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Haute Route Disaster Article from OO

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
https://www.outsideonline.com/2329041/chamonix-zermatt-alps-haute-route-disaster
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Sad
ski holidays     
 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Brilliantly written but terrifying article.
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@davidof,
Thanks for the article, just goes to show Mountain guides are human too and no one is infalible.
The Italian who survied (Piccioli) says he will organise the tours himself now - not sure that is very safe either for serious high alpine tours. If people stop using mountain guides based on one unfortunate disaster there will be more.

I've been lost at 3500m with a 5 hour tour taking 18 hours. We didn't have a mountain guide, we finished soaking wet, without food or water and exhasuted. I don't want to go through that again or even worse what happened in the above article.

Planing to get some high altitude ski tours in before I get too old, one of the group has bought a Garmin Inreach mini so we can communicate with the emergency services even if mobile phone communication is lost.
https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/reviews/camping-and-hiking/personal-locator-beacon/garmin-inreach-mini

Another ski-touring friend was up on the Dachstein when the guide was injured in a fall and had to be air-lifted off the mountain. The group were experienced tourers and so completed the tour alone but the group didn't work too well together as they weren't all friends with each other and no one was setup to lead the tour. It wasn't until the guide was fully conscious in hospital that the emergency services realised he was the guide of the group and then all panic broke out at the hospital as the group took a lot longer to finish the tour.

Probably makes sense to have the GPS track in your phone & navigation device just in case of disaster, injury, equipment failure etc.
I prefer to talk through the route with the mountain guide and carry a map, compass, phone with nav app and outdoor GPS. The guides have always be more than willing to help explain the weather conditions & route.

PS Anyone ski-toured the Monte Rose - any info would be appreciated.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@DB thanks for the interesting comments.

The last time I was at high altitude was when I climbed (hiked is a better term, as there was only a 100 m. pitch of real climbing) Mont Blanc. I took my Garmin GPS with all the huts as waypoints as people have frozen to death a few hundred meters from safety on Mont Blanc. Okay, a waypoint is not much good if there is a cliff between you and the destination. Even with a GPS it is very hard to navigate in the conditions this group experienced without really really good knowledge of the terrain.

You learn from your mistakes though, not your successes.
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 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
I was skiing in Verbier that day. It was the last day of the season. In the morning we were all wondering why the high lifts were closed because the weather was fine and were wondering if they were just being lazy.

By lunchtime, the storm had closed in and there wasn't anything open above 2,000m.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
A good article.

Steve Sparks wrote:
... In the morning we were all wondering why the high lifts were closed because the weather was fine and were wondering if they were just being lazy.
By lunchtime, the storm had closed in and there wasn't anything open above 2,000m.
In the article it says that the destination was changed to the Vignettes hut because of forecast weather,
and also that the groups already in the Vignettes bailed at first light because the weather was so bad.

The guide didn't call the Vignettes to confirm that. After that there's a series of inexcusable guiding failures.

Using a guide in those circumstances introduced a single point of failure.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
I've always wondered about the local knowledge of guides. While any qualified guide should have totally applicable skills in mountaincraft and group management I've never quite understood why you should hire one off their patch as it were if an alternative with more local experience is available.

Probably doesn't matter in this case as I assume the Haute Route is bread and butter to all CH based guides but some interesting points about guide fallibility , redundancy and heuristics to be learned.
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
@davidof,
Yes a GPS is only accurate to around 10m and 10m off the side of a cliff is 10.3 m too far. As I've probably used up my chances/cat lives I find it even better to learn from other people's mistakes in the mountains. wink

I wonder what was going through the guides mind. He was probably under pressure to deliver the goods for his customers. Did the weather forecast change shortly before the trip leaving him unprepared for a suitable alternative? Did he think it was better just to turn up at the hut in a storm rather than book in advance? If the hut had refused in the morning what would he have done? Did he just underestimate the risk as it was a highly frequented route? As with car accidents isn't there a higher occurrence rate near to home when people become too familar?

Nowadays when you lead a ski tour almost everyone in the group with a mobile phone has an educated opinion, until you all lose reception.

With or without a guide a single point of failure is never good. A falling rock, a slip, an unexpected avalanche or equipment failure leading to injury can take a guide out. Whoever is leading the group at least one other should be nominated to take the lead in the event something happens, this person should also be involved in the planning.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
A good read. Very sobering.

I am not an experienced ski tourer, but the two things that stand out to me are:

1. Why was no call made to the Vignettes hut? If you're changing your route, it is basic best practice to inform others who may be waiting on you/alerted if you don't arrive on time. I distinctly remember even as a teenager hiking in the Lake District, when a campsite location changed unexpectedly (couldn't find the right one or something), calling my contact with 20p for the village payphone to let them know that we weren't where we were supposed to be. Making sure there are enough beds in the hut to accommodate the group seems sensible at least.

2. Why was there no early morning briefing? I haven't spent a lot of time with guides, but every single one has held a compulsory briefing before we went out, so that everyone knew where we were heading, what the weather was like, the avi danger etc. It only takes a few minutes, in the grand scheme of things. If the guide changed the plan, they let us know, and made sure everyone was happy with the decision.

@DB, There are some very good guides in Monte Rosa, used by @admin for the Gressoney bash, and that I personally would recommend (especially the one who caught me as I was about to fall off a traverse). I'm sure he'll give you the details if you ask nicely.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
DB wrote:
Whoever is leading the group at least one other should be nominated to take the lead in the event something happens, this person should also be involved in the planning.


the guide's wife was an experienced IML, I guess she had the role of a second although she also perished in the accident.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
davidof wrote:
DB wrote:
Whoever is leading the group at least one other should be nominated to take the lead in the event something happens, this person should also be involved in the planning.


the guide's wife was an experienced IML, I guess she had the role of a second although she also perished in the accident.


It's fairly unrealistic to expect a group member to be capable of taking a lead. It's also pretty tough to get people to take extra load like safety gear.

As an example, last week I found a French guy wandering around a section of the GR20 on Corsica who was lost. He had a perfectly good map, phone etc but when I saw him the first time he was was unaware of which side of a ridge he was - i.e. couldn't read the contours or the spot heights well enough to figure out he'd not climbed the 800m extra to pass the ridge. When I next saw him three hours later he was walking the wrong way along a trail with the assistance of a passing group of around 6-8 people who were well-equipped but entirely unaware of where they were. That was quite appalling navigation, they were crossing a distinctive terrain feature (the Ravin de Paglia Orba) and had overshot the required junction by around 1.2km. That junction was extremely sketchy and not signed but again was around 50m from a distinctive terrain feature (a 90º turn on a path at a stream following a 700m descent). This was on a clear sunny day admittedly on the GR20 which is not trivial but people generally hire guides in terrain they're not comfortable in. I wouldn't assume clients can micro nav in complex terrain

Standards and best practice move on, I've moved on from carrying an emergency shelter to having several small ones to spread around a group. I've a satellite phone which is the normal expectation for a professional in that sort of environment (or radio), I may buy another to give to clients.

My guess is he'd have rocked up at the next refuge who would have put him straight, in the event he figured his best option was to tag along with me and my wife who he assumed was paying Happy
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
When walking in UK mountains, both summer and winter, I always carry a survival bag. No idea what kit is generally advised for ski-touring, but slightly surprised that they didn't seem to have a couple of large survival shelters between the group, which might have kept them all alive. Perhaps another example of everyone assuming that sort of thing was the guides' responsibility.
DB wrote:
The Italian who survied (Piccioli) says he will organise the tours himself now - not sure that is very safe either for serious high alpine tours. If people stop using mountain guides based on one unfortunate disaster there will be more.

