/ NEWS: Tragedy on Grandes Jorasses
Both the French PGHM and the Italian VdA Mountain Rescue have made multiple attempt, by helicopter and by foot, to reach the stranded climbers, but so far to no avail. Bruno, Olivier's brother (and himself a guide) has made an attempt with an Italian Frontier Police team from the Boccalatte hut, but the avalanche risk at the moment is too high. There's been one late afternoon flights attempts from Aosta, to try drop food and gas provisions, but visibility was so low that they had to return almost immediately.
Tomorrow the meteo forecast seems to give a brief lull in the storm by early morning, so let's keep fingers crossed.
This is now on the UKC news page.
Two climbers have been stranded in a storm on the Grandes Jorasses in the Mont Blanc range on the French/Italian border since Thursday the 3rd of November.
Mountain guide Olivier Sourzac, 47, and his client Charlotte Demetz, 44, successfully climbed the classic north face route of The Shroud, and made the summit, before being caught in a terrible storm.
Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=64875
UKC Secondary Edit:
Tragic News. Brief report now on the UKC News Page.
The last updates are not encouraging. The storm continues unabated, and the planed flights are still grounded. There's a French group (including Bruno) at the Boccalatte for yet another attempt to reach Olivier and Charlotte by foot, but conditions are extremely dangerous, and the mood around is quite pessimistic. I hope some good news may come later today, but given the fact that the storm is now going non stop since 100 hours (most of the NW, including Turin, is now in high alert mode for expected floods and landslides)... well, it's not a good day.
yeah - nothing to say except what's already been said - thanks for keeping us posted and hoping for a positive outcome.........
Horrible to read this sort of news. Fingers crossed for a safe and happy conclusion for them all.
Is it not clearing just a bit now - 14:30? I know the Föhn can be deceiving on this side - we haven't had more than a few spots of rain - but I'm sure I caught a glimpse of Helbronner just now?
> Is it not clearing just a bit now - 14:30? I know the Föhn can be deceiving on this side - we haven't had more than a few spots of rain - but I'm sure I caught a glimpse of Helbronner just now?
Yes, it's going down a bit, there's a clear windows between 2000 and 3200 (cloud are compact below 2000) and the rain has slowed. Being told they're attempting a flight now, not sure they can make it to the GJ. Let's keep fingers crossed.
Indeed. Here's hoping for a positive outcome. A horrible situation for all concerned. :-( Godspeed to the pilots and rescuers, strength to the climbers.
Ok, they're trying again now. The highest flying ceiling now is 3400, I think they're attempting to drop a team as close as possible to the two climbers
Fingers crossed. Thoughts go out to all involved. Lets hope for a good outcome.
Attempt failed. The helicopter is back to Courmayeur. Visibility is close to nihil, I'm afraid there's no time for another attempt today
Is Olivier still in contact?
> Is Olivier still in contact?
And unfortunately the situation around is not getting any better
God speed to the climbers and rescuers.
My thoughts are with the families.
On a more hopeful note, the storm is now sensibly slowed, and rain/snowfall almost stopped on the Italian side of the GJ. If tomorrow morning visibility will be decent, there are high chances the flights will succeed. There's a lot of worries about the current state of the climbers (it's 48 hours since the last phone contact). However - and just to be reasonably optimistic: they're both strong climbers, with a lot of experience and excellent gear. They're almost certainly dug in into the snowslope to the R of the Rochers Whymper, so at least they may had a reasonable shielding from the wind.
As usual, let's try to think positive.
Hope good news is to follow.
Still no go then Luca?
Is it still socked in Luca? I realise I can't see the S side of the Jorasses, but I can see Helbronner and its crane quite clearly now.
> Still no go then Luca?
Unfortunately no. The weather window that was supposed to came this morning simply didn't. The VdA chopper is ready to fly any moment from Entreves, but the weather is still not OK. There's going to be a join meeting at noon then a.press conference
Sea of clouds at 2500 but above is opening, maybe is go
PGHM is trying now
Did not work. PGHM tried to drop a team on Pt..Walker to try get to the Olivier and Charlotte from above, but the weather closed before they could make it. Next attempt from Italy, don't know when.
