It was the summer of 2022 that finally orphaned the Scex Rouge glacier, breaking the connection that linked it to its larger parent for millennia.
Only last year, three meters of ice covered a rocky saddle of land high up in the Swiss Alps, across which a monumental tongue of ice has crept down from the bigger Tsanfleuron glacier for as many as 5,000 years. But on a bright sunny day this week, a slushy isthmus the depth of an icy puddle was all that connected the two, as a long-hidden path opened up between them.
“We knew the pass would emerge one day,” said Bernhard Tschannen, chief executive of Glacier 3000, a ski resort that operates cable cars up to the glaciers on the Diablerets massif. “This year was dramatic,” he added. “We’ve lost about three times as much ice this year as we have on average in each of the last 10.”
Here in Europe’s highest mountain range, 3,000m above sea level, the impact of Europe’s extreme summer — the latest in a series of blisteringly hot summers and unusually mild winters — has become glaringly clear. Ancient glaciers are under threat across the globe, from the Himalayas to the Andes, but the melting process has been most apparent in Europe and in particular the Alps.
Tschannen said he had seen radical changes in the 15 years he has worked on the high peaks. There used to be so much ice that the views were completely different, he noted, with whole mountains obscured by the mass of various glaciers.