A Glaciologist in Chamonix

Published in Trailrunner Magazine, online and in print.

On a 22-mile round trip run from Chamonix to Le Refuge du Couvercle this September, I found myself with quite a bit of air beneath my feet. I was scrambling down one of the many ladders that drop down to the Mer de Glace. Over time, more and more ladders have appeared to reach the receding glaciers’ surface, a tactile reminder of a warming climate.

Glaciers are the ubiquitous poster child of climate change, and Chamonix is full of them. Nearly every pioneering study in glaciology took place in the Alps, but it’s other regions on Earth, notably the Himalaya and Andes, where changes will be most directly felt by humans. Indirect effects, like sea-level rise, threaten countless coastal communities where the source of the additional water is from far away locations like Greenland, Antarctica and Alaska.

As a trail runner and glaciologist, I witness the changing landscape on a regular basis. The Alps offer an acute awareness of these magnificent, and rapidly diminishing relics of a colder past. I hope to retrace my steps up to the Mer De Glace, but, in the meantime, I might take a few fewer flights and eat a few fewer avocados to maybe save myself, and all of us, one more rung on the ladder.

Sam Herreid
Sam Herreid
glaciologist, runner, musician, writer

My research interests include rock debris on glaciers, advancing regional to global scale glacier modeling and restructuring the financing of climate science.