PGHM says there's one metre of fresh snow in the summit area, very high avalanche risk, so trying to reach the climber from nearby is impossible. The VdA revue will still try to drop survival kits, but there's still the need for a weather window
What a bastard. A metre of fresh snow would make locating them tricky too. Of course it could add a bit of insulation. Raining here in Vallorcine for the first time in days. Maybe that means a change of sorts...
It's sounding like it's been the worst possible scenario, with five days of appalling weather.
PGHM tried another drop this afternoon, but no luck. No signs of the climbers, but they know their approximate position (below a huge boulder on the slope E of the Rochers. Avalanche everywhere and the short term metro is getting bad again. If PGHM fails, it will be the VdA turn again. This said, the assumption at today press briefing is that they may be still alive, so rescue.as not been called off. However, as the storm has surged again, flights tomorrow from the French side may be more difficult, I understand they may concentrate the attempts from Entreves via the VdA rescue. A guide and a medic were briefly winched down on the Walker summit but they had to be recovered immediately. Another attempt by foot has been formally excluded, as the avalanche risk is way too high.
Good God this sounds horrendous..... Good and safe luck to all involved
> It's sounding like it's been the worst possible scenario, with five days of appalling weather.
Yes, it's awful. Sort of remake of Desmaison and Gousseault but with the added grief she's the mother of two.
On the other hand I must say that, despite the difficult situation, there's been some absolutely epic effort coming from both communities, Chamonix and Courmayeur to save the lives of Olivier and Charlotte. They've literally thrown every possible resource in. For instance, some of the stuff done by the PGHM today to land the rescuers on the Jorasses has been unbelievable (and the VdA rescue service hasn't been far behind). Truly inspiring stuff, whatever the outcome will be
This really is a disturbing story that's developing - you make an excellent point. The rescue services really are the creme de la creme. The pilots in particular astonish me. Very, very skillful and courageous.
""Il n'y a pas eu de nouvelle tentative pour l'instant. On attend une éclaircie, une trouée", a indiqué le peloton de gendarmerie de haute montagne (PGHM) de Chamonix. Le ciel commençait à se découvrir mardi matin côté français du massif du Mont-Blanc, mais il restait très couvert côté italien, là où sont bloqués les deux alpinistes."
Furious storm on the Courmayeur side, and compact clouds on the French side. Rescue teams are grounded on both side. Chamonix PGHM had another recon flight scheduled from noon but it has been called off at the last minute because of the visibility. There's been a morning briefing in Courmayeur, but weather on this side has been too ugly to do anything. A weather window is expected in one hour, but no guarantee. Newspaper here talk about an "assault on the Jorasses", and the feeling is just that.
This is terrible. Is there any idea of how much kit and food they have? e going to need a lot to survive for this long.
Every time i see this thread making back to the top i dread clicking on it. Hopefully the next time will be to read some good news.
It seems the weather will begin clearing this evening and follow suit overnight, with winds dying out as well. Here's hoping for them to come out of it unscathed with no more than a tale to tell the grandchildren.
> This is terrible. Is there any idea of how much kit and food they have? e going to need a lot to survive for this long.
They have been reported as going lightweight. I beloved they had mats at least. They were also definitely short on food, but given they're dug in, they can survive for a while eating snow (to get hydrated)
VdA team greenlighted to fly in five minutes, mission goal is to attempt pinpointing the climbers location. There's a clear patch now, they can make it.
> VdA team greenlighted to fly in five minutes, mission goal is to attempt pinpointing the climbers location. There's a clear patch now, they can make it.
Fingers, toes, and everything else crossed.
Pinpoint then possibly a food drop if no evacuation?
> Fingers, toes, and everything else crossed.
> Pinpoint then possibly a food drop if no evacuation?
I think they will try give the position to a second helicopter carrying a two men rescue team, I think they will try dropping the evacuation team no matter what
My thoughts and best wishes are with them.