I took it to mean that he will take a more active role in the organisation. So even if he uses a guide, he will still take some responsibility for safety, planning, etc. Which seems eminently sensible.
snow report     
 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
davidof wrote:
DB wrote:
Whoever is leading the group at least one other should be nominated to take the lead in the event something happens, this person should also be involved in the planning.


the guide's wife was an experienced IML, I guess she had the role of a second although she also perished in the accident.

That's the impression I got from the article, that she's the backup guide. I'm surprised between she and her husband they don't have a "real" GPS!

On the "single point of failure" front, are most guided groups using just one guide? Or do they usually have two?

I would definitely want to know every detail of the route if there's only one guide. But if there are two guides, I think I'd be more incline to relax and let "them" handle the detail. Still, I'd like to know at least the basic navigation point. Just in case I get separated from the group due to any kind of unforeseen reason.

One other thing I found odd. The group skipped lunch. But there's no mentioning of them having their food when they finally stopped moving at night fall. I would think eating would help somewhat in keeping their strength to endure the cold night that was sure to be brutal? And the piece about the one of them drinking their hot tea only in the morning was quite baffling too. Drinking it during the night would have help more, I would think?

Great article.
snow conditions     
 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
abc wrote:
I would definitely want to know every detail of the route if there's only one guide. But if there are two guides, I think I'd be more incline to relax and let "them" handle the detail. Still, I'd like to know at least the basic navigation point. Just in case I get separated from the group due to any kind of unforeseen reason.

This might be a trap. I was party to a discussion about two guided groups joining together, but one of the clients (who I won’t name, but who can correct me if I’ve misinterpreted) insisted on splitting into the two groups as planned. Skill levels were similar and it was just a day session, so there wasn’t a definitive destination, so the reason for doing so was to prevent the guides, and therefore the whole group, from relying on each other and deferring decision making to the other guide. The theory was that with two guides, they stopped thinking for themselves as much and were more likely to end up in trouble. A solo guide knows they have responsibility and the decision making is their own.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
This interview might provide some more answers (and it is possible that the OO article is based on parts of this account). It is much more hard hitting than the first article. It seems like the Italian group were completely exhausted near the end and unable to make even simple, rational decisions. From Tommaso's account some of the group were tired even before they set out and had become totally dependent on the guide and unable to make their own judgments.

The four French survived because they found snow they could dig a hole in to get shelter just a few meters from the Italian group.

http://gognablog.com/pigne-darolla-29-aprile-2018-1a-parte/

I think I said at the time this accident recalls the Everest disaster and the bad decisions made then.... ah yes just found my post: http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?p=3231184&highlight=haute+route#3231184

They'd cancelled the hut they were aiming for without booking the Vignettes, no-one knew they were missing and stuck on the mountain.

automatic translation:-

Quote:

Pigne d'Arolla, 29 April 2018 - 1st part
(interview with Tommaso Piccioli)
by Lorenzo Merlo© - ended on 19 July 2018

Reasons for an interview
Anyone involved in mountaineering, and even more so any alpinist who has followed the chronicles of the Pigne d'Arolla, has been left with many unanswered questions.

In this interview with Tommaso Piccioli, we re-propose aspects already known and try to clarify some of them remained obscure on those fatal hours to more people. As you will see, the intentions have not been fully successful.

The collection of data necessary to formulate the questions of this interview comes from articles that are not always univocal.
The chronology has sometimes been desecrated, to prefer a division of events by circumstance.
The partial repetition of some questions was useful in order to keep up the thread of the matter.

The area of the Canton of Valais where seven people lost their lives.

Background
A group of Italians - even if not all of them were - had been marching for three days on the famous haute route Chamonix-Zermatt, a route that takes several days depending on the route chosen. On April 29, 2018, he was covering the stage from the cabane des Dix 2928 m, to the cabane des Vignettes 3157 m, entirely on Swiss territory. They had left on time, aware of a predicted worsening of the weather conditions, which then occurred in the middle of the morning. Since the previous evening, due to the announced change in weather, Mario, the guide, had decided to shorten the scheduled stage. They would therefore have reached the cabane des Vignettes, avoiding the farthest Rifugio Nacamuli in Italian territory, thus reducing the commitment of the day by several hours.


Painful synthesis
Between the evening of 29 April 2018 and the following morning, two groups of ski mountaineers, respectively composed of 10 Italian and 4 French people, after having tried in vain to reach the refuge, in the evening they stopped exhausted for a bivouac in the bivouac. Prohibitive conditions had accompanied them for most of the day. At first with nauseating whiteout, followed by a violent storm with winds estimated at 100 per hour and temperatures well below zero. The next morning they will see the refuge at about 500 meters as the crow flies. Julia, one of the group sees the first skiers leaving the refuge and Tommaso calls them back with screams. In short, they are reached by the rescuers.

Seven of the so-called group of Italians die, including their guide, Mario Castiglioni. Initially, according to some sources, four lose their lives in the night, two in the transport to two different hospitals in the Valais and the last, a few days later in a hospital bed. To date, it seems that only Mario has been found dead. The other six will perish in the hospital, some just arrived others even after a few days. Their names: Elisabetta Paolucci 44, Marcello Alberti 53, Gabriella Bernardi 52, all from Bolzano, die as soon as they reach the hospital. In the interview Tommaso will say: "Betti had 3 degrees of body temperature when she arrived at the hospital"; Francesca von Felten 60, from Parma, in the transport to the hospital of Bern; Andrea Grigioni 45, nurse, from Lurate Caccivio, Como, in the hospital a few days; Kalina Damyanova 52 (Mario's wife, in the transport to the hospital), Mario Castiglioni 59 (on the spot). Tommaso Piccioli 49 from Rimini; Julia, German, resident near Bellinzona; Luciano, 72, Swiss, resident near Locarno, survive and have recovered in good measure. Of them, not a single photo can be found on the web.

All the four French survivors.


Reasons for a position
Despite the presumed preventive attitude of the guide (I tend to think so, as a colleague; because of the awareness of the training of the guides; because of the welfare mentality that results from it towards those who rely on us; as well as for ethical duty) and all attempts to lead the group to the refuge, the conditions have overwhelmed the intentions. Before thinking it is an absolution, those who know of the mountains know that in certain circumstances it is no longer possible to maintain the register that from the sofa is always more or less easy to respect.

Also, my attitude towards conflicting positions, is not to find the other's responsibilities. Rather the reasons. I adopt this perspective in ordinary circumstances. All the more reason, it seems appropriate to me, in the extraordinary ones. Those in which canons and customs, gifts and values are mixed up by making choices that otherwise we would not have made, offering us a world that is hard to tell to those on the sofa. Finding the other person's reasons one finds peace, one goes beyond, one returns to the best of oneself. Not to forgive, not to free oneself from the past, entails the opposite. One stays in the past and separates oneself from beauty, from health, from oneself.

So for my part, no attempt to ascertain anything, nor to converge on moral judgments. For an elementary reason: I was not there. And because I know, like everyone else, that even in situations that are not extreme, but opposite, domestic, we can only make choices that are then considered to be wrong. We are all on the same level. To judge others means to believe that we can be better. Taking a fragment of the infinite from a person, separating it from life, and putting it on the slide of our white microscope, I don't think it's a way of freedom.


If not a minute, an instant
Before listening to the memory of Thomas, a moment of recollection for the seven people who lost their lives.
Nothing, but nothing, should make us feel different from them. Nothing but nothing our future choices will guarantee us what we had hoped for, what we had wanted them for.

Without answers
The transcript of this interview has implemented the data used to carry out the interview itself. From this increased knowledge of the story new questions have emerged. You can recognize them because they have as an answer a short line of X: "XXXXXXXXXX".

Of course I asked Thomas several times to finish the work, but he preferred not to follow up my requests.
This leaves contradictions and aspects suspended or simply unanswered questions.


