6 climbers fall to their deaths in the French Alps

June 30, 2011


Six climbers fell 200 m to their deaths in the French Alps. Their bodies were found at an altitude of 2,700 m on Neige Cordier Peak, 5 km from Villar-d’Arène in the Hautes-Alpes region south-east of Grenoble. The six French mountaineers were in two rope teams and had not gone far before they fell. While not a particularly difficult climb, the accident appears to have occurred at the most technical part of the ascent. Climbing conditions were ideal. It looks like there was no avalanche. The investigation is continuing. Click here for the article in The Guardian.

Without presupposing the outcome of the investigation, it is noteworthy that in response to an alarming number of falls on Denali / Mt. McKinley in Alaska in the 1990’s, the US National Park Service looked at the underlying causes of the falls. Daryl Miller, who was my leader on the Denali Rescue Team in 1997, led the study which showed that climbing teams roped together on steep terrain often have a false perception of security and that a high percentage of falls involve teams descending, roped together and with no fixed protection.

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