In the most serious incident of the season three climbers, 2 clients aged in their 20s from Grenoble with a high mountain guide, have been killed by an avalanche near la Grave. Two ski instructors were killed in a separate incident at Ailefroide West in the same area.
The first incident occurred just after 10h30 at around 3200m altitude in a couloir leading to the Grande Ruine above the Adèle Planchard refuge in the community of Villar-d’Arêne. Alerted by climbers staying at the refuge the Mountain Rescue Services (PGHM) based in Briançon along with a dog handler were on the scene by 11h00 and were able to locate the bodies of the victims who had been carried 400 meters downhill by the slide.
Only a partial avalanche bulletin is available but the department is on a yellow alert for avalanche risk today. There has been considerable fresh snow (around 80cm over 4 days at altitude) accompanied by high winds over the weekend. The bulletin mentioned residual wind slab above 2500 meters altitude formed by the south then northerly winds. This morning was the first good weather for around a week.In the Vallon de Lavey 3 skier tourers, 2 guides and a ski instructor, were caught by a large natural avalanche near the Clos de l’âne. One of the skiers was taken to Grenoble University Hospital in a critical condition with head injuries.
The other incident involved a ski touring group who were climbing the couloir Long above the glacier Long. The avalanche was triggered from above by other skiers. Three of the four climbers were caught by the slide. One of the group was killed instantly during the fall, a second was heliported to Grenoble hospital with critical injuries after suffering cardio-vascular arrest at the scene and died later in hospital. The third is in a serious condition with leg injuries. The two fatalities were well known ski instructors from nearby l'Alpe d'Huez.
Already on Saturday ski tourers had noted the presence of windslab avalanches in the area.