It must be difficult for the rescuers not to lose their head and push too hard.... stay safe out there
First attempt failed, too much wind. Another attempt from Chamonix was called off 30 minutes ago.
Everyone must be going through absolute hell with this.
Trying again now...
The webcams at Valdigne are showing perceptible improvements by the minute. Lets hope .........................
Chopper down in Courmayeur, wind reported at 25 knots up there. Visibility improving by the minute.
Bad news. There're no sign of the presence of the climbers in the upper plateau of the GJ
Hi Luca, thanks for all your updates.
Any chance to retry something today ?
All my warmest thoughts to both climbers.
No. Visibility too reduced and the wind's too strong (blowing from Italy towards France). However weather is now improving rapidly, there's going to be a new flight at first morning lights tomorrow
This all horribly reminiscent of the Jamie Andrew/Jamie Fisher nightmare trapped on Les Droites in 1999. The ordeal they went through and the heroics and skill of the helicopter pilots - it all seems to be happening here. Hopefully the outcome will be better this time.
Ok, I've a bit more time now so here's some additional detail on today's news. As reported before, the Augusta 193 twin engine of VdA rescue service (SAV) managed, exploiting a sudden clear window, to fly twenty minutes around the summit plateau, trying to get a clear view of the missing climbers position.
(Yesterday the Chamonix PGHM managed, in the middle of the storm and at insane personal risk, to winch down few minutes two guides on the top of Pt. Whymper. These had just the time to look briefly around, drop the survival kits then ask to be retrieved before all hell broke loose)
The VdA crew was made of a specialist and two guides. The initial idea was to locate the position of the climber, drop the guides in location, and then send in another chopper with the medical team if required. The pilot had to negotiate four different layer of clouds, at the same time keeping close enough to the mountain to try spot something in the upper plateau. However, there was absolutely nothing there, except for the survival kit dropped by the PGHM yesterday (that has been left untouched). No trace of the missing climbers. They tried however to close in enough to leave the guides there (they were prepared to dig in in case the weather prevented their retrieval), but the wind was just too much - 25 knots coming from SW. So they had to return.
Another attempt whas tried 30 minutes later, but the weather closed in almost immediately. The PGHM has tried twice to near the GJ from north today, but despite the better visibility in the French side, this time they're having the worst deal with the fohen winds coming from Italy (normally is the other way round, stormy weather in France and fohen in Italy)
Tomorrow morning, as soon as it lights, there will be another attempt from Aosta.
The other big news today are that Olivier's friend, coordinated by Olivier's brother Bruno, will attempt tomorrow morning to climb the Jorasses from two different routes, the Normal route from the Boccalatte and the Hirondelles ridge from the "new" Gervasutti hut. The rationale is to "sweep" any possibile area where the two missing climber may have been stranded. It's however a seriously risky plan, as the avalanche risk is big, and the Hirondelles are totally plastered, and everyone hopes they will not add new problems to those already in place. In any case, I guess it may be dreadful for Bruno and Olivier's friend to sit down doing nothing.
Ok, here's it for today.
Luca, many thanks for taking the time to keep us informed.
Testing times for all concerned by the sound of things.
My thoughts are for the climbers and all those working to rescue them.
Thanks again. Tony
It's an Agusta 139, not 193!
The Sunday attempt from the Italian side was made with a smaller chooper, the AB412, lighter and with a higher ceiling, but less powerful
The PGHM of course flies the EC145, Juliet Bravo Alpha
Thank you for keeping us up to date with this story.
My thoughts and prayers are with the trapped climbers and their families and friends.
A third group of Olivier's friend will try approaching the summit via the Tronchey ridge. Oh well...
This is so sad ......... what an absolutely overwhelmingly desperate situation ... my god ... please, please, please let them be safe ..... total respect for all persons involved .... I can't imagine the termoil that this is causing ..... God bless and good luck ....
Fingers crossed for a positive outcome,Ivan Ghirandini spent 6 + days on the descent from the same mountain in similar circumstances and survived.
Olivier, Charlotte e tutti i soccorritori saranno ricordati nelle mie preghiere.