Tommaso Pìccioli in a moment of the interview

Tommaso Pìccioli
- How do you feel now a few weeks after those moments?
I took a period of relaxation. I avoided dedicating myself to activities that could cause serious problems. I did some boating, some mountain biking. I feel as if I lack support. Psychologically I feel that I miss some pieces, I do not feel intact.

- If some of the people who missed us were still with us, wouldn't you feel that lack?
No, it's something else. Even if it had gone differently, in the best sense, I witnessed such a tragedy that... I knew three well. One of them, Betti, Elizabeth, was one of my best friends. Only she is enough to fill my drama. She died under me, while I was doing nothing. I was powerless. The shock is determined above all by her loss, even if the other six make critical mass... it was a battlefield.

- Do you feel that you are not yet out of that memory?
No. Of course not. The psychiatrist also told me. "It takes time. Months and maybe years. Now I have to go into psychoanalysis.

Thomas

- Do you feel the need?
The psychiatrist said I have to. And I'm not going to back down.

- Can you outline in a few words your essential biography?
I grew up in Rimini. My parents are architects. They had a rather large studio. I studied architecture at the Politecnico di Milano. I worked a lot abroad, on big projects. Then I met my Australian wife. I lived there for seven years. I've always been on adventure trips, very spartan, even quite important. On a motorbike I have travelled around the world through almost all countries.

- How old are you?
49.

How old were you when you started to go to the mountains?
In 1990 I enrolled in the Righini [ski mountaineering school of Cai Milano. Nda] and since then I've always done ski mountaineering.

- Have you ever organized ski touring trips on your own, independently?
Of course, yes.

- Do you know how to read a map, distances, gradients, impluvities, gradients, average travel times?
Yes, I do. I also do it for mountain biking. I am often around in the mountains.

Thomas

- Would you know how to trace on a map the route you followed and the one that would lead you to the Nacamuli refuge?
What we followed, of course, I saw a number of times. The one for the Nacamuli requires a map with the ski mountaineering track.

- This map - Arolla 283S - has the tracks.
Ah, it's the red ones. I didn't remember, they looked blue to me. Yes, I remember that the night before we had looked at the map.

- Had you hired guides before?
One more time alone and I was even closer to death. It was 1992. On Kilimanjaro. Almost at the top - it was half an hour away - I had almost had a brain edema, I could not go on and the guide spurred me to go on saying that it passed.

- What kind of guide was it?
It was a local. It is compulsory to go up there with a guide. He was a little boy who knew little. At a certain point I went into altered perception, I sang, I was hallucinating. Strong symptoms. He kept saying "let's go up, let's go up" as if nothing had happened. Then, in a flash of lucidity that crossed me so, as a saber, I realized that it was going badly and I had the strength to make an independent decision. I went back. I walked for 13 hours, up to 2700, a height considered safe for that kind of problem. And there I recovered. But then followed six months of waking up at night, hallucinations. It was hard even then.


- Where was your haute route supposed to end according to the original plan? And when?
We were supposed to arrive in Zermatt. After the cabane des Vignettes, if we had got there, we would have had two more days.

- Do you recognize your group in this image? (See photo of the highest group.) Yes.
Yes, the first one on the left is Betti. Then Kalina, Mario's wife. Then Julia, Andrea, Marcello, Gabriella, Luciano, me and Francesca. Mario naturally took the photo.

- Did you have to deal with a storm like that day's?
No.

Before
- When did you start and where did you start?
From Chamonix on 26 April.

- What stages did you make?
You have to look at a map. Anyway, by bus to Argentiere; then... I don't remember. We passed by Verbier, which was a stretch by car.

La cabane des Vignettes 3194 m. It would have been the destination of the group if the storm had not been half in the middle.

- The group of how many people was composed?
From Mario, plus 9 people.

- Did the companions of the group already know Mario?
Almost all of them, I'd say. Except for us, that is Elizabeth, Marcello, Gabriella and me. Betti had found Mario on the Internet.


- So you didn't know Mario before you joined the group for Chamonix-Zermatt?
That's right, I hadn't gotten to know him, not even by reputation.

- How did he rate your preparation and/or your experience?
He didn't estimate it.

- How did you formulate your preparation for him? Or was there no opportunity?
There was not. There were two moments of evaluation. Before leaving, at the hotel in Chamonix, he asked us to show him all the material we would bring. Mine was fine, but I think the others' too. Then, after the first descent, after taking this group photo, he told us that he had seen that we were all good skiers. That's all.

- Were there later any reasons for perplexity or praise of the technical leader and not Mario?
Emm... mah... no, I'd say not. The only thing I noticed - keep in mind that I like to ride motorcycles, boats, mountain bikes - I'm always a bit 'scared, especially when it's challenging, like the same haute route. The thing that worried me a little was that no one in the group would ask for anything about the route. Mario didn't tell us anything, but no one asked either. I was the only one who sometimes asked "mah, what's tomorrow?" And things like that, some information about what we would do. So much so that maybe on the third day, some of us said to me, "Come on, but why do you always ask? But Mario said, "He paid, so he rightly wants to know. Anyway, he didn't say much. He gave me the impression that he didn't know much about it. Anyway, it's just an impression.

- The night before, was the idea of staying at the cabane des Dix while waiting for favourable condiments considered?
Then... at a certain point... I don't remember if it was proposed by him or by me, perhaps by me... Speaking with a French boy I had seen that he would face the ugly and with the föhn. Then we said with Mario that we would go up a hill and that, when the weather changed, we would remove the skins, to return to the cabane des Dix. The night before the idea was a bit like that.

Thomas during an interview with a Swiss newspaper.

- Was there any of you who wanted to continue?
No. Nobody said anything. Like sheep. That's something I can't explain.

- Do you remember how the weather was checked the night before?
I remember very well. In the refuge [cabane des Dix. Nda] there is no wi-fi. But where you eat, there is a fixed Ipad available on a weather page. I went to check it out. It was bad as early as noon the next day and for the whole next day. Speaking, I asked that French guy what they would do. He told me that maybe they would give up because it would be bad. In particular, he feared the entrance of the föhn. At that, I went back to our table and I just said "bad news". Mario said he would see what decision to make. And even on that occasion, no one who had anything to say. They laughed, they were happy like that.

- In the morning, what arguments prevailed and then made the decision to continue?
No arguments, no discussions. We just went ahead. I remember that the only thing left was the exchange with Mario, where he ended up with "then we'll see". But there are things I don't remember well. Maybe that exchange took place on the morning of departure. Anyway, it happened, I'm sure of that.

Thomas tells us about his memory.

- Did Mario inform you day by day about the characteristics of the next day?
No. That's why I was asking, because he didn't get any ideas in that direction.

- Did you feel comfortable among yourselves as a group?
Yes, you do.

- Do you know if a sketch of the route of the trip has been prepared?
Of that day there?

Yes.
I don't know, but I would think not. There was the program: in case of good weather, climb the Pigne d'Arolla; in case of bad weather we would have devalued on the saddle just below [between 3796 and 3772. Nda] and then continue to the Vignettes.

The fact is that I am sure he did not know the characteristics of this trip. And then although it was all glacier, we were untied. I spoke with the instructors of the Cai of Bolzano. All of them took that trip in our own way, in good weather. On the Serpentine they were all tied up, I saw the photos.

Tommaso Piccioli, interviewed after recovering from the experience of the night of 29 April 2018.

- Didn't you think that he knew the glacier so well that he considered the rope only a pitfall?
XXXXXXXXXXX

- Do you know that, especially with skis, you often choose to stay untied, even uphill, on a glacier that is not particularly cracked?
Of course... I know. However, that's not the point. It's just before the Cabane des Vignettes there's a compulsory passage, which you absolutely must pass through - easy but where you can't go wrong. I know because the Bolzano instructors told me so.

