On Saturday, four alpinists were caught in a large avalanche in the region of South Tyrol, Italy following a decent snowfall across the area last week. About 30 to 40 centimeters of snow had fallen throughout the days leading up to the groups accident. The avalanche occurred in the Zillertal Alps on the north wall of the Hochfernerspitze, which is located in the Pfitscher Tal valley of Italy.
Reports of the avalanche vary, but according to most it occurred at about 10,800′ on the north wall of Hochfernerspitze which tops out at a total of 11,365′. The avalanche was extremely large with reports stating the crown length extending 100′ across and the flanks running a whopping 1600′ long.
Two other fatal avalanches have already occurred this northern winter: one skier in Austria on October 16th 2016, and one skier in Canada on September 25th 2016. It’s not even November and we’re looking at 6 avalanche deaths in the northern hemisphere already.
Local authorities were notified of the missing party close to midnight on Saturday night. Search and rescue teams consisting of avalanche rescue dogs, mountain rescue specialists, and police were deployed in an effort to locate the group. Early Sunday morning, two of the missing persons, Thomas Mon age 41 and Peter Vigl age 44, were discovered and pronounced dead at the scene.
Their other two climbing partners, Ulrich Seebacher age 41 and Andreas Zoeggeler also age 41, remain missing. Authorities are not optimistic that the two remaining climbers will be found alive, but in an effort to locate them a Swiss Air-Rescue Rega helicopter equipped with mobile signal tracking was requested. The hope is that this helicopter will pick up signals from the beacon’s of each climber if they remain operational. Unfortunately, when the helicopter arrived on location it had become too dark to continue searching and therefor the mission was delayed until this morning.
Reports state that all four of these men are Italian and were experienced alpinists from the town of Renon. It was known that three out of the four men were members of their local mountain rescue group. Unfortunate accidents can happen to even the most experienced folk, but it’s important to stay vigilant and always think safety first whenever traveling into snow-laden areas this winter no matter the circumstances.
A second avalanche also occurred in Italy on Saturday near the town and ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo, which is located in the Dolomites southeast of South Tyrol. The avalanche caught four alpinists on Monte Cristallo, breaking out at around 10,500′ and dragging them for almost 1000′. Fortunately, all persons in the climbing party were able to stay afloat above the avalanche debris and were able to make contact with local authorities who promptly conducted a rescue by helicopter. Only one climber sustained injury and was admitted to the hospital with a fractured leg.