"The union (of high mountain guides) informs you that due to the conditions in the high mountains and the increase in temperatures that will be recorded in the coming days, the Chamonix Guides Company temporarily suspends the ascent of Mont Blanc by the route Goûter's normal".

The poster, placed on July 14 at the entrance to the office of the Chamonix Guide Company, was a jug of cold water for the dozens of people gathered in the quiet square of the church of San Miguel, where it opens its doors the Maison de la Montagne, sanctum sanctorum of the mountain professionals of the so-called capital of the Alps.

Many of those gathered aspired to step on the top of Mont Blanc, the mountain that at 4,807 meters is the highest in the Alps and in Western Europe.

They wanted to do it in the safest way: in the company of a guide, but that poster had broken their dreams perhaps forever.

Made up of 160 high mountain guides and 60 mountain companions, the Chamonix Company is the oldest in the world.

Created in 1821, his word has absolute authority as far as mountaineering is concerned.

Making a decision of this magnitude, which affects its main economic resource, has been studied as well as difficult.

The official rate to climb Mont Blanc ranges between 1,100 and 1,420 euros, tips and expenses apart.

To know more


This is how ice detectives work: "Climate change is the common enemy"

  • Writing: TERESA GUERREROBilbao

This is how ice detectives work: "Climate change is the common enemy"


Why glaciers are the thermometers of warming: "The landslide in the Alps bears the mark of climate change"

  • Writing: ÁNGEL DÍAZMadrid

Why glaciers are the thermometers of warming: "The landslide in the Alps bears the mark of climate change"

"The Bowling is impossible and a few days ago an avalanche of stones dragged a person who was crossing the couloir", they point out from the Company.

La Bowling is the colloquial name by which the highest risk point on the normal Mont Blanc route is known.

It is an ice corridor on the wall of the Goûter needle that you have to cross.

It is not more than 50 meters, but the stones and icebergs of all sizes that fall at all times and unexpectedly on those who cross it, sometimes hitting them like a ball against bowling, has earned it its nickname

Nightfall at Camping des Rosières, a favorite of mountaineers camping in Chamonix.

Next to the tents, the climbers comment on the news of this summer in shirt sleeves, when not long ago, the sludge at this time of year made it necessary to wear a fleece, if not a down jacket.

"Yesterday we wanted to go up, but at Tête Rousse (just under La Bolera) some gendarmes warned us of the danger, we thought about it and decided to turn around, it looked very bad", comment Paul and Mary, a young British couple who are fond of mountaineering who pass your holidays in the Alps.

Like them, hundreds of climbers have turned around this summer giving up their goals.

Others continue with their plans, which has led Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of Saint Gervais, the terminus through which the normal route of Mont Blanc runs, to announce his intention to charge climbers of the mountain a deposit of 15,000 euros in advance. , to cover possible ransom and funeral costs.

Peillex has denounced that "

several pseudo-alpinists have tried to climb Mont Blanc regardless of the recommendations".

According to data from the security and mountain rescue bodies, at least 50 people have defied such advice in recent days and have set out on the route.

Extremely hot conditions

and lack of rainfall

have turned most alpine routes into death traps.

As Europe burns, the opening of cracks, rock avalanches and falling ice floes have made its mountains closed territory.

Its climbing has not been prohibited, it is just a matter of common sense.

The news coming from the other side of the mountain - the Mont Blanc massif borders France, Italy and Switzerland - add pessimism to the warm panorama.

The Gonella refuge, an unavoidable point on the normal route on the Italian side, has had to be closed due to the dangerous state of the glacier that must be crossed.

While in Zermatt the Swiss guides have stopped guiding their clients to mountains such as the Matterhorn, the Castor and the Polux, the High Mountain Guides Union of Valle d'Aosta, which is surrounded by some of the most emblematic and visited peaks of the Alps, Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso among them, has indicated the suspension of services of its guides for peaks such as Monte Bianco itself and the Diente del Gigante.

