Series of avalanche incidents in the Alps

Reports have come in about a serious avalanche incident on the Glacier de Pendant above the Bochard gondola lift at Grands Montets, part of the Chamonix Mont-Blanc ski area. A 20 year old local man was buried under 1 meter of fresh snow at around 11h20. He had left the open Bochard run to ski some off-piste couloirs with a friend who gave the alert.

val d'isere avalanche
Probe line at Val d’Isère - photo JC Souillac

The victim was found in a state of cardio-vascular arrest by a team of forty rescue workers using probes after 40 minute. He received intensive medical care at the scene but his heart was only restarted as he was being airlifted to hospital in Sallanches.

The avalanche seems to have been caused by wind-slab triggered by the passage of the skier. Avalanche clearance work that morning had not given any results in the sector.
The accident occurred at around 2700m on a north-west facing slope. The avalanche risk was high (4 on a scale of 5). Meteo France warned that the slopes hid many traps for the unwary with very localized slabs that could be triggered by a single backcountry traveller and could take the whole layer of recent snow which, at present, is poorly bonded to the base. Existing ski or snowboard tracks should not be taken as evidence that a slope is stable.

At Tignes a 17 year old man, resident of Val d’Isère was buried by an avalanche in the Toviére sector at 2700 meters altitude close to the Tomeuse chair. One of his friends gave the alert and he was found by an avalanche dog after 35 minutes. He had been buried by 4 meters of snow. He was suffering from mild hypothermia and taken to hospital. The avalanche risk was 4 (high) with half a meter of fresh snow accompanied by strong winds over the previous 24 hours. The avalanche bulletin noted that there were numerous windslabs and accumulations which was poorly bonded to older facetted snow or crust.

An off piste skier at Méribel was caught by a snow slide in the Côte Brune sector shortly after 13h00. Buried under 180cm of snow the 23 year old man, a resident of nearby Aime, was only found by an organized probe line after 70 minutes under the snow. He was taken to hospital in Moutiers. Two people were also caught under the Rocher de l’Ombre at Courchevel. One of the victims was able to dig himself out and then help eye witnesses rescue his friend who was located due to a ski sticking out of the snow.

val d'isere avalanche
Slab avalanche

It was a busy time for the PGHM from Bourg St Maurice who also attended incidents at la Plagne and Val d’Isère. The off-piste guides of Alpine Experience broke off their professional duties to help a 100 strong probe line in the Spatule off-piste sector on the north east face of the Bellevarde. A forty year old non-French national was found under 150cm of snow and was heliported to hospital in Bourg St Maurice.

Further Information

Haute Savoie Avalanche Bulletin

Posted by davidof on Wednesday, 03 January, 2007 at 04:57 PM

According tro a friend in the vicinity the man (who has sadly since died) was hit just below the Brochard lift and despite 20-30 rescuers searching quite a small area they were unable to find him quickly enough. Such a waste as with a functioning beacon he would probably have been found easily.

Posted by  on  Thursday, 04 January, 2007  at 12:45 PM

no es para que te asustes pero para crear respeto por la montana.

Posted by  on  Friday, 05 January, 2007  at 03:47 PM

The Chamonix victim has been named by the Dauphiné Libéré newpaper as Sébastien Veillard. His father is a senior employee for the Compagnie de Mont-blanc which runs the area’s ski lifts.

Posted by davidof on  Monday, 08 January, 2007  at 04:30 PM

The BBC has some coverage of the events from last week

Posted by  on  Tuesday, 09 January, 2007  at 05:53 PM

the avalanche was set off by the friend from above neither had phones reco or arva my girlfriend called secours

Posted by  on  Wednesday, 10 January, 2007  at 05:31 PM
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