First Fatal Avalanche in French Alps

Fresh snow coupled with high winds has fallen on an unstable snowpack over the course of Friday. The conditions surprised two ski tourists who were injured by an avalanche in the Belledonne mountains and another killed by an avalanche close to the ski resort of La Clusaz.

Two ski tourists were injured on Saturday after being hit by an avalanche close to the ski resort of Chamrousse. A popular destination for ski mountaineers early in the season. The victims were a 35 year old man and his companion, a 33 year old woman, both from Saint Martin d’Hères close to Grenoble. They were hit just before 15h00 by a snow slide measuring 150 by 200 meters at 2200 meters altitude in the Lac Robert sector. Skiers on the pistes were alerted by cries from the woman. The Alpine CRS were contacted by telephone and arrived rapidly on scene by helicopter. The partly buried man, said to be an expert ski mountaineer, was quickly dug-out and both victims were airlifted to the Michalon hospital in la Tronche. They had suffered light head injuries and bruising. The risk was considerable (3/5).

At about the same time a group of three ski mountaineers were caught by a slide at 2,400 meters altitude in the Combe de Pacaly sector close to the ski resort of La Clusaz. One of the men gave the alert and the rescue workers (GMSP) from la Clusaz were rapidly on the scene along with 50 other helpers. The first man, Gerard Leboures, 49 years old and from Lyon, was found after 55 minutes. He was suffering from mild-hypothermia. His son, Antoine Leboures, 20 years old, was found after close to 1h30 minutes in a state of cardio-vascular arrest. Despite CPR administered at the scene he died on the way to hospital at Annecy. The slide measured some 100 by 200 meters and was over 3 meters thick in places. Neither of the two men was equipped with an avalanche beacon.

With fresh snow over the course of today the avalanche risk will continue in both the Northern Alps and Pyrénées. Météo France is posting 4 (high) on a scale of 5.


Posted by davidof on Saturday, 18 December, 2004 at 08:33 PM

Neither of the two men was equipped with an avalanche beacon...!!!????

Over the last week, as usual at the season start, I have been involved with many hours of beacon training using Pieps, Marmot, Tracker and good old fashioned Barryvox/Autophons.. It doesn’t matter what the transmitter is, if you leave the piste please, please WEAR ONE! Should the worst happen you will at least have a hope of being found in minutes not hours.

We’ve been working successfully on finding 4 buried xmitters in under 10 minutes, so if you follow the cardinal rule of only one person entering a suspect slope at a time and everyone else in the group watching the skiier on the slope, a speedy rescue should ensue.

Colin McC. Whistler BC Canada

Posted by  on  Monday, 20 December, 2004  at 02:01 AM
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