Active rock glacier

Altitude: 2640-2800 m  -  Massif: Valais Alps (Mischabel)  -  Commune: St-Niklaus (VS)

The Gugla-Bielzug rock glacier, located on the orographic right side of the Mattertal, is one of five rock glaciers that were found to be destabilized in the middle of the years 2000 using satellite interferometry (InSAR). The Gugla rock glacier furnishes rock debris to the Bielzug gully since 1930 at least, without any change in the position of its front. The velocities have gradually increased, especially since 1995. Since 2010, the rock glacier is encountering a severe destabilization phase: in the most rapid part of the front, the velocities went from less than 0.5 m/y (period 1968-1982) up to approximately 1.5 m/y (period 1995-2005), and reached more than 17m/y in 2013. The first displacement measurements (DGNSS) were launched in 2007.


  • Measurements and observations

    Thermal (ground surface temperature)
    Geodetic (GNSS, permanent GPS)
    Geophysics (geoelectric, refraction seismic, georadar)
    Remote Sensing (Webcam, LiDAR, aerial image)

  • Figures

    Morphological subdivisions of the rock glacier and position of the three webcams



    Current image of the rock glacier front  (webcam 1).



    Current image of the gully downstream of the rock glacier front (webcam 2).



    Current image of the rock glacier front (webcam 3).



    Timelapse based on selected webcam images.



    Timelapse based on selected webcam images.



    Timelapse based on selected webcam images.



    Timelapse of measured horizontal flow field (mean annual velocity).



    Annual 3D surface velocity. Mean of a set of points selected in different zones on the rock glacier front.



    Annual 3D surface velocity. Mean of a set of points selected in different zones from the rock glacier front (northern section) to the rooting zone.



    Location of the permanent GNSS stations : O = in place, X = no more in place (rock glacier front reached)



    3D surface velocity derived from the permanent GNSS stations.



    Mean annual ground surface temperature (MAGST) at selected measurement locations on the rock glacier.



    Contribution of the Ground Freezing and Ground Thawing Indexes to the mean annual ground surface temperature (MAGST) on a set of selected locations (n) on the rock glacier. Or : how cold was the winter and how warm was the summer at the surface of the rock glacier ?



    Mean annual dates of the start and end of the snowmelt period (zero curtain phase) on a set of selected locations (n) on the rock glacier.




    Video Debris Flow 17.06.2013  (10min)

  • Collaboration

    Gemeinde St-Niklaus

    Kanton Wallis – Dienststelle für Wald, Flussbau und Landschaft (DWFL)

    ID eletronic SA

    Geosat SA

    ISTerre, Grenoble


    Further measurements are undertaken by the Federal Office for the Environment and ETH Zurich.

  • Publications

    Kummert, M., Braillard, L., Delaloye, R., Bodin, X. (2021). Pluri-decadal evolution of rock glaciers surface velocity and its impact on sediment export rates towards high alpine torrents. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 46(15), 3213-3227. DOI: 10.1002/esp.5231

    Kummert, M. & Delaloye, R. (2018). Mapping and quantifying sediment transfer between the front of rapidly moving rock glaciers and torrential gullies. Geomorphology 309, 60-76. DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2018.02.021

    Kummert, M., Delaloye, R. and Braillard, L. (2017). Erosion and sediment transfer processes at the front of rapidly moving rock glaciers: systematic observations with automatic cameras in the western Swiss Alps. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 29, 21-33. DOI: 10.1002/ppp.1960

    Oggier, N., Graf, C., Delaloye, R., Burkard, A. (2016). Integral protection concept "Bielzug" - Integrales Schutzkonzept Bielzug. INTERPRAEVENT 2016, Conference Proceedings, 525-534.

    Delaloye, R. & Staub., B. (2016). Seasonal variations of rock glacier creep: time series observations from the Western Swiss Alps. In: Günther, F. and Morgenstern, A. (Eds.) (2016): XI. International Conference On Permafrost – Book of Abstracts, 20 – 24 June 2016, Potsdam, Germany. Bibliothek Wissenschaftspark Albert Einstein. 22-23. (pdf)

     Kummert, M. & Delaloye, R. (2015). Quantifying sediment transfer between the front of an active alpine rock glacier and a torrential gully. In: Geomorphometry for Geosciences (2015), Jasiewicz J., Zwolinski Zb., Mitasova H., Hengl T. (eds)Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan - Institute of Geoecology and Geoinformation, International Society for Geomorphometry, Poznan, 193 - 196. (pdf)

    Delaloye, R., Morard, S., Barboux, C.,  Abbet, D.,  Gruber, V., Riedo, M. and Gachet, S. (2013). Rapidly moving rock glaciers in Mattertal. In: Graf, C. (ed.) Mattertal – ein Tal in Bewegung. Publikation zur Jahrestagung der Schweizerischen Geomorphologischen Gesellschaft 29. Juni – 1. Juli 2011, St. Niklaus. Birmensdorf, Eidg. Forschungsanstalt WSL. 21-30. (pdf)