The “Combe Maudite”: its secrets revealed in time lapse

Public Space

4 minutes

The recently installed and connected new Tikee camera enables us to monitor the Combe Maudite glacier:

An unparalleled installation location!

Luc Moreau, a glaciologist affiliated with the Edytem CNRS Laboratory, and ardent observer of glacier dynamics, chose an exceptional site to set up one of his Tikee cameras.

Luc Moreau during the setup of the connected Tikee camera


A craggy summit overlooks the "Combe Maudite," a secluded, veritable cul-de-sac, where a cascade of seracs spills ice from the renowned Mont Maudit. This basin contributes substantially to the Bossons glacier, which moves under its own mass and incline toward the Chamonix valley.

The Tikee camera captures a breathtaking view.


The Tikee camera’s 220° field of view enables us to admire (from left to right) the Aiguille du Midi, the three Monts (Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc), and to the right below, the Grands Mulets refuge. Ludovic, the caretaker of the refuge, hosts climbers from mid-March through the end of July to experience this majestic location.


Can you spot the 2 climbers in this photograph, which conveys the epic scale of these magnificent locales? – From left to right: Aiguille du Midi, Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc



1 year of valuable time-lapse data

For one year, the camera photographed to document the glacier’s flow throughout the seasons...

Witness in the time-lapse footage the vertical ice movements, flowing down from the frigid, high altitudes where they form, to replenish the combe. These "cold glaciers," positioned above 4000m in the Alps, have negative basal temperatures, anchoring them to the rock (-15°C at Mont Blanc's summit). Because of global warming, however, glaciers near the melt threshold at about 3700m can turn slippery and are monitored by glaciologists. If the glacier's base warms up, it becomes "temperate" at its base, posing hazards for individuals near the Taconnaz glacier. 


The glacier’s movement: driven by its weight and the gradient!

The Bossons glacier is temperate and we observe from the imagery it advancing en bloc, but altering shape at its edges where friction against rock impedes it. The glacier’s visco-plastic nature allows it to deform, and crevasses emerge as it flows. Its morphing occurs notably at its margins and in-depth, or at breaks in slope. 

The velocity of the glide is a function of the glacier's mass which propels it down the incline, compounded by its deformation.

Glacier movement carves mountain valleys!

Along the glacier’s flanks, you can discern glacial erosion: the rock-ice mixture extruding from the glacier grinds down the bedrock. Such erosion has established a ridge over eons and past glaciations, where the Grands Mulets refuge now stands. Crystalline metamorphic rocks (schists or gneiss) are present, while granite comprises the right bank. The cursed basin conceals the boundary between these lithologies, which extends upwards to the apex of Mont Blanc, observable in the distance above the basin...

The concept of time-lapse imagery is profoundly suited to glaciology. It accentuates the imperceptible, yet crucial glacial flow, variations in length, surface state, melting snow. The cameras chronicle what eludes our notice between visits!

Tikee Camera: Aiding Glaciologist Luc Moreau in Chronological Documentation

Revolutionizing Glaciology with Tikee’s Advancements

Distinguished glaciologist Luc Moreau has adeptly harnessed the sophisticated functionalities of the Tikee camera to progress his glacial studies and documentation. The sturdy, self-sufficient design of the Tikee camera serves as an essential component of Moreau’s field endeavors, providing uninterrupted observation and data capture in some of the most inaccessible and demanding environments.

Self-Sustaining and Robust

The Tikee camera’s solar-powered features guarantee endless battery life, enabling protracted operation without recurrent upkeep. Its IP66 weather resistance certifies its capability to endure extreme weather, from dense snowfall to high ultraviolet exposure, positioning it as an ideal instrument for comprehensive glaciological investigation year-round.

High-Definition Visual Capture

With its dual high-sensitivity Sony sensors, the Tikee camera seizes exceptional 6K imagery, giving Moreau the significant visual information essential to his explorations. Its panoramic 220° visual range envelops vast ice landscape panoramas, leaving no segment unnoticed.

Streamlined Data Retrieval and Interpretation

Thanks to 4G/LTE and WiFi features, Moreau remotely accesses real-time video, photographs, and data through the myTikee cloud interface. This functionality simplifies observational duties and direct data scrutiny, optimizes the research methodology, and facilitates immediate responses to environmental transformations.

Amplified Research Capabilities

The Tikee camera’s capacity for autonomous, extended duration operation has permitted Moreau to persistently track glacial activity, noticing subtle yet meaningful transitions over time. This incessant information supply is vital for comprehending climatic influences on glacial locomotion and dissolution patterns.

Luc Moreau’s Endorsement

Luc Moreau has extolled the Tikee camera for its efficacy and dependability. Following a six-month interment beneath snow upon the Tre la Tête glacier on Mont Blanc, the camera persisted in operating faultlessly, displaying its resilience and robustness under severe conditions.

The historic footnote

Above the ridge by the shelter, the pinnacle rock of the "happy return" is pyramid-shaped. On August 8 and 9, 1786, Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard, after completing their iconic climb of Mont Blanc, camped at this rock's base; hence, its name. This ridge and rock constitute a "Nunataq," an Inuit term for a rock mid-ice.The effects of global warmingTrekkers reach the refuge traversing rightward of this ridge (on the picture's right from the refuge). The refuge shuts by mid-July amid the peak season as visitor numbers plummet harshly, the passage becoming overly crevassed. It's an itinerary for Mont Blanc ski descents in winter and spring!Our glaciers are receding rapidly, much quicker than anticipated back in 1980 when they were growing. Today, they diminish by an entire one to two meters of ice over their surfaces annually, indicating they may not withstand this for long.Critical observationsLong-term imaging of glaciers aids in understanding mass flows and their temporal variances. Yet, annual on-site measurements are essential for grasping these changes and evaluating glacier-related risks to population safety and high mountain infrastructure amid climate change. As the zero-degree isotherm rises, cold glaciers heat up into temperate ones, hanging glaciers dislodge easier, temperate glaciers recede swiftly, and their moraines fortify.These are triggering increasingly frequent and severe falls of ice and rocks due to the ice melting within the fractures of the alpine rocks – the deteriorating "permafrost."These time-lapse animations assist in comprehending, visualizing, and remembering the swift alterations occurring before us, anticipating and simulating future scenarios...But let's not overlook the beauty of these delicate, transitory settings that have enchanted us from the dawn of humanity, and let's strive to stave off their decline utterly, for they are the origin of the critical water cycle sustaining us daily.Glacier travel requires ample preparedness and security knowledge – never venture alone or ill-equipped; maintain a long tether, and familiarize yourself with safety concepts (refer to the La Chamoniarde association website).Gratitude again to Luc for providing these aesthetic, scientific, and instructive visuals!

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