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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: May 2013

23 - The 2006 Eiger rockslide, European Alps



In July 2006, approximately 2 million m3 of massive limestone began to move on the east flank of the Eiger in central Switzerland. For more than two years after the initial failure, the rock mass moved at rates of up to 70 cm per day. A detailed analysis of the structures and velocities of the different moving blocks was conducted with the aid of terrestrial laser scanning. The moving rock mass included a rear block that subsided, pushing a frontal block forward. Movement directions were controlled by discontinuity sets that formed wedges bounded on one side by sub-vertical bedding planes. The instability was, until recently, buttressed by a glacier. Slope observations and results of continuum and discontinuum modeling indicate that the structure of the rock mass and topography were the main causes of the instability. Progressive weathering and mechanical fatigue of the rock mass appear to have led to the failure. A dynamic analytical model further indicates that the rockslide was primarily controlled by a reduction in the strength of discontinuities, the effects of ice deformation, and – to a limited extent – groundwater flow. This study shows that realistic and simple instability models can be constructed for rock-slope failures if high-resolution data are available.

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