Rapidly deteriorating conditions across the European Alps due to rising temperatures are forcing mountain guides, their clients and independent teams to change their objectives as the risk of rockfall, avalanches and serac collapses increases. Some normal routes up major peaks are no longer being sold by guiding companies as the impact of climate change and the current heatwave becomes clear following a tragedy on the Marmolada this month and a spate of incidents and near-misses during the high season.
We spoke to mountain guides and climbers working and holidaying in the Alps to find out how they are adapting to 'the new normal'.
This is thought provoking, and the adapt-or-die consequences for the industry are clear.
What jumped out for me was the attitude to maintaining some current expectations of where privileged people can can play - there was no irony in reporting the use of piste bashers high on mountains, or personal transport by helicopter. "Removing" loose rock (how? By chucking it off?) seems sensible from a safety point of view but exposes more mountain to the sun, and seeing Mont blanc as a box-ticking exercise is faintly depressing.
It's all about agenda 21/30. It's all about keeping the main routes open for wealthy clients. Just look at the situation in Zermatt. Experienced climbers are being forced to use huts. Zermatt is just a playground for the wealthy, freedoms have been eroded unless you know how to get off the radar. The campsite in the town centre is quiet. There are no working-class characters around anymore. Just middle-class box tickers.
Fascinating that they discuss the [ fairly superficial] actions they are taking to try to mitigate the changes, and say that *all* 8 bilion people on the planet need to take action....
But no mention of discouraging their rich jetsetting privileged clientele from travelling huge distances to the alps to hire their services and climb hills...?
PS. Let me be clear and say that I fully realise that I am absolutely aware that I am one of the worst polluters myself. As probably every person on this forum is.
I however am not urging subsistence farmers in Africa/ India etc to lower their emissions so I can continue playing my games.
> Less snow & ice = more rock routes. Yay!
> Every cloud...
Has no silver lining.
just about impossible to access the start of most rock routes either because the glacier has shrunk or the schrund is so huge, it’s impossible to span the gap.
> just about impossible to access the start of most rock routes either because the glacier has shrunk or the schrund is so huge, it’s impossible to span the gap.
... and that the newly exposed rock is smooth and holdless!
I feel that too many of us have our heads in the sand and hope the problems will go away.
Sadly, the science is clear and matters will only get worse.
It won't just be our climbing trips that are spoilt (I'm planning a trip to the Alps in September).
I'm glad I don't have kids.
There is a slight irony that many Guides spread their work out across the globe throughout the year and therefore have a higher than average fight usage, especially if you include their clients.
This isn't a dig at Guides and I understand many don't travel as much as others, and that many Guides stay in Europe and use land based transport.
I just feel it's important to consider our own actions in all of this.
None of us are perfect and I'm certainly not preaching.
> There is a slight irony that many Guides spread their work out across the globe throughout the year and therefore have a higher than average fight usage, especially if you include their clients.
I’ve heard of stroppy guides like them
I wonder whether this season will represent a breaking point where the glaciers and snowfields will suffer so much damage that it won’t be ‘repaired’ ever again. I mean things like large new crevasses, impassable schrunds and rubble fields where there used to be snowfields. Cearly glaciers have been shrinking and getting worse but will we now see a drastic deterioration? I get that a snowy winter could sort things out but we don’t get many of those it seems. Then next summer will do more damage, even if it’s not as hot as this one. We need a snowy winter and a poor summer like 2014…
Obviously anything can happen in the short term but the trajectory is clear. I think classic Alpine climbing (winter and summer) and Scottish winter climbing are essentially screwed. Give it another 10 years and we won’t be doing much of either. Rock climbing is all the rage - and in the Alps, that means rock climbing with non-glacial approaches.
In the meantime, climbers have to adapt. Even before this summer, it was clear that August was too late for many Alpine objectives. June is probably the best time to go now. Someone better tell the lift companies and hut wardens…
I haven’t been abroad since March 2020. I don’t see much point in planning an Alps spring trip next year as it would take a very good autumn and winter to build up the mixed. Might go to Spain instead (never been). Thinking about getting the train down and hiring an (electric) car if need be. I’d like to get to the Alps again for some big rock routes - perhaps next June, in the sweet spot between the rock clearing and the glaciers becoming chaotic; or else some non-glacial rock in Switzerland or the Dolomites, which could be later in the season. I’m also not banking on getting much Scottish winter climbing done, partly because I’m no longer prepared to go out in crap weather / conditions, partly because weekend Scottish trips are hard to justify environmentally and partly because there will be fewer climbable days going forward.
I did enjoy t shirt temperature on Scafell during the two ridiculously hot days recently. Could be more of that going forward…
> Thinking about getting the train down and hiring an (electric) car if need be.
Just too bad they don’t have too many public charging stations in the Chamonix valley. Most of them are destination chargers i.e. for hotel residents only.
This will have to change, same as everywhere. If you want to just hang around in Cham, getting the train via Paris is a great idea and I’ve done it lots of times in the past. Don’t even need a car. These days I get the van as I prefer to be able to move with the weather, plus in winter there’s too much gear for the train. Except I haven’t been at all since pre-Covid, which I guess is the most envirofriendly option…The train option I was referring to was for a sport climbing trip but it’s feasible for a lot of trips.
I feel a bit conflicted about long haul flights. I’d like to get to places like Yosemite and that would be a one off trip… until the next one off trip. At least I have no interest whatsoever in the Greater Ranges, so that’s easy!