Mont Maudit, meaning cursed mountain, of 4,465 m, towers over the French Alps. Though a beautiful mountain, it stands true to its name. On Thursday, July 11, 2012, Mont Maudit was struck with its deadliest avalanche in recent memory, leaving 9 dead and 15 injured. The alarm was sounded at 5:25 am local time by one of the injured on Mont Maudit.
Several dozen gendarmes and rescue teams combined forces, using helicopters, search dogs, and heat-seeking devices to locate the victims of the avalanche. The rescue teams frantically searched for more survivors through out the day, while risking their lives by remaining in the firing zone if a second avalanche were to occur. At 5:00 pm French time, the rescue team called of the search.
Originally, search crews pronounced 6 dead, but hours later they found the bodies of two more victims. Of the nine fatalities, there were three Germans, one Swiss, two Spaniards, and three Britons.
Fifteen climbers were injured, one of which an American, the only non-European victim.
At first, four climbers were believed to be missing; however, they have now fortunately been accounted for. The police reported that they were two Britons and two Spaniards. Two had cancelled their climb and two had chosen another route.
Mont Maudit is the third-highest peak in the Mont Blanc massif range. The route is the second most popular route, often trafficked by summer tourists attempting to summit Mont Blanc. The weather had recently been warm and windy which might have led to an increased risk in the already avalanche-prone area. A passing climber could have easily set off the snow on the steep slopes.
Though, according to Jean-Louis Verdier, the mayor of Chamonix, the avalanche was completely unexpected. “We had no more reason than usual to be alarmed,” Verdier said.
While the search has been called off, the rescue teams have not given up yet and are expected to continue their search on Friday, if weather conditions allow.