"The increase in temperatures has produced two main dangers: the collapse of stones, even large ones, difficult to predict, and the snow bridges over the glaciers that cover the cracks," said Rudy Janin, president of the technical commission of the Italian union.

A few days ago, an event that also occurred in Italy, although at the other end of the Alpine chain, in the Dolomites, was the trigger for the situation.

On Sunday, July 7, a huge ice detachment occurred right on the glacier below the Marmolada summit and destroyed the normal route of ascent.

The fact that it is one of the most popular peaks of these Italian mountains and that it was Sunday, made the collapse a tragedy.

Unexpectedly, a mass of ice weighing hundreds of tons that the president of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia, compared to a 70-storey skyscraper, descended down the slope of the so-called Queen of the Dolomites.

The final balance has been 11 victims and seven injured, in an accident listed among the most terrible in the history of the Alps.

Numerous ice detachments have followed one another since then, the ascent to the mountain remaining closed.

The collapse of the Marmolada icebergs has been the cry of the world's glaciers announcing their disappearance due to climate change.

Global warming, causing the melting of ice rivers and, also, of the frozen surface layers of the soil, the so-called permafrost, is responsible for changes that, according to all sources, will increase.

A climatic change indicated by the 10.4º registered on July 18 by Italian meteorological services at the top of Mont Blanc, ten degrees above average.

Melting ice in Greenland

On the other side of the planet, from the National Center for Snow and Ice Data, at the University of Colorado (USA), data arrives on the current melting recorded by the Greenland glaciers.

During the weekend of July 15 to 17, 6,000 million tons of water melted each day.

Volume that would fill 7.2 million Olympic swimming pools.

The extension of ice converted into water those two days would be equivalent to covering twice the surface of Catalonia with a layer of water 30 centimeters thick.

Scientists studying the phenomenon point out that there is no record of a similar rate in the last 12,000 years.

Temperatures this summer on the big island are 10 degrees higher than usual.

A real hell that allows you to be in the Arctic in a T-shirt.

Located northeast of North America, Greenland is the largest island in the world, if Australia is considered a continent.

80% of its surface is covered by glaciers.

They make up the second ice reserve on the planet, after Antarctica.

More than two million square kilometers, which in large areas of the interior are several kilometers thick.

The current melting of Greenland had a precedent in 2019, when 532 billion tons of ice melted.

They ended up in the ocean, whose global level increased by 1.5 mm.

If all of Greenland's ice melted, the planet's ocean water levels would rise by 7.5 meters.

This would mean the disappearance of a large number of islands and wide coastal strips, including large populations.

Close to 10% of the world's population, more than 770 million people should emigrate elsewhere.

The last Spanish ice rivers

This planetary phenomenon is particularly relevant in the last Spanish glaciers.

They are all in the Pyrenees.

Of the total of 19 ice spots that remain in the border chain, only three exceed the extension of 10 hectares: Aneto, Maladeta and Monte Perdido.

To them must be added that of Ossoue, on the French side.

According to a report carried out by scientists from the Pyrenean Institute of Ecology, IPE-CSIC and other institutions, from 2011 to 2020 the total area of ​​the glaciers in the Pyrenees has been reduced by 23.2% and their thickness has decreased by 6.3 meters on average.

In the last four decades, half of the Pyrenean glaciers, the largest in southern Europe, have disappeared.

Those that remain have a situation of "delicate balance", according to a study by the Pyrenean Climate Change Observatory.

During the period 1959-2020, the average annual temperature of the mountain chain has increased by 1.6 degrees.

In the same period, the average annual precipitation has decreased by 8%.

Scientists point out that the Pyrenean glaciers are at extreme risk and

"could disappear or become residual ice patches in 20 years."

The Aneto glacier, the largest of all, is a paradigm of the situation.

