British boarder in VB crevasse fall

The recent hot, dry weather has left some open crevasses on glaciers and weakened a number of snow bridges. On Saturday a Chamonix guide was killed in the Ecrins when the ice pinnacle he was climbing collapsed. Today a British snowboarder has been killed descending the normal route on the Vallée Blanche when he fell into a crevasse.

vallee blanche
Main routes on the Vallée Blanche

The man, resident of Leeds and aged 33 years was at the level of the salle à Manger, around 2600 meters altitude on the normal variant of the Vallée Blanche, an off piste itineary in the Mont Blanc range above Chamonix. Part of a group of four with an experienced high mountain guide the victim had removed his board on a flat section to follow in the tracks of the group on foot when a snow-bridge covering a crevasse gave way. He fell around 25 meters. The accident happened at 11h30 but a team of rescue workers from the High Mountain Police (PGHM - Peloton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne) were only able to recover his body, buried under snow and ice blocks, around nightfall.

Five ski tourers were trapped overnight in a couloir in the Verdonne sector above St Jean st Nicolas. What was described as a technical problem forced them to spend the night in the open. One of the group descended to the valley at dawn and alerted the rescue services who reached the group on foot.

Posted by davidof on Sunday, 02 March, 2008 at 11:19 PM

re British border killed on VB. He was with his fiancé on the trip we where in contact with her through out the horrible drama. Her fiancé Phil was off piste as mentioned. We are still finding out the details. It must have been unbelievable for her to have to witness this. All of our hearts go out to their families From Australia.

Posted by  on  Monday, 03 March, 2008  at 08:22 AM

Although snowboards are great for riding the difficult snows found off piste this is an area where boarders are at a disadvantage. The lower section of the VB is quite flat but there are a lot of crevasses in places. If a boarder loses momentum there is nothing for it but to un-clip one or two feet and walk (some boarders use collapsible ski poles but this requires a bit of practice) and of course this puts a lot more stress on snow bridges. Sounds like an extremely rare but nasty accident, especially as the man was following the tracks of others, not just a simple crevasse fall.

We are, of course, extremely sorry for his friends and family. Once again the mountains have shown that they are stronger than any of us.

Posted by davidof on  Monday, 03 March, 2008  at 09:40 AM

I´ve ridden a board for many years and last year I tried splitboard for the first time, it´s a great solution for off piste riding, first you can climb up easily by using skins but you can also split it when the terrain isn´t steep enough and you need to get through it, you just make skis and use poles like skiers ... Then that disadvantage disappears I guess.

Posted by ondra on  Wednesday, 05 March, 2008  at 11:43 AM

Thanks for writing the summary and posting this sad story. 

I think it’s not just snowboarders who can learn from it.  Like I would not have been thinking that the Salle a Manger was a dangerous area. And it’s easy for skiers to get complacent about taking one or both skis off in an area like that—like when stopping for a snack. Also easy for a group of skiers to cluster together in one place for the good purpose of discussion decisions.

Makes me also think of popular routes where it’s easy for skiers to want to climb through a steeper section on foot instead of staying on skis—like the lower section of the climb from the Argentiere glacier up to the Col du Chardonnet, or the east side of the Fenetre de Saleina. Having really solid technique for skinning up steep slopes can be a safety advantage in seasons like this.


Posted by  on  Friday, 07 March, 2008  at 02:26 PM

Those are excellent points Ken and give me something to think about when on glaciated terrain. I also suspect that a snowboarder climbing on snowshoes puts down more ground pressure than a skier on skins.

On a slightly unrelated note I was also looking back on an avalanche incident in 2004 involving a snowboarder climbing on snow shoes. The boarder was buried under 50cm of snow. A factor was that the boarder was unable to shed their sack and snowboard and got dragged under the snow. I can see a large board action as an anchor. Years ago when I started touring we always used to climb with loose straps when in potential avalanche zones.

Posted by davidof on  Friday, 07 March, 2008  at 04:44 PM
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