• Ice Memory
    Monte Rosa

The Italian-Swiss team of Ice Memory has concluded the study mission of the most precious glacial archive in the Alps.

Together with the scientists there is also AKU.

The oldest library in the Alps

Monte Rosa houses the most studied and most important glacial archive in the Alps. On Colle Gnifetti, where the Gorner glacier now reaches 80 meters thick, information on the environment and climate of the last 10 thousand years is stored.
The rise in temperature endangers this scientific and cultural heritage. This was demonstrated in September 2020 by the bad state of the Grand Combin glacier, which stopped the scientists’ attempts at a depth of about twenty meters, probably due to the presence of water.

For this reason, the Italian-Swiss team of the international Ice Memory project wants to take a deep carrot from the ‘cold’ glacier of Monte Rosa as soon as possible to be used for the ‘library’ of the planet’s mountain ice that will be built in Antarctica.
The mission, organized by the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council and the Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice in collaboration with the Swiss research center Paul Scherrer Institut, will start on 29 April from Alagna Valsesia, in the province of Vercelli, at the foot del Rosa. If conditions allow, they will set up the tent for deep core drilling on Monday 3 May.

In the ice the memory of the Earth’s climate

“Understanding the climate and environment of the past allows us to anticipate future changes – explains Carlo Barbante, director of Isp-Cnr and professor at Ca ‘Foscari – Mountain glaciers preserve the memory of the climate and environment of the area in which they are, but are inexorably retreating due to global warming, putting this priceless scientific heritage in danger ”.

For the duration of the mission, scheduled for at least ten days, the scientists will stay at the Capanna Margherita refuge, the highest refuge in Europe built on a rocky peak 128 years ago precisely to contribute to scientific research in the field of physiology first and then also in climatology and environmental sciences.

The Gorner Glacier is the second largest glacier in the Alps. With an area of about 40 km2, it extends from 2190 to 4600 meters above sea level. Given its extension, a volume of approximately 4.9 cubic kilometers was calculated in 2017. Since the mid-1800s, the glacier has lost about 40% of its area, following a retreat of its front of about 3.3 kilometers.
Glaciers such as the Gorner are increasingly rare in the Alpine panorama and represent the last chance for the collection of ice cores not yet corrupted by climate change and capable of providing valuable information on the history of our climate.

The one on Monte Rosa is the second in a series of expeditions financed by the Ministry of Education, University and Research (with the Special Integrative Fund for Research, Fisr) which will continue with the Italian glaciers of Marmolada, Montasio and Calderone.

The Ice Memory team

Participants in the expedition: Margit Schwikowski (team leader, Psi), Theo Jenk (Psi), Franois Burgay (Psi), Jacopo Gabrieli (Cnr / Ca ‘Foscari), Fabrizio de Blasi (Cnr / Ca’ Foscari), Andrea Spolaor (Cnr / Ca ‘Foscari), Paolo Conz (mountain guide). At the Alagna base camp, the Ca ‘Foscari researcher Federico Dallo.

The mission is supported by AKU and Karpos. The Alpine Guides of Alagna, Monterosa srl, Camp. To find out more about the project: www.icememory.it. For updates from field researchers: Facebook and Twitter.

The science of “ice cores”

By analyzing the air bubbles that snow accumulates layer by layer on the glacier over the centuries, scientists are now able to identify traces of the evolution of temperatures and concentrations of chemical compounds. These are analyzes that were unthinkable a few decades ago. For this reason, Ice Memory’s mission aims to ensure quality samples for scientists who, in a few decades, will have new methods and technologies available to analyze them.

“To better understand the response of the earth’s climate to continuous emissions and therefore undertake concrete mitigation and adaptation actions, it is essential to look to the past – explain the researchers – It is necessary, in fact, to understand how the climate reacted to the natural cyclical nature of changes in greenhouse gases. Thanks to the ice cores it is possible to reconstruct this cyclicality ”.

The emblematic example is that of the carrot of the European EPICA project extracted in Antarctica and over 3000 meters long, which has made it possible to reconstruct the history of the earth’s climate over the last 740,000 years, recognizing the glacial and interglacial cycles that have followed one another over time. Particular cores extracted from the alpine ice, for example on Monte Rosa and Ortles, have made it possible to reconstruct the evolution of the climate up to over 5000 years ago despite the lower drilling depths (70-80 meters).

