Avalanche Risk on High Alpine Routes

It seems to be a case of after the heatwave, the deluge. Last July France was already baking in 35C+ temperatures. This year it is more like mid-autumn apart from in the South. The bad weather; snow coupled with high winds at altitude have created dangerous conditions including the possibility of hard slab avalanches as a party of six French climbers found to their cost in Italy.

The group of climbers, lead by a guide, were descending the ridge that leads from the summit of Castor to the refuge Quintino Sella in Gressoney La Trinité. The group were hit by wind gusting to 80km/h, a member of the group was knocked over by the force of the wind and lost his grip bringing the rest of the group with him. The 200 meter fall killed four members of the group including the guide. A woman is in a critical condition and a man escaped with less serious injuries. The rescue services had trouble getting to the party due to the bad weather. The dead were already covered by half a meter of snow when they arrived.

Excellent late season conditions have lead to an extended ski touring season this year. There were still outings in the Belledonne mountains close to Chambéry last weekend. No summit in the Belledonne exceeds the 3000 meter point.  However enthusiasts should remember to consult the weather bulletins before undertaking any trips and obviously the bad weather is a concern to climbers during the summer season. Météo France is not predicting an end to the unstable weather before the 15th of July.

Posted by davidof on Friday, 09 July, 2004 at 01:34 PM

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