According to the French and Italian press agencies (AFP and Ansa) nearly 100 people have died in accidents in the Swiss, French and Italian alps over the summer season. Italy has seen the deaths of 40 hikers and climbers including a Dutch man and his 3 children killed on the 1st of June.
In France 30 people have died in accidents including 7 in a single day on the 14th of August in the Haute-Savoie department. Not all of the accidents are on technical routes, some are simply due to hikers losing their footing on walking trails. 18 people have died on Mont Blanc. In the Haute-Alpes three people have died collecting Genepi plants (a protected species) on steep slopes.
In Switzerland 18 people have died since the 1st of June but the figure is down from the same period last year according to the Rega air rescue service. The weather conditions have not been particularly bad this summer with many storms occurring at night when climbers and walkers are in refuges according to Ueli Mosimann of the Swiss Alpine Club.
As we noted elsewhere, snowstorms hit some regions last week. In particular a 50 year old man and his nephew had to be rescued from the Belledonne rage where 20cm of snow had fallen. They had got lost in poor cloud and snow, having set out to climb the Croix de la Belledonne despite poor weather warnings. A British and Dutch climber froze to death in the Val d’Aoste in Northern Italy after losing their way.
Régis Lavergne, commander of the PGHM in Chamonix says that he worries about the mixed between good and bad weather the most. Something that has been a feature of this summer. Climbers can set out in great conditions then get blocked by bad weather if they are delayed or if the poor weather arrives faster than predicted. Lavergne warns climbers and walkers to chose routes adapted to their level, know how to navigate in poor weather and respect the weather forecast and advice of professionals. Never set out without warm and weatherproof clothing even if the conditions are perfect. It is all about minimizing the risks.