The helicopter hovers over thousands of tonnes of snow and ice that could – at any moment – come crashing down into the valley below.
This is a section of the Planpincieux glacier, high above the Italian town of Courmayeur, where residents have found themselves on the front line of the fight against climate change.
On the other side of the mountain is the Mer de Glace, France’s biggest glacier, which has shrunk rapidly in recent years amid rising global temperatures.
The section of the glacier over Courmayeur is moving at between 35 and 40 cm per day and contains 250,000 cubic meters of snow and ice, enough to fill 100 Olympic swimming pools.
‘We have to mobilise’
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, speaking on Wednesday at the U.N. General Assembly, said “news that a glacier on the Mont Blanc risks collapsing is a warning that can’t leave us indifferent, it must shake us up and we have to mobilize.”
The glacier’s melting was detected by experts at Montagna Sicura Foundation, who have been monitoring the mountain since 2013.
Courmayeur’s mayor, Stefano Miserocchi, said: “Such phenomena testify once again how the mountain is in a phase of strong change due to climatic factors, therefore it is particularly vulnerable.”