- Do you mean the point where you cross the rocks?
XXXXXXXXXXX

- Do you know where this passage is?
I don't know exactly why we never went there. It should be not far from where we stopped for the night.

- What had Mario used in the previous stages to follow the route?
He had GPS maps on his mobile phone that he would see from time to time... But he would look at the traditional maps and I thought he'd be able to see them a little. The impression was that he knew the previous stages but not the one of that day.

- Are you referring to the whole stage or from the blizzard onwards? I think that with those conditions, with almost no visibility and that force of the wind, anyone would have found it difficult to proceed linearly.
XXXXXXXXXXX

The stage area of 29 April. In the circles, at the top, the cabane des Dix, in the centre-right, the cabane des Vignettes, at the bottom-right, the Collon bivouac, a few metres from which the Nacamuli refuge is located. This is not present in this map of 1993.

During
- What time did you start from the cabane des Dix?
At six o'clock, I think.

- Was it dark or was it dawning?
XXXXXXXXX

- Did all the groups start from the cabane des Dix or did anyone prefer to stall?
I don't know. Even though the cabane des Dix was full.

- Do you know that Daniel Egg, the manager of the cabane des Dix, has declared that several of the about 60 people who had stayed at the refuge, initially headed to the cabane des Vignettes, have given up the trip because of the worsening forecasts?
No.

- Did anyone in your group seem less equipped than they should be?
No. But there was one thing that struck me. In many trips I have made with companions more or less Milanese, I have always noticed that at least one or two people had a GPS receiver. Also for the trips with friends of the Cai of Bolzano, where I go often. While this time no one but me had it. It seems strange to me because for certain activities in the mountains you have to have it.

- Don't forget that if the GPS fails, things change.
Of course you also have to have maps, compass and altimeter, but the gps is infinitely safer.

- What time and where were you when the weather changed?
I think it changed around ten o'clock. You realize that I had a Suunto of the good ones... and because of the cold it stopped working. And I know the battery was good. So I couldn't see what time it was. I think we were in this basin [indicates the area of the Col du Brenay, 3639 m. Nda], which is then where the French reached us and joined us. There were four of them. And they didn't have GPS either. They continued to handle the maps, which flew away. There, they saw that we had the gps and they joined together.

In the circle is the supposed place of the forced bivouac. You can see the cable mentioned by Thomas, which runs from the circle, at the vertex of the largest rock triangle, on the right of the image. Or crossing the slope, under the outcrops of ice, in the direction of the cabane des Vignettes, which is out of frame on the right.

- How many people were there?
I was thinking four, I wasn't so sure. Then I heard that they were all saved and that there were actually four of them.

- Do you know their names?
No.

- Were you there about four hours after your departure?
Four, five... difficult to estimate.

- Did the weather change quickly and give you the idea of violence?
Initially it was just whiteout, without wind. All white, you couldn't see anything. Visibility a meter and a half.

- Was anyone nauseous, or did they fall thinking of being still or other disorientations from whiteout?
XXXXXXXXX

- How long did the whiteout phase last without wind?
Quite a bit. At least until five in the afternoon. Then gusts began that we all fell at each. That is, I didn't always fall and so did two or three others. In each gust we would stop, we would aim at sticks, we would lower to reduce the sail of the body and often it was not enough. The wind turned us upside down. The women and the lighter ones, the wind immediately knocked them down.

- From which direction did it hit you?
From the south. Although then I heard that it was föhn. But isn't the föhn coming from the north?

- For those south of the Alps, yes. But the foehn is not a wind, it is a characteristic of the wind. That is, when it loses its load of humidity hitting the barrier of the mountains and continuing drier, warmer and faster on the downwind side.
However, I evaluated those gusts at 40, 50 knots, 70, 100 kilometers per hour. If not more. Such violent gusts I had never encountered before.

- Using paper and compass, even with a possible sketch of a route previously drawn in those conditions is impossible. Did anyone have GPS? Was the signal good?
Valid GPS means shock resistant, waterproof and with new exhausted batteries, not rechargeable ones. As I said I was the only one who had it. And as said, paper and compass were unusable in that storm, both because they fly away, and because you can't concentrate. He thinks that even just using gps has been very challenging for me. Initially I put it in my pocket, then I couldn't do it anymore. The cold, the ice, the sight, multiplied the hindrance until everything was challenging. So, I always held it in my hand all the time.



In the rocky area south of the dotted track is the presumed place of the bivouac.

- Was the group collected during the whiteout period?
Yes, the group was always collected. That's how it worked: he [Mario. Nda] dragged a rope and we had to follow it. Then when I had to use my GPS, I would walk alongside him. Think about it... look at how we were: I didn't see anything. I had the glass of the mask completely covered with ice, because there was a bit of wind. And you couldn't clean it. I looked at the gps and opened the mask a little at the bottom, on my cheekbones. Betti, who had healthy glass, would tell me where to go, tell me if there was a crevasse or something. I didn't see where I was going. I could only see the gps. So, Betti on my side, me in the middle and Mario on the other side. We'd advance in three parallel directions, with Mario dragging the rope and the others following him. You couldn't see anything.

- Before the whiteout came, did you see other groups climbing towards the Serpentine or the Arolla Pine?
XXXXXXXXXXX

- In the area of La Serpentine have you covered any more difficult, steep, icy passages?
XXXXXXXXXXX

- When the weather changed, didn't you ever think about going back to the cabane des Dix? Have you talked about it?
Look, these are the things that really bothered me and bothered me in those moments. We didn't say anything. Nobody opened their mouths, including me, despite the fact that the night before I had considered that option, that is to go back in case of worsening. Then when I was there... total darkness. It didn't even occur to me. Now I think I should have gotten stuck up and pretended to go back. You couldn't go on. We had GPS, we could come back.

- When were you informed of the change of plan, namely to reach the cabane des Vignettes instead of the Nacamuli refuge?
Already the night before it was decided to change the program, that is to leave the Nacamuli and go to the Vignettes.


- Reaching the Italian refuge takes about 8/10 hours of activity. It also depends on the conditions and the stops. The group was therefore well trained if after the previous stages you were counting on a rather long day?
I can say that I didn't know it would be such a long day. I think at least two or three people wouldn't have made it. Guaranteed. Gabriella and Betti wouldn't have made it.

- The estimate of the temperature and gusts according to what was read had rather wide spectres: from -20 to -5 for the temperature; from 100 to 79 km / hour for the wind. Do you have a more reliable idea and how did you reach it?
Yes, I would say -5 degrees. I would say -5 degrees, which became -20 perceived with that wind.

- Did you continue to a good degree to what extent? Or were there any disputes or other episodes of nervousness, fear, tension during the day?
Nothing of what you say. We just went on.

- Did anyone in the group press to continue? Has there ever been any discussion of whether to proceed or return to the Cabane des Dix?
The only discussions were between Mario and the French. But I didn't see them. I know because the French told me so.

- In the sense that a Frenchman proposed to return to the cabane des Dix?
No, not to return. By now we were almost there. These discussions took place afterwards, in the evening, when we were more or less at the bottom of the south-east slope of the Pigne d'Arolla. They were related to the choices of directions for the cabane des Vignettes. That's how it went down. Initially, we left the Pigne d'Arolla behind us to go down, go around some outcrops and look for the way to the cabane. He was driving French. Because of a rocky area that prevented us from advancing towards the cabane, the Frenchman thought of continuing to go down, I think to get around the rocks themselves. We found ourselves roughly on the slopes north of the col de Chermotane [3050 m. Nda]. But then we were heading towards a cracked area. Then Mario took over the command. So we started going back about where we had come from. We passed a very steep stretch. I was afraid. The girls were devastated. Until Mario said, "I saw the little men, I saw the little men. In fact, he had identified them and we went towards them. It was already almost dark. According to the coordinates of the cabane des Vignettes provided by rifugi-bivacchi.com and according to the website sunearthtools.com for that day, April 29, 2018, the sunrise was at h05:20' and the sunset at h19:35'. Nda]. Consider that with the clock I was tracking, but at the time there is the police [of the canton of Valais. Nda] who carried out the investigation.



