Posted on: 2015-01-25 09:26:27 by davidof

Ceillac Avalanche, 6 bodies found

After a difficult search operation lasting all night the bodies of the six missing ski tourers have been found under an avalanche in the Ceillac area of the Hautes-Alpes.The group were supposed to return in the early afternoon after a ski tour in the Bachas valley.

The police started searching for the group in the early evening. Nightfall and high winds hampered the operation. The rescue helicopter was able to fly until 9pm and a small ground operation continued into the early morning but the highly unstable snowpack complicated the ground search. During the night three bodies were recovered using the signals from the victim's avalanche beacons. They were at the base of a large avalanche zone, a slab that was probably triggered by the skiers themselves. This morning the remaining three bodies were recovered high up in the avalanche debris. The incident occured under the couloir de Mamelle, a north facing slope angled at 45° over 100 meters that leads into the Bachas valley. The slide was 300 meters wide and ran 900 meters.

The group were four men and 2 women aged between 50 to 70 years. Local to the area some were members of the Guillestre section of the French Alpine Club but it was not an official trip. One of the skiers was a retired instructor and another had been director of the ski area at nearby Vars. The snowpack in the area has been unstable since the start of winter and there were further warnings early in the week. The avalanche risk was 3/5 at the time of the incident. This is the most serious ski accident for a number of years in France and was 17 years almost to the day when 11 snow shoers were killed in the department at les Orres.