Two dead in French snow storms

The return to winter has had fatal consequences for two hikers on the island of Corsica last night. The walkers were in separate groups and were trapped when a winter storm broke over the island bringing sub-zero temperatures and limited visibility. One person plucked to safety by the mountain police today described how he had sheltered behind a rock as wind speeds reached 200 km/h driving snow into deep drifts. Both victims were residents of the French mainland.

The first victim set out with his wife on the on the GR20 above the railhead of Vivario. Surprised by the weather the man’s wife managed to reach the Onda refuge where two German hikers had sought refuge. Her husband set out for the valley on the GR20 in driving snow. He never made it. His frozen body was found by units of the PGHM (High Mountain Police) from Corte this morning just 40 minutes walk from the refuge.

The second victim was a 55 year old woman who was hiking with her husband above the abandoned ski resort of Asco. Exhausted by the icy temperatures the husband was able to reach the village and alert the rescue services. He was injured and suffering from hypothermia. The body of his wife was found today around noon, she had succumbed to the cold.

In an unusual move a spokeman for the PGHM has blasted backcountry travellers who had set-out over the last 48 hours describing their actions as imprudent. He called on hikers not to go into the Corsican mountains for the next 48 hours. Another 20 walkers were helped to safety today. Snow had also fallen in the Alps and Pyrenees closing road passed such as the Galibier and Tourmalet to traffic.

The GR20 is reputed to be one of hardest high level walking trails in Europe. The island often experiences severe weather. In June 2002 four walkers set out in brilliant sunshine to cover part of the GR20 crossing the Cuscionu plateau. A storm struck and they were trapped, one died of hypothermia and the others were lucky to escape with their lives. They were just a couple of hours from some small farms but visibility was zero. Two years earlier there was snow in July, dozens of people were evacuated by helicopter from the refuge de Petra Piana, some wearing shorts and tennis shoes.

Further Information

One man and his dog missing on Corsica

Posted by davidof on Tuesday, 29 May, 2007 at 08:37 PM

The body of a third walker who almost certainly died of hypothermia on Monday night has been found by hikers on the GR20 trail above Cozzano in Southern Corsica. The dead man was aged 64 and came from the Paris area.

Posted by davidof on  Thursday, 31 May, 2007  at 02:17 PM
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