Ski tourer buried by avalanche

Tue, 11. May. 2021

On Saturday, shortly after midday, a ski tourer triggered an avalanche on the Geltenhorn. Rega flew him to the Inselspital in Bern for further medical assessment.

According to Ueli Grundisch, chief of mountain rescue at the Gstaad rescue station, a massive avalanche thundered down from the Geltenhorn into the Rottal valley at 12.40 pm on Saturday. He estimates the width of the fracture line about two hundred metres. The avalanche was triggered by two skiers from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, who had climbed together from Lake Lauenen via the Geltenhütte to the Geltenhorn.

According to Grundisch, the ski tourer, who was the first to set off on the descent from the Geltenhorn, triggered the avalanche himself, which subsequently caught him and swept him some 2,000 metres down into the Rottal valley. His companion, who observed the incident, immediately alerted the international emergency number 112. The police then informed Rega, which in turn informed the rescue services in Gstaad.

Air-Glaciers brought two rescue workers to the scene of the accident. Five people were involved in the successful rescue operation on the mountain, and a further twelve were on standby on the ground.

Quick help thanks to avalanche transceiver
According to a statement issued by Rega, a helicopter from the Lausanne Rega base had just finished evacuating two people from the Col du Pillon when it was called to the scene on the Geltenhorn, only a few minutes away. The crew, consisting of the pilot, a paramedic and a doctor, immediately launched a large-scale search from the air using an avalanche transceiver.

Ueli Grundisch: "Thanks to the avalanche transceiver of the victim, he was located very quickly.” In fact, the rescue crew had found the casualty only 29 minutes after the avalanche had descended. At 1.36 pm, the helicopter flew the victim to the Inselspital in Bern for further medical checks.

Delicate situation
"Last week, when the weather brought so much precipitation, there was about half a metre of fresh snow at higher altitudes," Grundisch analyses the current situation. Together with the strong wind, there has been considerable snow drifting. Such snow drifts form a delicate, unstable surface. The chief of mountain rescue attributes Saturday's accident to these precarious conditions.

According to a recent statement by Rega's media service, the Swiss Air-Rescue helicopter operations centre organised more than 90 helicopter missions throughout Switzerland last weekend for people who were in distress, seriously ill or injured.

Based on AvS/Kerem S. Maurer

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