Panic regading the Tour du Mont Blanc

We are receiving enquiries from many concerned Clients in America and the UK about the fact that the “Mont Blanc Glacier is unstable” and how will this affect their trek next year. So we thought we should write to you about it, as unfortunately this is the result from over sensationalised American and British news headlines, which were both frightening and (fortunately) factually incorrect.

Yes, it’s true that global warming is a real problem all over the world & the European Alps are suffering just as much as other mountainous area. In my 30 years of being in this region I have noticed a real change and unfortunately the glaciers are receding at an alarming rate

However, you guys need to know that there is no danger to anyone doing the Tour du Mont Blanc (or any other routes) and here’s why:

Perspective on the Mont Blanc Massif

There isn’t one “Mont Blanc Glacier”. In fact, the Mont Blanc massif is a whopping 28.6 miles long, 12 mile wide mountain range in the Alps, located mostly in the French Alps or the Italian Alps, but also straddling Switzerland at its northeastern end. It has 45 mountains within the range and because of its considerable overall altitude, a large proportion of the Mont Blanc massif is covered with 70 different glaciers.

The Problem - The Planpincieux glacier

We have gone into detail here so that you can truly understand what is behind the headlines and given you the official 'watchdog' so that you can check.

The Planpincieux Glacier (which is the one that has been in danger of a collapse) is located on the southern slopes of the Grande Jorasses mountain (just one of the 45 mountains that make up the Mont Blanc Mountain Range). The Planpincieux Glacier is in Italy, above the hamlet of Planpincieux in the Val d’Aosta region and has a length of 1.6miles, covering a total area of just under 1 mile.

Grand Jorasses (13,806 ft) The Planprinceaux Glacier is circled on the far left

Protecting residents in the Alps

Over the years several ice avalanches and glacial outburst floods have posed a threat to the tiny hamlet of Planprincieux at the bottom of the valley. Therefore, the glacier has been closely monitored since 2013. It is located on a steep slope, with about 30° inclination and is a hanging glacier, with the front located over a steep break in the slope, a large crack is constantly being monitored, separating destabilized mass from the remainder of the glacier.

An acceleration in the displacement rate of the glacier occurred in September 2019, and in early September, the town mayor signed an order as reported on the website of the mountain independent watchdog the Fondazione Montagna Sicura - stated that “, concerning the possibility of ice volume collapses: that these ice collapses, even if they aren't dangerous for people at the bottom of the valley, can be a serious danger for those who hike over the access path of Boccalatte-Piolti refuges and the alpinist ways under the Glacier. Therefore by-order n. 3517 of 04/09/2019 The transit and the attendance of the above-mentioned area is forbidden”.

Local authorities in Courmayeur have therefore evacuated mountain huts in the area and closed the road down to Val Ferret as a precaution. It is estimated that there is no threat to residential areas or tourist resorts.

Since September the daily recorded displacement of the glacier has steadily decelerated and the most recent record shows a normal displacement of 20cm in the last 24 hours. What this means is thankfully, there is less of a risk to the residents of the small village of Planpincieux.

Planning Your trek - Tour du Mont Blanc

Although the threat is diminishing, whatever happens on the Planpinceaux Glacier (circled in red below) cannot affect the Tour du Mont Blanc as you trek high above the valley on the opposite ridge away from this area.

Plan of the Tour of Mont Blanc

It equally doesn’t affect the Walkers Haute Route, Tour de Monte Rosaor any hiking trail through the Vanoise National Park or walking holiday traversing the Gran Paradiso. And rest assured, as always if there is anything that will affect your hiking adventure it is our job to make sure that you all know.

I have worked in the area for 25 years and have been living here since 2007. I personally oversee every single trek that any of our Clients book and I would not and could not allow anyone embark on a walking trail anywhere in the Alps if there was any known danger.

Please continue to get in touch with any questions you may have in planning your Tour of Mont Blanc 2020 or indeed any of the lesser known hiking trails that you are thinking of choosing.