Mont-Blanc Massif Glacier Threatens to Collapse


After days of very high temperatures, glaciologists observed a fracture in the Planpincieux glacier in the Mont-Blanc massif.

Experts from the Fondazione Montagne Sicura (Safe Mountains Foundation) declared that 500,000 cubic metres (17.6 million cubic feet) of ice was at risk of collapse.

Consequently, Courmayeur municipality evacuated around 65 people, including 50 tourists.

South slope of the Grandes Jorasses, with the Planpincieux Glacier on the left, photo source @, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
Mont Blanc seen from Val Ferret. Hairless Heart / CC BY-SA (

The Planpincieux glacier could collapse

With an elevation ranging from 3,660 m to 2,345 m (12,007 ft to 7,693 ft), the Planpincieux glacier is located on the Italian side of the Mont-Blanc massif, on the southern side of the Grandes Jorasses peak.

The glacier, which has been closely monitored since 2013, was also at risk of collapse in September 2019, when scientists warned that 250,000 cubic meters (8.8 million cubic feet) of ice could fall.

The movement of the glacial mass was due to “anomalous temperature trends”, experts said.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, glaciers from all over the world have been retreating at unprecedented rates.

One of the most immediate and obvious effects of global warming, rising temperatures are highly affecting glaciers all over the world. In the Alps, the mountains have warmed by 1.5 degrees Celcius in the last century.

Rising temperatures cause the glaciers to melt from the lower region, resulting in fractures and the possibility of the frozen upper region of the glacier to collapse.

Besides rising temperature, a decrease in winter precipitation (snow) also negatively impacts the glaciers. In the absence of precipitation, glaciers do not advance.

65 people were evacuated

As a precautionary measure, the municipality of Courmayeur evacuated the area. 15 permanent residents and 50 tourists left their homes in Val Ferret, the hamlet beneath the Planpincieux glacier.

They were welcomed at the sports centre of Dolonne, in the multipurpose hall.

Moreover, the traffic on the municipal road to Val Ferret from the intersection of the hamlet of Meyen was closed. Pedestrians are also prohibited from using that road, only emergency vehicles can pass. The area is under surveillance by Doppler radar.

In case the glacier collapses, it is estimated that the mass of ice will reach the municipal road in less than two minutes.

Italian authorities believe this evacuation should only last three to four days. As the thermometer lowers with the change of weather, the risk of the Planpincieux glacier collapsing should go down.

Sources @Le Dauphine, The Guardian.

Read also: Planpincieux glacier in risk of collapse in September 2019.

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