Glacier Collapse Kills Hiker Near Saas Fee, Switzerland

Julia Schneemann | ClimbingClimbing
The stunning Allalinhorn in the Swiss canton of Valais/Wallis. | Picture: Summit Post Website

A group of three roped hikers was struck by ice and snow in Switzerland, when parts of the glacier collapsed above them. The hiking group was descending from the Allalinhorn near Saas Fee, Switzerland, on Sunday, August 20, 2023, and were traversing the glacier, when parts of the glacier broke off about 100m (328ft) above them, partially burying the group.

The Allalinhorn reaches a peak elevation of 4,027m (13,212ft) and the hike is considered an advanced, but relatively easy hike of a level F+.

The potential path the hikers took across the glacier can be seen as fine lines in the picture, putting the considerable size of the collapse into perspective. | Picture: Cantonal Police Valais/Wallis Website

According to the cantonal police, the incident occurred at 12:30 p.m. as the group was descending via the glacier towards the mid station Mittelallalin. The snow and ice masses buried two of the hikers, one of whom completely. The completely buried man was pronounced dead on site. The other person suffered minor injuries and was flown by helicopter to the hospital in Sitten. The third hiker suffered minor injuries from the collapse but was able to seek medical attention locally.

On Sunday, temperatures in Switzerland were soaring, with maximum temperatures across the country of between 32-36°C (90-97°F). The heatwave likely contributed to the collapse of the glacier. Furthermore, the heatwave drove urban city dwellers en masse into the mountains, leading to a busy weekend for search and rescue teams across the country.

Air Zermatt, which participated in the Allalinhorn search, rescue and retrieval of the hikers, reported that their team had to attend 39 rescues last weekend, making it one of their busiest weekends. The rescue organisation states that at times they had all three of their rescue helicopters in the air at the same time, stretching their capacity to the limit.

Unfortunately it wasn’t the only deadly incident in that region last weekend, with a hang glider pilot crashing and three further hikers dying.

Spanish mountaineer and ultra runner Aïda Cusac shared his traverse of the Allalinhorn on his account. | Picture: Aïda Cusac Instagram

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