Fall away of stones in Montserrat

Although the conglomerate rock in Montserrat looks really robust, in fact there are vertical cracks as a result of the stretch and erosion by water. Own weight of the rock and water deepen these cracks until, suddenly, a piece of rock, sometimes really big, fall down. Everything that was in the path of the falling stone is destroyed. It’s just a matter of chance to do not catch anyone.

Several channels in Montserrat’s slope north were damaged in 2000 June 10th big storm by falls of stones, amongst them the well-known channel of Sant Jeroni that climbs from Santa Cecilia to the ridge between the summits of Sant Jeroni and El Moro.

In 2008 December 28th, several big stones slipped down and blocked the 3 ground entrances to the monastery, these are two roads and the railway. Fortunately, there is still the aerial cable car. The size of the fall away and the two roads on top and the railway below once fixed and protected by nets are displayed on the left side of the 1st photo, while additional, smaller or older falls can be traced as well. The 1st photo was taken 5 months after the fall away occurrence.

Falls of rocks foot print the landscape. From one side, they leave vertical, vegetation free bands. The traces of main rock falls that the storm of 10.06.2000 kicked off in the slope north of Montserrat have been seen from Manresa -the capital of the district- for years. From the other side, recent surfaces on the conglomerate wall outstand with red color. The walls of Montserrat are plenty of reddish marks, like the mark of brighter color that remains on a home wall when one old paint frame is removed.

The reddish spots of conglomerate fresh cut -as the two spots that the wall of Ecos displays in 2nd photo- proof how often big pieces of rock fall dawn. The new reddish shade will discolor to a dull grey with time of exposition.

Like the destiny of the river water is the sea, though in a different, much slower time scale, the destiny of the monoliths and rock walls of whatever Montserrat type relief is to be eroded until flatness. There are no options, no net to avoid it.

[photos Jordi Badia]

See the article Caiguda de roques a Montserrat (= Fall down of rocks in Montserrat), in Catalan, by Jordi Badia.