7/12/12 - Sad news comes from France this morning as nine climbers were killed in an avalanche on Mont Maudit.
A reported 28 people, on separate rope teams, were climbing a classic route in the Mont Blanc range when an avalanche hit them at 5 a.m. When rescuers arrived, they found nine climbers dead; 14 are injured and being treated, and five climbers are still missing. The Chamonix Gendarmeria and Valle D'Aosta Mountain Rescue Service worked together in the rescue attempt, which was called off later this morning; they will routinely check throughout the day to see if the missing alpinists were not hit by the avalanche, and if they were able to descend by themselves.
Rescuers believe a serac collapsed above the climbers, which triggered the avalanche.
The teams were climbing the Trois Monts route, which links Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit, and Mont Blanc, and which is a very popular route. The nationalities of all climbers are not known yet. The nine dead include: three Britons, two Germans, two Swiss, and two Spanish. Among those killed in the avalanche was British mountain guide Roger Payne, who lived nearby in Switzerland with his wife Julie-Ann Clyma, also a guide. Payne was a longtime top officer of the British Mountaineering Council and had done numerous first ascents in the Himalaya and Karakoram, including extensive exploration of the Sikkim region in recent years. See more about Payne here.