Series of accidents in the Alps

Despite snow cover resembling the end of May the conditions remain dangerous. The principal risk is from falls on hard snow but a Finnish ski mountaineer was caught by a slab avalanche today while skiing below les Bosses (4513 m) on the north face of Mont-Blanc. The incident occurred at 9h30 at around 4500 meters altitude. The man was carried 150 meters down the slope and was found by rescue workers from the PGHM from Chamonix buried under a meter of snow in a rimaye. Eye witnesses told us that he was the first of a group tackling the north face and the slab ruptured beneath his skis.

Meteo France have discontinued their regular avalanche bulletins for the season but indicated an avalanche risk of 1 on a scale of 5 stating that the principal risk was from wet snow slides during the course of the day or on steep slopes where the snow had not properly refrozen. However they did warn of a very localized risk on colder north slopes at high altitude where recent storms may have deposited some snow.

Yesterday morning an off piste skier fell 250 meters on a steep slope in the Grands Montets sector of the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc ski area. The accident occurred at 3000 meters altitude. The notorious Col des Ecrins also claimed another victim on Friday. A 32 year old Spanish ski mountaineer fell 200 meters and suffered very serious head injuries. He was taken to hospital by helicopter by the PGHM.

There was another incident on Mont Blanc today when a solo Spanish climber fell to his death on the Dôme du Goûter on the Northern side of Mont-Blanc. The accident occured at 4100 around 15h30 on very icy snow. The Dauphine Libere newspaper also reported an avalanche yesterday in the Combe à Marion in the Aravis range. The slide occured at 9h15 and measured 100 x 700 meters. A group of three were below the avalanche, two escaped without injury but a third was caught. The PGHM assisted with the rescue operation and the victim was heliported to the col des Aravis where she was taken to hospital by ambulance suffering from light injuries. The combe is part of the popular ski touring route to the 2369meter Blonnière.

Posted by on Sunday, 29 April, 2007 at 05:25 PM

The “avalanche” year ends on the 1st of October. So far there have been 18 fatalities in France and 15 in Switzerland. We are awaiting more information to see if today’s incident was on the French or Italian side of Mont-Blanc but even so, we should finish the season with the lowest number of fatalities on record although with a marked increase in the % of ski touring fatalities. The reason for this is principally the weather conditions with a warm winter and below average snowfall.

Posted by  on  Sunday, 29 April, 2007  at 11:08 PM
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