Serac Collapse Kills 2, Injures 9 on Swiss Side of Grand Combin

For several decades, climbers considered the Voie du Guardien route on the Pennine Alps’ Grand Combin (4,314m) relatively safe. After serac collapses effectively closed the previous Le Corridor approach to the summit ridge, the alternative Voie emerged.

Still, serac danger threatened climbers on the route, and today the inevitable occurred.

Rescue operators confirmed that a serac collapse at 3,400m killed two mountaineers and injured nine on the Voie du Guardien. Ron Klaassen reported via Facebook that the ice detached above 17 climbers.

Seven helicopters from Air Zermatt, Air Glaciers, and Rega and “about forty Swiss rescuers” responded to the incident. The collapse occurred around 6:20 a.m. local time. According to the cantonal police, other mountaineers present were evacuated successfully.

A local Swiss paper said that the deceased climbers included a 40-year-old French woman and a 65-year-old Spaniard.

On its Voie du Guardien route information page, Schweizer Alpine Club SAC urges caution due to changing conditions in recent years.

“This obvious route was established very late. After a series of accidents involving ice-fall in the Corridor, it developed into the normal route after 1980.

“[H]owever, we’d like to draw your attention to increased dangers: This route has also become significantly more threatened in recent years. Ice-fall from the serac zone on the edge of the summit plateau is possible at ANY TIME. Depending on the conditions, the situation is, at best, only slightly better than in the largely avoided Corridor.”

Rescuers have now ceased operations.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.