A group of 22 schoolkids, aged between 12 and 14 years old were trapped by a snowstorm in the Vosges after setting out to climb the 1247 meter high Ballon d’Alsace on snowshoes.
The students and their teachers were planning on spending the night in a refuge near the summit of the mountain. After setting out at 16h00 they were blocked by the storm, unable to reach the refuge or to find their way back down. They alerted the rescue services at 7pm using a mobile phone. A large rescue operation involving mountain police from Xonrupt-Longemer and Munster was put in place and eventually reached the group late in the night.
Five of the children were taken to hospital for observation. The police in Xonrupt have opened an inquiry. There were worries about the equipment and preparation of the children and also the late hour they started the climb. Teachers said there was nothing they could have done… except watch the weather forecast, maybe? Meteo France has been warning of snow and severe weather over northern France since the weekend. Generally considered debonair, the Vosges can still be dangerous, last year a snowshoer was killed after falling through a cornice.
The incident is bound to raise fears about safety on school trips. In 1998 a school party, travelling on snowshoes but without avalanche transceivers, was hit by an avalanche close to the ski resort of Orres. Nine children, a teacher and a guide were killed in the accident which resulted in prosecutions for the teachers and lead guide. The avalanche risk at the time was 4 on a scale of 5.
A 38 year old man has died at the University Hospital at Saint-Etienne as a result of injuries received on Saturday following a collision with a group of Friends on the Granges pistes at the ski station of Chalmazel in the Massif Central. The man suffered serious head injuries.