Ice Memory

Ice Memory is an international program that aims to provide, for decades and centuries to come, archives and data on the history of the climate and the environment that are fundamental to both science and to inspire policies for sustainability and ‘humanity. Ice Memory aims to federate the international scientific and institutional communities to create in Antarctica an archive of ice cores from glaciers currently in danger of shrinking or disappearing. Scientists are convinced that this ice contains information of such value as to require research even on samples of disappeared glaciers.

For Ice Memory, the one on Monte Rosa is the third mission on the alpine glaciers after the 2016 one on Mont Blanc and the 2020 one on the Grand Combin. Other international expeditions made it possible to secure the archives of the Illimani (Bolivia), Belukha and Elbrus (Russia) glaciers.

Ice Memory is a joint program between Grenoble Alpes University, Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice, the French National Institute for Research on Sustainable Development (Ird), Cnrs, Cnr, and with the French Polar Institute (Ipev) and the National Program for Research in Antarctica (PNRA) regarding the activities at the Concordia station in Antarctica. Ice Memory has the patronage of the Italian and French Unesco commissions.

The Gorner glacier

40 km2 the current surface of the glacier.

Since 1850 it has lost 40% of its surface.

80 meters is the maximum thickness.

Preserve information from the past 10,000 years.

Aku’s three-year partnership with
the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council

For the next 3 years Aku will be the technical partner of the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council and of the Ca ‘Foscari University of Venice as part of the international Ice Memory project.

Aku, always linked to the themes of environmental culture and the relationship between man and nature, confirms its support for the international team of researchers engaged in extracting ice cores from alpine glaciers in various parts of the world, veritable archives of history climate and environment of the planet.

“After taking part in the first phase of the project, which began in 2016 with the first activities on the Grand Combin glacier, we enthusiastically accepted to renew our collaboration in the Ice Memory project based on the importance it represents for the future of research on the theme of climate evolution and more generally of knowledge in the environmental field »commented Paolo Bordin, CEO of Aku Italia. “We did it” continues Bordin “also on the basis of the relationship of mutual esteem and trust that binds our company to the project leader, Professor Carlo Barbante, director of the Institute of Polar Sciences at the National Research Council. A relationship born “in the field” through Professor Barbante’s experience of using our product during the research activities in the environment conducted over the years and which led to the identification of Aku as a reliable partner for the development of the Ice program. Memory, which involves an international team of researchers, whose work largely develops on the glacier, where the use of technical footwear for mountaineering is of fundamental importance ».

“We are really satisfied with the renewed collaboration with Aku” underlined Professor Carlo Barbante “a company with which there is a special affinity born, as well as for practical reasons related to the use of the product, also because of the particular sensitivity and commitment put in place in favor of the environment and scientific research, will be a new testing ground for the reliability of Aku footwear at the feet of our researchers engaged in core drilling at over 4000 meters above sea level».

Aku’s commitment to the environment continues

By joining the Ice Memory project, Aku’s commitment to promoting, study and environmental protection initiatives continues, in what the company goes by the name of Responsible Action. On the product front, in particular, the certification of the environmental impact calculation (EPD – Environmental Product Declaration) of a shoe from the Mountain Inspired lifestyle line dates back to 2016, a real first since no company in the footwear sector had before then achieved this important result. An initiative that gave the cue to implement the most recent Minima project, designed to reduce, a shoe designed and manufactured by minimizing the consumption of raw materials also through the reuse of components with slight aesthetic defects, made unnoticeable thanks to the adoption of original creative design solutions. A project to which a reforestation initiative has been associated to offset the overall level of CO2 emissions resulting from the entire production cycle of the model, effectively making Minima a climate-neutral product.

Aku footwear at the feet of Ice Memory researchers

The choice of commitment in favor of the Ice Memory project is also based on the particular affinity existing between the Aku product and the users involved in the project itself. Researchers with mountaineering skills, but also alpine guides and technical staff to support the missions; categories of professional operators with whom Aku is able to establish a preferential dialogue precisely in consideration of the specific features of the product, able to combine full technical reliability with a special attention to comfort.

During the project’s missions, Aku will provide the team of researchers with technical footwear for activities in the Hayatsuki GTX glacier, top of the range of the mountaineering collection and the new Rock DFS GTX approach and climbing model for routine activities not at altitude.

Extensions of the Gorner Glacier: in light blue the boundaries of the glacier in 1850 (65.4 km2), in darker blue the extension in 2015 (40.1 km2). The green triangle represents Colle Gnifetti, the site of extraction of ice cores at 4500 m.s.l.m.


History and research perspectives at high altitude

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Footwear for technical activities on the glacier.


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