Hiker Falls to Death on Mont Blanc, Latest in Series of Climbing Deaths

A BRITISH man in his 50s died in a fall Sunday while hiking near the foot of France’s tallest mountain Mont Blanc. He was taking a problematic track near the Bionnassay glacier, the smallest on the French side of the Mont-Blanc massif, at a spot known as Nid d’Aigle (Eagle’s Nest). Emergency responders said he fell around 50 meters (160 feet) and was killed instantly.

The mountain is a popular place for hikers and climbers. But Europe’s deadliest mountain range also sees more than 50 deaths a year.

Mont Blanc is a mountain of glaciers, peaks, and ridges with legendary views among mountaineers. It is located on the border between France and Italy. The massif is the highest in the Alps at 15,781ft and has been a destination for climbers and hikers since 1785. The ascent is difficult, even for those who are well-prepared. It’s not uncommon for people to get lost or die on the mountain.

A British climber was among nine killed Thursday in an avalanche high in the French Alps. The victims were part of a group attempting to scale Mont Maudit, an intimidating peak near the town of Chamonix, and summit Mont Blanc.

They were two or three rope lengths below the Petits Mulets, a rock formation 110 meters (350 feet) below the summit, when an ice block broke off, triggering the avalanche. The group had been preparing to camp for the night when the avalanche struck. In a frantic search, a helicopter scoured the churned-up snow, but it was too late to find the victims.

Two men from North Yorkshire, England, were killed. The other victims were from Spain, Germany and Switzerland. The victims were experienced climbers. They were all members of a group of 28 who had been traversing Mont Maudit before dawn to summit Mont Blanc.

A church service was planned Saturday in Chamonix in memory of the climbers. The partners of the victims paid tribute to their partners in statements issued through the police. Karine Taylor, wife of John Taylor, 48, from Upper Poppleton, west of York, said her husband was a ‘highly respected climber’ and father to their two children. She urged people to ‘avoid dangerous terrain and be careful.’

The death comes just weeks after a teacher, and her 76-year-old daughter fell to their deaths on the icy slopes of the Col du Lou, another mountain in the region. The women were hit by large ice blocks sliding down the slope.

The accident comes amid a series of deadly hiking accidents in the Alps. A 67-year-old French woman died after falling while hiking on the Col du Vaurze in eastern France, and another 76-year-old tourist died when she slipped while climbing in the French ski resort of Saas-Fe last week. The French interior minister has called on extreme sports enthusiasts to exercise ‘the greatest caution.’

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