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5 climbers killed in fall on Mont Blanc peak


By LORI HINNANT

PARIS (AP) - Five French climbers died in a fall on France's Mont Blanc, officials said Wednesday, after a night of snow and wind on Western Europe's tallest mountain. A sixth climber was spotted at the bottom of a crevasse.

August is the height of the climbing season on Mont Blanc, where even in the warmest months storms can strike quickly. High winds buffeted the area where the group fell, said Jean-Baptiste Estachy, head of the Mont Blanc rescue squad.

Estachy said five bodies were found Wednesday morning. The sixth climber, who was missing, was apparently spotted at the foot of a crevasse and recovery efforts were underway.

"We don't know what the condition is other than that the person is unconscious," Estachy said.

The climbers were taking part in a two-week mountaineering course with the guide and were reported missing overnight when they failed to return to a refuge. They had been on a planned trip to the Aiguille d'Argentiere, which tops out around 3,900 meters (12,800 feet).

Mont Blanc, in addition to its primary peak, contains some 200 summits. It touches France, Switzerland and Italy, and thousands try to climb its peaks each year. An average of 59 people are killed each year in accidents on its slopes, according to the Chamoniarde, an association that provides safety information for the area.


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