Pre-expedition “Alps 2020”: Comparisons in the Aosta Valley

In November 2018, I officially started the iconographic research for the “Alps 2020” expedition, the last one planned in the framework of my project „On the Trail of the Glaciers”. Immediately, I had the confirmation that the amount of available historical photos of the glaciers in the many archives was huge. Assuming to cover the entire Alpine area, I thought about arranging a preliminary expedition in the summer of 2019.

Having focused my first iconographic researches on the Western Alps, in the end I find myself on the Aosta Valley field in search of the places, from which Jules Brocherel, Vittorio Sella, Umberto Montarin and other photographers captured the big glaciers that at the end of the 19th century covered the valleys of the Mont Blanc and the Monte Rosa‘s Southern sides.

During the last days, me and my adventure companion and filmmaker Federico and my friend and geologist Andrea identified various historical photo perspectives of the Brenva Glacier few steps away from the Mont Blanc Tunnel. Needless to underline, obviously, how the landscape has drastically changed in the last 100 years, not just the glacier front, located today hundreds meters higher, but also the entire surrounding area.

The Entreves village, which at that time consisted of few houses around the church, surrounded by cultivated fields, nowadays, despite preserving a beautiful historical centre, has different tourist facilities, the Skyway cableway departure, but, above all, the large squares to manage the huge streams of cars and trucks at the entrance of the Mont Blanc Tunnel that totally changed the landscape.

After the first nice sunny day, the weather conditions worsened and we focused on searching for other spots to take photos of the village and the Brenva Glacier‘s front. The big waterfalls that fall down from the crag, under the glacier front, impresses us for the huge quantity of water, resulting from the glacier ablation during this season, when the freezing level is beyond 4,000 metres.

The following days we go up the marvellous Ferret Valley, walking to the Refuge Elena and going up higher to make again some historical photos of the Prè de Bar Glacier made by Brocherel. This glacier is studied and photographed by many glaciologists, even if, as is often the case, the comparison pictures of it are never taken exactly from the same historical perspective, which is instead prerogative of my job. Indeed, I try to find the same position of the historical shooting through a technique, honed over the years, in order to place my camera in the exact same spot, where the historical photographer placed his camera, to obtain two exactly overlapping pictures, this way highlighting the perception of the glaciers retreat. The difference in this case is impressive, the huge flow till, which filled the entire valley in front of the Refuge Elena, has now completely disappeared. Today, as one can see from the photographic comparison, the valley is a deserted stony ground and the glacier terminus is by now embedded between the vertical crags, hundreds of metres higher, a unequivocal global warming representation.

On the same day, we move to the Gressoney Valley in Staffal, where we were hosts of the beautiful Chalet du Lys. From there, we should have gone up to the valley to take some of Emilio Gallo‘s and Vittorio Sella‘s photos of the Lys Glacier front again. However, we met Marta Monterin, granddaughter of the popular meteorologist and glaciologist Umberto Monterin, so we changed our plans and went to repeat some of his photos towards the Bättforko, the Sant’Anna plain and Punta Sitten. Among these, the beautiful picture of the Lys Glacier of 1921 by Umberto Monterin and his father Alberto‘s one, taken in 1868.

We were impressed and excited by the by the support and the collaboration of the valley population that, being awareness of these topics, helped us both at logistic level and for the activities on field. Francesco, Marta Monterin‘s son, let us discover the marvellous photos of his great-grandfather Christian and Victor, at just 14 years of age, wished to help us by carrying the equipment for an entire day. A symbolic support (but also a very tangible one!) that we adults interpreted as a sort of gratitude for the work of awareness raising that we are carrying out about the topic of climate change. Like a sort of thread that binds different generations to the same destiny and makes us join forces for a common goal: doing everything possible to save the planet.

Below is the video and a selection of backstage images

 

 

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