Any news this morning? I hope all the best for everyone involved!
Sea of clouds above Courmayeur at 2300m. Above that more cloud cover but it appears it's dissolving. First morning attempt should be from Aosta (but PGHM may have scheduled something as well, not sure about that)
Flying again with yesterday crew, and using the A139, so they're maximizing power and ability to carry rescuers rather than simple ceiling. They're trying E from yesterday spot, to the R of the big serac, so closer to the Pra Sec ridge exit. They've Dario Brocherel with them, Dario knows the Italian side of the Jorasses better than anyone else. Let's cross fingers.
There is little to add to what has been said already, just that we are all behind the efforts of the rescue teams. Here's to better weather and a timely rescue, however remote the chances.
Good luck to all concerned.
Weather closing in again on the Italian side. I hope there's less wind on the Chamonix side so they may try flying from the Leschaux. The summit area is however not visible
Very frustrating to see the blue sky over Chamonix!
Jorasses summit area now clear, cloud cover down to 3600m, may be ok for an attempt from Chamonix. But again, just my speculations
Ok, here's the news: first recon flight from Aosta completed, visibility above 3500 is ok, wind strong but manageable. Chopper now down in Courmayeur, unloading everything that's now essential and carrying two guides and a doctor. They will drop the team on the plateau and then is up to then
Ok, first round begins, A139 taking off now with two guides (Brocherel and Ollier, both from Courma) plus the pilot and the winch operator. They will deploy the guides on the plateau after locating the approximate position of the climber. Second round will be flying in the doctor (she's a woman, Sara Calligaro, 34, a reanimation specialist from Aosta)
Search continues, no trace of the climbers so far
A139 back to Courma. Winds conditions are getting very ugly again, apparently they got a very rough ride and could get near the plateau. These conditions changing by the minutes are seriously hampering the mission planning. However, chopper is ready to flight again any minute.
Everything is crossed.
I've been following this thread closely but have refrained from posting. So awful, and just hoping hoping for a good outcome.
A chopper will take off with a thermic camera to reveal the position of the two climbers.
PGHM flying now a mission from Chamonox with a helicopter carrying a infrared scanning device, they're attempting to locate the climbers trying to find their body heat. Wind is slowing down a bit, but cloud cover still continuous. Summit are is clear now, however (very windy)
> Everything is crossed.
> I've been following this thread closely but have refrained from posting. So awful, and just hoping hoping for a good outcome.
nothing to add, but watching and hoping.
More news: A139 last attempt has been reported as a nightmare, apparently they had to "drop" the helicopter into hole in the clouds to return back to Courma for refuel. No news of the missing climbers. The attempt on foot by Olivier's friends seems to have been called off for now, too much snow.
Bad news. The PGHM chopper has reported no sign of life anywhere on the GJ summit are. By the way the use of the thermal device was misreported, as they're still waiting for it in Chamonix to be flown from Grenoble
A193 has left 5 minutes ago with the two guides AND the woman doctor, so they trying a last resort deployment on the summit area. Given the negative outcome of the PGJM missing (that apparently had a close brush with the summit ridge because of the wind) this means they're trying to find the climbers the old way...
Missing = mission sorry but typing in a cellphone is a error prone activity!
They've spotted the climbers
Hoping there is some positive news soon. Thoughts are with them.
Rescue team deployed on the Pt Walker
> They've spotted the climbers
Alive I hope?
If they've 'seen' them, surely that's very promising indeed?
A correction, the doctor flying the mission is not Sara but Andrea Corru, another reanimator from Aosta
fingers crossed they're ok!
Backup team getting ready in Courmayeur
Is the miracle going to happen?? I have given up pretending to work and am glued to the UKC forum waiting for news.
And the weather has turned, hopefully not too late
Mission control will update in minutes
Chopper circling the Jorasses, ready to recover the team
"the two climbers were spotted "stationary" at 4050 meters" (French Haute Savoie Prefecture
Only one body spotted with a red duvet
Position is much lower than initially thought. Team still on the summit, chopper continue. To circle
They're dead. Sorry
Oh no. RIP to them both.
