Avalanche on Mont Blanc: 9 deaths on Mont Maudit
This morning an avalanche on Mount Maudit (Mont Blanc) killed 9 alpinists. 9 others have been injured, and unfortunately this toll is still only provisional.
Update 13/07/2012 - ore 11:00
The families of the 9 alpinists who died in yesterday morning's avalance are expected to arrive in Chamonix. The French authorities have confirmed that of the nine dead 3 alpinists were British, 2 German, 2 Swiss and 2 Spanish. The victims included Roger Payne, 55-year-old British Mountain Guide, former Secretary General of the BMC (The British Mountaineering Council) and former President of theBritish Mountain Guides. Payne had climbed extrensively in the Alps and Himalaya and was one of the most respected mountain guides. The condolences of the entire mountaineering world go to the families of all the victims.
Update at 19:50
News just in: the 4 missing alpinists have been located. Finally some good news.
Update at 17.40:
A brief update by Alessandro Cortinovis, director of the Valle D'Aosta Mountain Rescue Service: at present the rescue operation, directed by the Chamonix Gendarmeria which also requested support from the Valle D'Aosta Mountain Rescue Service and that of the Guardia di Finanza, has been called off. The death toll of 9 victims due to the avalanche remains unchanged, while the number of injured has risen to 14. Furthermore, between 4 and 5 alpinists are currently considered missing and in the upcoming hours checks will be undertaken to check whether they have managed to descend on their own. It seems certain that they were part of a group which left at 1.30 this morning, so they might not have been hit by the avalanche and could therefore be, for example, descening down the French Goutier face. As to the the cause of this authentic disaster, it seems clear that what triggered the slab and provoked the avalanche was a collapse of a portion of the seracs located above the slope which leads up to Mont Maudit. As is well known this sort of thing has always happened in the high mountains and is due above all to physical reasons: the glacier moves and the power of gravity combined with the immense weight of the seracs does the rest.
It happened at 5:30 this morning, on Mont Maudit along the classic route which leads from Refuge des Cosmiques to the summit of Mont Blanc via Mont Blanc du Tacul and Mont Maudit. According to the initial details and news, an avalanche was triggered for reasons currently partial and still to be defined due a serac collapse on Mont Maudit. This involved a large number of alpinists ascending towards Mont Maudit - at least 12 mountaineers according to some sources, while others cite at least 28.
The provisional toll, published by the Chamonix Gendarmeria on whose territory the accident has taken place, talks of 9 deaths and 9 injured, while search parties are currently looking for a number of missing climbers (between 2 and 5) but there may well be other alpinists involved who managed to descend on their own. At present there is no precise confirmation about the nationalities of the victims. As always happens in cases like these, the Chamonix Gendarmeria has asked for support from the Italian Valle d'Aosta Mountain rescue service.
As all alpinists know the normal route up the Trois Monts route - which as the name suggests climbs the trio Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit and Mont Blanc -is one of the four normal routes which leads to the summit of Mont Blanc and is also the most popular. This route has been the scene of accidents in the past, such as the 2008 tragedy which resulted in 8 deaths. Generally speaking though the Tacal serac was widely considered the most dangerous section, as was the case in 2008.
- Interview (in Italian) with Alessandro Cortinovis, director of the Valle d'Aosta Mountain Rescue Team - La Repubblica