The Dying Glacier.

The Dying Glacier.

Page Type Page Type: Article
Activities Activities: Mountaineering


Glacier, Shelter and the Lake.Sommeiller 1963
The Glacial Lake.1967
The Sommeiller 1968

This is the story of a Man and a Glacier, whose existences have been tightly woven together since the early sixties.
It is a story that, unfortunately, does not have a happy ending; in fact, they both . . . no longer exist!

We want to tell you about it because it's all that's left to us, good memories and the images.
If you can still admire the glaciers of your mountains, take away a lesson!
On my Alps, glaciers are dying. I'm not able to tell you whether it's the end of a cycle or our fault. Whatever is causing it, I do not like it.
We must remember that the glaciers are not only a wonderful show, a legacy of the past to see and explore, but they represent a valuable reserve of water for all of us.

I do not want to be seen as a predictor of a great catastrophe to you, but I fear that one day, when we cease to kill each other for oil, we will begin to do the same for water.
I appeal to all those who, like me, can drink a cup of fresh water simply by opening a tap or fill up our tank with our credit card.
We can have it all today, but not necessarily forever.
As for us, we must begin to think about changing our way of life!

The Man

Edoardo Allemand  EDO ."EDO"
Edoardo Allemand "EDO",
(born in Bardonecchia,Susa Valley July 21, 1926)

The ski instructors.The Team.
During World War II he participated as a partisan, in the liberation war of Italy from Nazi-Fascism. He was captured by the SS and deported to concentration camps (in Bolzano, then Rechenau and finally Shwatz in Austria).
He was one of the guardians of the Rochemolles Dam (Sommeiller Valley). One spring during the change of the guards of the dam, he and his two companions were swept away by an avalanche while descending in the direction of the Rochemolles Village. Only two survived, Edoardo in particular, was saved thanks to the ski pole. The hand that gripped it had been in front of his mouth which acted as a tube for ventilation allowing him to breathe. It was a terrible experience, the melting snow was very heavy and he had the feeling that the snow was crushing his legs.

During his service as a guardian of the dam, he visited to the Hill of Ambin Sommeiller a number of times to admire the glacier. One year, he even dug a channel flow of water from the glacial lake. Needless to mention that this move would change the geography of the land. According to the treaties, the watershed constitutes the border. The new direction of the stream would expand the border and put the nearby lake in the Italian territory.

In 1958, Edoardo became a ski instructor. During a jump, fractured his tibia and fibula in 18 pieces. It was during the long convalescence at home that the idea of a center for summer skiing on the glacier Sommeiller hatched in his head. A crazy idea at the time and a unique example in the Western Italian Alps. His close friend Bosticco, of Bardonecchia, often went to visit him at home and each time it was entertained by the descriptions of Edoardo about the beauty of Glacier and on the moral duty that they had groped for an adventure never before experienced.

Soon after Edo recovered from his injuries, he, his wife Nilde and his friend, Bosticco and Elvira Rousset, went to the glacier with a four-wheel-drive Alfa Romeo "Matta." Keep in mind that no roads existed at the time. With the help of private funding, many tourists and lovers of the Susa Valley, and also many citizens of Bardonecchia created a SPA, the "Company VA.RO" (Valley of Rochemolles). The president of the company was the Marquis Valerio Clavarino. Their first purchase for the company was the shovel Fiat FL8 to build the road.

For his merits as a partisan and enterprise of Sommeiller, Edo "the Man of the Alps", he received the nomination by the Italian government to "Knight of the Republic." A highest honor granted only to deserving citizens.

The Glacier

The snowfield.The Snowfield
In the belly of the Glacier.In the bowels of the Glacier

The Sommeiller Hill (2993 m) is a mountain pass located in the Cozie Alps along the border between Italy and France. It is located between Punta Sommeiller (3333m.) and Rognosa of Etiache (3382m.) and connects the town of Bardonecchia (Turin) with the municipality of Bramans, in the French department of Savoie. From peak sommeiller down an ancient glacier whose "feet" come to touch the hill and form a spectacular glacial lake. Peak, glacier and Sommeiller Hill are named from Germain Sommeiller engineer who directed the construction of the railway tunnel of Frejus.

