Two Irish climbers die on Mont Blanc

Men fell yesterday in area of mountain known as ‘Giant’s Tooth’

Irish climbers Colm Ennis and Peter Britton

Irish climbers Colm Ennis and Peter Britton

 

Two Irish climbers have died in a fall on Mont Blanc mountain in France.

Colm Ennis (37) from Waterford and Peter Britton (55) from Clonmel suffered a fatal fall yesterday afternoon in an area known as ‘Dent du Géant’ or Giant’s Tooth, according to newspaper La Parisien.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is providing assistance to the men’s families, including through the Irish embassy in Paris.

Chamonix mountain police (PGHM) told AFP news agency that the rope of the climbers unscrewed before the accident happened. However the cause of the incident has not been confirmed.

Mountaineering Ireland chief executive Karl Boyle said the two men who died were very experienced alpinists, whose loss would be greatly felt within the climbing and hillwalking community.

“These were two climbers who made an enormous contribution to the sport and would have been instrumental in introducing young people and adults to hillwalking and climbing,” he said.

“They understood the risks, would have been very well equipped and prepared, would have planned their route and they were climbing together for a very long time.”

“They were founder members of their clubs and gave so much of their time voluntarily,” he added.

Explorer and mountaineer Pat Falvey said there are a number of fatalities annually around this time of year as climbers from around the world start to descend on Mont Blanc.

“It’s a big thing to be able to climb to Mont Blanc and the routes around it are very spectacular,” he told RTÉ Radio. However he said it can be underestimated as even though the weather is very good at this time of year it can cause lots of problems. Most deaths on mountains occur on the descent, he said.

“Our sympathies have to go to the families involved in this. It heartwrenches me every time I hear of climbers actually dying,” he added.

On Friday, two Finnish climbers were found dead Mont Blanc after slipping on a snowfield and falling into a crevasse.

Earlier this month the body of a French climber who disappeared during a snowstorm in 1982 was discovered on the slopes of Mont Blanc. Patrice Hyvert was a 23-year-old aspiring guide when he went for a solo ascent on March 1st, 1982. Searchers were blocked by the weather but climbers found Mr Hyvert’s body on July 3rd this year, with his identification papers still intact.

Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the European Union at more than 4,800 metres . It is located in the alps between Aosta Valley, Italy, and Haute-Savoie, France. It was first climbed in 1786 by Michel-Gabriel Paccard, a doctor from Chamonix and his porter Jacques Balmat.