Posted on: 2023-12-28 19:00:21 by davidof

Two off piste skiers killed by avalanche at Mont Joly

8 skiers, part of two distinct groups, have been involved in an avalanche this afternoon around 15h40. The groups were skiing a couloir to the left of the  Mont Joly chair lift in the resort of St Gervais les Bains in the Mont Blanc range when a slab avalanche was triggered at 2350 meters at the entrance of the couloir.  The chair is on the north west slopes of Mont Joly (2525m). A ski tourer was buried by the slide but quickly rescued thanks to his avalanche beacon. He suffered minor injuries in the slide.

More serious was a ski instructor led group further down the gully. The instructor and three clients, positioned to the side of the couloir escaped the avalanche but two other guests, an English woman and her son, were completely buried by the slide. 

Mont Joly and approx location of victims, bottom right

The search was very complicated as none of the group were equipped with avalanche transceivers. A team from the Chamonix PGHM, local mountain rescue, resort pisteurs and fire services as well as two dog teams searched the debris. The first victim was found by a probe line.

Probe search [Photo: PGHM Chamonix]

The second victim was only recovered in the evening aided by Recco and a device for localizing mobile phone signals.

[Photo: PGHM Chamonix]

The slide ran for 400 meters down the couloir. The avalanche risk was 2/5 above 2000 meters in the sector, risk 1 lower down. The principal dangers were windblown snow and full depth avalanches. The bulletin said "some old hard slabs can still be found above 2000/2200 m on W, NW, N, NE, E faces especially in areas that are rarely skied. The buried fragile layer (very thin, difficult to detect) is at the interface with the refrozen old hard snow. Size 1 to 2 (small to medium) possible. These slabs are difficult to spot."

[Photo: PGHM Chamonix]