The volumetric expansion of freezing pore water is widely assumed to be a major cause of rock fracture in cold humid regions. Data from experiments simulating natural freezing regimes indicate that bedrock fracture results instead from ice segregation. Fracture depth and timing are also numerically simulated by coupling heat and mass transfer with a fracture model. The depth and geometry of fractures match those in Arctic permafrost and ice-age weathering profiles. This agreement supports a conceptual model in which ice segregation in near-surface permafrost leads progressively to rock fracture and heave, whereas permafrost degradation leads episodically to melt of segregated ice and rock settlement.