- But wasn't your watch damaged?
XXXXXXXXX

What visibility was there in those moments? I mean, at what distance could you see the little men?
XXXXXXXXX

- How long can all this ups and downs last? You did it with your skis on... do you put your skins on?
I don't know, maybe two or three hours. No, with crampons. We've been on crampons since we passed the saddle just below the summit of Arolla's Pine. Practically when we would have had to take off our skins, we put on the crampons. However, we spent the night with the men.

Thomas indicates on the map a rocky area from which, judging by the drawing of the map itself, it seems unlikely you can see the refuge. However, if we move the track he drew during the interview further north-east, we would end up at the rocky outcrop from which we can actually deduce that we are on sight with the cabane des Vignettes. I'll point this out to you.
Yes, it could be where you say it is. You have to see what the police say. They still have my watch. And I also left them the gps. They told me they're giving it back to me this week [Last week of June 2018. Nda]. But I don't know if they'll send me back the track too.

The area in and around the circle should be that of the bivouac. The perspective is related to a shot from the cabane des Vignettes.

And then, if an inch on the map corresponds to 500 meters on the ground, the point should be at the top of the dotted line north of the outcrop upstream of which there were the men.
So it is as you say. Because the refuge was nearby, certainly not more than 500 meters as the crow flies.

- To complete and verify these aspects, we will add the memories of the clock once you are back in possession.
Okay, of course.

Returning for a moment to the crampons: fitting them where you could have started skiing, makes me think of a choice based on safety. Walking could be more compact and reduce the risk of losing sight of each other. In addition, maybe Mario had predicted the possibility of a ups and downs in search of the passage through the hut.
That may be so. However, we weren't bound.

The fact that you weren't tied up might instead lead you to think that Mario knew the terrain well. So also consider it acceptable for him to march in a tight group, despite this entailed greater pressure on any bridges of snow. And then you would have been more agile without the clutter of the rope. What do you think?

- Was Mario inciting you?
Mario hardly ever spoke. Of course he was tired and I thought he was afraid. He was tense. Every time someone stepped on the rope, he would get very upset.

In the middle of the image, you can see the shapes of the boulder used to protect you from the storm and the shape of a little man. In the lower right corner you can see more marked the black wire of the alleged water supply pipe of the cabane des Vignettes.

- When did it become clear to you that you would not reach the cabane des Vignettes? At what time? At that moment, did you have an estimate of how much time the refuge was short of?
Maybe eight o'clock in the evening or just before. These were the last lights. The fact is that in the gps you could clearly see the cabane very close by. It was the only thing we had. That's when Mario said, "Let's field here. Kalina, his wife protested, "You can't dig a hole here, I'm going somewhere else. And she actually moved away from us.

- In what conditions did your companions and Mario seem to you? In which were you when you stopped?
I was fine. But the others too. Only Gabriella could tell that she was tried. And a little bit Betti. In fact, when I realized that we were going to spend the night out, I thought that Gabriella would have problems. I certainly didn't think we would all die.

- Have you never considered stopping before? Did Mario think that the slightest risk was trying to get to the refuge?
There was never any talk of stopping for bivouacs. Mario was aiming for the refuge.

- How did the moment when you stopped knowing you were spending the night there take place?
Mario said we make a hole, but at that point you couldn't. All rock. Under little snow was immediately rock. I tried that with the ice axe.

- What was the weather like?
Strong wind for hours and continued all night. Visibility practically zero.

- Did you and did you try to call for help? Why didn't you succeed?
Because Mario's satellite didn't work.

- Did it turn on and not take the satellite or even start?
I think he had his batteries burnt by the cold. It wouldn't even turn on.

- No phone to try to call someone?
The phones were all frozen. Besides, in my opinion, Mario should have tried at 2:00 p.m. by now. He tried at 20:00 even on Marcello's rather vehement incitement. In turn, he was moved and shaken by Gabriella's psycho-physical situation. She was exhausted, crying. Already in those moments, inside me, I said that he would not make it.

- Don't you think that saying that, is an easy hindsight, driven by the tragedy you have experienced?
XXXXXXXXX

- How did Marcello encourage him when the satellite didn't work?
"You have to do something. "Do something". So he screamed at him.

- When did it become clear that you were going to have to bivouac at the bivouac?
Practically when we got to the little men. It was almost dark, you couldn't see anything, the wind was very strong, people could hardly move from their tiredness, the phones were out of use, no one could have come and picked us up in those moments.

- Was the location of the bivouac chosen for some technical and/or safety reason or is it simply the point where the dusk came or why you were moved from being unable to continue?
More than chosen, we arrived there when it was dark and at the moment we knew only to stay there. In its own way it is inexplicable, if not for the general exhaustion and the sunset. Technically it was not a good place to stop. You couldn't make the trune. It was a kind of bump, so more windy than other forms. And as usual none of us said anything. No one who thought or said to look for a more suitable place.

- What did you do?
With Andrea we started digging at the base of a large boulder to organize a kind of trune, which then truna was not. It was a natural shelter a bit 'improved so to speak. We dug it with the woodpecker, not with the shovel. So we all sat down in there in that kind of concavity that we'd gotten. Unfortunately Mario was inert. He had a sleepy look, let's say. I turned to him, not angry, quietly. I told him that he would have to do something to find his wife, understand what she was doing. It seemed important to him and to us. Because if Kalina had found a better place, we could have moved around. We would have pulled out the shovels to dig a hole for everyone. Andrea and I still had the strength to do it. Basically, I tried to get him back on his feet. You know what he said to me? "I can't because I can't see anything anymore. Unfortunately he had lost his mask, or it had frozen. In fact, he hadn't worn it. The wind, the storm of ice crystals, the light of the whiteout had blinded him. Then he moved away, in total darkness, I think I can reach the refuge, in search of help.

- Why didn't you use the shovel?
XXXXXXXXXXX

- From a distance, reading the chronicles of the story, knowing that you were on icy ground, it seemed special that you did not dig a hole to protect yourself. Can you tell me something about this to help me understand, for example, why you didn't go away in search of land suitable for a throne or a crevasse? Have you thought about digging one? Or to plunge into a crevasse? Has anyone tried that? Did the French try?

Look... as far as I can remember, there was suitable ground for digging a trune, all around where we stopped and where we stayed. We could have walked only ten metres away and dug a trune. Yet none of us, not even Mario, said, or went there to dig a trune.

- And the French?
They dug it, yes. They went up a bit and dug their own trunas.

- At what distance from you?
I don't know. They told me 70 metres, but I didn't see them.

- Who informed you about this detail? The rescue service, the police, the public prosecutor who takes care of the investigation?
I don't know. I don't remember it. Perhaps from Caterina, Betti's sister - who was not with us that day - who had an exchange of e-mails with the public prosecutor.


