Two Dead, Search Continues After Avalanche Near Mont Blanc

The slopes of Mont Blanc du Tacul, site of another deadly avalanche

The slopes of Mont Blanc du Tacul, site of another deadly avalanche. Photo by Dougald MacDonald.

8/13/13 - Two Italian women were killed and their Italian guide severely injured early this morning when a serac fall touched off an avalanche that swept the party into the bergschrund at the base of an ice face on Mont Blanc du Tacul, above Chamonix, France. Rescuers are continuing to probe the area for other victims, though search efforts are constrained by the continuing risk of serac fall, and at this time it's believed no one else was caught in the slide.

The accident happened near the start of a popular route up 15,780-foot Mont Blanc, Western Europe's highest peak. After leaving the Cosmiques Hut, climbers traverse a steep slope on Mont Blanc du Tacul that is continuously threatened by seracs, before continuing over Mont Maudit and on to the summit of Mont Blanc. In photos from the scene today, the avalanche track is clearly visible from a great distance.

In 2008, a similar serac fall on Mont Blanc du Tacul killed eight climbers and injured several more. In 2012, nine climbers were killed in an avalanche on Mont Maudit, higher on the route up Mont Blanc, including the veteran British guide Roger Payne. The "Trois Monts" route remains popular despite its dangers, in part because it starts at nearly 12,000 feet, after taking a tram to the summit of nearby Aiguille du Midi.

UPDATE (8/14/13): No other climbers were reported missing, and the search for additional victims was called off in the afternoon of August 13.