French police warn skiers off mountains

The Rescue Services in the Isère department have flown seven rescue missions in the space of a couple of hours today. Conditions were difficult for pilots with high winds and drifting snow. A series of avalanches in the Isere and Haute-Savoie have left five people dead and others injured. Sebastian Rigaud, a spokesman for the mountain police in Grenoble has advised skiers to keep off the mountains for the next few days. If skiers do go out the greatest care is needed in route choice. 

Fresh snow, warming temperatures and strong winds have created a deadly cocktail liable to trigger slab avalanches according to Captain Rigaud, he continued “I don’t remember a day like it… where we’ve flown so many rescue missions in so short a time”.

A 45 year old Grenoble man was killed this morning ski touring in the Taillefer range in the combe des Ramays. He was accompanied by two friends. One of the friends had a narrow escape after being swept over cliffs and carried 800 meters by the avalanche. He suffered from mild hypothermia, cuts and bruises. He was rescued by helicopter pilots from the Civil Security airbase at la Versoud. A 53 year old man died after being buried by an avalanche in the Belledonne range. The incident occurred below the Col du Loup at around 2350 meters. Another avalanche partially buried a skier on the north-west side of the Grand Sorbier summit. A ski tourer was killed on this same slope at the start of last season. A group of skiers were swept 700 meters while climbing slopes just below the col de Vaudaine. Partially buried they escaped without injury and were recovered by the rescue helicopter dispatched from Modane to reinforce the Isère crews. A skier was slightly hurt after triggering a slab on the east face of the Jas de Lievres close to the summit.  In the Ecrins a 47 year old Swiss skier was injured after triggering an avalanche near the refuge des Ecrins in the Pelvoux. The accident happened shortly before midday but the rescue helicopter was unable to land due to the weather conditions. The man was finally transported to hospital at Briancon around 17h00. The avalanche risk was posted as 3 (Considerable) for the Taillefer and Belledonne however northerly winds were gusting to 70km/h and forming fresh slabs. The accidents were on south-west to east facing slopes.

The most serious avalanche incident of the day was in the Haute Savoie in the Vallon de Bérard. A group of five ski tourers were preparing to ski down from col de l’Ancrenaz above Vallorcine when the first three skiers were taken by a large avalanche. The victims, two men and a woman in their 50s, were buried under 150cm of snow and were killed by the slide. The incident happened at 13h15. A group of four skiers triggered a large slab under the Pointe des Verts above Grand-Bornand. One of the skiers was caught by the slide. The rescue services attended the avalanche and checked the debris. It appears the skier escaped without injury.

Posted by davidof on Monday, 05 April, 2010 at 04:59 PM

The south side of the Aiguilles Rouges in Chamonix were horrendous this morning. By 0915 the straightforward Col des Aiguille Crouchues was an oven (air temp +2 at 2500m and felt like 20 in the sun), with several small slides occurring. So, Belvedere and Beaugeant would have been even worse I think. Which kind of ruined the Berard action.

I overheard a local mention that there was 4 people killed in the Rouges yesterday, instead of 3...not sure if that is true though…

Posted by  on  Tuesday, 06 April, 2010  at 04:40 PM

I was out yesterday in the Chablais, I have never seen so many tourers and snowshoers out on one day, the top of the Tete de Bostan looked like the summit of Mt Blanc in the summer. The number of incidents will have been effected by these high numbers. Our pictures here:

Posted by endlessride on  Tuesday, 06 April, 2010  at 07:57 PM

This is a photo of the Aiguilles Rouge avalanche (where 3 people died). Note the break in the slope.


Posted by davidof on  Tuesday, 06 April, 2010  at 10:09 PM
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