- Did the French arrive on the spot with you?
XXXXXXXXXXX

- Thinking back to your companions one by one, what did you say, what did you say?
At first we got... let's say lie down all together in that hole we had made at the base of the Saxon. Thermal sheets flew away. Me and others, I think, we didn't even pull it out. We were on top of each other. But it was uncomfortable and useless because with that wind no heat that we produced could be held back. That's the first phase. In the second phase I stood up and moved, rocking back and forth. The others had sat down. Then I sat down too. I noticed that I was the only one with a helmet. Of course I had a windstopper hat underneath. Maybe that's why I saved myself too. The protection it creates is considerable. Practically the wind hits you after being broken by the helmet. Sorts the impact. The cap is warm when there is no wind, but with air the dispersion of heat produced is maximum. In fact, I had no cold in my head. Then I had some very good gloves... that is, I didn't know they were good, but now I know it. Even if I still feel a few aftershocks from freezing my fingers.

- Were you more exposed to the wind when you were standing? Also to understand the shape of your shelter.
Yes.

- Did you all spend the night together in that summary shelter dug by Andrea and you?
As I said, initially I was standing and I had the Betti under me that, I do not know why, continued to put his face down. I would turn her around and she would turn around. It happened several times. I screamed at her that she shouldn't fall asleep. "You must not fall asleep, you must not fall asleep. Move. Move". She was at the end of her rope. "I can't do it. I can't do it". That's all she said.

Still the presumed place of bivouac, possibly possible even a little lower than the orange point, where the glacier of the drawing, almost separates the rocky outcrop into two parts.

- You were talking, you felt?
We were all close. We didn't say anything. Then I sat down but always tried to swing back and forth. The aim was to make the heart work, so that it could pump blood towards the vital organs. For most of the night I had the Francesca near me. We hugged each other. We rubbed our hands. Then - perhaps I had some moments of sleep - I found Julia beside me. And the Francesca was lying down, not far in front of me face up. She was poor grey.

- But how did you distinguish all these details in the dark?
XXXXXXXXX

- You could open your backpack; you could drink and eat something hot; everyone had a thermos?
No. Absolutely not. Too much wind. Nothing. I didn't drink and eat anything and I believe the others too.

- For the exhaustion or for the difficulty imposed by the wind and the frost?
Yes, because of the exhaustion and the difficulty.

- How many ropes did the group have?
One.

- Mario's?
Yes.

- Did everyone have their harness on?
Yes.

Did you have ice screws, pieces and other glacier and self-rescue equipment? To recover from a crevasse or to step on it?
No. Just Mario. On the first day of the crossing he had us do some abseiling in double, as a drill and verification. We had the harness, the lanyard and two, three carabiners.


- No lives?
None.

- Have you thought of equipping a descent point to enter a crevasse?
No.

- You were facing the night in the bindings, were you aware that there was a risk of death?
At a certain point, I did. At a certain point I said, here someone remains... surely Gabriella.

- Were you aware that the protection of a throne would greatly improve the situation?
I knew it, the others don't know it. Even in those conditions, inside a hole, you could reach 3, 4 degrees, then cover yourself with the cloth ... Better than being outside.

- Did everyone have a shovel?
Yes.

- The thermal sheet?
I think so. I've seen some at some point.

- Any other clothes?
No. We had already worn everything we had.

- The dowry that this experience has left you, what measures will it take you in the future?
Check the weather. Today, compared to years ago, avoiding bad weather is very easy... so why go there?

- How long did the maximum force of the storm last? When you stopped, was it already active for a long time?
Yes. There was also a thunderstorm. It went on until dawn. All night long, without respite. Then a terrifying thing. We knew... or at least, I knew, but I think the others too, that the bad weather would last all day long. Which fortunately didn't happen.


- As you can see even today, forecasts are better understood as a trend in terms of probability calculation, rather than as reliable data.
Yes, it is. However, I was saying that when you were there waiting in the storm, you had to calculate that it would go on like that all day long. Inside I said, "well, maybe I can make it to tomorrow morning, but then what?" I assumed that at a certain point I would give in. But then time changed.

- Was there any form of solidarity between you or was everyone forced to think about their own survival?
Marcello kept repeating his wife's name "Gabri... Gabri... Gabri". I was screaming at Elizabeth. Apart from that, I don't remember anything else.

- How do I describe the night? What did you see and understand about your companions?
XXXXXXXXXXX

- What thoughts have you been thinking about since the beginning of the night?
Thoughts were few. You have to focus on your movements to maintain some body temperature and to avoid cowdoo. The two biggest ones you can do, which I thought about with interest two or three times, and luckily I didn't, were: lie down on the ground and go and get help by yourself. Luckily God saved me from these two things here. I must say I was pretty lucid, but also with an altered perception principle. I had a song in mind obsessively, I experienced it as the presence of death. It was death that was approaching. It was a song by Chico Buarque, a carnival song. It was a hallucinating thing. It seemed to me like a kind of sabbath that announced my death. Then afterwards came the thoughts of my wife, my mother, my affections. Then I would say to death, "Enough! Go away. Go away. I must live for them". And he'd go away. The song remained, but I felt strong. I felt I could resist. In the meantime, I couldn't stop moving.


- Do you have children?
No.

- You were scared to the point of terror or you were focused on feeling how to survive. Have you never talked so far about suffering from the cold?
xxxxxx

- Is there any aspect of your education that has led you to be aware that we are restricting and widening our limits?
Probably, yes, even though I don't know what to say right now. As I told you, I have made many trips in harsh conditions. For example, those guys from Bolzano [Marcello and Gabriella. Nda] I know that they had never done anything like that. In the past, I found myself in trouble several times. So a bit of experience, probably those precedents have made me.

- If the two shelters, Vignettes and Nacamuli, had alerted the rescuers, in your opinion they could have intervened in the night? I quote them both because in one or the other there should have been a reservation. Not seeing you arrive in that time, they would certainly have alerted them.
I know that he had cancelled the Nacamuli but had not booked at Vignettes. I know it from the police. This is a chilling thing. Vignettes didn't know that we should have arrived.

- In your opinion, with that weather, could they have arrived in the night?
Some instructors of the Cai Bolzano, with whom I talked about this aspect, said that since they have to do it, they would do it. The conditions were more than prohibitive, but someone from Vignettes would have come, if nothing else, to show us the way. We were close. Actually... from Vignettes we were close. From the hut, coming towards us, there was a slight easy slope to cover, so, having passed the rocky passage... it would have been enough little. We were there, on top of those rocks. A helicopter certainly couldn't fly or do anything, but even just volunteers from the refuge could have saved us.


- But how could they have known your position, your distance? No phone of yours was operational. And then, from the cabane, after passing the rock passage, which is around 3200 m, they still had to climb for about 100 meters of difference in height, if it is true that the area of the bivouac is at the top of the rocky outcrop at an altitude of about 3300 m. If I have not misunderstood, you didn't even have the torches lit.

- Let's go back to the place and situation of the forced bivouac. You said that Kalina immediately left the group. In what direction?
I don't know. Maybe where we came from. She came back a little bit.

- After digging with Andrea, after gathering to try and create heat, how far does Mario go from you?
I don't know, very late. I haven't seen him since. The last time I saw him, he was crouching over his backpack, as if he were hugging him. He said to me, "I can't see anything, I can't do anything. But then he seemed alive and strong to me. He probably wouldn't have died if he hadn't gone in the middle of the night to seek help. Then, I think he also had the instinct to go and find Kalina. I would have done it for my wife too, if I hadn't known where she was and how she was doing.

- Did Mario know where Kalina was?
No. He didn't know. Inside me I thought that if he had moved to go to the refuge, first he would have wanted to ascertain how Kalina herself and maybe even inform her of his project. However, she didn't tell us anything.

- Did anyone notice Mario leaving? Did anyone notice that he hadn't returned?
No. Maybe by then almost everyone had died.

Andrea Grigioni, from Lurate Caccivio, Como.

