Four German ski tourers who were crossing the eastern Bernese Alps in Switzerland have been killed in an avalanche, police say. The group had been on the Gruenhornluecke mountain pass near Jungfrau peak in southern Switzerland when the accident happened on Friday.
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An innkeeper alerted emergency services when the four did not arrive at their planned destination. The group of skiers had set off at 9 am on Friday from the Finsteraarhorn mountain hut, north of Fieschertal in canton Valais, heading to the Konkordia hut above the Aletsch Glacier.
Planes and rescue personnel started looking for the group after they were reported missing, but because of severe weather conditions, the bodies were only found and recovered Saturday afternoon, at 10,200-feet. The group was buried under 10-feet of snow. The search flight revealed that several avalanches had slid in the area.
“An avalanche that got off a mountain sideways rolled over them,” Reinhard Bittel, from the local mountain rescue service, told Swiss Online site 20 Minuten. “The group had no chance.”
Police said the victims haven’t yet been formally identified, but German daily paper Rheinische Post reported that the four were all members of the Duesseldorf section of the German Alpine Association. At least two of the members were known to be very experienced, the paper reported, without identifying the victims.
The ski touring route was not known as being dangerous, however, the fast-changing weather conditions right now demand great care, Valais police spokesperson Mathias Volken told Swiss public radio-television, RTS, on Sunday. The current avalanche danger level is three on a scale of 1-5.
Statistics from the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF say that 19 people have now died in avalanches this winter in the Swiss mountains.