A group of five Spanish ski-tourers were caught in an avalanche on the Aletsch glacier in southern Switzerland on Saturday afternoon. Other skiers witnessed the accident and alerted the authorities. Three people were pronounced dead at the scene and the other two have minor injuries.
The group left the Knokordia mountain hut earlier in the day and were heading to the Fiescheralp area. The accident happened at 16.45 at an altitude of 8,136ft on a north facing slope. The risk at the time was ‘considerable’ at Level 3 (out of 5).
An investigation is underway, but it is believed that all the group were equipped with safety equipment, including avalanche transceivers. Bad weather hampered the search, and the three bodies could not be recovered until the following day.
“The exceptional weather conditions at the beginning of this year meant that the avalanche danger in the Alpine region is still high. For those who are not accompanied by a mountain guide, special care is required,” said the police and rescue organization in a joint statement. “The last snowfalls in combination with the wind conditions have led to an increased avalanche danger. This precarious situation is likely to worsen due to the announced rainfall.
The conditions in the Swiss Alps are dangerous at the moment with the likelihood of avalanches put at ‘considerable’ in large areas – Level 3 risk, and the authorities in the Valais canton are urging caution. This latest tragedy brings the avalanche death toll in Switzerland to 23.