Avalanche Near Mont Blanc Claims 8

The northwest side of Mont Blanc du Tacul, above Chamonix, France. The avalanche struck as climbers were ascending the zigzagging trail visible in the center of the photo, about 3 a.m. on August 24. The top of Mont Blanc is visible in the upper right. Photo by Dougald MacDonald.

Eight climbers are missing and believed dead after an ice avalanche swept across the climbers’ trail on the slopes of Mont Blanc du Tacul in France early Sunday morning. Another seven climbers were injured by the slide.

Ice fell about 3 a.m. from a giant serac above the path that zigzags up the northwest side of 13,937-foot Mont Blanc du Tacul. The 150-foot-wide avalanche path struck several parties that likely had just left the Cosmiques hut at the start of a long climb to the summit of 15,780-foot Mont Blanc, the highest peak in western Europe.

Five Austrian and three Swiss climbers were swept into a chaotic glacial basin and could not be found by helicopter and ground searches; the search operation was suspended late on Sunday because of the fear of more avalanches.

Survivors told the Guardian newspaper of the strangely silent slide that hit them: "The guide shouted, 'Run fast! Run fast!'" said Nicolas Duquesne, who sustained a broken ankle. "It didn't make any noise. It really was impressive.” Italian guide Marco Delfini told the Guardian his party was carried more than 600 feet by the avalanche.

The accident, described as one of the worst in decades in the Alps, occurred on a night of cold, clear weather.

Date of Accident: August 24, 2008

Sources:Guardian.co.uk, News.bbc.co.uk, Afp.google.com

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