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Tuesday May 1, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

Seven ski tourers dead in the Swiss Alps and a survivor tells his story. It's the worst incident in the mountains this season as an investigation gets underway. UPDATED

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra quotes Tommaso Piccioli as saying: "Now I understand what hell is."

He was in a group of 14 skiers who spent Sunday night stranded and exposed to below freezing temperatures and wind at 3,270m at Pigne d'Arolla after becoming lost in poor visibility.

His 59-year-old Italian guide died in a fall and six others, who were rescued the next morning, later died of hypothermia.

The latest to succumb was a 42-year-old Italian citizen who police say died in hospital early on Wednesday evening.

The seven victims were among 10 people who have lost their lives in the Swiss Alps since Sunday.

Tommaso Piccioli told the newspaper that the skiers had got lost several times before poor visibility forced them to stop.

They did not realise they were just a few hundred metres from a refuge where they'd been planning to stop to sleep.

"I tried to stay awake, that's all, because in those situations if you fall asleep, you die," he said.

He said he couldn't see if other members of the group were alive.

"I knew that most of them would already be dead," he said.

See Corriere della Serra for more (in Italian).

Pigne d'ArollaPigne d'Arolla
















The alarm was raised by the manager of the Cabanne des Vignettes refuge at 6.30am on Monday.

Seven helicopters from Air Glaciers, Air Zermatt and REGA were sent to the scene with doctors and mountain specialists on board.

They found that one person - since identified as the Italian guide of a group of 10 - had already died in a fall.

The ski tourers were airlifted to several hospitals but six subsequently died of hypothermia.

Air GlaciersAir Glaciers -  library photo















In addition to the Italian guide, the dead include five Italians - two of them couples in their forties and fifties -  and a 52-year-old Bulgarian woman.

Two others, who had been critically ill, are now reported to be out of danger.

They are a 72-year-old Swiss citizen and a 56-year-old French woman.

The remaining five ski tourers - French, German and Italian nationals in their 40s and 50s - suffered slight hypothermia.

The Valais Police say the 14 tourers were in one group of 10 and another group of four, who had intended to complete the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt.

They left the Cabanne des Dix hut at 2,928 metres.

They were aiming to reach the Cabanne des Vignettes at 3,157 metres via the classic touring route, La Serpentine.

Cabanne des VignettesCabanne des Vignettes














Next of kin have been informed.

Pigne d'ArollaPigne d'Arolla location (Google Maps)
















The death toll is the highest of any incident in the Swiss Alps this winter and contributed to a deadly few days.

The police also announced on Tuesday that a 49-year-old Frenchman had died after being buried by an avalanche on the Allalin glacier in Saas-Fee.

He was one of two tourers climbing up to the Feejoch on the glacier at approximately 3,630 metres when the avalanche happened on Monday afternoon.

He was dug out and airlifted to hospital by helicopter but died overnight.

His companion - a 49-year-old Frenchwoman - was injured but is not in a life-threatening condition.

And in a separate incident, two climbers aged 21 and 22 died in the Alps in the Bern region.

Their bodies were found on Monday after bad weather halted a rescue attempt late on Sunday.

In France two people in their 30s lost their lives in the Chamonix Valley on Monday, April 30th in separate incidents.

A 35-year-old man from Annecy died in the Couturier couloir, on the Aiguille Verte. 

The second fatal accident took place on the Glacier Rond, on the west face of the Aiguille du Midi.   

A group of 4 skiers were on the slopes and triggered an avalanche.

A 35-year old man died and the other 3 escaped with their lives.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

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