chamonix mont blanc mount rainier mountaineering accident climbers deaths mountains france washington
Six French climbers had been ascending the Aiguille d'Argentière on Tuesday evening when they were caught in bad weather. (Jean-Paul Lesage/Flickr)

Mont Blanc Massif Claims 6 More Lives

For a total of 14 in less than a month

chamonix mont blanc mount rainier mountaineering accident climbers deaths mountains france washington

Bad weather and avalanches continue to take a devastating toll on the climbing world this year. Officials have announced that they found the bodies of six French climbers who died Tuesday in the Alps near Mont Blanc*.

Five climbers and a guide had been climbing the Aiguille d’Argentière Tuesday evening when bad weather struck. They had been completing a two-week mountaineering course. Officials were notified when the climbers did not arrive at a mountain refuge. On Wednesday morning, a rescue helicopter found the bodies of the five climbers; later that morning, French papers report, their guide’s body was also found.

This adds up to 14 deaths around Mont Blanc in less than a month. Between July 15 and August 2, eight other climbers perished on the French mountain, Europe’s highest. Many guides and local officials feel some climbers have become too reckless. “Mont Blanc is not the New York Marathon,” Jean-Marc Peillex, mayor of St-Gervais-les-Bains, told a French radio station in July. “It’s not a trek. It’s mountaineering.” (It should be noted that this statement does not apply in any way to the climbers who died on Tuesday, as they were with a well-known French climbing organization.)

Closer to home, the National Park Service has announced that three bodies were found on Mount Rainier last week. The remains have not yet been removed from the mountain, as a foot search is still not safe, but the individuals, whose sexes and ages have not been identified, might have been among the six climbers killed in a May avalanche, considered one of the worst accidents in Rainier’s history. “We’re trying to figure out if there’s a safe way to get in there,” NPS spokesperson Patti Wold told the Los Angeles Times, “so we can remove the remains and try to give their family some closure.”

*An earlier version of this article said that the six climbers had died on Mont Blanc. They had actually been climbing a mountain in the Mont Blanc massif, not the Mont Blanc summit itself. We regret the inaccuracy.

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021
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Lead Photo: Jean-Paul Lesage/Flickr