Two women have been killed by an avalanche on Saturday evening close to the Cosmiques refuge situated close to the Aiguillle de Midi on Mont Blanc. The victims were part of a group on a “Girls to the Top” survival weekend. One of the victims was a 27 year old medical student based in Grenoble. The large windslab type avalanche appears to have been remotely triggered by the group on an east facing slope starting just below the ridge line.
Led by a qualified High Mountain Guide the group had built an igloo on the Col du Midi (3613 m.) with the aim of spending the night. The avalanche occurred around 17h30 and buried the two victims who were outside as well as three inside the igloo who survived, one suffering from hypothermia. The rescue helicopter was unable to fly due to poor weather conditions (cloud) and members of the mountain rescue had to take the Aiguille du Midi cable car. When they arrived the guardians of the Cosmiques were already engaged in the rescue.
The avalanche risk was 3/5 (Considerable) with around 60 to 80cm of fresh snow at altitude and warned of the risk of large accumulations of unstable windblown snow.
The Girls to the Top association aims to promote womens' independent travel in the mountains via a community and a series of training sessions open only to “girls”. Men are welcome to participate in other outings.
With the return of winter conditions there have been numerous other skier triggered avalanches over the last few days. A ski tourer escaped a large surface slide descending the Glacier du Sitre (Belldonne) on NW slope at 2500 meters altitude. A ski touring group witnessed a large slab avalanche cover their climbing track on the Comb du Mont Rond (Belledonne) on a NE slope at 2580 meters altitude.
A group of three ski tourers triggered an avalanche at the pointe de la Scia (2475m Belledonne), one of the group was partially buried by the slide. Suffering from a knee injury he was airlifted to hospital by the mountain rescue. Another group had to be assisted at the nearby col du Sifflet after triggering a slide on a SE facing slope. Again one skier had to be air lifted with a knee injury. The avalanche risk was 3 (Considerable) in the Belledonne and warned of some persistent slabs at altitude formed by the SW to NW wind.
In the Savoie a ski tourer triggered an avalanche near the Col de la Vanoise on an east facing slope at 2570 meters altitude. At Tignes an off piste skier was buried for 8 minutes in the Vallon de la Sachette at 2700m in the early afternoon. Located by a guide who'd witnessed the slide thanks to his avalanche beacon the victim was air lifted to hospital for a checkup.