Permafrost: the active layer

When trekking near the Stelvio Glacier (June 2015,) Italian Alps, we followed similar routes we followed 30 and 40 years ago. 

nearly at Branca

In Spring and Summer this beautiful and wild area is laced with a myriad of wild Rhododendri, Stella Bianci, Violetta, pink, orange, yellow and blue flowers, the lower slopes grow pine, larch and spruce with pervasive perfumes of pine, eucalyptus and other herbs.

We were dismayed to see the devastation  from shoulders of mountains which have collapsed, rivers of rock land-sliding,  tumbling intermittently due to permafrost and climate change.monumental landslide ravaged mountain huge boulder fall

Above shows the 2005 monumental rock shedding below Quinto Alpini.

Some of the falling boulders are over 3 metres high.  

Still standing from 1975

Still standing from 1975

Very luckily, Giovanni's cabin, that he built  40 years ago in the Stelvio National Park, remains untouched, between two huge, landslide falls. 

The permanence of the ice, with temperatures previously, below zero, have for thousands of years held the mountains and their  layers of rock, locked solidly, cemented tightly by ice.

Now as the "ice glue" melts, so the mountain rock fragments,  falls and cascades…


The effects of the landslide at 3000m  Summer

Moving Planet -  The Facts:

The Stelvio Glacier, has apparently retreated by a third and lost half of its mass [citation EEA 2004]. The thawing accelerates increased microbial activity, which  releases methane.

A combination of loosening substructure and abundance of melt water causes the “Drunken Forest”: trees lose their grip,  tip and topple. As the annual temperatures rise, so the “tree line” creeps up   and forestation starts to rise.

Stelvio frozen falls

Stelvio frozen falls


Below: us at Rifugio Branca  -

Very happy by Rifugio Branca


altimeter 1960s ?

Mixed media designer and artist, Tilby is an experienced production set and costume designer for film, tv, film theatre and opera.