Very sad news indeed
This is a heartbreaking end to what has been a very human drama. I think enormous praise needs to go to those who have made the multiple attempts to reach the stricken climbers and it is proof again that human lives are worth the expense. Such a shame about the outcome.
Thank you for your updates and taking the time to keep us informed.
A heavy-hearted climber.
Team still on the summit, but doctor back in Courmayeur with the helicopter (it had to refuel). I'll keep you updated
Very very sad :(
Huge props to all the rescuers and thank you Luca for all the updates.
R.I.P Olivier and Charlotte.
A very sad day. My thoughts go out to their family and friends. RIP
Climber's bodies being loaded on the helicopter to be taken to Courmayeur
Ahhhh bollocks, I was really hoping it would go the other way.
Still very early to say, but the first reconstruction is that they both died after leaving their snow shelter, trying to escape the mountain via the normal route. Of course the cause of death is still to be formally notified.
Both climbers families have been notified.
Absolutely fantastic effort from all teams involved, heart felt condolences to their families and friends.
Thanks for the updates Luca, such a shame it ended this way.
R.I.P Olivier and Charlotte.
RIP Olivier and Charlotte.
I couldn't agree more with Kamikaze.
Such a sad result. Thank you for keeping us updated Luca.
Thanks to Luca for the updates. The greatest of respect to those who made repeated efforts to reach and rescue the climbers in what were obviously atrocious conditions, and sincere condolences to the friends and family of those who lost their lives.
My thoughts are with the families and friends of Charlotte and Olivier.
The efforts of the PGHM and Vda Mountain Rescue teams have been outstanding.
+1, and many thanks to Luca for keeping us updated. RIP
Desperately sad news. Deepest condolences to all family, friends and loved ones of Olivier and Charlotte.
Terrible news, my heart goes out to the families of Olivier ande Charlotte.
Commiserations to all the rescue crews who worked so hard and thank you Luca for keeping us abreast of what was happening.
I was sat in a meeting desperate to get out for update. Terrible news. Really sad now.
Thank you so much for the continual stream of updates Luca. I hope the rescue teams all get off the mountain ok.
As others have said: Thoughts now go to those left behind.
Now there will be all the accident reconstructions, and - inevitably i'm afraid - the usual pointless arguing and debating. But I want just to report this post made on a Italian message board by one of Olivier's friends:
"Olivier, the last time we met was in Chamonix, chez La Caleche, ordering the same menu, the one we called "Smoked fillet". You insisted on paying the bill, but the next round was supposed to be mine. And now you're gone, leaving me alone, more than alone. What can I do? How can I repay my debt? You've gone first where all suffering end - please prepare the table for when it will be my turn"
As for Charlotte, the mother of two, I simply can't find words.
No need for us to add to that eloquent epitaph Luca - thank you for all you have done to keep us informed. As with Walter Bonatti's obituary, you have summed it all up perfectly.
Terribly sad news, thanks for updating us Luca.
RIP olivier and charlotte.
A very distressing tale to watch unfold and a terrible final outcome.
RIP Oliver and Charlotte.
Condolences to all families and friends of the victims.
I have been willing a successful outcome form my desk over the last few daysLuca, but this is terribly sad and tragic news.
THe rescue serivces have clearly demonstrated commendable courage.
Rest in peace.
Tragic outcome. We descended the same route last wednesday with blue skies and sunshine and its shattering to imagine the conditions Oliver and Charlotte endured a day or so later.
Sincere condolences to friends and family, truly sorry for your loss.
Bugger - was hoping for better news than this
Fantastic efforts from the rescue services
Condolences to their families and friends
RIP Olivier and Charlotte
Thanks Luca for conveying as objectively,and as accurately as possible the unfolding tragedy. Compelling and measured, unlike much of the other trash that frequents these parts. Thoughts to all those involved and affected.
Luca, thank you for keeping us updated, my thoughts are with you all.
Hats off to everyone who tried so valiently to reach them.
