Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Very Bad Climbing Accident Reported Today In The Swiss Alps

The Alpine climbing accidents have been particularly prevalent this Summer, as five climbers fell to their deaths today on the Lagginhorn in Switzerland, according to several press reports.

The BBC is now reporting that the five people who were killed were German, and horribly, included young people ranging in age from 14 to 21. A mountain guide who met the group, probably at a hut, the night before, provided more insight into the tragedy. It had rained, froze, and snowed on top of the ice; he speculated that they all had slipped on ice beneath snow. He thought they were not roped up. There is no mention of whether they were wearing crampons or not. The guide said that "this is not a difficult mountain."

The initial reports of the tragedy appear in the Swiss online news source thelocal.ch, The Washington Post, and MSNBC, for instance.

The Lagginhorn overlooks the Saas Valley not far from the city of Brig, the border with Italy, and the village of Zermatt, which lies in an adjacent valley. The Lagginhorn is bout 4010 meters or about 13,156 feet above sea level.

Two climbers from Italy fell and died on the Monch about a month ago, and a young Irish climber recently died in a fall from the Wetterhorn near Grindelwald in the Bernese Oberland.

These tragic accidents seem to have a few elements in common:

* They involve visitors to the Alps, not Swiss climbers or guides;

* They are falling deaths, not caused by "objective" hazards like rockfalls or avalanches;

* The accidents often happen during the descent;

* Some of the accidents, such as the the Monch incident, involve roped climbers, where one climber falls and pulls another or others down (but these accounts have not been verified, so one shouldn't draw hasty conclusions).

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