Ten climbers, including a high mountain guide, have been hit by an avalanche on Mont-Blanc shortly after 1pm today. Two men, both French nationals resident in the Jura, were killed by the slide. The other climbers were Swiss nationals, all members of their country’s alpine club. Two were seriously injured and another two escaped with minor injuries.
Mont Blanc du Tacul. Photo: Daniel Carollo
The avalanche occurred at 3,900 meters below the Mont-Blanc du Tacul (4248m) on the normal route to the summit. Within sight of the top station of the Aiguille du Midi this summit is considered to be one of the most accessible “4000ers” in the Alps. The climbers were descending on a rope towards the col du Midi. The slab avalanche, covering a large part of the north face, was probably triggered by the group. Witnesses at the Cosmiques refuge opposite gave the alert.
The search and rescue operation lasted most of the afternoon and was complicated by the fact that none of the climbers was equipped with an avalanche beacon. This is normal for climbing groups. The operation involved a five rescue workers, two doctors and a dog handler all air lifted to the scene by the powerful EC145 helicopter of the Chamonix PGHM (High Mountain Police).
There had been over half a meter of snow above 3000 meters at the start of the week and avalanche warnings were in place. There are numerous avalanches on this route both in winter and summer and alpinists should always check conditions with the PGHM, the guardian of the Cosmiques refuge or guides from the High Mountain Office (OHM tel: 04 50 53 22 08) in Chamonix before attempting the summit.
This accident brings to 57 the number of people killed in avalanches in France since the 1st October 2005. The worst year since records began in 1970.