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Serac Collapses onto 17 Climbers, Killing Two

Four dozen search and rescue technicians were dispatched to the accident site

The Grand Combin is a big and heavily glaciated mountain in the Pennine Alps of Switzerland. A larger serac fall struck 17 climbers on the weekend and tragically killed two. The group of climbers were on the Voie du Guardien route, likely the most popular on the 4,314-metre peak.

The serac collapse took place at 3,400 metres at 6:20 a.m. Seven helicopters from Rega, Air Glaciers and Air Zermatt were dispatched with nearly 40 Swiss search and rescue specialists. A 40-year-old French woman and a 65-year-old Spanish climber died. Nine others were rescued, two being seriously injured, police from the town of Wallis said.

Grand Combin has three summits above 4,000 metres, the highest of which is the Combin de Grafeneire. Police issued a note of caution about setting off on such high-altitude expeditions in warm weather.

“When the zero-degree-Celsius isotherm is around 4,000 metres above sea level, it is better to be extra careful or not attempt the route if in doubt,” Wallis police said. “The golden rule is to find out beforehand from the mountain guides about the chosen route and its current feasibility.”