Rock Strata

On the margins of the Gorner Glacier there are some extraordinary rock formations. Striped rocks, blue-grey alternating with shades of yellow, rippled and twisted – evidence of the colossal forces at work hundreds of millions of years ago that laid down these rocks, layer by layer, and which I assume are sedimentary.

On my walk, this summer, down to the Gorner Glacier from Rotenboden, high above Zermatt (click here to see previous post) I discovered a considerable area – probably more than 2,500 square yards, across which rocks similar to the above were visible.

In 2011 I pursued this trail across the glacier to the Monte Rosa Hut. This summer I elected to stop short of that goal at the top of the ladders shown below.

If you click on the vertical image to enlarge it, you may be able to discern bands of coloured rock to either side of the top section of the ladders. The following two images show what that area looks like close up.

This is an image from 2011 just a few feet above the ladders, and below is a view in the other direction taken this year in the opposite direction towards the Breithorn.

And the next image shows the view down the ladders (taken this year).

When I first saw these rocks six years ago I was unaware of the extent of them, so it was a complete surprise this year, and a thrill, to spend time just exploring and capturing these remarkable colours.

I am not a geologist and I can’t identify the type of rock responsible for the blue-grey stripes. I am hazarding a guess that it might be a relative of Quartz or some kind of Schist. I would be pleased to hear from any geologist reading this who can identify these strata.

Below is a gallery of images to skim through – a small gallery of a much bigger collection of images that I shot three weeks ago. Click on the first image and navigate through.


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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26 Responses to Rock Strata

  1. Pingback: Breithorn | LensScaper

  2. Sue says:

    Marvellous rock colours!

  3. Chillbrook says:

    I had a real interest in geology as a youngster but growing up in the 70’s and attending a state school where we were all expected to fail under the tuition of militant socialist teachers where to succeed was some kind of elitist nonsense, geology certainly never came up. I’m not sure anything very much at all came up in retrospect. I left at 16 and found my own route into university. Unfortunately, not into the sciences. I didn’t have the ‘O’ levels for that.
    I’m now very lucky to have a friend with whom we’ve traveled to Iceland and Fuerteventura who, as a member of the Royal Geological society, is able to explain an awful lot about the amazing rock formations one comes across in these two volcanic islands.
    These are great images Andy and I will be showing them to my friend for some explanation. :-).

    • LensScaper says:

      Bad teachers were irresponsible people and caused a lot of ‘damage’. Many thanks for the offer to show this Post to a geologist – Maybe he can identify the blue veins. Thanks Adrian.

  4. Love these photos of rock formations. If you do learn more about their geology, I hope you will share the information.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Linda. I will certainly share whatever information comes my way. There are already two offers to discuss the images with geologists. However, I may have missed my best chance: Zermatt has a museum and I suspect among all the exhibits and history of the village, its mountains and glaciers there will be something there about crystals and rocks. It’s years since I visited the museum – it must be on the bucket list for the next visit.

  5. oneowner says:

    I was going to ask my geologist friend at the Museum but, unfortunately, they are closed this week. That hasn’t kept me from enjoying these shots but I will try to check next week.

  6. shoreacres says:

    The colors and layers are wonderful; I especially like the sense of flow that’s present in many of the images. Some of them remind me of old-fashioned ribbon candy, or old Venetian glass before it was cut into beads.

    What I’m sure of now is that I’m willing to content myself with your photos. When I got to the one showing the steps or handholds just above the ladder, I knew in an instant I’m no mountaineer. I’m not even going to sit around and imagine that! The ladders? Maybe. Beyond that — not a chance.

    • LensScaper says:

      It’s all very safe – but then a mountaineer would say that, wouldn’t he?! It was the twists and turns in the strata that really caught my attention. We regularly see strata tilted – I recall that vividly from a holiday in BC Canada, but the colours really drew attention to the individual layers distortions that spoke to me of primordial forces of a power beyond my comprehension. It was almost a spiritual awakening.

  7. paula graham says:

    Fascinating series, colours, shapes and views.

    • LensScaper says:

      One of the joys of photography on the internet is to be able to share something special – perhaps unique – with others. In all my travels in the Alps I’ve never seen anything quite like this. I’m glad you enjoyed these images, Paula.

  8. bluebrightly says:

    Have you seen this site?
    It won’t tell you about the geology, but I bet he would know. And I think you’ll enjoy the photographs. I just found it on a google search for Gorner Glacier geology. 😉
    The photos are great, especially the closeups. That rock looks SO hard, so permanent, that it’s hard to believe it’s been forced into these formations.

    • LensScaper says:

      That is a wonderful post Lynne – thanks so much for pointing me to it. Glaciers are quite extraordinary places and the images of deep into the crevasses are some of the best I have seen. Interestingly, two or three show the route onto the glacier as it was in years gone by and if you look closely you can see strata similar to what I saw, although the banding doesn’t show very much of the blue veined variety, but the images are taken at a slightly lower altitude on the way to the lateral bank of the glacier. I am waiting for a couple of replies to offers from other readers that might help to identify the rock strata, but if they fail then I will certainly contact this photographer. Thanks again, Andy.

      • bluebrightly says:

        Great, I’m glad you liked it. I thought I saw those rocks, too. On Mt. Rainier you can hike close to glaciers without too much difficulty. I need to do that sometime, but I think it may already be too late this year – we’ll see.

  9. These rock formations are stunning. It’s almost like a stoned world within the world we know.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks Otto. This was one of the those occasions when I was totally absorbed – In Flow – as you describe it. A remarkable place and in my experience ‘unique’.

  10. With 2500 square yards of this stuff to play around with, you were probably reluctant to leave.

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