Home World COMMUNICATING. Climate: in Planpincieux, the glacier that threatens to collapse in...

COMMUNICATING. Climate: in Planpincieux, the glacier that threatens to collapse in the village is neither hot nor cold for the inhabitants

“The glacier doesn’t scare us. It’s part of the mountain’s hazards.” Not far from the Italian entrance to the Mont Blanc tunnel, an entire valley now lives up to the alerts linked to the Planpincieux glacier. Laura Bonora, in her sixties, has lived in the village with her husband for many years. The last alert dates from 7 August: the road was cut off for a few hours, fearing glacier landslides. An unrealistic scenario as early as October 2020, a 15,000 m3 ice block came out of a serac located above the Planpincieux glacier.

Laura is adamant, “There have always been glaciers in the mountains, which never stopped us from living serenely here!” A sight far from secluded, in this thirteen kilometer long valley beside Mont Blanc. Here, only about ten Valdôtains live year-round. When the heat arrives, the population is divided between vacationers and passing tourists.

And the alerts tend to annoy villagers and shopkeepers alike. Marco Belfrond has spent his whole life at Val Ferret. He lives a few kilometers away in Courmayeur, on which Planpincieux depends, and runs the Miravalle hotel in the center of the village. Supported by the reception of his establishment, he details: “Last year we were evacuated and ten days ago there were road access restrictions. It’s ridiculous! Road shutting down for five hours? What does that mean?”

The fifties has difficulty understanding the decisions of the authorities, especially because, in his opinion, “It is normal for the glacier to gradually separate and for landslides to occur”. “Before the glacier falls and gets here… Considering how far we still have to go, I don’t think that will ever happen.”, he blurted out. And to conclude: “It’s not as dangerous as they want to make you think”.

The Lo Brenlo bar at Planpincieux below the glacier of the same name, July 19, 2021. & nbsp;  (SOLEMN LEROUX / FRANCEINFO)

A little further up, the Lo Brenlo bar is housed in a modest stone and wood house, characteristic of the region’s architecture. While tourists enjoy the sun’s rays, sitting on sun loungers in the attached garden, Nicole Passino says that the establishment has been in her family for 35 years. She has lived in an apartment below the bar for four years, except when the threat of avalanches is very high, “in that case, I know I have to get off at Courmayeur”, explains the young woman, between two additions. Visible just above the bar, the glacier doesn’t worry him.

“It doesn’t scare me a bit. We’re used to living in the mountains, we know that sometimes there are landslides.”

Nicole Passino, resident of Planpincieux

to France

A discourse that contrasts with that of the Montagne Sure Foundation, created in June 2002 on the initiative of the Aosta Valley region and the Courmayeur city hall. In particular, she is responsible for monitoring glaciers and mountain security in the Alps. Its main office is located on the heights of Courmayeur, with a breathtaking view over the valley.

Here, four glaciologists monitor about 200 glaciers in the region, including the use of radar and thermal cameras that are always on. Fabrizio Troilo has been working there since 2016. According to him, “if there is only one glacier among those monitored that should be highlighted, it will probably be Planpincieux, and this could happen in the medium term.”. Situated at an altitude of 3,100 m, the glacier is temperate: unlike polar glaciers still frozen in rock, temperate glaciers are subject to temperature variations. In summer, the Planpincieux glacier rests on a layer of water over which it can slide.

Without being an alarmist, the expert explains that all parameters are in line with tragedies that occurred in the past, such as in August 1965 with the collapse of part of the Allalin glacier in Switzerland.

“The slope of the glacier, the amount of water flowing, the appearance of active phases, the fracture of some sections of the glacier… All the signs are there. So we have to act.”

Fabrizio Troilo, glaciologist

to France

Currently, it is the destabilization of the right part of the glacier that worries glaciologists. “The worst scenario is that a million cubic meters leaks from the glacier. But we never had a warning to that effect., describes Fabrizio Troilo. For now, the biggest destabilization we know was in August 2020, affecting 500,000 m3. But the situation was limited and heavily monitored. “ In 2017, a flow of 60,000 m3 occurred without reaching the village.

