It seemed indestructible, nestled at the foot of the Bans, mythical peaks of the Écrins.
But the melting of the Pilatte glacier has permanently destabilized the refuge of the same name.
The thick walls are cracked.
The haven of protection offered by this 120-berth mountain shelter has become dangerous.
For the first time, global warming has definitively closed its doors to a refuge, which has been standing for a century.
“It's dramatic, it's a building that has gone through a century of mountain history, a century of mountaineering, laments Maria-isabel Le Meur, the FFCAM's deputy works director.
This means concretely that it is now difficult to learn mountaineering in this valley, to climb the surrounding peaks”.
It is also a serious loss of economic earnings for the whole valley: “The races which were near the refuge represented a third of the activity of the guides” illustrates Maria-isabel Le Meur.
In the same Écrins massif, but to the north, a landslide on the mythical Meije made the mountaineers tremble.
In 2018, an entire section of mountain falls off the Carré glacier on the access route to this summit.
No dead but injured, a guide and his client on this busy route.
The collapse is so important that at the time the mountaineers wonder if this route which has made generations of climbers dream is not doomed.
Also in 2018, it is another very busy alpine race which is marked by a major rockslide.
The cosmic ridges, whose magnificent granite stands out in front of Mont Blanc, are easily accessible from the Aiguille du Midi at an altitude of 3,800 m.
Tourists are not mistaken: on Instagram, the iconic images of these blocks of rock suspended above the glaciers are liked and shared thousands of times.
At the time the guides did not expect it.
“We wonder if there is not something bigger that could fall” feared in 2019 the high mountain guide, Loïc Thivierge.
The reasons for these major landslides: the melting of the permafrost which normally acts as the cement of the mountain.
Further down in the same Mont Blanc massif, the Mer de Glace also suffers.
The largest French glacier is shrinking more and more every year.
In 2022, it only took one month for it to lose 2.5 m in thickness.
A sad record.
Huge works began in 2022. The cost: 50 million euros.
A new gondola must be built to reach the ice.
Today, visitors must climb into eggs and descend nearly 600 steps to see what remains of the glacier up close.