Six climbers in fatal fall on Mont Blanc

2014-08-13 19:06
The Mont-Blanc range, in the French Alps. (Philippe Desmazes, AFP)

The Mont-Blanc range, in the French Alps. (Philippe Desmazes, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Chamonix - Six French climbers have died after a terrifying 250m fall from Mont Blanc, officials said on Wednesday, one of the worst accidents in a decade on Europe's highest mountain.

"We are certain that the climbers unfortunately died on the spot after a fall of around 250m," rescue police spokesperson Frederic Labrunye told reporters.

The group of four men and one woman, aged between 27 and 45 and accompanied by an experienced guide, set out on Tuesday for the "Aiguille d'Argentiere" peak on the Mont Blanc massif, which stands at 3 902m.

The weather deteriorated rapidly and the accident probably happened some time around midday, authorities said.

Frantic rescue efforts began after the group failed to return to the refuge as planned but were severely hampered by bad weather.

Five bodies were found early on Wednesday, with the sixth discovered in a crevasse later in the day.

The accident came amid growing fears that Mont Blanc is increasingly becoming a tourist "free-for-all".

Agnes Robine, a prosecutor in the Alpine town of Chamonix, said the group members were in the second week of a two-week course to perfect their climbing skills.

"These were not novices in terms of climbing," she said.

A judicial investigation has been launched, notably to see if anyone was at fault for the accident but at this stage it is "far too early to draw any conclusions," said the prosecutor.

Black hole

The head of the refuge where the group was staying said the 42-year-old guide, identified only as Pierre, was "an experienced guide who did this trip every fortnight."

"They left at 04:00 in very good conditions," the refuge keeper, Fred Laurenzio, told AFP.

The accident, the single worst loss of life on the mountain in more than two years, caps a climbing season that has left 17 people dead or missing, according to local police official Georges-Francois Leclerc.

"This is not an especially deadly year," he told reporters.

Two Belgians were found dead on 2 August and six climbers died between July 15 and 30 - two Irish, two Finns, a German and a French person.

A US climber sparked outrage earlier this month when he tried to climb the mountain with his nine-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter and got caught in an avalanche.

The family escaped uninjured, but video footage of the incident in a spot known as the "Corridor of Death" caused an outcry when it was broadcast in the United States last month.

Laurenzio told AFP that on that particular peak "a small problem can very quickly become a big problem because you have to get down on your own steam and raise the alarm".

"On the Argentiere peak, there is no signal, it's a black hole for mobile rescue transmissions," he said.

The worst single death toll from an accident on Mont Blanc in recent times came in July 2012, when nine climbers - Swiss, German, British and Spanish - were killed in an avalanche.

Read more on:    france

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.