Glaciers of the Alps

Ghiacciaio dei Forni

Ghiacciaio dei Forni is the largest valley glacier in Italy, and is the centre-piece of the Ortles-Cevedale Group in the Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio. It is reached by a narrow mountain road up the Valle dei Forni from the ski-resort of Bormio. This road ends at the Rifugio Branca hotel, from where a good path continues to the Albergo dei Forni and on to the Little Ice Age moraine overlooking the glacier. The glacier has receded some 2.5 km since its maximum position historically, and its area is 13 square kilometres (2007). This set of photographs was taken during a field excursion led by Prof. Claudio Smiraglia of the University of Milan in July 2007.

Ghiacciaio dei Forni
The rapidly receding snout of Ghiacciaio dei Forni with the heavily glacierised slopes of San Matteo (peak on the right) and its neighbours. The small lateral moraine on the left dams a small lake. In the mid 19th Century ice reached this moraine and extended far down the valley.
Ghiacciaio dei Forni
Decaying right-hand margin of Ghiacciaio dei Forni, showing ice-marginal lake and debris-rich basal ice.
Ghiacciaio dei Forni
View across Ghiacciaio dei Forni from its right-lateral moraine. The glacier surface is much lowered and strewn with debris, and the icefall in the background is thinning rapidly.
Ghiacciaio dei Forni
Italian glaciologists have studied Ghiacciaio dei Forni in much detail. Here a group is discussing a new structural map of the glacier during an international field excursion.
Ghiacciaio dei Forni
The pyramidal peak of Gran Zebru, also known as Königsspitze (3850m), forms an impressive backdrop to the glaciological measurements (mass balance, energy balance, weather) being undertaken on Ghiacciaio dei Forni by Milan University.
Ghiacciaio dei Forni
Large moulin captures supraglacial streams on Ghiacciaio dei Forni. The water reaches the bed where melting has created large cavities.
Ghiacciaio dei Forni
Wide-angle view of Ghiacciaio dei Forni from its left-lateral moraine, illustrating ice-falls and prominent lateral moraines in the eastern sector of the glacier.
Ghiacciaio dei Forni
Large heavily striated boulder with quarried down-glacier face towards the left near the glaciologist (Prof. Claudio Smiraglia). This boulder is embedded in the right-hand lateral moraine just above the glacier surface.
Ghiacciaio dei Forni
Stitched panoramic photograph of the three main tributaries of the tongue of Ghiacciaio dei Forni with the peak of Pizzo Trésero in the centre.
Ghiacciaio dei Forni
A similar stitched panoramic photograph of the three main tributaries, but focusing on surface features on the glacier tongue, including moraines and the ice-marginal lake.
  
Photos Michael Hambrey