Avalanche on Mont Blanc du Tacul, 13 Aug 2013

 

On the morning of Tuesday 13 Aug 2013, an avalanche on the north face of Mont Blanc du Tacul left two climbers dead and a third in a critical condition.

The avalanche occured around 4am when a block of ice, close to the summit of the Tacul, fell onto the snow field below and triggered the avalanche.

Seven climbers, attempting the summit of Mont-Blanc, were caught in the avalanche. They were carried down the north face of the Tacul.

Three climbers were found buried in a crevasse in the Tacul glacier. There could be a fourth victim, one climber is missing.

The PGHM in Chamonix was alerted by other climbers on the route and a rescue team from Aiguile du Midi traversed the snow slope to the avalanche debris to begin a search.

Initially, bad weather prevented a helicopter search and recovery. Later in the morning, the clouds cleared permitting a helicopter to access the site, carrying first aid and avalanche recovery equipment and personnel.

One of the three climbers, a High Mountain Guide, found in the crevasse is in a serious condition and has been evacuated by helicopter to a hospital in Annecy. Two climbers perished in the avalanche and their bodies have been taken to Chamonix by helicopter.

The High Mountain Guide is an italian from Courmayeur who was accompained by two clients. They have waited a week after the last snowfall so that it would be considered safer to climb the Mont-Blanc

They departed from the Cosmiques Refuge (3.600m) at about 3am. This is to climb the north face of the Tacul in the hours of darkness, when the temperature is lower and there is less risk of avalanche.

About the same time, four other climbers departed from the refuge, a Greek High Mountain Guide and three Italian climbers. There are unreliable reports that one other climber (nationality unknown) also departed from Les Cosmiques.

The north face of the Tacul is a very popular route to the summit of Mont Blanc. In the high season, there may be in excess 50 climbers on the north face at the same time.

The Chamonix PGHM is extremely experienced in avalanche rescue and recovery and can call upon considerable human and technical resources. In this instance, twenty specialists gendarmes, five firefighters and two independent mountain rescue personnel were mobilized by helicopter to the avalanche site. However, most of the rescue personnel were held back because of the threat of a second avalanche.

This area of the Mont Blanc Massif has a high risk of avalanche. The previous avalanche on the north face du Tacul, occured on 14 Jun 2013. There were no reported victims.

UPDATE: 2pm 13 Aug 2013 local time Chamonix

Jean-Louis Verdier, deputy mayor of Chamonix, declares: "The rescue operation is over and no one is missing." The other climbers, the Greek High Mountain Guide and three Italians that departed from the Refuge at about 3am are unharmed and they have safely returned to the Refuge.

UPDATE: 10am 14 Aug 2013

Giorgio Passino, the High Mountain Guide found alive, is no longer in a critical condition. Annecy hospital has succesfully rewarmed him. His body temperature returned to normal during the night of 13-14 Aug 2013.

 

Three photos of the Mont Blanc du Tacul avalanche taken by Fly Chamonix at 7am. 

The PGHM helicopter is seen returning to the site. The victims are still in the crevasse.
Avalanche on Mont Blanc du Tacul from Aiguille du Midi
Avalanche on Mont Blanc du Tacul at 08:00hrs
Avalanche on Mont Blanc du Tacul

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