“The avalanche occured around 4am when a block of ice, close to the summit of the Tacul, fell onto the snow field below and triggered the avalanche.” – chamonix.net
SIx climbers were hit by an avalanche while ascending 15,781-foot Mont Blanc yesterday morning at 4am. 2 climbers unfortunately lost their lives. Three climbers were found buried in a crevasse on the Tacul glacier..
Of the three climbers found buried in the crevasse, one is an Italian high mountain guide who is currently in critical condition. The other two climbers in the crevasse were his clients.
The Italian high mountain guide’s team had waited for a week after the last snowstorm on Mont Blanc for safer avalanche conditions. They’d left from the nearby Cosmiques hut at 3am.
The avalanche was caused by an ice block (serac) falling near the summit of 14,000-foot Mont Blanc du Tacul and starting the avalanche that subsequently hit the six climbers.
Mont Blanc du Tacul has a 30 to 40 degree slope and is an area to be avoided after recent snow. The climbers had waited a week, which during summer, is generally enough time to allow snow to consolidate and bond.
“Stuart Macdonald, a British mountain guide and director of the Avalanche Academy in Chamonix, said the slope where the accident occurred is prone to avalanches owing to its steep 30- to 40-degree inclination, and it has a reputation as a place to be avoided after heavy snow.” – Washington Post
Rescuers were alerted by other climbers on the Mont Blanc summit route that morning and they arrived on foot from the Aiguille du Midi before weather improved and helicopters were able to assist in the rescue.
“Eventually more than 60 search and rescue crew took part in the operation along with two helicopters and two sniffer dog teams.” – Washington Post
A large avalanche occurred in the same spot on the Mont Blanc du Tacul on July 14th, 2013. It was feared that climbers had been lost in that avalanche as skis and camping gear was found in the debris. Luckily, no one was hit by the avalanche that day.
2 more climbers were found dead yesterday morning about 80 miles away from Mont Blanc on Roche de la Muzelle mountain. It is unclear how they died at this time.
The French Alps is a perennially deadly place averaging around 70 deaths per year on average.
(editor’s note: Why do we report on avalanches and avalanche deaths? So that we can all learn as much as we possible can about avalanches and the accidents associated with them so that we can avoid such accidents in the future.)