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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Freaky death week in the French Alps


Sunday March 10, 2013

With 10 mountain death this last week, this is probably (hopefully) going to be our worst one in a while. We are looking at:

8 avalanche deaths
1 fatal crevasse fall
1 tree stub encounter

The first avalanche fatality of the week was on Tuesday when a party of four ice-climbers at Crevoux (southern alps) got thown down the ice fall by a slide. The fall was about 500 feet down and so they never had a chance. It happened at a well known climbing site well named la Goulotte des Enfers which translates into the Gully to Hell.

On Wednesday 2 skiers (one of them a guide) took a ride from just below the ridge line and all the way down to the stream at the bottom of the valley in the Tignes backcountry. Avalanche risk was 3 medium.  The avalanche broke 300+ feet wide and travelled 2,000 feet down, the debris pile was 25 feet deep. It hadn’t snowed but the winds had been quite strong overnight and they got caught in a hard wind slab. 

Tignes avalanche broke just below the ridge line.


The bodies were found by the stream. See the two people for scale.
Yesterday (Saturday) two additional fatalities were counted in the massif du Queyras (northern alps). Avalanche forecast was: High to Extremely High with a special avalanche warning by the local authorities. There was a foot, foot and a half of freshies on an already instable snowpack.

On Friday a resort skier hit a foot high tree stub and gut unlucky enough that it cut off an aorta, he died of blood loss in no time.

The crevasse fatality today was a professional guide from the rescue service who was, with a colleague, doing reconnaissance in the Mont Blanc massif in preparation for a glacier safety class they were setting up for next week. As he was skiing a snow bridge collapsed under him, he got flung 50 feet down and seemingly died of trauma. His collegue was heli rescued out of the area.

Heli rescue in the Mont Blanc massif, these happen
more or less daily in this massif.


Regarding the avalanche tally we are now, for the season, up in 87 people caught in avalanches of which 22 are fatalities. On the bright side, this is a 75% survival rate out of the total caught… One lesson this week's victim stats reinforces, with its two professionals, is that neither the avalanche nor the mountain cares if you,re an expert.





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