The oldest existing cadastre of the Italian glaciers is of Porro (1925) who compiled the first "List of Italian Glaciers" (Parma, Hydrographic Office of the Po) and immediately after Labus and Porro (1927) constructed the first "Atlas of Italian Glaciers" with a systematic census of the Italian glaciers, among the most 'ancient glaciological existing registers. 774 glaciers surveyed were represented in 4 tables at the scale of 1:500,000. The list included 773 glaciers in the Alps and Apennines one glacier, the Calderone Glacier, in the Gran Sasso massif, between the glaciers more 'southern Europe.

Glaciers of the Susa Valley - Cozie Alps.
Boucher, hill Tures, exposure N / W, Boucher-Ramière mountain group, Extinct.
Vallonetto, Exilles, exposure N / W, Ambin mountain group, Extinct.
Galambra, Exilles, exposure N / E, Ambin-Galambra mountain group, Extinct.
Fourneaux, Rio Fond Ambin-Galambra mountain group, Extinct.
Sommeiller, Exilles, exposure S / E, Ambin mountain group, Extinct.
The Agnello Exilles, exposure N / E, Ambin mountain group, Extinct.
Savine, Exilles, exposure N / E, Ambin mountain group, Extinct.
Bard, Small Moncenisio, exposure N / E, Ambin mountain group, Extinct.
Giasez, Small Moncenisio, exposure N, Ambin mountain group, Extinct.

The Dirt Road

To build a High mountain Road.Build the Road.
A road to the glacier.The Toll.

The first challenge was to build the road to the Col du Sommeiller. Until that time, similar enterprises were accomplished only by the military geniusthat with infinitely greater means. More importantly, the military had an inexhaustible labor force and it had created mountain roads throughout the area. As an example, the road Fenils-Monte Chaberton (3130 m.), 14.5 km long was made by the military.

Work began in the spring of 1962 and occupied the entire working season. With the help of a mechanical shovel, an efficient team of workers consisting of many ski instructors as:Cecil, Campolo, Guiffrey,Vallory, directed by Edo. The road began to trace the path that would lead them from Rochemolles village to the Sommeiller Hill, with a total length of 19.5 km and a vertical drop of 1600 meters.
Five meters of snow.Walls of Snow on the road

The task to trace the path was initially given to a surveyer. But he missed the calculations three times and was fired by Edo Allemand. In many places it was necessary to use controlled explosions. The Blaster "Fuochino" expert in the use of TNT was Mr. Giobellina were in charge of that process. The workers do not ever go down into the valley so you can use all the time available for the work. They were housed for the night in a giant military tent capable of three to four bunk beds.

The road is still passable on foot, by mountain bike, by car, not a hairpin turn, not a bridge, not even in the most exposed to landslides. It is a masterpiece of road engineering on a High Mountain. Every year in the spring, it was necessary to open the way from the heavy snowfalls of winter. A snowplow, made available by the Province of Turin was used for this purpose; service fee was 10 million Lire. The layer of snow to be dredged along the road could reach five meters and more in thickness.
The floor of the Deaths.The floor of the Deaths.
Walls of snow.Ten Millions Lire to clean the Road.

The Ski Lifts

The  Bebi Wood Poles
Pillars of ice.Pillar of Snow

The second year they started the construction and installation of the ski lifts.
The first two were parallel and were named: "the courts", then after "the long" ski lift.
The power was supplied by a diesel engine with a starter to crank.
The poles of the lifts, wood and then later metal for the long ski lift. The supporting poles were planted directly into the ice with additional supports also made of ice.
The arrival station.Arrival Station

The glacier is very mischievous, moving in time, so almost every week workers had to check the alignment of steel cables.
Sometimes, going on pylons, you could see the cable twisting like a snake.
Panorama.The first two skilift.
7 meters of snow.7 meters of snow!

