The thick layer of ice that has covered a Swiss mountain pass for centuries will have melted away completely within a few weeks, a ski resort said Thursday.
Following a dry winter, the summer heatwaves hitting Europe have been catastrophic for the Alpine glaciers, which have been melting at an accelerated rate.
The pass between the Scex Rouge and Tsanfleuron glaciers has been iced over since at least the Roman era.
But as both glaciers have retreated, the bare rock of the ridge between the two is beginning to emerge and will be completely ice-free before the summer is out.
"The pass will be entirely in the open air in a few weeks," the Glacier 3000 ski resort said in a statement.
While the ice measured about 15 meters thick in 2012, the ground underneath "will have completely resurfaced by the end of September."
The ridge is at an altitude of 2,800 meters in the Glacier 3000 ski domain and effectively marks the border between the Vaud and Wallis cantons in western Switzerland.
Skiers could glide over the top from one glacier to the other. But now a strip of rock between them has emerged, with just the last remaining bit of ice left.
"No one has set foot here for over 2,000 years; that's very moving," said Glacier 3000 chief executive Bernhard Tschannen.
The Scex Rouge glacier is likely to turn into a lake within the next 10 to 15 years. It should be about 10 meters deep with a volume of 250,000 cubic meters.
Covers have been put on sections of the Tsanfleuron glacier by the pass to protect them from the sun's melting rays.
Glaciologist Mauro Fischer, a researcher at Bern University, said the loss of thickness of the glaciers in the region will be on average three times higher this year compared with the past 10 summers.