The Gorner Glacier

Over millions of years glaciers have shaped our planet’s mountains, carved out its valleys, deposited debris as lateral and terminal moraines, transported huge boulders from their origins, depositing them many miles away as Erratics, and provided a vital source of fresh water.

They are so slow in movement that they make a snail look turbo charged by comparison. Objects, even people, lost within their cavernous crevasses are eventually discharged at their journey’s end  –  the most extraordinary example of that being the discovery of Otzi ‘The Iceman’ who lived in 3,300BC and whose mummified remains were recovered from a glacier in the Otztal Alps in 1991.

In winter, Glaciers are pristine ribbons of white snow. In summer, the snow melts off the surface of the lower reaches of glaciers leaving a bare ice surface that is a convoluted conveyor belt for rocky debris, and cracked and fissured by crevasses – as if slashed by a knife-wielding maniac.

In summer their moods change by the hour: by night frozen and silent; but as the day progresses, riddled by burbling streams of melt water – visible on the surface and heard far below. On the Glacier du Cheilon, shortly after dawn a few years ago, I heard a series of loud ‘Booms’ emanating from deep within the glacier as we walked across it. An extraordinary sound I have never heard before or since.

And most worrying their universal retreat – witnessed with my own eyes over the past fifty years – is yet one more vital strand of evidence of global warming.

The images in this post are all of the Gorner Gletscher (Glacier) in summer as seen through a long lens from Gornergrat – 1,500ft above. From this vantage point the glacier resembles an alien landscape through which channels have been cut in a random but strangely beautiful way.

The Gorner Glacier drains part of the vast massif of Monte Rosa and Liskamm with tributary glaciers joining it as it threads its way down towards the Zermatt valley terminating in the Gorner Gorge.


About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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18 Responses to The Gorner Glacier

  1. Great images and commentary. I’m glad you photographed them before they’re gone! You do go to some really cool places, don’t you?

  2. Len says:

    Excellent write-up and images Andy. I learned a bit from your post. It is a shame what is happening to them.

  3. oneowner says:

    The glacier also makes beautiful landscape subjects for photographers. These are exceptional.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks very much Ken. From the vantage point I had, it was simply a look over the railing and hold the camera steady – taken at 210-300mm focal length.

  4. Jim Nix says:

    wonderful details in this shots Andy, nicely done!

  5. Very nice work on these images, Andy. It’s amazing to see these. I enjoy your travels and images, man.

  6. Excellent post Andy and wonderful images. They have a nice abstract quality about them.

  7. ehpem says:

    Hi Andy – great shots and I really like the black and white treatment.
    Glaciers around here are retreating rapidly too – that booming sound is one I have heard a couple of times, and it haunts you as one of those extraordinary sounds of nature.
    In British Columbia there is a much younger equivalent to Otzi, called Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi; if interested you can read about it here

    • LensScaper says:

      Many thanks for that comment. Glad you like the B&W approach – I felt the subject needed a gritty, punchy feel to it – there was barely any colour in the originals. I was fascinated to read you too had heard the glacier ‘boom’. I’ll check out the link too – thanks for that.

  8. Great shots and write-up Andy.

  9. Wow, Andy, this was wonderful! I’ve been left really wanting more, what a totally mesmerizing series of images and words!

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks so much Toad. Glaciers are extraordinary places – dangerous, intimidating but also stunningly beautiful. Hopefully next week I will put up a post of the mountains that border this glacier.

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