The disappearance of Simon Gautier, a hiker, in the south of Italy in August almost caused a diplomatic incident. Simon fell into a ravine and was suffering from an open fracture to his legs. Nevertheless he was able to call the rescue services telling them where he’d started his hike and that he was close to the sea. The Italians don’t have a system to automatically localize mobile phones using their GPS (unlike the UK) and had to rely on phone tower triangulation which gave a search area of 200 sq. km. It took rescuers 9 days to localize Simon’s body.
Sometimes things take much longer and after an initial flurry of activity where there is hope of finding someone alive it is often up to friends and family to continue the search. In April 2014 Vincent Marin went missing climbing from the Romanche valley to the ski resort of Chamrousse. Handicapped and on a steep path there was an intensive helicopter search for a couple of days but no trace was found despite the ground being relatively open. His friends and father mobilized a number of search parties over the summer months and finally at the end of November, when the vegetation had died back but before the first snows of winter, they discovered his body at the bottom of cliffs by the trail. The discovery brought closure for his family.
Sometimes the search can take years. Jean-François Benedetti never returned from a solo climb of Ailefroide in the Ecrins range in July 1976. His friends never gave up hope of solving the mystery and organized regular reconnaissance in the area. At the end of August 2019, Michel Baud, a childhood friend and climbing partner spotted an orange rucksack on the glacier Long. On the 8th September, in an operation complicated by stone fall, the Grenoble mountain rescue services were able to recover articles of clothing and bones. DNA tests have been ordered but it is practically certain they belong to the missing climber. Before his death Jean-François wrote to his parents “If I die in the mountains don’t be angry, I died doing what I wanted to do, I’m happy”. His parents are now deceased, his father, former Mayor of Bagnols in the Gard, passed away in November 2018.
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