In summer, the most active period of the glaciers, the foundation publishes a daily bulletin on the state of Planpincieux. Based on this document, the municipality of Courmayeur and the Civil Protection decide on the measures to be taken. It is one of those reports that triggered the evacuations in August 2020. This time, the authorities even took extra precautions in relation to the scientists’ recommendations by extending the evacuation perimeter.

Roberto Rota has been mayor of Courmayeur since November 2020, he knows perfectly the wishes of the inhabitants of Planpincieux. “Many will say: ‘The glacier never fell.’ So they don’t live with this problem. It’s true that glaciers have always moved, butbefore there were no studies on this, displays this original Valdôtain. It’s also very difficult for someone who doesn’t study glaciers to notice the problem. ” Ultimately, due to climate change, and like many glaciers in the Alps, the Planpincieux glaciers may disappear. Corn “Large landslides can occur for a period of ten to fifty years before disappearing. That’s why we’re watching.”, says Fabrizio Troilo.

The population remains closed to the recommendations of the authorities, considering that the risks of the glacier are no different from the usual dangers of the mountain. “Every day for years, little pieces of the glacier have been falling. Since I’ve been here, it’s been like this.”, defends Caramello Franco, a bicycle rental company established in Planpincieux since 1986. According to him, if the authorities are worried about the glacier, it is not exactly because of the threat, but “because they don’t want to take risks, they trigger the alert to take responsibility”. THEAn 80-year-old Italian believes that alerts are just “false news” : “I’ve lived in the valley for a long time, I was a ski instructor and an aspiring mountain guide, I think I have some mountain experience, he believes. This is all just a joke. “

Ludovico Colombati is the highest inhabitant of Planpincieux, the last wall of the glacier. Not enough to scare him. To reach your home, you have to wander for a long time on the winding roads that lead to the village and then dive deep into the forest. After a few minutes, his refuge takes shape: a grand 1930s building whose carpenter is none other than his grandfather.

He has lived there for thirty years, his two daughters were born there. “In winter the snow is so plentiful that it reaches porch level, so we live on the first floor”, he explains, walking around the house. This season, Planpincieux becomes the end of Val Ferret, with snow covering the rest of the road. Only the path that leads to Ludovico’s house is clear. In his garden, we divine the glacier among the trees, and we hear the torrent flowing from the glacier a few meters away. “It is true that it is very spectacular from here: if it breaks off, it seems inevitable that the glacier will arrive here immediately. But the glacier moves very slowly, I know that perfectly.”, he guarantees.

The 60-year-old man got into the habit of visibly checking the glacier every day. “When IThere is not much water left in the stream, there is a risk of an interior dam. If it breaks, it’s dangerous. But the activation of serac is nothing, it makes noise, but it is quite common. By ear, I immediately notice if there is a problem. “ Ludovico relies on his experience in the mountains. Like the other residents of Planpincieux, he has always lived in the valley.

“There is no zero risk, whether in the city or in the mountains. It’s not easy to live here, there are many problems to be solved, but the glacier is a minimal risk”.

Ludovico Colombati, inhabitant of Planpincieux

to France

Like Caramello Franco, he considers the authorities to be zealous, for fear of criminal repercussions in the event of an accident. Instead of evacuations and roadblocks, he favors pedagogy: “You have to tell tourists: ‘You’re in the mountains, pay attention to your surroundings, watch where you’re going, rock falls, etc.'”

As for the reasons for the melting of the glacier, which he estimates has lost half its mass since it settled in the village, Ludovico is divided. “Experts say it’s because of pollution, but looking at the history of the area, you can see that even before all this it was melting., he explains. I think climate change is one of the reasons for the melting, but it’s minimal. What is certain is that the warming of the mountains brings new risks. ” Such as landslides, increasingly frequent avalanches and more intense flooding of alpine rivers.

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