It is glaciation, cloaking the mountains in snow and ice, splintering rocks into fantastic shapes through the freezing and thawing of water in cracks, that makes alpine mountains so spectacular, exciting and potentially hazardous. Rob Collister from Plas y Brenin takes a closer look at the infamous and uniquely alpine danger – crevasses, and the legendary art of crevasse rescue.
Glaciers are the bodies of permanent snow, hardened by time and pressure into ice, that flow out of the mountains. They are fed by the heavy snowfalls of winter then melt in the warm temperatures of summer. When the melt rate at the snout (front) of a glacier is greater than the rate of advance caused by gravity, it is said to be retreating. For the last 100 years the world’s glaciers have been retreating, growing steadily smaller and becoming covered with rock that falls onto the ice from the surrounding mountains to form moraine. A moraine-covered glacier is, in effect the rubbish tip of the mountains, and about as much fun to walk on, but there are far more sinister hazards to be found lurking in this environment.
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