"We have registered an annual retreat of one and a half meters in this glacier; the observations of this summer indicate that it is very possible that this year it will be higher", explains Ixeia Vidaller, one of the IPE-CSIC researchers who authored the aforementioned study.

The trend is common to the rest of the four large glaciers in the chain.

"The glacier area has decreased its thickness in some areas by more than six meters

. This year they could lose up to three meters," says the scientist.

The increase in temperatures prevents the rivers of melting water, originating in the hottest daytime hours, from freezing at night, which causes a continuous retreat of the glacier mass.

To this must be added the decrease in rainfall episodes, which are increasingly scarce and reduced.

"In recent years, moreover, rainfall has been accompanied by Saharan dust in suspension. This dust causes the mass of snow and ice to heat up and melt faster," explains Vidaller.

The reduction in the period and amount of snowfall has caused the glacial ice to come to light up to three months earlier than usual.

"A decade ago, the snow covered the Aneto glacier until the beginning of August, now it is exposed in mid-June,"

says Vidaller.

The result is the appearance of an old ice, dirty by particles of sand, rocks from the walls above the glacier and other materials.

Black ice of extraordinary hardness through which the normal route that leads to Aneto runs.

At 3,404 metres, it is the most emblematic peak in the Pyrenees.

During the summer hundreds of people come to it every day.

The Aneto glacier route has the worst conditions in living memory

Arturo Suárez, chief sergeant of the GREIM

"The Aneto glacier route has the worst conditions in memory," warns Arturo Suárez, chief sergeant of the Special Mountain Intervention Rescue Groups, GREIM, of the Civil Guard, stationed in Benasque, at the foot of the Cursed Mountains .

"It is an ice of extraordinary hardness, which is even difficult to nail with crampons -an insole with metal spikes that is tied to the sole to walk on icy surfaces- of mountaineering; much less with crampons of mountain shoes, lighter and weaker", he explains. Suarez.

The result is usually a fall, which in the Aneto glacier, with a certain degree of inclination, triggers a slide that can be more than a hundred meters.

"Chafing, sprains, sprains and breakages occur, of course.

In addition, the ice has abundant embedded stones that, in the event of a fall, aggravate the injuries," says Suárez.

According to GREIM data, 80% of accidents in the area are caused by slipping on slopes.

Most of those affected were poorly equipped, wearing running shoe crampons rather than proper mountaineering gear.

To this type of accident must be added the

risk of suffering the impact of one of the frequent stone falls.

The morphology of the Aneto, its surroundings and the nature of its glaciers prevent landslides like that of Marmolada, but the intense heat this summer increases the risk of landslides.

"At the beginning of the summer we detected a major landslide in the Coronas area; there was some rock the size of a car, which affected the normal route of the Portillón," says the GREIM member.

awareness campaign

To avoid presumed accidents such as those that occurred in 2021, when more than 20 operations were carried out in Aneto alone, with 28 people rescued, an intense awareness campaign has been carried out.

The GREIM advise not to use the classic ascent route, which starts at the Renclusa refuge, but to follow the one that starts at the Aigualluts plain and climbs up the Salterillo lake.

This path avoids crossing the glacier and only steps on snow under the summit of Aneto.

It does not have the danger of the Portillón route, although it is not completely free of risks, since starting from the ibón it runs through unstable boulders and before reaching the snow, it crosses a section where there may be landslides.

The campaign has borne fruit and

there have been no accidents in recent weeks


"We have had great support from all the media and also from the mountain guides and the staff of the mountain refuges. We see that

the majority of the mountaineers heed the recommendations.

Despite this, we remember the need extreme precautions in high mountains", concludes Arturo Suárez.

Carrying the right equipment, where a helmet, rope, crampons and ice ax should not be missing, respecting the schedules and weather forecasts and, if you do not have enough experience and knowledge, hiring the services of a mountain guide, is a recipe that minimizes risks. .

Conforms to The Trust Project criteria

Know more

  • Environment

  • Climate change