The Valier glacier (or Arcouzan )

The little white patch visible in summer on the northeast slope of the Mont Valier is the lone glacier in
the Ariège Pyrenees.

Mont Valier glacier

This small glacier is singular in many ways :
- the easternmost in the Pyrenees -- that is, the last one before the Mediterranean
- the most isolated of the chain (the nearest one is the Aneto glacier, 40 km away)
- the most difficult and dangerous to access in the Pyrenees
- the only one below 3000 m altitude
- the only glacier in the department of Ariège
- one of the smallest glaciers in the Pyreneen chain but it doesn't seem to be shrinking, at any rate not as rapidly as the other ones (to be confirmed with the results of the 2012 expedition)

Situated within the commune of Seix
Height of the Mont Valier: 2838m
Source of the Salat River
Faces North-East
Surface: 1.8 hectars (5 ha in 1850)
Altitude between 2320 and 2520m
Length: 370m; Width: 90m
Rockbed: Limestone, Shale
Type: funnel shaped
Coordinates: 42°47'55" lat. N / 1°05'20" long. E

As this glacier is difficult to reach, it has been studied very little.
1802: first written description by Pierre Dardenne
1808: First visit by Jean-Pierre Pages. In his Mémoires de géologie et archéologie he prefaces his description of it with: "To reach the Valier glacier, one must have shed all fear of death…"
1942: M. Blazy, first photo, first measurements
1999-2099: Numerous visits by Michel Sébastien
2011: First measuring expedition by a team of surveyors, glaciologists and hydrogeologists sponsored by the Parc Naturel Régional of Ariège and the Friends of the Parc.
crevasses2012: Second measuring expedition

It was around the middle of the 20th century that the glacier began to be called the Arcouzan glacier, which is not logical, however, since it is not in the valley of that name but in the Labégé valley next to it. It can be explained by the fact that the simplest way to reach it is by climbing through the Arcouzan valley and then crossing into the Labégé valley at the end.

-- From notes taken at the conference held by Pierre René, glaciologist, and Alain Mangin, hydrogeologist, on 9 November 2012 in Seix

For more information:

Moraine - l'Association pyrénéenne de la glaciologie

Many thanks to these photographers

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