its territory extends to the start of the glacier while Italy claims French territory begins 300 meters away.

The Mont Blanc Massif, courtesy of Tom Fahy/Flickr.
The Mont Blanc Massif, courtesy of Tom Fahy/Flickr.

The Giant Glacier is not the only glacier that caught in the middle of territorial disputes. When Ötzi the Iceman, a mummified body from 3300 BCE, was found in a glacier in the Ötztal Alps between Italy and Austria, disputes about which country Ötzi should belong to arose. Though he was found by Austrian climbers, Ötzi was eventually placed in a museum in Italy.

On the border between India and Pakistan, the Siachen Glacier is in disputed territory. One year ago, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the glacier after the two countries exchanged fire over the glacier and took 20 civilian lives.

As dynamic landscape features that melt and shift, glaciers can  create problems if governments have decided to make them serve to delimit borders.  Glaciers also tend to be high in the mountains and can be difficult to access, so they are not always mapped with the precision that international agreements may require. The dispute over the three peaks of Mont Blanc has been going on for 150 years, in a region of the world that is well-mapped and that has strong international institutions. It thus serves as a reminder that other glacier regions may provoke international disagreements, starting with issues as small as the location of a gate.