As glacier season approaches, I find myself with a pent-up fury, ready to attack and….it is not quite time. My goal is to get every last glacier in the Alps this summer, which is a 50/50 proposition. The largest are done, though quite a few are strewn over a very large surface area, although they are not as long or high as the ones already photographed. A wrinkle in my plans is not always knowing exactly where remaining glaciers are, which requires some excess of wandering around in cirques, bowls, and deep valleys in an old plane to find out what is there.
An ideal glacier photograph is an ideological perversion. The best-looking photograph of a glacier is when it is melting and receding, as seasonal snowfalls are excoriated from the glacier, showing its history in plain view. If it is showing its history, that means the history is melting.
2018 and 2019, my first summers frolicking amongst alpine glaciers, were relative infernos, with prodigious amounts of glacial melt, setting the standard very high for what I expected. As an example, the below 2018 image of the Aletschgletscher is a great point of reference for what I have grown to expect:
2020 featured an August snowfall that ruined the party just as it was getting started. I was able to incrementally stab at some glaciers, though a combination of a recent extended maintenance downtime, lackluster glacial views, a pandemic, and the fact that I hadn’t yet declared war on all remaining glaciers on earth meant that the bull in heat aerial attack was more like a peacetime underfunded training maneuver.
Add the birth of the Global Glacier Initiative last winter, and, well, things are getting tense as I wait for my limited annual window to go on the attack. A recent flight to Zermatt furnished a false indicator that the season had begun. A July snowfall put an end to that idea, though it is looking like the glaciers of the southern Alps, in Italy and France, might be calling.
Glaciers beneath Mönch and Jungfrau. At first glance they appear exposed, as the only seasonal snow at the lower reaches is on the glaciers. That is due to the fact that the glacier is rather cold and snow takes longer to melt. Still a 50/50 proposition for photography.
I exuberantly decided it was time to head into the Valais and Italy to get a few glaciers on the eastern side of a range that I had missed, owing to flying in the afternoons when it was shadowed. Unfortunately, recent rains were snows at high altitude, so the images were not ideal. Glacier de l’En Darrey.
Glacier du Giétro. One can understand why annual snowfalls render the inherent sophistication of this glacier moot. It was such flat light I couldn’t get a perspective of how high above it I was. Grand Combin lurking behind.
Glacier du Mont Braoulé, Italy. I only knew it was a glacier because I saw it on the horizon in September 2020 while on a mission to get other glaciers. I made a note to “get it next year” and, well, it doesn’t want to be gotten yet.
Decided to do the whole Mont Blanc thing. It was squalidly hazy, so the goal was to get above the clouds to get above the haze. On the way, the Glacier du Trient. Most of the plateau will stay snow covered all summer, so presentation is getting reasonably as good as it will for this kind of glacier.
Mont Blanc. What else is new? It looks like this year round, owing to elevation. What is useful is the view into the Maritime Alps and Italian Alps on the horizon, where I get a clue that in a week or so, I ought to head that way.