Ghosts of Glaciers

The Pyrénées are my local mountains and I try to get out there hiking or riding my bike every week or so. A month ago I climbed up le Taillon (a 3000+ meter peak on the French – Spanish border) passing through la Breche de Roland, a spectacular slot in the sharp border ridge. As recently as 30 years ago the climb up to the Breche from the hut below it would have all been on the Glacier de la Breche but now it’s just hiking up dusty gravel; mountaineering has become hiking.

Thirty years ago, all of this was a glacier.

About halfway up the climb, there is a little patch of snow that you walk across – the remnants of the glacier. It’s pink in color due to algae; the darker color helps melt the ice more easily and the water in the ice helps the algae. Scientists think that the last snow to melt on earth will be red.

Tiny pink remnant of the glacier

There’s speculation that the Pyrénées may be glacier free by the middle of this century and that the Alps will be largely free of glaciers by the end of the century. I suppose these are pretty minor consequences of climate change, but I still find them pretty sad. A few more pics.


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