They also built a little hut that served as a place for refreshment with a small but warm bar run by Edo's wife.
Every year at the beginning of the season, you had to dig meters of snow to resurface the stations of departure and arrival of the ski lift.
Every year at the end of the season, they had to remove the ski lifts and cover the engines. A huge task!

Furthermore, the glacier was completely in French territory, then the usufruct was granted by the City of Bramans (The French gentlemen) to the Va.Ro Company for a nominal fee.

Snowmobile 1966The Snowmobile
Skiing on the Glacier 19631963

The Big Shelter

The Shelter Planimetry.The Planimetry.
Sommeiller Shelter.The Hotel refuge

In 1963, they started work on the big shelter "Ambin". They used prefabricated shelters made of arched steel from the company Morteo (Viberti).

Snowfall in August.Panoramic Terrace
To build a High Mountain Shelter.Build the foundations.

The foundation was built with brick walls and reinforced concrete. The shelter was made of two buildings joined by a secure tunnel. The first building had two floors; the ground floor with a shop, rooms for duty staff, sanitary facilities with a boiler and a cellar. Second floor came with a Kitchen, a dishwashing room, an 80-seat restaurant and a bar. The exterior of the shelter building came with a balcony facing a panoramic view of the south and west.The second building, contained twenty bedrooms with fifty places which was later extended to four other rooms for up to twelve people.

June 10 1968.Bar-Restaurant-Hotel
To build a High Mountain Shelter.Build the masonry.

The electrical power was provided by a diesel generator which in the evening turned off. The water supply was from a tank located at the foot of Rognosa of Etiache, followed by an hydraulic pump wich drew from the bottom of the glacial lake.

The refuge of Sommeiller was a paradise, nothing was missing, including the Juke Box for dancing and partying. Breathtaking sunsets were provided by mother nature, and early in the morning all the people were ready on skis to enjoy a downhill run in August.

 Ambin  Shelter.The Restaurant of the Ambin Shelter.
3000 meters .... let s dance!Let's Dance!

The Avalanche of Christmas 1968

Christmas 1968 - <i>The Avalanche</i>.March 1969
1968 the avalanche destroyed - 1969 the man rebuilds!1968-1970
During the winter of 1968/69, a small plane piloted by Gino Senigagliesi flew over the Sommeiller Hill. The pilot was very familiar with the area and immediately noticed that something had changed.
Protruding from the snow there were some twisted metal, no longer visible, as usual, the two roofs of the shelter "Ambin" ..... something terrible had happened.
Returned to the base, immediately informed Edo. Unfortunately the winter was very bad, persistent rains had harangued the fragile snowpack at high altitudes and sudden changes in temperature had dropped continuously avalanches throughout the region.
Edward began now to think the worst, and in March 1969 he traveled by helicopter on patrol. From the slopes of the Rognosa Etiache had come off an avalanche which, like a giant hand had swept away the refuge.
Images taken from the helicopter were bleak.
In April, he went with a group of members on site to get a better idea of the situation.
It was all over again and rebuild the avalanche had created a loss of forty million Lire.
:"At work" said Edo, immediately reopen the road and go up the hill.
Trying to recover as much as possible in the wreckage, the team cleared the area.
Help was sent from Bardonecchia and consisted of a platoon of the Alpini (Italian Mountain Troops).
It was immediately rebuilt the bar, and the ski slopes reassembled and put into operation. During the summer of 1969 Sommeiller Glacier was again used for skiing.

All destroyed!Disaster!
tourists went up to the glacier instead of ski, help to shovel away the avalanche.Tourists went up to the glacier to shovel away the avalanche debris instead of skiing!

Italy by cars

Parade of old glories.Old Glories!
An actress to 3000 meters.An Actress at the Glacier.

