I went hiking this summer above Ferpècle in the Val d’Hérens to look at the Ferpècle and Mont Miné Glaciers. These are situated in grandiose scenery, with the mighty Dent Blanche towering above, yet are also quite easy to get to.
Mont Miné Glacier
I first went to see the Mont Miné glacier almost 15 years ago, and I have been returning frequently ever since. When friends come to stay I like to take them there as its easily accessible and rather special: you can get up close and touch the ice, watch the surface movement, and witness the shaping of the earth.
The sign at the end of the road indicates that the glacier is a 25 minutes walk away, though its more like 45 minutes now. According to this record, the glacier retreated 600m from 1989 to 2011. Its lost almost 200m since then.
Every year someone has helpfully been spray painting the location of the mouth of the glacier on a rock. Its now both scary and sad to see the retreat happening year on year – currently somewhere between 5m and 50m.
High above, there is an icefall where the upper part of the glacier is constantly breaking off, feeding the lower part. Whilst I was there several chunks cleaved off, creating a sound similar to thunder as the ice fell onto the glacier below.
But it won’t be enough – hot summers and poor snowfall are taking their toll. I chipped off a piece of ice to suck on and cool down, contributing further to its retreat.
Next I hiked up to see the Ferpècle glacier. In September 2015 a hole opened up in the glacier as it collapsed in on itself, and I went up there to take these photos.
I was intrigued to see what had happened since. At that time the hole was some distance back from the mouth, but by August 2017 it now formed the mouth. The thickness of the glacier has also shrunk, with rocks now visible further up. All in two years.
The upper parts of glaciers across Switzerland are also suffering. According to a recent article in the Valaisan newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, mountain huts with access across glaciers are suffering a big fall off in visitors as it is getting more dangerous to cross the glaciers as crevasses open up.
For those interested in more information on these glaciers, and photos from further back in time, see here.