> Tragic outcome. We descended the same route last wednesday with blue skies and sunshine and its shattering to imagine the conditions Oliver and Charlotte endured a day or so later.
> Sincere condolences to friends and family, truly sorry for your loss.
A shot of the Grandes Jorasses seen from above Courmayeur, last Wednesday at 16:00 - precisely one week ago. You were probably somewhere up there, and Olivier and Charlotte were probably on the opposite side, looking at the north face and dreaming their climb. Life sometimes can be truly strange and sad.
> A shot of the Grandes Jorasses seen from above Courmayeur, last Wednesday at 16:00 - precisely one week ago. You were probably somewhere up there, and Olivier and Charlotte were probably on the opposite side, looking at the north face and dreaming their climb. Life sometimes can be truly strange and sad.
Further details of the tragedy are slowly being put together. The bodies were found not where originally thought or mis-reported (on the lower Rochers Whymper, to the L of the great serac) but on the lowest part of the ridge connecting Pt. Walker (4208m) with the so called upper or "great" plateau of the Jorasses. They were sitting on coils of rope, still roped together and belayed to the rock, Charlotte a bit above Olivier. That was probably the last position from where Olivier spoke by phone with the PGHM last Friday. He had then said he intended to "move further right" to dig in with Charlotte, but for some reason he never did that.
The (very unofficial view) is that they may have died between Saturday and Sunday, because of a combination of extremely low temperatures (down to -30°) and very violent wind. There's now an inquiry from the Courmayeur police that will try to give the authorities a clear picture of this tragedy.
One aspect of this six day epic now clear to everyone is that the collaboration between the French PGHM and the Italian VdA SAV is crucial in this type of accident, because the complex physical and meteorological nature od the Mt. Blanc range very often doesn't allow just one of the two entities to "do it alone". For instance, in this case the climber were in Italy (where the meteo was awful) so a lot of reconnaissance was done by the PGHM (who had however to battle furious fohen winds). It was the PGHM who spotted (by chance) Charlotte's red duvet popping out from the snow, but it was the VdA SAV who did the actual team drop to check and recover the bodies. It's a type of coordination that has been tested over the years (it's very common for the PGHM to "call in" the SAV during high season when the Les Bois DZ crews have their hand full, and the two groups now very often train together) and it's likely this will increase in the future.
Not much one can say in response to that description. There but for the grace of god etc. Very sad indeed.
I've just your Bonatti piece, really excellent. Thanks for all you have done on UKC.
I was walking today with a friend, in an innocuous mist-and-rainy sort of day in Glen Clova.
I never stopped thinking about this crisis, wondering how it would turn out, and looking forward to getting home and finding (I hoped) good news.
Alas, not to be.
All honour to them both for their last route: Le Linceul is quite a way to finish a climbing career.
Requiescant in pace.
Like many others I've been following this all week, unable to think of anything sensible to say, but hoping for the best and thinking of Olivier and Charlotte often. In particular, each night as I got into a warm safe bed I thought of them...
thank you luca...
Hi everyone, thanks for your kind words, and sorry if I can't reply to each one of you as good manners would suggest.
My deepest sympathies to the loved ones of those involved, Rest in peace.
really gutted. what a terrible shame
Olivier's funeral will be held tomorrow at 14:30 in Passy (near St. Gervais Les Bains), his hometown.
To close the updates to this thread, a short video taken on the Jorasses from the VdA SAV helicopter immediately after the two climbers where found. The source is the official Valle D'Aosta TV News program (check from 01:00 to 03:30, unfortunately there are before 30 seconds of advertising that are unavoidable)
(In Italian and French)
A short newscast on the tragedy epilogue, taken from TV8 Mont Blanc, a French TV station
A sad end, but thanks, Luca, for the links - the first one has some stunning photography which put the scale of the tragedy and the desperate job of the rescuers into perspective. And the beauty of the Grandes Jorasses and why we do this stuff, as well. Very poignant.
Very last update in case some didn't see these two
Thank you Luca, for the final reports which bring some sense of closure to the questions we all had. For me, an eerie sense of deja vue. Profound sympathy to the friends and families.
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