A slab avalanche has killed two ski mountaineers on the south-east side of the Mont Thabor in the Hautes-Alpes today. The accident occurred at 09h00 at around 3000 meters altitude in the Col des Méandes sector, a popular route with ski mountaineers. The 3178 meter Mont Thabor can be found between Modane and the Col du Galibier.
The group, 8 skiers from the Merger (Merlin-Gerin) Montagne club in Grenoble, had spent the night in the Drayères refuge situated at 2180 meters in the Névache valley above Briançon. They had set out at 5h30 with the intention of climbing Mont Thabor. One of the group members was considered to be very knowledgable about avalanches and they were carrying rescue equipment and had left a space between each group member. After a break at the Col des Méandes the group were on the ridge leading to the Thabor when Michel Comte and Pierre Latapi trigger a slab avalanche. A third member of the group was also taken by the slide.
The group immediately alerted the rescue services, a call which due to the proximity of the Italian border, had to pass via the center in Turin. The group located their two comrades thanks to their avalanche beacons. M. Compte was already dead and M. Latapi was in a very critical condition. Airlifted to hospital in Briançon he died later of his injuries.
The Hautes-Alpes have not received much snow over the winter although the area close to the Savoie where Mont Thabor is situated has seen more snowfall. Strong northerly winds over the course of the winter have left many summits and ridges bare but there are significant accumulations on sheltered slopes. The Météo France bulletin gives the avalanche risk as 2 at 3000 meters but noted the risk of slab avalanches close to ridges and cols with weak layers present in the snow pack. The mild weather has weakend bonds between old slabs and the underlying snow.
See also: Avalanche au Thabor - link in French.