Reports are just emerging of what looks to be the worst climbing accident in years at Chamonix, where an avalanche early on the morning of July 12 has killed nine people and injured as many as 20 more.
Among those who were killed was Roger Payne, a well-known British climber and guide. He was highly experienced. According to the British Mountaineering Council, Mr Payne had been climbing every year in the Alps since 1977.
He took part in more than 20 expeditions to high and difficult peaks across the Karakoram and Himalaya – from K2 to little-known mountains on the borders of Sikkim, and Sichuan in China – as well as North and South America.
He was a former president of the British Mountain Guides, an avalanche instructor and held coaching badges in a range of other outdoor sports. He also had a strong interest in the mountain environment, working on projects with the United Nations on climate change, and was involved in raising awareness about the conflict on the Siachen Glacier.
In its report on the incident, the BMC said that:
The avalanche came down around 5:30 from the Mont Maudit slope. It was triggered by a serac fall, but windslab snow accumulated in the last two days by prevailing south winds may have contributed.
According to Daniele Ollier of the SAV, the avalanche was huge (150m wide) and the exact mechanism was in two steps: the initial serac fall hit the climbers who were higher on the Maudit face, then the windslab avalanche took out the climbers below, sweeping them for 200 metres.
According to the BBC (you can find the full story here):
The local authorities described the avalanche as “the most deadly” in recent years, according to the AFP news agency.
Mont Maudit – meaning the cursed mountain – is the third-highest peak in the Mont Blanc massif range, rising to 4,465m (14,650 ft).
This area has been known to suffer fairly large avalanches in the past. In 1999 the Village of Montroc was hit by a massive snow slide that killed 12 people in their homes. You can read more about that here.