There was tragedy on Wednesday in the Mont Blanc Massif, France, on a day that should have been a celebration. On the day that the Aiguille du Midi gondola reopened after seven months closed, two men were killed in separate avalanches.
Both avalanches were in the Cosmiques corridor, which had seen abundant snowfall in recent days, and Wednesday brought a short window of good weather, encouraging many to take advantage of the gondola reopening.
Firstly, two skiers were caught in an avalanche at the top of the corridor at 10:35 am. Aged 23 and 26, the two individuals from the Chamonix valley were skiing on a slope greater than 35º. The first skier triggered the wind-slab avalanche that swept him 1,640-feet (500m) down the mountain. His friend, several other skiers who had witnessed the accident, and five members of the PGHM (Pelotons de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne) managed to pull him out from almost seven feet of snow. Unfortunately, rescuers could not revive him. His lifeless body was lowered into the valley by a PGHM helicopter at 11:35 am.
Then, a little before noon, another alert was given for a climber who was climbing alone on the Cosmiques ridge. After rappelling and crossing a rocky outcrop, the man triggered a slab avalanche. The slide carried him to the foot of a corridor on the slope overlooking the Col du Midi. He was buried under three feet of snow. The group that reported the accident to the PGHM then went there to try to free the Chamonix mountaineer, who turned out to be a 61-year-old guide and former PGHM member Alain “Julio” Iglesias. Unfortunately, once on the scene, there was nothing the rescuers could do. Due to adverse conditions, he could not be helicoptered out, and his body will remain there until the storm breaks, and they can safely bring him out.
On the same day, Chamonix PGHM carried out two other rescue operations in the Vallée Blanche, the Mont-Blanc massif’s flagship off-piste, where skiers came from the Aiguille du Midi found themselves technically blocked.
“In view of the current conditions
, today, there were lucky people. The toll could have been more serious.”
– PGHM spokesperson
Given current avalanche conditions, at very high risk, the authorities are calling for maximum caution for the coming days, especially for today, Thursday. Beautiful weather is forecast, but the snowpack is far from stable.