The so called "Doctor Vertical", 58 year old Emmanuel Cauchy has been killed by an avalanche this morning near the Pointe Alphonse-Favre (2788 meters) in the Aiguilles Rouges near Chamonix. The avalanche injured three other members of the ski touring party. There was also a fatality in the Pyrenees on Saturday and a British skier injured at les Arcs in the Couloir S.
The incident occurred at 11h00 at around 2400 meters on the traverse of the Crochues - Bérard as they were preparing to climb the south couloir to the pointe Alphonse-Favre with the aim of descending the north side of the glacier du Mort. The slide, in the form of a slab, came from the slopes above and was 200 meters at its widest point and 300 meters long. Another guided group was above the Cauchy party at the time along with other skiers. The couloir is wide and is around 35° over 300 meters. The avalanche risk was 3/5 (Considerable) and there had been around half a meter of fresh snow over the Easter weekend accompanied by winds generally from the west.
A pioneer in mountain medicin, Cauchy was very well known in the mountain community. He had helped in the care of Elizabeth Revols after her dramatic rescue from Nanga Parbat earlier this year. The prefect of the Haute-Savoie spoke of his "strong emotions following the accidental death of an emblematic figure... the mountains have taken one of those who knew them best, one who knew more than anyone the dangers."
Dr Cauchy was an experienced climber who had participated in many expeditions. He was a qualified high mountain guide and had worked with mountain rescue. The majority of avalanche deaths this season have involved experienced ski tourers.
On Saturday a party of three French climbers were hit by an avalanche in the Pyrenees killing 1 and seriously injuring another. The incident occurred on the pic d'Areng in the Barousse valley. The group had completed the climb of the "Lucas" couloir and were preparing a rappel when they were hit by the slide carrying two of them over cliffs. The rescue services had to reach the group on foot as their helicopter was unable to fly in weather conditions described as "appalling". The avalanche risk was 3/5 with strong winds from the NW and 20-30cm of fresh snow.
On the same day British skier was injured after triggering an avalanche in the couloir-S at les Arcs, a steep off piste route on the Aiguille Rouge. The man was partially buried after being taken over 20 meter cliffs. He was hospitalized in Grenoble with chest injuries. The avalanche risk was 3/5 with strong winds and light snow.