Ski tourers killed by avalanche near col du Galibier

Two ski tourers have been killed by an avalanche just before 14h00 under the north face of the Grand Galibier (3228 meters). A third member of the group was also hit by the slide but escaped without injury. The two victims were students from Lyon. The group of four skiers and snowboarders were climbing at 2,500 meters altitude in the Tierres Vielles bowl having previously skied down towards the ski resort of Valloire in the Savoie

grand galibier
Grand Galibier, east summit

The avalanche risk above 2000 meters was given as Considerable (3/5) increasing to High (4/5) during the day with the snowpack described as only weakly stabilized for the first 60-120cm with the presence of graupel in the snowpack acting as a weak layer. The slide was very large, according to rescue workers it covered most of the side of the mountain. The group was equipped with standard avalanche rescue equipment and had already recovered one of the victims by the time the rescue workers arrived by helicopter from their base at Briançon.

A 41 year old snow shoer has been killed above Monastère de Chalais close to Voreppe in the Chartreuse mountains while walking with friends. He lost his footing on ice, fell a short distance over cliffs then slid several hundred meters.

There have been several other incidents. On Friday two Italian ski tourers were caught by an avalanche in the Pointe Buffère sector above Névache in the Hautes-Alpes. The avalanche occured at 12h45, one of the skiers was buried to his neck but was rescued by his friend. The Gendarmerie arrived on the scene by helicopter but the pair decided to descend to Névache on their own. A couple of skiers narrowly escaped what appears to have been a wet snow avalanche in the Vallon de la Marianne close to St Chritophe en Oisans. On Saturday a large natural avalanche occured around midday at Montgenèvre and a second at 13h30 at Monêtier-les-bains. In this incident the slide occured in a north-east facing couloir on the Cucumelle reaching the valley.

Posted by davidof on Sunday, 04 March, 2007 at 06:21 PM

Some of you may rememeber we ski toured to the Aiguilettes de Vaujany. This photo is from M. Caplain from his plane taken yesterday (4th March 2007)


shows a couple of large slabs that have detached from the summit of the Aiguilettes and another slide on a couple of convex rollovers midslope. Scary stuff. These are natural avalanches - possibly as slabs became overloaded with rain but are a reminder that last week’s Extreme Avalanche Risk in the Savoie was justified.

Posted by davidof on  Monday, 05 March, 2007  at 05:49 PM

A bit more information about the Galibier accident. The group, who were experienced, were following a rock outcrops in the snow as “islands of safety” when the whole face of the mountain slid. The depth of the slide varied from around 20-30cm where the skiers were climbing to over 1 meter elsewhere. The two skiers were buried under 150cm of snow.

The slide was possibly an old slab that may have been softened by sun and the rise in ambient temperature. Although the bowl is north facing at this time of year it will begin to see quite a bit of sunshine. This could have caused creep, weakening the bonds with the surrounding snow and had less of a bridging effect over any weak layer.

Rocks are also good at transmitting heat into the snowpack and are often trigger points - concentrating stress, forming weak layers above the rock, and often surrounded by thinner, weaker snow.

Posted by davidof on  Wednesday, 07 March, 2007  at 12:10 PM

Here are some photographs and a witness statement taken as part of the police investigation into this incident:-

Posted by davidof on  Wednesday, 25 April, 2007  at 08:40 PM
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