Dôme des Écrins, the search continues for the three missing Italian alpinists
The Briançon Gendarmerie is continuing its search for Francesco Cantù, Damiano Barabino and Luca Gaggianese, the three Italian alpinists who have been missing for 4 days in the Écrins massif (Dauphiné Alps, France).
13:00 today: "The helicopter took off late this morning to fly over the area and locate the alpinists in the Ecrins massif. But at 3000m altitude the wind blew at 70km/h." This is the last message of the live coverage which www.ledauphine.com is currently dedicating to the Briançon PGHM search operations for Francesco Cantù, Damiano Barabino and Luca Gaggianese, the three Italian alpinists who have been missing since Monday in the Ecrins massif. Hopes are that this afternoon, during the lull after the continuous snowstorm, the helicopter will manage to locate them. A feat which has proven impossible even for the team of 4 rescuers who attempted to ascend to Rifugio Cézanne yesterday and who, in doing so, were swept away by an avalanche which even if not specified, luckily did not have a more serious outcome.
It all began last Sunday. According to www.ledauphine.com, at 2:00 am Damiano Barabino, cardiologist at Genoa and instructor for the Italian Mountaineering Club, Francesco Cantu, chief of cardiology at Lecco and Luca Gaggianese parked their car at 1800m above sea level, close to the Pré de Madame Carle mountain hut in the municipality of Pelvoux. Their goal was the Gabarrou-Marsigny gully, a difficult and demanding route up the south face of Barre des Ecrins. They reached the top of the route at 14:00, at 4102m, decided to descend the northern flank and bivied at 3900m.
On Monday morning the three were blocked by a snowstorm on the North Face of Dôme des Ecrins but managed to alert others of their whereabouts. A rescue team set off immediately from the ground, as did a helicopter from the Briançon Gendarmerie, but conditions proved impossible and the rescuers were forced to stop their search. At 16:00 on Monday the three alpinists managed to contact Italy once again to say they wanted to attempt to descend on their own accord. There has been no further contact since then, in most likelihood due to the mobile phone batteries which no longer work. Tuesday and Wednesday proved unfruitful and the efforts of the rescuers were hampered by bad weather and the high avalanche risk.
Today, the 4th day since the alarm and the 5th on the mountain for Francesco Cantù, Damiano Barabino and Luca Gaggianese, the weather seems to provide a glimmer of hope to at least enable a helicopter to fly and locate the missing climbers. The last flight took off at 14:30. It's superfluous to say that our thoughts are with them, with the three alpinists and the rescuers.
For those wishing to follow the live updates we recommend the following link: www.ledauphine.com