17 Deaths in Two and a Half Months
The 14th of July was a black day in Haute-Savoie, as seven people lost their lives. Two Italian mountaineers fell to their death on Mont Maudit.
A 71-year old man lost his life in the Chablais Alps while hiking with his wife, and two people accidentally unscrewed on the Aiguilles de la Glière mountain.
Unfortunately, the list does not stop here. On 31 May 2020, the Freeski community mourned the passing of professional freeskier, Hugo Hoff. On 29 June, a 22-year-old mountaineer unscrewed and fell more than 100 m (328 ft).
Besides the tragic fatalities, there were also many other serious mountain accidents in the Mont-Blanc and surrounding massifs since 11 May:
- 15 in paragliding or hang-gliding;
- 13 in hiking;
- 11 in mountaineering;
- 8 in mountain biking;
- 4 in climbing;
- 2 on trial or quad bikes;
- 1 in ski touring;
- 1 in BASE jumping.
And while the gendarmes of the PGHM of Chamonix are working hard to provide help, in some cases there is not much they can do.
More mountain practitioners who sometimes set out without preparation or experience
While the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic kept foreigners away from the Mont-Blanc massif, there are still a lot of people in the mountains. Many French decided to spend their summer vacations in France.
According to the commander of the PGHM of Chamonix, Lieutenant-Colonel Stéphane Bozon, there is no real explanation for this black series, as the weather conditions were generally good.
However, good weather can also be a trap. “There is not a lot of snow on the heights, it encourages more hikers to come out. We count 42 accidents against 22 over the same period in 2019”, explains the prefect of Haute-Savoie, Pierre Lambert.
One possible reason for these tragic accidents could be the lack of preparation in the confinement. “With the confinement period, the climbers were unable to do their physical preparation. They are not necessarily up to their goals. It is essential to seek professional advice and know how to give up when it seems risky", declared the prefect of Haute-Savoie.
For beginners, Lieutenant-Colonel Bozon recommends hiring medium-mountain guides and high-mountain guides: “they are there to guide in the first steps of hiking or mountaineering, and to make sure you are in complete safety".
As for experienced mountaineers, Stéphane Bozon recommends caution. "People who regularly practice mountaineering or mountain climbing - they usually make individual technical faults, so in all activities, hiking, mountaineering we must be very vigilant".
Prefect Pierre Lambert also recommends vigilance. "We are not going to ban access to the mountains, that would make no sense. Practitioners need to be more vigilant ”.
As for good news, "there are fewer road fatalities in Haute-Savoie than last summer. Currently, we are at 15 deaths to date against 36 in the same period last year", says prefect Pierre Lambert.
Sources @Le Dauphine, France Bleu