On the Roof of Europe: High-Altitude Morphodynamics in the Mont Blanc Massif

  • Philip DelineEmail author
  • Ludovic Ravanel
Part of the World Geomorphological Landscapes book series (WGLC)


The Mont Blanc Massif, the highest of the main external crystalline massifs of the Western Alps, is renowned for its extensive glacier cover, steep granite rockwalls and vertiginous peaks.

Bordered by populated French, Italian and Swiss valleys, the massif has attracted both tourists and scientists over several centuries. Numerous sites are remarkable associations of landforms, for example, (a) the Aiguilles de Chamonix, a superb alignment of arêtes and peaks reaching 3,500 m a.s.l. which dominates the valley of Chamonix; (b) the Mer de Glace, the largest French glacier, which has been a major centre for tourism and glaciology since the eighteenth century; and (c) the Glacier du Miage, one of the largest debris-covered glaciers in the Alps.

Since the Last Glacial Maximum, the landscape of the massif has changed significantly and its morphodynamics is evidently still very active. Glacier retreat accelerates, and permafrost degradation has triggered more rockfalls. Nevertheless two million people are still attracted each year by the ‘top of Europe’.


Western European Alps High-mountain morphodynamics Glacier Permafrost Rockfall 



M. Fort and M.-F. André are warmly acknowledged for their encouragement to write this chapter. Many thanks are due to P. Migon for his suggestions and to P. Walsh and Y. Battiau-Queney for their careful proofreading of the English language.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EDYTEM LabUniversité de Savoie, CNRSLe Bourget-du-LacFrance

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