- Was your absence, your failure to return noticed by others? Did it involve a psychological blow for someone? Did you feel even more lost?
XXXXXXXXXXX

- Did you get it clear that Mario would never come back or did you keep waiting for him?
XXXXXXXXXXX

- From the chronicles of the following days we learn of Mario's death caused by falling into a crevasse or by a rockfall. Do you know anything about it?
No. I also knew later. I know he would have fallen into a gully.

- Who do you know, the magistrate?
From the newspapers.

- I've never read about a gully.
Yeah, well, the newspapers write about everything.

- Did you have torches?
Yes. You didn't even get out.

- Could you give us the exact location of your location, the location of the French and Kalina? Please note that for the Swiss national maps 1:50,000, each islet corresponds to 20 metres of height difference. I have chosen to enlarge this part of the map [see image on page 13] after having put together the information I have collected from the press. The area I am pointing to is about at the top of the rocky outcrop closed to the north by the red dot trace.
After crossing the hill south of the summit of Pigne d'Arolla, we followed the track of the gps. It was a summer track. It simply drew an L. We followed it on foot as far as it lapped the rocks. At that point it was a bit steeper but nothing challenging. When we arrived at the point where the GPS track crosses the red line, at an altitude of about 3240 m. Mario deviated towards the rocks. Up to that point, he had followed me, because I was holding the GPS. Since I didn't want to bother him, I didn't say anything about his choice. So we went in the direction of the rocks/red balls. We found ourselves on a precipice.

- With that light and that visibility and difficulty, how did you recognize the jump?
We were right on the edge. However, at that point we saw a blessed plastic tube, which indicated a water intake for the refuge and consequently its proximity to us. It was down at the bottom, under the rockfall. You couldn't get there because of the band of rocks. Then we went back. In those moments the gusts began.

Francesca von Felten, from Parma.

- I need two explanations:
1. In the previous description, the one where the French had driven, before Mario took over the command, you didn't mention the summer track you had on the GPS. Can you clarify why? I think it's a description that contradicts the previous one.
2. Were the gusts there for hours? In the ascent, you said, you were knocked down before the Col du Breney.

[Tommaso takes up the story of his memory after leaving behind the rocks from which they saw the plastic tube. Nda]
We went back to where we had come from. I pointed out to Mario that the track I saw on the gps was even lower, so we went in that direction to get closer to the summer track I saw on the small monitor. It was an attempt to look for a passage in the rocky area. But there were still precipices. Then the Frenchman proposed to descend further. He said that we could reach the refuge if we went further down. But following his idea, we were faced with a cracked area. So we all went up again following Mario, even the French.

- In all that wandering, has the light of the refuge never appeared?
No. I didn't see the refuge until the next day, when it cleared up. And it appeared far, far away. If they were only 500 meters as the crow flies, but with that big valley to cover... it was definitely far away.

- In the morning you immediately saw who had survived and who had not?
They all seemed dead. Except for the Francesca, they were all on their bellies, I don't know why, covered in snow. So I said... they went. Francesca instead was turned upwards but she was gray on her face.

- When did you realize that Luciano and Julia had made it? What did you say to yourself?


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Mon 1-10-18 20:59; edited 4 times in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Diving training introduces the concept of the incident pit whereby an initial minor error induces progressively more serious errors until someone dies or is seriously injured.

While the timeline is longer in this instance, diving incidents are usually shorter because people die rapidly underwater, the process described in the article is basically similar. This is a classic pit incident in which one bad decision induces further serious decision making errors.

The critical point with the incident pit is the importance of not stepping into the pit in the first place. This is largely achieved in diving training by a remorseless emphasis on protocol. As in there is a right way and a wrong way to do things and those things will be practiced until they are second nature.

While effective, this kind of safety culture is hard to teach and hard to enforce. It makes intuitive sense in an obviously hostile environment like 30m under the Channel. It is less intuitive where the environment is familiar or seemingly less immediately threatening.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
ise wrote:
davidof wrote:
DB wrote:
Whoever is leading the group at least one other should be nominated to take the lead in the event something happens, this person should also be involved in the planning.


the guide's wife was an experienced IML, I guess she had the role of a second although she also perished in the accident.


It's fairly unrealistic to expect a group member to be capable of taking a lead. It's also pretty tough to get people to take extra load like safety gear.

As an example, last week I found a French guy wandering around a section of the GR20 on Corsica who was lost. He had a perfectly good map, phone etc but when I saw him the first time he was was unaware of which side of a ridge he was - i.e. couldn't read the contours or the spot heights well enough to figure out he'd not climbed the 800m extra to pass the ridge. When I next saw him three hours later he was walking the wrong way along a trail with the assistance of a passing group of around 6-8 people who were well-equipped but entirely unaware of where they were. That was quite appalling navigation, they were crossing a distinctive terrain feature (the Ravin de Paglia Orba) and had overshot the required junction by around 1.2km. That junction was extremely sketchy and not signed but again was around 50m from a distinctive terrain feature (a 90º turn on a path at a stream following a 700m descent). This was on a clear sunny day admittedly on the GR20 which is not trivial but people generally hire guides in terrain they're not comfortable in. I wouldn't assume clients can micro nav in complex terrain

Standards and best practice move on, I've moved on from carrying an emergency shelter to having several small ones to spread around a group. I've a satellite phone which is the normal expectation for a professional in that sort of environment (or radio), I may buy another to give to clients.

My guess is he'd have rocked up at the next refuge who would have put him straight, in the event he figured his best option was to tag along with me and my wife who he assumed was paying Happy


Nowadays you often find people in nature, who do not have any basic navigation and survival skills - just rely on electronic devices and when they fail......... Sad

If possibility of harsh winter condition you have to be equipped to take shelter or dig in at an early stage.
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@davidof, Thank you very much for the additional analysis. Sad
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
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During a weeks climbing in the Caingorms I once left my breathable bivi bag behind as we were only climbing Fiacaill Couloir and expected to be down in about 3 hours. The climb went well but the guy I was with refused to climb down with the protection of the rope above as he became paranoid about avi's and climbed back up to me (we were heading below the cliff band, it was safe). He insisted he could nav over the top, with the strenthening storm it was too windy to descend the ridge. 20 mins into the plateau crossing, despite having done the Glenmore Lodge winter nav course he became lost.
Not wanting to push on I decided we should dig a snow coffin, it took two hours with ice axes and the snow was freezing as soon as it was scraped out. The gusts reached 117mph on the summit, wettish snow was freezing as it hit you and if you stood up you were blown over. I had a duvet jacket and used my rucksack as a mini sleeping bag (improvised pied d'elephant) and used a rope as insulation. 4 people died on that and another mountain in the storm, we were up there for 30 hours, 10 of them laying in an 18 inch deep slot with a similar height of piled up snow wall to keep the wind off. Not the most comfy night I've spent but had we not dug in when we did I doubt we would have survived.


Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Tue 2-10-18 19:12; edited 1 time in total
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@Scarpa, Shocked Shocked Shocked
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"Every time someone stepped on the rope, he would get very upset"
They were tourists, then.
The fact that they only had one rope between them reinforces that.

The French people survived. That suggests that if the others were either equally competent, or correctly guided, that they too could have survived.

I think the general "tourist" in the mountains thing is dangerous, but it's a risk people choose to take.
However the guide made several decisions which resulted in fatalities, and his basic protocol appears not to be fit for purpose.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
What is the general protocol regarding kit, when ski-touring with a guide? I think I would expect the guide to tell everyone in advance the minimum personal kit requirement, and also to say to expect to take a further x00g of group safety kit (that the guide will provide). Is this what typically happens, or is it totally down to the individuals what to take?
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@ecureuil, IME it's like what you say - you'll get a personal kit list then group kit will be divided amongst the group. You can't really say it will be x00g - the rope is relatively big and bulky; first aid kit, not so much - but you may take turns with the rope
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ise wrote:
It's fairly unrealistic to expect a group member to be capable of taking a lead. It's also pretty tough to get people to take extra load like safety gear.