The company Va.Ro bought some vehicles to ensure the service "Shuttle" for both tourists and its staff.
The first coach was an Om "Lupetto," then a Fiat 625 and finally a Macchi TU5. The transport service company's first vehicle was the in Bardonecchia. In winter it was used for public transport in the town of the Alps.
They also bought the indestructible minibuses "Transporter" of Volkswagen, nowadays they are the delight of collectors. First they were red and then a blue one called "Pippo."
Thereafter, each ski instructor had at his disposal a minibus to take to the glacier on his ski school day.

Slowly, Italy was discovering cars that gradually reached the hill. More and more motorists who were not at all shy of the uphill, went skiing in the summer with their "Carrette."
Today, see the pictures of those cars is a certain tenderness, were not super-technological off-road, but they went everywhere.

A master, a minibus, a ski school.A master, a minibus, a ski school.
The  Shuttle The "Shuttle".

Conclusions...Bad News!

2012 : The horrible year for Glaciers.

A new year, time to take stock.

The <i>dying</i><font color=cyan> Glacier</font>.a depressing sight....the Sommeiller Glacier today!

In terms of weather and climate the 2012 just ended, adds to the long list of RECENT YEARS particularly hot in the Western Alps, confirming the ongoing atmospheric warming. For a historical comparison effective, take for example the long time series of temperature in Turin from 1753 to the present and representative of all the North / West of Italy.
The average of 14.7 ° arises in third place the 2012 among the warmest in more than two and a half centuries after 2007 and 2011.
1.6 ° above normal, due to the thermal anomalies of months: March, June, August and November and despite the short but intense wave of Siberian frost, which in February led minimum of -11 ° and -20 in city ° in the Alpine valleys.
A warm, intense and prolonged summer was the star, also the third warmest in history.
At 2850 meter glacier Chardoney the temperature never dropped below zero degrees for over a month.
Fared no better on the alpine ridges higher, the observatory of Plateau Rosa at 3488 meters above Cervinia, recorded temperatures almost always above zero. Inevitable, with the merger continues day and night, heavy losses of ice thickness.
In the entire season was lost a "blade of water" equivalent to 2.16 meters per Ciardoney.
The rainfall was in moderate deficit compared to the normal 648 mm in Bussoleno (Susa Valley), 1144 to Balme (Lanzo valley), 1748 in Oropa, this last resort, as a rule, is considered one of the wettest in the western Alps, with an annual average of 2000 mm.
the winter season 2012/2013 has begun in a big way, with the disruption of the end of November the thickness of the snowpack has reached a meter and a half in 2000/2500, eters in the Maritime Alps. But in utlime settimanei westerly winds have relegated the snow to the French side of the Alps, leaving the Po side almost always dry.
So the snow is narrowing and in particular the temperatures are rising (with averages of 15 ° during the Epiphany), all this because of a wind Fhoen extraordinarily mild.
According to the British MetOffice, chances are good that 2013 will show again the warmest globally. And, then, would again be a year of agony for Glaciers!

La <font color=blue>Barre</font> des <font color=red>Ecrins</font>.To see glaciers, from Valle di Susa have to look across the border!


Copyright: It is forbidden any use of images and text without the written permission of Robert Guasco.

This article is the result of the work of two continents, America and Europe. It is a beautiful story of hard work and sacrifices, rewarded by the beauty of the mountains and the glacier, which could have happened anywhere else in the world.

A heartfelt thanks to my dear friend Marcsoltan for the: correction of the draft article (English grammar is really important and mine is terrible), the page layout and graphic format.
For all your time devoted to this history of the Alps Marc Grazie 1000!

All historic photos of this article were taken by Edo Allemand and come from the collection of the family Allemand.

A big thank you to the sons of Edo, Fulvio and Gabriele, for kindly put available all the unreleased material.

Fulvio Allemand is today a ski instructor, the owner with his brother of a travel agency and real estate, and the municipal council of the town of Bardonecchia: Tourism activities and projects, the City of Millaures.