By taking lead I don't mean transform yourself magically into a mountainguide and save the day, I mean someone has to get as many as the group as possible to save themselves. That's what the French did and what Scarpa did above. You can't flee you have to fight it for the best chances of staying alive. e.g. Joe Simpson did exactly that in touching the void.
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@ecureuil,

This is typical of an equipment list for such a tour ….

http://www.alpineskills.com/equipment/grand_hauteroute.pdf
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
If you need to use an emergency survival blanket in high winds to keep yourself warm, thread it under your jacket along the back of your spine and then pull it around the core of your body. This stops it from blowing away.
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
DB wrote:
ise wrote:
It's fairly unrealistic to expect a group member to be capable of taking a lead. It's also pretty tough to get people to take extra load like safety gear.


By taking lead I don't mean transform yourself magically into a mountainguide and save the day, I mean someone has to get as many as the group as possible to save themselves. That's what the French did and what Scarpa did above. You can't flee you have to fight it for the best chances of staying alive. e.g. Joe Simpson did exactly that in touching the void.


I appreciate that I'm just pointing out that in reality, most people can't locate themselves on a map. They also either don't have a GPS device or don't know how to use it. When you do see a device it's generally so they can track the route when they get home and it won't have maps or waypoints on it.

You're (all) also imposing cultural norms assuming that the expectation of guides is the same for any nationality which isn't the case. Many UK clients expect more skill transfer and guides expect to provide it - that's not the case for other nationalities.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Here's another account of the disaster from another member of the group ...

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/that-s-it-we-re-dead-disaster-strikes-along-the-alps-haute-route-a-1220184.html
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
ise wrote:
I appreciate that I'm just pointing out that in reality, most people can't locate themselves on a map. They also either don't have a GPS device or don't know how to use it. When you do see a device it's generally so they can track the route when they get home and it won't have maps or waypoints on it.

You're (all) also imposing cultural norms assuming that the expectation of guides is the same for any nationality which isn't the case. Many UK clients expect more skill transfer and guides expect to provide it - that's not the case for other nationalities.


??? None of the group were English. So because I'm a Brit the mountains and the guide will always look after me? the simple answer is no.

Some survived because they stayed awake, some survived because they built a shelter. Fitness also probably played a significant role, the oldest surviver was 72 but top fit. As with other mountain disasters although the guides are generally fitter they can tire themselves out helping the weaker memebers of the group. The mountains & mountain weather don't recognise rank or nationality, they treat guides, customers, Brits, French, Italians etc all the same, guides have skills not superpowers. Sometimes the mountain weather changes very quickly and it is a lot harsher than expected, if I remember correctly other groups in the alps got caught out by the weather and died on the same weekend too.

The more I learn about the mountains & mountain weather the more I realise what I didn't know.


Last edited by Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name: on Tue 2-10-18 14:39; edited 1 time in total
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
ise wrote:
... You're (all) also imposing cultural norms assuming that the expectation of guides is the same for any nationality which isn't the case. Many UK clients expect more skill transfer and guides expect to provide it - that's not the case for other nationalities.
I think this is a very good point. If you climb around there, you'd know precisely what this means.
You can easily identify major national groups at a considerable distance because of the way they behave on the mountain.
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person

http://youtube.com/v/7NnVDOG1EpY


http://youtube.com/v/_x5ec_a-a9Q


https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/topics/camping-and-hiking/best-personal-locator-beacon
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Very Happy
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DB wrote:

??? None of the group were English. So because I'm a Brit the mountains and the guide will always look after me? the simple answer is no.


I think you have misunderstood. Different nationalities approach being guided differently, and want different things from their guide. British clients often want an educator, they want to learn and improve their skills, to interact with the guide and get involved. Not all nationalities want/behave like this so the guide/client relationship may be very different to that which we might want/expect.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
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davidof wrote:
https://www.outsideonline.com/2329041/chamonix-zermatt-alps-haute-route-disaster


Pretty incredible story. I'm surprised at the number of mentions of people navigating by phone. I have never liked the idea of using the battery of my only device I can use to call for help as my main navigational tool as well. It seems to have little redundancy. Also, space blankets! Bivy or bothy bags have long been the staples, blankets are little use in the mildest of breezes.
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I still don't get this nationality difference thing. Other nationalities learn from guides too, look at all the courses the Alpenverein, DAV, SAC & CAI etc run.

My point is you can't always expect to rely on your guide all the time. Irrespective of nationality if you don't know how to build a snow shelter and end up staying out in the winter mountains overnight then your chance of survival will be much lower.

As for mobile phones - many people use them with additional batteries, in whiteout & windy conditions a GPS/phone is more useful than a map and compass. On a hut to hut tour every gram less helps plus backpack space is short. I guess that's why multi-day tourers sometimes go for a lightweight space blanket rather than a significantly heavier bivy bag.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Tue 2-10-18 18:04; edited 1 time in total
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DB wrote:
I still don't get this nationality difference thing.
It's not my business so I risk little by trying to explain.

The Italian market appears quite broad. You will often find Italian groups who tend to walk in very close file behind the guide, usually roped up when being roped up makes no sense. They are older than UK climbers on average, and slow. They are notorious for kicking rocks down onto other people, standing on ropes, and generally being a little unaware of the rest of the world.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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I think in conditions like this, no gps or map will help you, simply because no visibility, you dont see whats around, and from description they needed to find exact spot in order to descent to to the right place. Without visibility, even if you have a waypoint marked in the gps, it will be not easy,
So without gps track or waypoints, in complete whiteout, how on earth they planned to find right place to descent?

Another question, in that hut where they started, I guess many wanted to do same route, and this is the only group that started that morning, so it looks like the guide wanted to go in all costs, (Im not saying there was another group waiting at destination)

Satellite phone battery died, which means its been kept somewhere in the backpack together with the battery, as normally the batteries from all critical devices are removed and kept close to the body heat, to prevent freezingout.
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@philwig,
It doesn't look as though they fit the Italian stereotype.

Quote:
One of the skiers was Tommaso Piccioli, a 50-year-old architect from Milan, Italy, who began ski touring in 1990 and had been a member of the Alpine Club of Milan for more than 20 years. Over that time, he’d self-organized numerous ski tours, canoe trips, mountain biking expeditions, and hiking trips for himself and friends in Europe and Australia. Accompanying Piccioli on the tour were three friends from the Bolzano Alpine Club of Italy, where he’d taken several mountaineering courses over the past couple years. Elisabetta Paolucci, a 44-year-old Italian teacher, began ski touring with her father when she was still a young girl and had recently taken a year’s sabbatical to pursue sailing and mountain adventures. Marcello Alberti and his wife, Gabriella Bernardi, were both experienced climbers and ski tourers as well.

“We usually organize our trips by ourselves,” Piccioli explained. “But this time, because of the logistics––it’s not easy to book the huts––we got a guide.”

The others in the group included Francesca Von Felten, who was a member of the Parma Alpine Club and an experienced climber and skier. She had summited Aconcagua (almost 7000m), the tallest peak in South America, the year before. There was Andrea Grigioni, a 45-year-old nurse from a small town northwest of Milan; a 72-year-old from Ticino, Switzerland, whom Piccioli described as “a very strong man”; a German woman from Munich; and the guide’s 52-year-old wife, Kalina Damyanova. Piccioli didn’t know any of the guests besides his friends but noted that after the first couple days of the trip, “You could see they were experienced. We were all at the same level.”[
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The guide was amateur-hour.

Not checking the weather. Not enough battery. Not enough phones. Not enough GPS. Not enough backup devices. Not roping up. Not enough food and drink. Not enough shelter.

Dood was a disaster.
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