He was kindly made ​​available to anyone wishing to get news: tourist, historical or general information about the Susa Valley and Bardonecchia.

<font color=green>The Plateau</font>.The Endless Valley.

External Links

ASTERAMA Allemand Family

Rochemolles: World Diving Cup from great heights

Sommeiller in MountaiBike

Versione in Italiano

Vintage Collection

1963 - Price List.Price List 1963
The original brochure.The Original Brochure.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-12 of 12
Bill Reed

Bill Reed - Jan 31, 2013 9:55 am - Voted 10/10

Very nice page!

A great collaboration. Thanks for your time and efforts, enjoyed it immensely!!


Chaberton - Jan 31, 2013 10:05 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Very nice page!

Thank you very much Bill.
A stroke of luck at Christmas. A complete collection of photos with all the captions.
Before that there were only postcards (few) on the Web.
Marc and I have just put together photos and testimonials.
All the best.

Antonio Giani

Antonio Giani - Jan 31, 2013 9:58 am - Voted 10/10

Ciao Roby...

Scrivilo anche in Italiano...
Cmq è un ottimo lavoro Bravi...

Ciao Antonio


Chaberton - Jan 31, 2013 10:07 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Ciao Roby...

Grazie Antonio è la prossima cosa che pensavo di fare, magari utilizzando la prima bozza ed aggiungendo il link alla pagina finale.
Anche perchè sul web c'è veramente pochino su questo argomento.
un abbraccio.

Alberto Rampini

Alberto Rampini - Jan 31, 2013 12:12 pm - Voted 10/10

Great article!

Congratulations to both Rob and Marc!
It's very important to show the bad changes that are happening on our mountains. All of us must reflect about this facts.


Chaberton - Jan 31, 2013 12:18 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great article!

Thank you very much Alberto,
Good memories and beautiful images of the past......apart.
Is that the message of the article.
Buona serata.


Redwic - Feb 5, 2013 11:16 am - Voted 10/10

Thank you for sharing!

Where I live, in the western United States, we are also watching our glaciers shrink in size. I personally believe this to be a natural cycle for glacial activity. However, I also believe that human activity has led to an unintended acceleration of the process during its current cycle. Some glaciers are disappearing at an alarming rate, which is sad to see.


Chaberton - Feb 5, 2013 11:41 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Thank you for sharing!

Hello Redwic and thank you very much for the visit.
I read recently that there is a glacier in the United States that grows to 10 meters per year.
This is Mount Saint Helen.
It is considered a true haven of natural rebirth by biologists.
In your opinion, is that true?
All the best.


Redwic - Feb 5, 2013 12:54 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Thank you for sharing!

Yes, that is correct. However, there are specific reasons why that specific glacier is growing, while nearly all others in our region are decreasing in size:

The glacier is located INSIDE of the Mount Saint Helens crater, so it is shaded from a lot of direct sunlight and gets periodically covered (protected) by wind-blown ash and dust. Snow/ice accumulates in the crater (mostly near the inside of the south rim of the crater) during Winter and Spring, then consolidates, and ultimately adds to the glacier size. Those are the reasons why that glacier continues to grow.

The glacier does not have an official name, but many mountaineers refer to it as the "Crater Glacier".


Chaberton - Feb 5, 2013 1:10 pm - Hasn't voted

Grazie (O:

Thank you for the clarification Redwic (especially for the name of the Glacier).
It is certainly another fantastic place that would be really worth going to see.
All the best.


Redwic - Feb 5, 2013 2:20 pm - Voted 10/10

Re: Grazie (O:

If you ever head out this direction, definitely notify me and I would be happy to take you to Mount Saint Helens or around this region.


Chaberton - Feb 6, 2013 5:26 am - Hasn't voted

Thank you (O:

for your very kind invitation.
Of course, the same goes for you if you come to visit the Western Alps.
All the best.

Viewing: 1-12 of 12